LAMC 2013: From Catupecu Machu's 90s Arena Rock to Astro's Electropop Present

What went down during 5 days of the annual Latin Alternative Music Conference.

ByABC News
July 15, 2013, 9:24 AM

July 15, 2013— -- If there was a definitive moment that illustrated the diverse breadth of the music in all five days of performances, panels, and pressers at the 14th edition of the Latin Alternative Music Conference in New York City, it was probably in between the sets Catupecu Machu and Astro at the Gramercy Theater showcase on Thursday night. The venue transformed into a 90's arena-rock palace as the beloved Argentinean rock vets powered through a handful of their hits. The Chilean band of 20-somethings that followed then transported the crowd to their electro-pop present and their natural habitat: a celestial wilderness where synthesizers, drum machines, and orangutan shrieks help make raucous dance rock alchemy. Astro accepted this year's "Discovery Award" after the set and with it the tacit confirmation that electronic indie pop is right at the fore of Latin Alternative music in 2013.

This year's LAMC and adjoining events felt like a conversation between the past, present, and future of Latin alternative music. In addition to inviting back a number of acts to headline its Summerstage and Celebrate Brooklyn! shows, the LAMC also spotlighted iconic alt-Latin figures and moments in U.S. Latino music history this year.

Famed Panamanian singer-composer and Fania All-Star alum Ruben Blades began his Q&A session on Thursday, for example, by explaining that salsa was alternative at first because radio stations refused to play it.

"Alternative music then was defined as that which had no commercial appeal," he said in Spanish. Blades's session evolved into a master class filled with encouraging anecdotes and sage, practical advice.

Read More: Storyful of tweets from Ruben Blades session at LAMC 2013

LAMC also hosted concerts and screenings (like "Fania All Stars: Live in Africa") uptown—in Harlem, El Barrio, and the South Bronx—where salsa and hip-hop were born and raised. The From Mambo to Hip Hop event also featured a live performance by the late-60s Bronx Latino rock group, the Ghetto Brothers.

Read More:The Nuyorican Roots of Hip Hop

The panels, in contrast, revolved around more timely topics like online streaming, TV & film licensing, and DIY career development. Another addition to the conference were live art and literary events held at La Casa Azul bookstore, an independent Latino bookstore in El Barrio. At Friday's spoken word event, Mexico City emcee and poet Bocafloja and others illustrated the musicality of language and rhythm to images through poems about politics, resistance, love, and of course, music.