Pachanga Fest, the spring celebration of Latino music, will not return to Fiesta Gardens’ idyllic lakeside shores this May. After an eight-year run, festival founders Rich Garza and Alex Vallejo have decided to shutter the daylong event, but they’re not abandoning the Pachanga brand. “It’s just evolving and I think that, to me, is something that I’m excited about, embracing change,” Garza said Thursday morning.
Garza has partnered with downtown venue ACL Live to create a quarterly Pachanga Latino Music Series. The first show, an afternoon event featuring a live version of the popular Univision children’s show “Pocoyo” — which Garza describes as “Sesame Street Live” for “the Spanish-dominant Univision set” — is scheduled to take place on Sunday, Feb. 28. This is the first time the “Pocoyo Live Show” is touring in the U.S. and the booking builds on the family friendly atmosphere Pachanga Fest worked hard to cultivate with its Niños Rock kid’s programming. Before the show the venue will host children’s activities on ACL Live’s spacious patio.
Garza was reluctant to discuss the reasons the festival folded, although he cited dramatic shifts in the landscape of the Austin music scene, including an increasingly crowded festival calendar, as a factor. “It’s just saturated in Austin,” he said. “You’ve got two weekends of ACL (Fest). You’ve got SXSW. You’ve got Fun Fun Fun Fest. You’ve got Levitation. That’s great. I love it, but, you know, it just really made it hard for us.”
Larger shifts in the music industry, with touring artists placing a premium on festival gigs, also played a role. Eight years ago, artists with small management companies were more willing to negotiate rates because they believed in Pachanga’s mission, Garza said. These days, the word “festival” can immediately ratchet up fees. Beyond that, Garza said, “The economics of four-walling a venue from scratch versus rolling into a world class venue that does nothing but present live music is radically different.”
Garza sees the move from festival to concert series as an opportunity to address another one of Pachanga’s perennial challenges. “Austin’s 36 percent Hispanic,” he said, “…within that 36 percent it’s a really kind of fragmented universe between, you know, Pan-Latinos and Spanish-dominant blue collar Mexicans and Tejanos.”
Pachanga Fest struggled to find a formula, and a lineup, that would unite Austin’s Hispanic community. Instead of trying to “touch 3,000-5,000 people with one shot, this way, we have the opportunity to touch 10,000 people in four shots,” Garza said.
Garza envisions each installment of the series having a different theme, be it cumbia, Mexican regional music or a women’s night with kind of a “Lilith vibe.”
And for those of us who will miss wandering the lush, riverside trails of Fiesta Gardens sampling Spanish melodies and hip-switching rhythms?
“Don’t be sad that it’s over, be happy that it happened,” he said.
Tickets to the Pocoyo Live Show go on sale Friday, Jan. 15 at acl-live.com. A special discount code will be emailed to all past Pachanga Latino Music Festival ticket purchasers.