No Para La Fiesta: How MICHEFEST’s Debut Overcame Hurricane Hilary

SIGUE EL PARTY: MICHEFEST fans were evacuated for about an hour due to high winds and lightning storms in the distance, but they came back to enjoy more than four hours of entertainment from headliners Los Tucanes De Tijuana and Los Tigres del Norte. (Courtesy MICHEFEST)

It’s no secret that festivities are a large part of Mexican culture, from quinceñeras to carne asada with the familia, and there isn’t much that can keep a fiesta from going down — not even the weather. MICHEFEST, a traveling music festival highlighting Mexican music, food and art, proved that on Aug. 19, overcoming Tropical Storm Hilary for a successful inaugural show at Granite Park in Fresno, California.

The storm wasn’t supposed to affect the outdoor sports complex that day, but fans had to evacuate due to strong winds and lightning. They didn’t go far, however, and returned an hour later when it was safe to do so. Nothing was going to get in the way of ticketholders from seeing norteño group Los Tucanes de Tijuana, known for their hit “La Chona,” which is a staple at Latin parties, and Los Tigres del Norte, a legendary Mexican band who has been playing for nearly six decades. The two acts shared the stage for only the third time in their long, storied careers.

“It was very smooth,” Ryan Howes, MICHEFEST festival director, tells Pollstar. “We let the storm pass and reopened doors. Everyone came back because they obviously wanted to see Tucanes and Tigres, and the rest of the night was perfect.”

The headliners rewarded fans patient enough to wait. