Tropicalia took over the Queen Mary Park for an incredible celebration of culture, diversity, food, and music new and old.

As a festival, Tropicalia was a beautiful ode to the diverse culture of Southern California, and particularly in LA. The impressive event, put on by the team at the Observatory in Santa Ana, featured a stunning lineup with some of the most in-demand artists such as King Krule, Chicano Batman, Cuco, and Jhene Aiko. The artists represent a large range of styles, backgrounds, and even generations, as in the case of headline Los Tigres Del Norte.

Beneath clear skies in gorgeous event space, Tropicalia couldn’t have had a better setting for the event. With a stage and beer garden right next to the main entrance, attendees were able to quickly get into the spirit of the day. Phony Ppl were the perfect act to open the fest with energetic performance, led by the charismatic front-man Elbee Thrie. Artists alternated between four stages set in two different areas of the event space, which were separated by an underground tunnel.

From there, it was one incredible set after another, with many attendees catch half-sets of their favorite artists before rushing off to another. ListenSD favorites The Buttertones also attracted a large crowd early in the day, playing fan favorites from their latest album, Gravedigging, as well older bops such as “Orpheus Under the Influence.”

The Buttertones then gave way to a killer set from Thee Commons and Surf Curse, which then gave way to Ginuwine– yes, that Ginuwine. The “Pony” artist certainly has not lost his touch, giving one of the most animated sets of the day. Fans of the artist danced their hearts out until the very last song.

Other notable sets came in the form of Jorja Smith and Cuco. The British singer has been making waves over the past two years after the success of her track “Blue Lights” in 2016, which was then followed by appearing on Drake’s More Life album in 2017. After seeing her performance, it was certainly clear why: Smith’s jazzy vocals held her audience captive, swaying in time.

Afterwards, Cuco took to the main stage for his set. An eager crowd was already gathered in anticipation, eager to see the teen Chicano artist making major waves in the music industry. Cuco, fresh off a sold-out headlining tour, had fans screaming and dancing along as he switched between trumpet, keys, and singing. If you were lucky enough to get tickets, he’ll next be playing a Valentine’s show at the El Rey Theater, which sold out in minutes.

Tropicalia wasn’t just about newer, up-and-coming artists though. Dreams came true as artists such as Brenton Wood and the Delfonics performed their classic hits. Wood was dressed to the nines, and while softer in volume that some were used to, he certainly as not lost his voice, sounding as smooth and soulful as his records a quarter-century prior.

Meanwhile on the main stage, Café Tacvba gave a phenomenal performance with not one but two costume changes perfect for dancing the night away and setting the mood for the rest of the night. Café Tacvba was followed by King Krule, and then by Kali Uchis, whose electric performance was easily one of the most notable. The Columbian beauty‘s voice rang out over the crowd, who danced along, following by example. Chicano Batman gave an equally impressive performance, while Alina Baraz was pure magic on the Dia de los Puercos stage.

The night closed out with the cross-generational Los Tigres Del Norte on the main stage and Jhene Aiko on the Dia de los Puercos stage. Throughout the day, what started as mostly teens and young adults turned into a swirling carnival of all ages, from 6 to 96, which was all the more evident during the final sets.


Here’s to the perfect festival to end a record year of festivals, and to many more in 2018!


Photos By: Nicholas Regalado
Review By: Christine Heyne