Tropa Magica Brings Psychedelic Cumbia Punk Music to UCSB

Photo by Charles Stock | Staff Photographer

Soraya Lugo

Tropa Magica, a psychedelic cumbia punk band who played at Coachella in 2017, visited the Multicultural Center (MCC) on Friday, Oct. 19, filling the theater with its cinematic Colombian rock sound and attracting excited fans.

The band originally began as Thee Commons in 2012 as a trio made up of the Pacheco brothers and a bassist from east Los Angeles. Co-founders David and Rene Pacheco collaborated and experimented with new musicians as they evolved their music into what it is now. The brothers have been working on this new sound for some time, rebranding their music as they incorporate magical and carnivalesque traits to their original psychedelic cumbia music.

Joined by violinist Kaitlin Wolfberg, electric keyboardist Esteban Flores, and bassist Jason Juarez, the Pacheco brothers filled the MCC with moody, upbeat cumbia songs. The band has structured its vocals to complement its music, careful not to overpower it. David’s raspy voice and jazz-like scatting adds to the band’s punk influence, while features like guitar-picking keep the Latin roots strong.

Tropa Magica radiated free-flowing positive energy. Throughout the show, the band cracked many jokes, smiling and enjoying the liveliness of the venue. As they got lost in the moment, David played the guitar behind his head, Flores brought his keyboard to the floor, and all gave each other time for solos to highlight each talent.

While the audience members were humbly dancing at the beginning of the show, the band escalated the energy so that eventually, they couldn’t hold back from rocking out too. By the fourth song, Tropa Magica had the majority of the crowd dancing along to a ranchera song with psychedelic qualities, filling the aisles with jumping and dancing for the rest of the night.

During the performance, David shared a song written for the band members’ future selves; the song is intended to remind them, when they’re old, of the great times they had when they were young. The song begins slow, with a jazzy feel, but quickly turns upbeat with lyricism that discusses the the great memories and happiness that life and the band brought to each band member.

For one of the final songs, the group performed a Western-influenced cumbia, “La Flor,” written by Rene. While David writes the majority of the group’s songs, Rene helps brainstorm, structure, and finalize them. David has taken Rene under his wing as they both write songs now and continue to experiment with new collaborative processes that transition them to their new sound. Rene expressed his excitement as he continues to work on the songs he’s currently brewing.

Fourth year sociology and environmental sciences double-major Diana Vazquez and fourth year communication major Isabel Pena both enjoyed how enthusiastically the band played. Vazquez mentioned that it was a lot of fun, and described the band’s style as having “Growlers vibes.” Isabel commented, “there’s incredible charisma between the band, they really have so much fun together … there was no way I’d be sitting down.”

Tropa Magica’s next show will take place in Long Beach on Nov. 3 as part of the Tropicalia Festival, where artists including Morrissey, Cardi B, and Mac DeMarco are also performing. The band has announced this past week that they will be going on tour with artist King Tuffy this upcoming spring.

As part of the tour, they will be returning to Santa Barbara on Feb. 15. Fans at this show will likely be enlivened at the news that the group will be visiting Santa Barbara again soon, performing at the Velvet Jones venue.