Takeaways from Tropicalia

One attendee’s impressions of the indie acts from the anticipated Latin-influenced festival

Tropicalia, a two-day festival that took place last weekend in Pomona, California, featured an audience of many indie kids decked out in their Dickies, mom jeans, avant-garde sunglasses and other ’90s inspired gear to listen to Latin-influenced tunes. Both small and large acts played one after the other at the three performing stages, with the likes of everyone from Kali Uchis to The Buttertones in attendance. Overall, the festival was a great experience.

No one got booed off the stage – sorry Drake – and there were tacos for sale that everyone could enjoy. The atmosphere was very relaxed, like everyone there was more concerned with the music than worrying about if their outfits were “edgy” enough to fit the mood.

I went on the last day, Sunday, Nov. 10, and saw nine different acts perform, each with their own style and stage presence. Below, I’ve rated the nine groups from the greatest to just lukewarm, starting with which ones were must-sees, and which ones were not so exciting to watch.

The Greatest:

The Marías

Seeing The Marías live was incredible. They were the first act I saw when I arrived, and they exceeded all my expectations. Their haunting but vintage sound resonated with everyone in the audience, as if they put the crowd in a trance. For a band caught in a sound between The Cardigans and ’60s French pop, The Marías nailed the essence of the festival with ease.


Wallows is one of the more popular bands that performed on Sunday, and they rocked the stage. Many people in the audience knew their songs and sang along, making their set feel like the ultimate teen rock concert. Guitarist and vocalist Dylan Minette engaged viewers by asking them to “Do it for Clairo!!” and sing along to Clairo’s solo in their hit “Are You Bored Yet?” They were fun, upbeat and ready to shred at any given moment. It was like seeing your local high school band play in their friend’s backyard, but with better equipment and a lot more fans. I would, without a doubt, see them again live.

Yellow Days

Before seeing Yellow Days, I’d only heard one or two of their songs, and was intrigued. My first impression was that they’re super funky with lots of groove. After seeing Yellow Days live at Tropicalia, my impression was the same, but nonetheless impressed. The voice behind the songs, George Van Der Broek, must possess a time machine with the way he played funk music that still captured the indie sound the audience was familiar with.

The Good:

Chicano Batman

Chicano Batman is, in one word, dope. Another band I’d never seen live but had heard recorded before, they also blew me away with their set. Unfortunately, I don’t understand much Spanish, so I had to appreciate the music less from a lyrical point of view and more from an instrumental side of things, but I found them to be good regardless. Visually, they were interesting as they used lots of color on their set and didn’t just stay planted in one spot. 10 out of 10 would see again, just maybe after taking Spanish 1 next semester.

Omar Apollo

Before the festival I’d never really listened to Omar Apollo – like, maybe a song of his came on shuffle once by accident and I skipped it. On stage, however, his presence was much more attention-grabbing. His set had energy, his outfit was patterned and exciting and his voice drew me in. A bilingual singer-songwriter at just 22, he’s the Mexican-American crooner of your dreams. His way of depicting love and heartbreak resonated with everyone who was there to listen.

The Drums

The Drums were good in the sense that they were a reliable act to see live. Most people in the indie-rock scene are pretty familiar with them, and they played well. I wouldn’t say they left a lasting impression on me, but I enjoy their music and enjoyed it even more live.

The Lukewarm:

Kali Uchis

This is no doubt a controversial opinion due to her popularity, but Kali Uchis didn’t impress me much at Tropicalia. Maybe it had just been a really long day, but I was looking forward to seeing her set, and the hype did not match up to her in-person stage presence. Her voice is nice to listen to, but nothing about her vocals stood out to me. It seemed like a lot of her praise is wrapped up in her set props and overall aesthetic versus her personal talent. This is coming from someone who does like and listen to her music. After she was escorted onto stage covered by huge creamy white-feathered fans, the rest of her set was lackluster. Talk about self-aggrandizing. Yes, everyone in the audience knew her songs, but besides her sex appeal and backup dancers, I left her performance less than thrilled.


Oh, Cuco. To be fair, I’d only heard some of his stuff before seeing him at the festival. However, first impressions are important, and Cuco didn’t quite do it for me. His music and lyrics came across a little bit juvenile and one-dimensional, but that doesn’t really concern his stage appeal. The issue was that on stage, he appeared really sluggish and not very interested in capturing the crowd.

Imagine Drake’s simp lyrics, with indie-pop beats in the background instead of R&B. I respect that as another bilingual performer and first generation Mexican-American, he is trying to create representation in the industry. More power to him. In the future, I’d be interested in seeing how his performances develop as he matures as a musician.

Boy Pablo

Boy Pablo wasn’t bad at all, and they were easy to listen to. On the flip side, they didn’t stand out from the other indie-pop acts very much. They were nice to watch on stage, dancing around and playing instruments here and there, just nothing out of the ordinary. Boy Pablo seemed like the band filling up every indie skater boy’s playlists, and they did a good job of fulfilling that role.