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BottleRock organizers tap into the Latino market with Festival La Onda

BottleRock organizers tap into the Latino market with Festival La Onda

The band Maná will perform at both BottleRock and the inaugural Festival La Onda this year at the Napa Valley Expo. (Courtesy Latitude 38 Entertainment)

Looking to capitalize on the growing influence — and affluence — of Latinos in the Bay Area and beyond, BottleRock organizers have extended their stay at the Napa Valley Expo, bringing a second straight weekend of music to downtown with Festival La Onda. 

The two-day celebration of food, wine and multi-genre, multi-generational Latin acts kicks off Saturday. Organizers say they expect some 60,000 attendees over the weekend, a smaller crowd than the 120,000 that came for BottleRock, but far more than any other ethnic-themed festival in the county. 

Demand has been growing. According to a report from the Recording Industry Association of America, revenue from Latin music in the U.S. exceeded $1 billion for the first time in 2022, outpacing growth in the larger industry.  

Local producers have noticed.  

Last September, Will and Julissa Marcencia, owners of bilingual radio stations KVON-AM and KVYN-FM, put on their inaugural Latin music festival, Sabor + Ritmo, which drew about 7,000 festivalgoers to Napa's Silverado Resort and Spa.

And in Los Angeles, the Besame Mucho Festival held its own inaugural event in December 2022. The third iteration of the festival is scheduled to kick off Dec. 21.

In an interview, Dave Graham, chief executive of BottleRock producer Latitude 38 Entertainment, talked about how the idea came to be and what festivalgoers can expect. The interview has been edited for clarity. 

When did the pivotal "a-ha" moment occur that led to the creation of La Onda?

Dave Graham: (Latitude 38 partner) Justin Dragoo and I attended a Bad Bunny concert in Oakland last year, and the promoter for Bad Bunny was also there. During the concert, two things happened. First, we shared our idea to organize a Latino festival, making him (Bad Bunny's promoter) the first person outside our trio (including Latitude 38's third partner, Jason Scoggins) to know about our next potential venture.

Making that statement outside of our partnership made things a bit more real and made us suddenly a bit nervous, too. We were, in a sense, now publicly committed to doing this. But then we walked around the sold-out stadium floor and saw happy fans jamming out to the music and enjoying the food and drinks. We thought: "This is our crowd." We saw a fan base of who we thought were "BottleRockers," or people who would want to be, but more importantly, we felt like everyone who was in attendance deserved a Latino festival dedicated to Latinos, and that is what we are doing. 

What was the thought process behind the La Onda lineup?

Dave Graham: It was a similar thought process to how we book BottleRock, but curated to Latinos. Our aim was to make it a multi-generational lineup, where fathers and sons and mothers and daughters could attend to enjoy the festival together. In a theoretical world, if my son and I were going together, I would go see Maná, and he would go see Fuerza Regida. Then we would come together to see each of those acts. It's exciting; we will feature artists from a range of genres, including regional Mexican, Latin pop, Spanish rock, reggaetón, banda, mariachi, rap, norteño, cumbia and bolero.

Fuerza Regida will be among the headlining acts at the inaugural Festival La Onda, which the Napa Valley Expo will host in June. (Courtesy of Latitude 38 Entertainment)

Why Napa?

Dave Graham: We wanted to be about something. The festival is a Latin festival for Latinos.

Napa is 41% Latino and if you unpack that, the vast majority of that population is Mexican. We wanted to bring something to cater to this community. Anecdotally, for 10 years at BottleRock, all of our Latino friends would say, "That was great, but can we have more artists like Juanes? How about 10 or like 20?" Of course, BottleRock is what it is, so we said, "Hey, let's meet this customer need." We are doing this with a focus on a lot of Mexican artists.

Why did the team decide to name the festival "La Onda"?

Dave Graham: It's a word that almost everyone who speaks Spanish knows, but it has different meanings. There is so much pride in the word when it's used in a variety of different ways whether it be "Que onda?" for a greeting, or "la onda," referencing "a good vibe," which is how we are using it. We feel like everyone can give it its own meaning.

The prices are affordable for a two-day festival. (Presale prices for general admission were $150 per day or $269 for both days. A pre-sale BottleRock three-day pass was $426.) Was that intentional?

Dave Graham: Yes. We are doing everything we can to keep the prices affordable and reasonable. By having La Onda the weekend after BottleRock, we can take advantage of the infrastructure. We are not holding back on the level of experience that will be provided. Put it this way: You will get a VIP experience without the VIP ticket. Our BottleRock customers know our level of execution and fans can expect that at La Onda; it's part of our brand and who we are. We want as many people as possible to come and experience La Onda. I also want to add that we did not want to come into this thinking, "We know what Latinos want." That is why we hired a Mexican PR firm and have a Mexican creative team. It's time. Northern California Latinos need a festival to call their own, a festival of this size, artists like we have. They deserve it and we are doing it.