Music News & Reviews

Cinco de Mayo music festival returns to Southside Park

The Latino-themed beats won’t just resonate in the streets this year; they’ll create a party in the park as well. Fiesta en la Calle, which translates to “street party,” enters its fourth year as a free concert series at Cesar Chavez Plaza, featuring local and national headliners of salsa, reggaeton, Chicano oldies and other music en Español.

But this year, the Fiesta en la Calle series kicks off with two bonus events at Southside Park, starting with a Cinco de Mayo music and cultural festival Sunday. Malo, the headliner, is the classic Latin-rock band behind “Suavecito,” a song that doubles as an unofficial anthem at Mexican American weddings and other Latino parties where slow dances are in order.

Another Southside Park festival is set for May 31 with Grammy winners La Santa Cecilia on the bill. After that, the fiesta moves to Cesar Chavez Plaza for free concerts on Saturdays from June 14 to Aug. 2.

“It’s multicultural, family-oriented and has styles of music that represent all Latino countries,” said Miguel Castillo, the founder of Fiesta en la Calle. “We start (the show) with rock, pop, reggaeton and always conclude the night with a big headliner that’s danceable. We want something to get you on your feet.”

The annual Fiesta en la Calle concert series has emerged as other local Latino-themed events have disappeared. Festival de la Familia, which was held the last weekend of April, drew more than 35,000 attendees at its peak before being canceled in 2013 following a 21-year run. Southside Park was also home to a long-running Cinco de Mayo festival until the mid-1990s.

Southside Park has served as a hub for Sacramento’s Latino community for decades. The park’s amphitheater is adorned by a vibrant mural that was painted in 1976 by the Royal Chicano Air Force, a local collective of Latino artists renowned for merging themes of social justice and community building via paintings, posters and other artistic media. Situated near the Our Lady of Guadalupe Church, Southside Park has also hosted concerts and gatherings for Dia de las Madres – the Mexican equivalent of Mother’s Day.

“A lot of people I know had traditions of going to Cinco de Mayo at Southside Park,” said Castillo. “I went there many times and enjoyed it, and I was heartbroken when it died out.”

But new Southside music memories will be made soon. Along with Malo’s headlining set, Sunday’s pre-Cinco de Mayo festivities include familiar tunes from the Santana tribute band Sacred Fire, plus local favorites Dinorah & Crosswinds and InnerSoul on the old-school funk and Latin jams. The event also includes a classic car show and dance demonstrations from Aztec, folklorico and salsa troupes.

The May 31 event doubles as a benefit for a scholarship program run by Cien Amigos, a partnership between the Consulate General of Mexico in Sacramento and Mexican Cultural Center of Northern California. La Santa Cecilia will headline the show, and bring its mash-up of worldly rhythms and topical lyrics to the Southside Park crowds. The Los Angeles-based group won the 2014 Grammy for “best Latin rock, urban or alternative album.”

“Their music is a fusion of norteño, rock (and other styles) all in the same song,” said Castillo. “To me, they’re Latino world beat. When I first saw them I was blown away with how creative the are.”

Once the party moves to downtown’s Cesar Chavez Plaza in June, the musical lineup includes such leading Latino-themed groups from Northern California as Bang Data, which splices hip-hop, electronics and south-of-the-border rhythms with bilingual lyrics, and ska from the Monterrey, Mexico, band Inspector.

Look for the full summer lineup to be posted soon at

Meanwhile, Castillo looks forward to his expansion into Southside Park and hopes the Cinco de Mayo festival will become an annual event. Either way, the sight of locals dancing while a band jams on the amphitheater stage is long overdue.

“It was the central focus point for Latino events in Sacramento,” said Castillo. “We’re bringing it back home.”

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