THE FIRST LATINO CAMPOUT MUSIC FESTIVAL IN HISTORY!
EVENT 2016 DATES: Fri-Sat, March 18, 19 (Early entry Thurs, March 17, noon) Depart Day: Sun, Mar 20.
LIVE MUSIC: 18 major bands on 2 tandem main stages Fri/ Sat, 11a-12a Kinky was listed for 2 shows.
LATE NITE DANCE TENT: Thurs, 12 noon-midnight, Fri and Sat, 12a- 2a or 4a. 10 regional DJs
HECTOR & PEDRO’S SALOON: Thurs.-Sat, Noon-Midnight, featuring live DJs noon-midnight
WATERSLIDE: Largest 155’ long inflatable double water slide in America! What made this festival really special other than the unique talent lineup was the camping in the desert.
The ticket price and cost of camping was also relatively inexpensive. (First $139, then $159 WKND, $40 CAMPING). This was the first multi-day campout Latino music festival in America. Some say anywhere.
The 110+ acres of desert space, otherwise used for the annual Gem and RV show throughout the town, was available for the March, Spring Break dates, 2016.
Lifetime promoter Hal Davidson had been thinking about a major Latino music festival for many years since he worked in the travel industry in Florida in the 80’s-2004. The original thought was to use the Seminole reservation but the years passed and he finally moved out of Florida, primarily due to the amount of crime and sleazy business people. Vacationing and living and doing business in Florida are two vastly different things. Over the end of 2014 and into 2015, Davidson visited possible locations in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico and Las Vegas, Nevada.
He met with MGM representatives in Las Vegas in December of 2014 on the lot across from the Luxor Hotel where the terrible tragedy later took place in October 1, 2017. The Route 91 Harvest Festival tragedy shook Davidson immediately aware that Rock Fiesta could have easily been the targeted event. Davidson had decided against the location because there were not enough entrances and the MGM staff were such poor communicators.
Though he lived in Las Vegas many years before, he saw a basic dysfunction throughout the city’s entertainment industry full of corruption and callously cold casinos… wrong vibe for Rock Fiesta needing a natural place where people could roam and be free. A place to camp. He saw the camping component as a major part needed for this event designed to bring Latinos together, not to make a bunch of hotels richer. In 2015 he made several visits to and surveyed land parcels in and near McAllen, Texas.
One particularly compelling spot was a sprawing tract next to a regional airport located about 30 miles North of the Mexican border. Davidson also spent significant time checking out Austin, but after seeing all of the venues there, deduced they were suitable for an outdoor camping event like Rock Fiesta. He then pursued other venues in Texas, but the stars couldn’t align to match his vision of the right spot. Austin’s festival site alternatives were very limited, unlike the festival friendly place ourtsdiers think it is.
Dennis Kuehl, the Showgrounds Manager, was supportive of the festival. Davidson traveled there the summer of 2015 several times to scope out the space. The 115 acre site at the foot of Q Mtn., looked like a blank canvas capable of accommodating a weekend fest next to I-10, just 10 mi. from the California line. It was a long drive from Phoenix in the hot desert town of Quartzsite, AZ. The people there were Latino friendly. The Rotary Club came forward to offer an attractive deal to secure a beer permit. The Rotary Club remained friendly supporting Davidson during the aftermath of settling festival affairs.
In August of 2015, investors from California had emerged and formed an agreement with Festivaland, LLC. Davidson signed a venue contract with Desert Gardens Showgrounds in the same month and after visiting several times, moved to Quartzsite in September. A friendly realtor rented the festival a house that would become headquarters just minutes from the site. This town was the epicenter of the annual Gem and RV show which at one time drew over 1 million people from October to early March, but still crammed hundreds of thousands over the 92 campgrounds from December through February.
By March, the town would be reduced to a few thousand souls, mostly seniors which for the most part welcomed the event and supported the diversity of the coming crowd. Otherwise, there are few if any Latinos in Quartzsite. To plan the site, we’d ride our mountain bikes over the I-10 bridge and we were there, improving, measuring and refining the site on almost a daily basis. We woul dneed to install a couple miles of fence, improve the backstage office which was a pre-existing building on site, biuld the saloon, install roads, culverts and install signs. We spent a lot of time with the BLM (Bureau of Land Management), planning the use of area roads and lands for possible quickk expansion if the festival blew up in the last week.
Then, within 2 months, the national media was focusing on the Sheriff of Maricopa County and his pink overalls he was requiring inmates to wear. Customers from outside the state didn’t like the checkpoints and Arizona’s hardcore image and stance on immigration. There was no way to know in advance this situation could grow to such national and international prominence. Arizona’s public image to Latinos in other states affected attendance and is the chief reason we will nto be back. Kind of ironic when you consider the fact that Phoneix is hoem to hundreds of thousands of Latinos. But this event was not intedned as a local event, it’s an epic brand for Latinos everywhere.
