Bumbershoot Guide

Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Bumbershoot 2010

Monsters of Alt

TV Pilots vs. Baboon Attacks

Previews of Every Single Thing Happening at the Festival

People's Republic of Komedy vs. People's Republic of China

The Stranger's 2012 Bumbershoot Guide!

The Stranger's 2011 Bumbershoot Guide!

Our Massive 2013 Bumbershoot Guide

Bumbershoot 2009

Gogol Bordello vs. DeVotchka

The Stranger's Bumbershoot Guide

How Does It Feel to Be Back?

Mad Ruins

The Bob Dylan Torture Test

Still a Gigolo!

Touch Me, I'm Sub Pop's Warehouse Manager

The Shins vs. Their Future

Here's What We Think of Every Damn Thing Happening at This Year's Festival

Give It to Me Easy

Rock, Chunk, or Rule

Fergie vs. Jackson Pollock

Bumbershoot 2009

Emerald Shitty

De La Soul for Life

Hari's Big Break

Friday, August 31

I'm More Than Hair

Yes, Aloha!

Let Them Bring You Brown

Countdown to Courtney

Every band finds its level. Some are tailor-made for clubs. Others are most at home in sit-down venues. A few—U2 are the obvious example—were born for arenas. And then there isthe festival band—acts whose natural habitat is somewhere in the midst of a multiact (and sometimes multiday) bill, playing to thousands of music-loving (or just liking) vacationers, gawkers, hacky-sackers, and corn-on-the-cob and strawberry-shortcake enthusiasts. Easy on the ears but grabby enough to draw you in from half a block away, obviously danceable but without rhythms too intricate to travel from main-stage speakers across a yard, the festival band is an easy species to take for granted, at least until you encounter it in its proper context.

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The Bogotá, Colombia, quintet Bomba Estéreo—founder/bassist Simón Mejía, singer/ chanter Liliana Saumet, drummer Kike Egurrola, guitarist Julian Salazar, and percussionist Diego Cadavid—are a perfect late-model festival band. They play an aggressively catchy mélange of cumbia, reggaeton, dub, electronica, and rock, and the group's hit "Fuego" has the kind of savvy you hear in M.I.A.'s best work. Not coincidentally, "Fuego" has caught on everywhere from MTV Tr3s—the cable network's Latin-music arm—to KEXP, which has pumped the band's 2009 release, Blow Up (on the Nacional label), for over a year. The album is so immediately appealing that anyone who'd go to Bumbershoot—or any of the other festivals Bomba Estéreo have spent the summer playing (Bonnaroo, for one)—should find it easily accessible.

Reached by e-mail, Mejía says that he modeled his group on other melting-pot electronic acts. "I listened to groups like Nortec Collective and Sidestepper, and I really liked the sound of Thievery Corporation," he says. "But I wasn't sure how everything was going to come together." Soon after he began working on the tracks that would surface as the band's 2006 debut, Vol. 1, Saumet came into the studio for an audition, and her alternately sultry and keening chants gave Mejía's tracks definition. He'd been a DJ, not a live performer, when a promoter friend of Mejía's invited him to bring his group to an electronic-music festival in Medellín. The first live version of Bomba Estéreo was thrown together in a week. "It was weird," Mejía admits.

He got used to it, though—and he's hardly alone. "It's very satisfying when you see yourself playing the same stage with much larger acts," Mejía says, citing a recent all-day show in Portugal where his band played alongside M.I.A., the Flaming Lips, and Groove Armada. "We are really proud of bringing Colombian sounds to that level. I think cumbia, while a very localized genre, is also very universal. It's all about the root cultures, which are the real cultures of the world—Africa, indigenous—those expressions come from a real place and that's the power of that music. I think people sense that in an unconscious way."

Blow Up has been true to its name in terms of getting the band recognition. "Fuego" is hardly the only catchy thing on it—I've actually grown to prefer the hypnotic guitar-led disco-cumbia of "Juana" and advise the rest of the world to do the same. Nevertheless, "Fuego" has become the band's defining song. "That song is a very special case," Mejía says. "It was one of the first tracks I made when I began exploring a link between electronica and tropical music. Initially, it had no lyrics but just scratches from DJ Fresh—the person who inspired me a lot for making this kind of music. We invited some MCs to sing over it live. It was first called 'MRL,' which was a revolutionary movement in Colombia in the '70s. Then it was called 'Corinto,' which you can hear on Vol. 1, and opened with a speech from Carlos Pizarro Leongómez, the leader of M-19, a real and honest guerrilla from Colombia in the '80s. He was killed while running for president after they signed a peace treaty with the government—such a sad but very common story in Colombia. All the intelligent people who run into politics or something similar get killed.

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"When Liliana approached the track, she created the 'Fuego' lyrics, which in some ways are kind of political but not so direct. It is more focused through a personal level, like, 'Never let the fire die.' So that is the magic of that song."

Nevertheless, Mejía says, he's ready to move on. "I just want to make the next record very awesome and create more 'Fuegos' so I can loosen myself from playing that one. (It's boring me—shhh.)" recommended

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