Tropa Magica take their hybrid psychedelic cumbia punk to new heights | Concert Preview | Chicago Reader

Tropa Magica take their hybrid psychedelic cumbia punk to new heights 

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click to enlarge Tropa Magica

Tropa Magica

Clariza Reyes

In 2012, brothers David and Rene Pacheco emerged from East Los Angeles with Thee Commons, a band that blended elements of cumbia, chicha, surf, punk, psych, and more. Despite having all the ingredients for an excellent dance party, the group initially struggled to find a foothold in LA’s music scene, which like those of many major cities is often fragmented along genre, ethnic, and generational lines. But when Thee Commons finally built their own community, they hit their stride—and they hit it hard, electrifying fans from all walks of life with their high-energy music and over-the-top performances, which sometimes featured burlesque dancers, clowns, and/or guys in gorilla suits. In 2016, LA Weekly suggested that Thee Commons might be the best live band in town—and if they weren’t, they were certainly "damn near the top.” The group racked up a number of festival appearances, including last year’s Coachella, and were the subject of the 2017 documentary Thee Commons: Ni de Aquí, Ni de Allá (Burger). As the buzz surrounding them grew, though, their own perspectives and interests changed—and this spring the Pacheco brothers reinvented their band as Tropa Magica. Many of the Latin and Californian influences that fueled Thee Commons are still there on Tropa Magica’s debut EP from June, Tropa Magica y la Muerte de los Commons, as well as on the self-titled full-length they put out in September, and their sense of humor is intact too. But they’ve expanded their lineup and their sound, bringing new playfulness to their orchestral arrangements and extra spaciness to their surreal adventures. This is feel-good music, but it’s not fluffy feel-good music: there’s enough subversion, mischief, and magic simmering below the surface to keep any misfit dancing.   v

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