Nothing could stop the greatness of the event and the historic nature of the experience. The weight of the talent lineup was integral in making the event so great!
The ending talent lineup was historic and is considered the greatest roster of Latino rock in American history.
EL TRI, CAIFANES, CAFÉ TACVBA, MALDITA VECINDAD, MOLOTOV, PXNDX (PANDA), KINKY, PANTEON ROCOCCO, OZOMATLI, LOS AMIGOS INVISIBLES, DIVISION MINISCULA, NORTEC COLLECTIVE: BOSTICH + FUSSIBLE, SILVERIO, FINDE, SIDDHARTHA, S7N, MEXICAN DUBWEISER, PALENKE SOUTRIBE AND METALACHI, (A METAL MARIACHI BAND).
To keep the concept intact, Davidson selected each band, bought some of the bands himself; Caifanes, Café Tacvba, Kinky, S7N, Palenke Soultribe, Metalachi, and recruited 2 talent buyers for the rest. The total roster cost under $800,000. Caifanes were the most difficult of all to work with. All of the other bands were a delight to work with.
It was a once in a lifetime lineup to most likely never appear together again. Davidson was proud of the result.
We used a two stage system. Setting two SL320 stages right next to each other with 4 semi trailed back up to the rear of them for warehousing. The sound was crisp and loud. Stage Lighting was pretty good. The sound was the most important thing, loud clear Latino rock music! Davidson saw the 150’ water slide as imperative, the Saloon and Late Nite Dance tent with Latino EDM essential to fill out the party platform of the 5 acre concert area.
Two assistants were hired, one from Mexico and one from Phoenix. Neither will come along for the future. During the months of preparation these two were integral to the daily promotion and set up, unfortunately the one from Mexico ended up being a treacherous turn coat. The other simply found other work and cannot be reached. These types of behaviors are not unusual on music festivals.
The logo, T shirts, website, flyers, posters, festival site layout, stage configuration, location were all designed by Hal Davidson. He is also the exclusive owner of the domain name and TRADEMARK. Even though the site production company failed to take it away from him, they tried.
The major reasons Rock Fiesta cannot happen again in the same location:
- The showgrounds are not big enough, even though there was 115 acres.
- The site was surrounded on both sides by retirement villages.
- It only takes a few bad personalities in Quartzsite; there were at least 10 haters and thieves, a few of those from Phoenix and Palm Springs, CA. When we say bad, we mean very bad.
- Law enforcement was not cooperative after the event to deal with serious issues Hal was experiencing. Also an uncaring Attorney General. The Deputy Sheriff wanted to arrest Hal.
- Arizona has checkpoints and our fans from California and Mexico didn’t like the state’s image.
- A dysfunctional Quartzsite Post Office during December-February even though one of the workers there was and remains to be a great supporter of the festival.
Selling out, the flag was a huge success
Hundreds flying in the campground
It needs to be said that some of the people in Quartzsite were very kind, constructive people including Dennis from the Showgrounds, Violet Kiss from the Rotary Club, the Mayor, local Police Chief (who went to another job in the state), and the local newspaper. Most of the workers were also dedicated, friendly and helpful. The most profound lasting aspect of the entire event was the collective joy and attitude of everyone in attendance.
People embraced the primitive the event was and were glad to be there among other Latinos from all over the country from; Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Texas, New Mexico, California, Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, New York and many, many places in between. Making their homes and compounds in the desert, with many impromptu jam sessions seen throughout the late night campgrounds. They were all camping in the desert and seeing the best bands in the genre.
Latinos from everywhere were together at their own music spectacular. A brand now proven! Davidson stayed in Quartzsite for months after the event’s end to clean up and put the festival to rest.
Rock Fiesta’s weather Fri, Sat, March 18-19, 2016: HI: 91° LO: 57°
Later in 2017, reading all of the positive reviews, the Phoenix owner of the Quartzsite Showgrounds contacted Davidson to inquire about funding a second event. Davidson sent a letter of intent with details. But after it was clear he did not understand the basics of festivals, suggested a smaller event with less cost. Davidson made it equally clear that the event needed to be bigger, not smaller. An extra weekend day meant more funding.
