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Feeling Sunday at Festival La Onda

with breathtaking ballads by Mon Laferte

Festival La Onda was BottleRock’s first run at a second weekend that was all latin music, new & old. Not dissimilar from Coachella’s third weekend, Stagecoach. And reminds me a lot of Lost in Riddim too. Each of these California festivals bring together the top performing musicians from a culture around the world, whether in country, afrobeats or latin music.

The first day of La Onda with my friends on Saturday was a good time, but my solo trip Sunday introduced me to 3 musicians I’ll be feeling through music for the rest of my life, particularly Mon Laferte. I went into her show with casual expectations. I liked one of her songs. It was near the top of my “Songs to see at Festival La Onda“, and was approved by my partner. I had no idea how impactful she would be live and in catalog.

My jaw still drops thinking about the feeling I’ll remember from hearing her for the first time live. It was like I was listening to music I’ve heard for years. Song after song, hit after hit. Ballads better at storytelling than most movies. And I don’t speak Spanish.

I’ve binged her 8 studio albums and the many live iterations on Spotify for the past 72 hours when I’ve been awake. It’s a lot of music. I’ve only narrowed it to just under a hundred, but a few more months and I’ll distill it down with much more discernment. Follow my progress in the Spotify playlist below.

She’s made me want to write. I never like to write. It’s been especially hard to write, let alone think, about anything other than war. But she made me feel something deep at La Onda and with so much more of her entire catalog. Something words can never and music can only do.

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Kali Uchis vs Pearl Jam

Who won BottleRock 2024? It's complicated

Kali Uchis at BottleRock 2024

BottleRock 2024 was my third visit to the music festival in Napa. The first year in 2017, my partner and I heard Charles Bradley sing, which brought us to tears. The second year in 2021, we saw Jon Batiste play a charismatic set, which the crowd reflected back. Six months later, he won Album of the Year at the Grammys. So my third year had a lot to live up to and it did times 2 with the main headliners on Saturday, Kali Uchis and Pearl Jam. But the two had the same set times.

I had never been this conflicted with overlapping sets at a festival. I had seen Kali Uchis 5 times already, but Pearl Jam never. Plus, Pearl Jam was my second favorite band in high school (Smashing Pumpkins), but Kali was my first fav in 2018. And her new album, Orquídeas, is my favorite album of the year by far so far. I was so conflicted I did an Instagram poll (40% Kali, 60% Pearl Jam), which of course made me more conflicted. So I decided to go to both.

Pearl Jam started first at 7:45. That gave me about 30 minutes with them before I had to head to Kali Uchis for her 8:30 set. The funnest part of most festivals is swerving through the crowd dancing in moments with others along the way. Most of us don’t do it enough. I ended up leaving Kali Uchis after “Loner” and caught Pearl Jam close that night with an even better stroll through the crowds right before.

I love to compare and contrast everything, especially when others don’t. Pearl Jam topped Kali Uchis this time live, but they had twenty years of anticipation from me. However, of the 5 other shows I had previously seen of Kali, Pearl Jam’s set didn’t top a single one. I distinctly remember the first show I saw of hers in 2017. I had never heard such a majority of the crowd sing back every lyric to her. I’m sure Pearl Jam had a similar reaction a few years after they started playing, but I couldn’t witness because I was 8.

If that wasn’t controversial enough, Kali Uchis has a better catalog than Pearl Jam and she isn’t close to past her prime. Here are a few of my favorites from her.

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