Rosarito Beach, Baja California Mexico, was the center of the latin music universe for the weekend of August 16th, 2019. Although this was the second annual Baja Beach Fest, it truly felt like the first official event because of the caliber of artists, DJs, tastemakers and media in attendance. The hype built around it was higher than an imaginary 55 foot wall. Tickets sold out within 6 days. A bold statement was made this time around as it felt clear, the new independent festival is here to stay. Co-owned by Aaron Ampudia, the president of the ownership group of Rosarito’s signature venue “Papas & Beer”. The festival ground sits on the light-brown Rosarito Beach sand, just a few feet away from the deep blue water directly behind the aforementioned venue.
Returning to Baja Beach Fest was year one headliner Bad Bunny, accompanied by a slew of All-Stars including J Balvin, Ozuna, Nicky Jam, Becky G, Brytiago, Cazzu and more. More than 30,000 festival-goers attended this urbano music festival, doubling last years attendance. 90 percent of those attendees were from the U.S. according to Billboard.com.
When I arrived with my photographer, we were over 7 hours late. The doors opened at 2pm; while we naively left 3 hours before the doors opened because on a typical weekend Rosarito Beach is a three hour drive from LA. It took us a total of six hours to arrive to our hotel in Tijuana, and another hour to freshen up, plus another ninety minutes of traffic and finding parking. As we walked in to the festival around 9:30pm, we found a sea of people dancing and drinking on the sand as J Balvin performed in a white getup. His outfit had logos plastered throughout along with green, orange, blue, yellow paint splattered and with white tassels attached to the shoulders. It felt like I was witnessing a hipster mummy return from his eternal slumber to make the crowd scream lyrics to, “Te Bote”, “Mi Gente and “I Like That” plus more. Immediately after his performance, he walked down the runway, greeting fans with handshakes and lots of gratitude.
There was about a thirty minute intermission before Ozuna stormed the stage. So in turn, we stormed the open bar in the artist lounge to make sure I had the right level of Tequila to enjoy the performance to the fullest. El negrito con los ojos claros delivered the most anticipated performance of the night as he came out and belted out hits such as “Baila, Baila, Baila”, “Te Robaré”, “La Modela”, “Síguelo Bailando”, “Taki Taki” and of course “Te Boté”. The night closed out with beautiful fireworks being shot in the air for roughly 120 seconds. And just like that day one was over and it was onto the after party.
Day 2– The second went much more smoothly than the first did. We arrived around 4pm, found parking in an underground structure directly across from the festival. We immediately sped to the artist area to meet rising Mexican Reggaeton artist Sergio Elias for an interview. Being that this was my first Spanish interview, I was extremely nervous. We greeted his publicist backstage and she let us know Sergio would be available in the next ten minutes. As my crew walked into his trailer I instantly turned on my Telemundo tone and proceeded to ask him a myriad of questions, including, “what is it like to be the only Mexican Reggaeton artist on the Baja Beach Fest lineup?” to which he replied, “estoy bien orgulloso”. The interview lasted less than five minutes at his request since he had to take the stage immediately thereafter. He then strutted on stage and performed his hits “Solo Conmigo”, “En Secreto” and more surrounded by beautiful back-up dancers in all white outfits.
The ice melted into water in my fourth cup of paloma as the day turned to night. I looked across the artist lounge and saw five beautiful women surrounding Becky G’s trailer like it was Buckingham Palace. The Queen’s Guard were dressed in a neon yellow jumpsuit with neon orange trim to match Becky’s outfit.
She performed a few songs before she halted the show to express her gratitude to be performing in Mexico, which she called the motherland. Her speech also spoke on the divide between Mexican-Americans who sometimes are criticized for not being Mexican enough, “My story started here [in Mexico] before I was born, before my parents were born. So when people tell me you’re not Mexican, come to my mom’s house and I will show you.”
The energy stayed high throughout the festival thanks to DJ’s like Freddy Fresco and AJ Kalejero. A beautiful firework ending was the appropriate finale after Nicky Jam and Bad Bunny each gave us an hour of hits respectively. Although the sand was still in everyone’s toes, and the umbrellas still occupied their cups, the temporary paradise came to an end, hasta luego.