The Showgrounds owner suggested using local bands and that was the end of the conversation. At that point, it became clear that Quartzsite was in the rear view mirror. Davidson did re-visit Arizona traveling to Sierra Vista in the SE and to Prescott Valley in the North. And though there was a continued research in the Phoenix area, Davidson could not get over his negative feelings about the security and law enforcement and the state’s hardcore immigration position. No place was the right location and the AZ vibes were not matching Davidson’s vision, and so by the beginning of 2017, Arizona was over. The La Paz Deputy Sheriff was a dick and wanted to arrest Davidson. Many good locations have been suggested; El Paso, Las Vegas, Indian reservations and others… very welcome.
Davidson repeatedly said back I n 2016; that "the festival attendees from Phoenix were in whole great people. They came backstage and hugged me for what I had brought to their state. I miss them very much."
In 2019 he said: "The next Rock Fiesta needs to be in the same region as the first, just not in Arizona."
THE MEDIA CELEBRATED THE EVENT AS A CULTURAL MILESTONE
Rock Fiesta Brings Latin-Rock Authenticity to the Arizona Desert
by MTV News Staff
The first-ever festival featured great performance after performance. And while the press took to calling Rock Fiesta the Latino answer to Coachella, in reality its totemic lineup and reigning spirit of chaos suggest a more apt Woodstock comparison.
Rock Fiesta organizer Hal Davidson entered the world of rock en español three years ago, when Monterrey, Mexico, rockers Kinky, with whom he’s worked as a promoter, showed him a pic of them performing in front of 80,000 people at Mexico City’s Vive Latino festival.
"I saw that there was a major hole in the market and a really great opportunity," Davidson tells MTV. "There’s never been a camp-out Latino rock festival in America before, or anywhere else in the world. We’re the first ones." The Latino music festival market is drastically underserved.
"2016’s Rock Fiesta was a diamond in the rough."
Rock Fiesta Spring Break 2016: Arizona to Host the Biggest Latin Rock Festival in the U.S.
By Editor AZLatinos.com
As the festival draws closer, the 115-acre Desert Gardens Show Grounds is transforming into a World Class festival site with large scale excavation and construction taking place in an effort to build a perfect 15-acre concert area containing; 47.4 tons of production, one huge double Main Stage, 770,000 watts of crown power inside of a state-of-the-art sound and lights array plus 2 LED-sound relay towers
"Thirteen and a half hours of rock in your face with no breaks for two days in a row,"
By Stephanie Sanchez KAWC
Davidson said. But would 3,500 local residents and seasonal RV living retirees be up for a three day Latin rock show? "We may have 50,000 Mexicans jumping up and down, screaming, drinking beer," Davidson said. "Do you realize that? Is that OK? Can we bring that? They said yes, bring it … we did and it was loved by all."
This was the first time ever Arizona had this type of festival.
Channel 12 NBC Arizona
Rock Fiesta was basically a Latin Rock Coachella and the energy was amazing. I call it the mini-Coachella with much potential for it to occur next year.
People -- and not only Latinos -- attended the festival from different parts of the world such as Chicago, Mexico, Guatemala, New York and Los Angeles, to name a few.
I interviewed a young man named Cesar, 22, from Sonora, Mexico. He told me how he packed up his bags, got on a bus with his passport and set up camp for the weekend at the Rock Fiesta campsite. The festival had two stages with live bands playing music back to back. 12 News had the chance to interview several iconic bands: Los Angeles' own Ozomatli, Alex Lora from El Tri and S7N.
Not only did we get to interview, but also capture the essence of the ambiance: people cheering all day, vendors in every corner of the show grounds and even a Donald Trump piñata being passed around the crowd.
There were thousands of people on Friday leading up to Saturday. Let me just emphasize that by the end of the night, I could barely move through the crowds while trying to use Snapchat, Twitter and Instagram so our 12 News audience could be part of the fun as well.
We even did a 12 News Facebook live stream in bilingual for the first time and toured the show grounds along with a simple interview of why it meant so much for Latinos and more to unite at concerts like these.
At the moment, there is still no word if there will be a future Rock Fiesta, but we are crossing our fingers that it will happen.
Hal Davidson's Rock Fiesta:
Transforming a Desert Destination into a Hotbed of Latin Rock
1/27/2016 billboard by Judy Cantor-Navas
Hal Davidson, a promoter with a varied past, is taking a big bet that the inaugural Rock Fiesta festival will attract a younger, Spanish-speaking crowd to an Arizona desert town normally frequented by the happily blue-haired.
Davidson is bringing nearly twenty of Mexico’s most beloved rock bands to Quartzsite, a town he calls "a playground for octogenarians," for a two-day festival that will, he sincerely hopes, plug a hole in the festival market and draw significant crowds of fans from both sides of the border.
