Baja Beach Fest 2019: Bad Bunny, Becky G, J Balvin & Other Highlights
The biggest names in trap and reggaeton descended upon the scenic beach resort of Rosarito, Mexico for the second annual Baja Beach Fest on August 16. Founded by Chris Den Uijl and Aaron Ampudia in 2018, the sun-soaked live extravaganza is a celebration of Latin music and culture. In its brief history, Baja Beach Fest has already doubled in size (there are now two days of beachside fun) and popularity. With 30,000 tickets sold in less than a week, this is an essential addition to the festival calendar.
It’s hard to pinpoint highlights of a festival as flawlessly run and feel-good as this, but a couple of things stood out. For starters, the fact that Baja Beach Fest was able to attract such a star-studded lineup (artists included Bad Bunny, Ozuna and J Balvin). However, it wasn’t just big names. Event organizers also did an impressive job of introducing new talent and keeping the crowd entertained between sets. My only qualm was a lack of interaction between the performers. No doubt, that will come in time. Here are my 10 highlights (in alphabetical order).
It’s no exaggeration to say that Rosarito was gripped with Bad Bunny mania. From a giant inflatable sculpture of the hitmaker’s head to a truck selling Bad Bunny burgers, the Puerto Rican superstar was a massive presence at Baja Beach Fest. Happily, his headlining performance on Day 2 lived up to the hype. He belted out all the hits to a sea of fans, many of whom had copied his neon-colored approach to fashion and elaborate fade. “La Canción,” “Que Pretendes” and “Te Bote” were on the setlist, but the warmest reception went to “Callaita.”
Miss Gomez was a late addition to the Baja Beach Fest lineup when Cardi B pulled out, but it’s hard to imagine the event without her. After all, she represents the symbiotic relationship between Mexico and America (where 90 percent of attendees came from) better than anyone. Moreover, the 22-year-old is already an accomplished live performer and has a huge and ever-increasing arsenal of hits including “Banana” and “Cuando Te Besé.” Becky wound up her killer set by belting out mega-hit “Sin Pijama.” If only Natti Natasha could have been there with her!
Becky G’s Speech
Not only did Becky G deliver close to an hour of hits, she also captured the spirit of the event with an impassioned speech. “I lived my life in between two worlds representing two flags. [They always say], ‘You’re either too Mexican for the Americans or too American for the Mexicans,'” Miss Gomez told 30,000 festival-goers. “I’m proud of where I was born and I’m proud of where I was raised. But the blood that runs through my veins. That blood, nobody can take away from me. And my story started here before I was born. Before my parents were born. Aqui in Mexico.”
Discovering New Artists
One of the most exciting things about Baja Beach Fest is discovering new artists. While the likes of Bad Bunny and J Balvin have well and truly crossed over, it’s only a matter of time before they are joined by a bunch of newcomers. One of my favorite discoveries at the festival was Mexico’s own Sergio Elias. The 24-year-old is just at the start of his journey, but he’s definitely One To Watch. More established is Cazzu. The Argentinian star brings an important female perspective to the male-dominated world of trap. Also on the brink of superstardom is Brytiago. The Puerto Rican artist delivered one of the best sets of the weekend.
Arguably the biggest artist on the bill, J Balvin has well and truly crossed over thanks to a flood of mega-hits and collaborations with artists like Beyoncé, DJ Snake, Selena Gomez, Cardi B and Sean Paul. He needed no assistance at Baja Beach Fest, delivering all the hits including “Mi Gente,” “Con Altura” and “I Like It.” What sets him apart is the visual aspect, which incorporates mind-bending projections, epilepsy-inducing lighting and quirky costumes. At this point, J Balvin is one of the best festival performers in the world.
The new wave of reggaeton artists was well-represented at Baja Beach Fest, but Nicky Jam proved that the old guard isn’t going anywhere. One of the driving forces behind the exploding popularity of the genre, the enduring superstar belted out bangers from the mid-’00s as well as recent bangers like “Hasta El Amanecer” and “X” as well as the mellow “El Perdón.” The frenzied response from partygoers, who sang along to every song, showed that Nicky’s grip on the reggaeton is tighter than ever.
Believe it or not, Ozuna has never headlined a music festival until this weekend. It’s hard to believe given his incredible streaming numbers and growing international presence. After his sizzling set on Day 1, he is going to be on ever festival organizer’s wishlist. As expected, the Puerto Rican hitmaker delivered all the bops from Aura (one of 2018’s best urbano albums) and even debuted some songs from his upcoming LP, Nibiru. As expected, Ozuna closed his set with “Taki Taki” — a moment that almost caused the ground to shake.
One thing that really stands out about Baja Beach Fest is the low-key, feel-good atmosphere. Sure, there is still plenty of primping and posing for Instagram, but it’s nowhere near as prevalent as at Coachella (for example). People are mostly just there to enjoy the music and have a good time. Which is also reflected in the barely-there outfits of many festival goers (it is on the beach) and the friendly interactions. If you like your music without the attitude, Baja Beach Fest is the event for you.
Baja Beach Fest literally takes place on a breathtaking Mexican beach within walking distance of Rosarito’s bars, restaurants and nightclubs. I can’t think of a better location for two days of good music.
While most music festivals like to think that they double as a culinary event, Baja Beach Fest actually pulls it off without even trying. Instead of fancy food trucks, this event is mostly catered by local vendors selling tacos, burritos and every other delicious Mexican food you can think of. There was also a plethora of places to buy booze. However, if you didn’t want to wait in line you could just order a beer or margarita from one of the many servers walking around the event. This is probably what heaven feels like.