by Gabe Meline
Roseland pretty much goes off every year for Cinco de Mayo, but last night carried an intense communal electricity missing from the previous couple years. Maybe it was better music; maybe it was the teeming crowds. Organizers predicted that a Monday night would diminish attendance, but it was actually crowded as fuck and at times impossible to make one's way around the parking lot. Was it packed? Hell yes. Was it worth it? Always.
Community leaders have made a big deal out of the family-friendly aspect of Roseland's Cinco de Mayo festival, ignoring hella cool shit like people cruising lowriders in the streets, half-naked teenagers sucking face behind the dumpsters, and moms in aqua blue pantsuits carrying around toddlers with mohawks. Something about the unpredictable atmosphere recalls my junior high dances at Comstock. It ain't all peaches and cream, guys beef with each other, and yeah, people sneak flasks of cognac in. Whatcha gonna do?
Food budget for the night topped out at $9.75 for three tacos, one tamale and a slice of cherry pie with ice cream. And although I'm a huge champion of pupusas, why are there always, like, 45 people waiting in line for pupusas as if there's only one time a year to ever get 'em? (Here's the tip: go to Pupuseria Salvadorena on Maple Ave., across from the fairgrounds. I was down with Hot Tamales on Santa Rosa Avenue when it was the only game in town, but Salvadorena kicks their ass.)
As usual, the action was over on the second stage, where last year's returning breakdance champion Lil' Tony was dethroned by a younger kid with crazier moves and who was hotter with the ladies—despite Lil' Tony's pretty ripping run-through of "Billie Jean," complete with cartwheels. What can we say, Tones? After you hit 12 years old, it's pretty much all downhill.
Other second stage highlights: E-40's "U and Dat" rockin' the crowd uncensored; a killer group rap about Cinco de Mayo which blew the speakers out; Mayor Bob Blanchard busting a move; CD giveaways galore; and after the not-really-reggaeton "reggaeton" sounds of a certain group from Oakland, Santa Rosa's own Latin Hyper storming the stage and shouting, "Now it's time for some real reggaeton! Manos arriva!" Jeans + black shirts + Sean Johns + shades + pounding dancehall rhythms = killing it.
Tattoo of the night: "Dogg Pound -4- Life," obviously homemade. Arrest of the night: the guy so drunk he couldn't stand on his own two feet while two girls led him out of the crowd. He was swiftly intercepted by Sheriffs who wrestled him down, kneeled hard on his head and married his face to the pavement—see photo below. Ouch. Speech of the night, after a couple more flareups: "Walk home peacefully! Be proud of being Mexicano! We don't need you in Juvenile Hall! We don't need you in jail tonight! It's not every day we get to do this!"
Police were out in force, but really, what's with hundreds of kids running down the street at breakneck speed towards a fight while groups of cops just sort of mosey along towards the action at a snails' pace? I witnessed it a few times; kinda weird.
All in all, it was a hell of a celebration, and I can with all honesty say that the music this year was way better than ever. Among the performers, my favorites had to be the aforementioned Latin Hyper; Quinto Sol, five energetic kids from Santa Rosa's sister city of Los Mochis; and Pilar del Rocío, who sang so goddamn beautifully it was as if her blood were slowly dripping away from her soul. Don't believe me? Hear for yourself:
Quinto Sol! They ruled. So much fun.
Kids watching the Mariachis.
Our homeboy Bob Blanchard, Mayor of Santa Rosa, kickin' it with Pilar del Rocio.
Soon as he drove it off the curb it stalled. Hella sweet lookin', though.
Fastest tacomaker of the whole festival. You shoulda seen the guy.
The A's got Frank Thomas back on the team—right on!
Kid with the Pepsi looks like he's cookin' up a plan.
Even the kids' area was shoulder-to-shoulder. So packed!
510 Riddim, from Oakland.¡Viva los Calles!
The guys that blew the speakers out, rockin' the second stage.
Poor fella, arrested for intoxication. Probably seen better nights.
Ending the festivities on an up note. Until next year!