"The festival will run from 11a.m. to 12:30 in the morning, with no stops," says Davidson, who tells Billboard the independently-funded Fiesta will cost $2 million to produce. "It will be rock, in your face, for 13-and-a-half hours on two separate days. This will never happen again."
Rock Fiesta's lineup features legendary rock en español bands and Latin alternative artists including Cafe Tacvba, Caifanes, Maldita Vecindad, El Tri, Molotov and Monterrey-based Kinky. Its home will be Desert Gardens, a 118-acre camping site in Quartzsite around 100 miles from the Mexican border and a three- to four-hour drive from Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Tijuana and Mexicali, and two hours from Phoenix.
Davidson, 61, started planning the festival three years ago, after being introduced to rock en español by Kinky, becoming friendly with the group after promoting one of their shows in Miami. But over lunch, one of the band members took out his phone and showed him a photo of the group performing at Mexico City’s massive Vive Latino festival. "I said 'that looks like 80,000 people and you on stage," Davidson recounts. "And they said, ‘that’s 80,000 people and us on stage."
That was enough for Davidson to envision the potential for a major Latin rock festival in the United States. Upon Kinky’s suggestion, Davidson looked for a location along the U.S.-Mexico border, spending $30,000 in travel costs over two years to scout potential sites, passing over McAllen and Austin, TX, Albuquerque and Santa Fe NM and Las Vegas, NV as potential sites. None worked out.
It was around then that Davidson received a call over opportunities to bring a festival to Quartzsite -- a country music festival was suggested. Instead, he proposed Rock Fiesta.
"If you’re a passionate promoter who sees a hole in the market, it doesn't matter whether you’re Latino or not," says Davidson, who started his lengthy career as the twenty-year-old organizer of the legendary Stompin 76 bluegrass festival near Galax, VA, which he remembers as a wild time with over 100,000 attending! After that festival, Davidson worked as a Ringling Bros. circus promoter, Las Vegas casino Promotions Manager, resort marketing star in Florida and later began logging miles as an international music festival consultant.
"As a professional producer, you can work with any kind of music as long as you’ve got the money and the town or municipality is willing," says Davidson, who has now set up a base in Quartzsite and contracted a Rock Fiesta production team, among whom he is the only one "who is not Latino or speaks Spanish."
Davidson sees Rock Fiesta as a win-win situation for Spanish-language rock fans and Quartzsite. He says the town, which has a resident population of about 3,600 and attracts thousands of the aforementioned elderly visitors in the wintertime, will benefit from reaching new demographics that Rock Fiesta will bring. Among other financial arrangements with city leaders and influencers, a portion of the proceeds from bar sales at the festival will be donated to the local Rotary Club. The producer says he is not worried about the culture clash that will occur on the festival weekend, adding that there will be "big time security" at the event.
Festivals focusing on Latin rock and alternative music have been increasing in number over the past few years; Chicago’s Ruido Fest and L.A.’s Supersonico have catered to a similar crowd. Another recent festival, the two-day L Festival in Costa Mesa, Ca., was billed by its producers, Universal Music and Goldenvoice, as a "Latin Coachella," it featured a line-up of both pop stars and regional Mexican artists.
Davidson asserts that his desert festival will be a more "authentic" option than L Festival, and that the scope of the Rock Fiesta camping and music experience will go beyond any other gathering. "We need a cultural event like this for the people who are supporting Latino Rock," he says. Davidson says he is working with local Arizona Latin rock producers, but is promoting the show independently.
Latin Rock and Mexican Pride Combine at Rock Fiesta
By Sarah Bennett Phoenix New Times
More than Coachella, Rock Fiesta felt at times like Warped Tour with a pressing purpose. In reality, Rock Fiesta — which we called "the Coachella of Latin Rock" for its two-day campout premise and impressive lineup of seminal Mexican acts — was never meant to be anything political. But how could the largest rock en español concert on American soil not take on greater significance when it’s happening in a state that has historically passed and enforced some of the strictest anti-immigration laws that have only served to make life miserable (if not hostile) for its Latino population?
And who on Rock Fiesta’s organizing team could have predicted that after two years of planning, their festival would fall right in the middle of a racially charged election season. Beyond politics, however, the festival marked another major milestone for rock en español as a genre: Its U.S. audience is now formidable enough to sustain large-scale music festivals.
… others with traditional pre-Columbian headgear and Mexican flags. Despite 100-plus-degree temperatures, everyone came ready to dance, mosh, and celebrate Mexico’s contributions to Latin rock on a level never before seen stateside.
