The annual Latin Alternative Music Conference (LAMC) celebrated its tenth edition in New York City July 7-11 in the midst of a considerably different landscape than it encountered when it debuted a decade ago. With a radically different music industry that no longer relies on large retailers like the now-defunct Tower Records and Virgin Megastore, many of the participants used LAMC as an opportunity to debate – either privately or during panels – how to get the music into the hands of their target audiences.
Of course, there was a lot of music to be heard – while more established acts like percussionist Eric Bobo, Calle 13, Juana Molina, and Los Amigos Invisibles were immense draws as they headlined at Central Park Summerstage and Prospect Park’s Celebrate Brooklyn, lesser-known bands and solo artists shared stage time at smaller venues in downtown Manhattan to play to a mixed group that included fans, tastemakers and fellow musicians—all of whom were probably hearing the up-and-comers’ music for the very first time.
“This has been a great experience for us,” said Heidy of Los Angeles-based band Los Hollywood, who performed at the Mercury Lounge on July 8 and at Sounds of Brazil nightclub the following night. “We got a lot of exposure – there are people here from all over the country and also from Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico. It’s a great opportunity for any musician who wants to make it big.”
BMI’s Verano Alternativo helped jump-start the festivities. Proudly donning a “Women of Latin Music” theme, the July 7 showcase featured Eljuri, Afrobeta, Girlz Talk, Alih Jey, Bea Ba, Niña Dioz and Cristal Marie.
While Calle 13 and other marquee names drew impressive crowds, BMI artists were also well-represented at LAMC’s intimate showcases: Puerto Rico’s Domino Saints cleverly took advantage of the laid-back atmosphere of the Acoustic Showcase on July 9 to demonstrate their improvisational chops. Argentina’s Javier Garcia also excelled, as he performed solo in both English and Spanish. Later the same evening at the Bowery Ballroom, Mexican rapper Niña Dioz brought fans to their feet through strong lyrics backed by a blend of urban and traditional beats.
Fans were greeted with a welcome surprise at one of the festival’s largest must-see shows: On July 11, Colombia’s Electro-Cumbia Bomba Estereo, a relatively new band, performed in Central Park as a last-minute addition to a bill featuring genre titans Calle 13. The task was made all the more daunting by the size of the crowd—the venue was filled to capacity. However, Bomba Estereo’s fierce performance quickly earned enthusiastic approval from a sea of Calle 13 fans.
“I think the LAMC is good for networking,” explained Jorge Navarro of the San Francisco-based Cuban Cowboys, who did not play the conference this year. “It is good to get around people and really make connections. Especially now, more than ever, it is important to cultivate a wider context for Latin artists who are a little off the beaten path – after all, not everyone is Shakira.”
Written by Ernest Barteldes