Having Rock Fiesta as a one-day thing closer to LA might have allowed the event to sell out, but organizers took a big chance on presenting the bands over a multi-day format in Quartzsite, a town of a few hundred geriatric gem lovers no less than a two-hour drive from any major city. Given the impressive lineup and historic nature of the event, Rock Fiesta was under-attended, but this should not be taken as a failure. This disappointing attendance was only due to the State’s aggressive immigration policies widely telecast in national news in 2015-2016 after the event’s promotion began. The first Coachella missed its attendance goal by a similar margin and lost so much money it almost never happened again. What it lost in revenue, it made up for in precedent. Like Coachella, Rock Fiesta is only the start of something much greater.
By showcasing the splintering diversity of rock en español as a genre, Rock Fiesta laid the foundation for its inevitable entry into the mainstream American consciousness. It also demonstrated the continued need for festivals that fight the predominantly white status quo.
If the Afropunk Festival can go from a small concert of black punk bands in a Brooklyn Park to a multi-city celebration of African American music as a whole, then Rock Fiesta can easily become the Latin American response to the dominance of English-language rock. The only question left now is whether or not it will happen again?
Matty Dee from Phoenix did an amazing job developing a wide spread street team stretching into several states and into Mexico. We distributed 350,000 flyers and thousands of posters. He opened up and maintained 28 ticket outlets in CA and AZ. Matty also lined up the DJs for the Late Nite Dance tent and managed it nitely. Matty passionately helped in other areas! It was sad to go on our different ways afterward.
Part of the story, behind the scenes during the event, and for the next 3 years afterward, will not be revealed in this story. Anyone dedicating their life to put on an event like Rock Fiesta in a strange place with people not known to him, is taking a great risk and must know up front of the serious sacrifices that need to be made. The fact is that there were dark clouds over the background of the event since Saturday, March 19, 2016.
Davidson knew the prime objective was to give the audience what they paid for, and that was a great stage show and happy camping experience, no matter what he was personally experiencing. For the audience on a first time festival, sure there were issues related to the site production company and their security, and Caifanes refused to allow the festival to sell T shirts with their name on them, but in all, there were very few serious problems in the eyes of the ticket buyers. The audience was awesome!
Festivals are difficult to produce in the first place, but the business background and aftermath of Rock Fiesta holds secrets that few know. Fortunately, for Hal Davidson, every single one of those objectionable people are not along for the ride on the next one, or the one after that. Davidson is the last one standing to carry the flag forward!
He cares more about the destiny of providing a truly great weekend music festival for the Latino people than he cares about just doing it to get rich. Riches follow with festival greatness. All of the festivals and battles he has fought has led him to holding the key unlocking the door of Rock Fiesta. This festival must prevail no matter how many years it takes! Those attending the first Rock Fiesta know how special it really was, never done before! After returning to his eastern home, after the summer was over, in September of 2016, Davidson was hired to consult for a NC land owner with vast holdings in Tennessee, and at the same time pursued the possibility of a Rock Fiesta in Atlanta (just 3 hrs. away), since it is the fastest growing Latino market in America. He had a plan for several festivals to be launched over the next few years in GA and TN. All from 2017 into 2019, thorough due diligence was executed. Davidson was talking to dozens of contractors and marketing people and had the venues chosen.
However, with Davidson’s now ultra-sensitivity of whom is good and whom isn’t, he gradually saw that the Atlanta funding intermediaries were not communicating professionally and were neglecting certain fiduciary responsibilities, so in October, 2017 Davidson halted the Rock Fiesta- Atlanta project.
In his books, Davidson describes this poor advance communication as a sure sign of a deteriorating business relationship and if ignored, in all probability a bad ending results. A lesson for all new promoters. In early 2019, Davidson halted the TN projects due to the final realization that his TN land owner associate was so incompetent, the situation would lead Davidson into festival devastation. So the best of plans can quickly or slowly be submarined by outside parties who have no idea what the hell they are doing. In 2019, Davidson has returned to reviving Rock Fiesta. He is visiting California to look at several venues in SoCal in pursuit of 2020 spectacular.
Here’s the same flag which flew over the Quartzsite HQ, carried east, flying proudly over Fort Fiesta in Maryland, the summer after the event.
As one chapter in the annals of Davidson’s long festival history spanning more than 4 decades closes, and another chapter opens, FESTIVALAND, LLC is now put to sleep. FESTIVAL FACTORY, LLC is alive! Another Rock Fiesta will happen once the stars re-align and at this point in time, that must be in the west, where it all started. That’s where the right vibe resides and Davidson has stayed committed to the brand… viva la Rock Fiesta!
¡Espero volver a verlos a todos en la próxima ROCK FIESTA!
Producer of Rock Fiesta on the AZ desert campground after its conclusion, 2016.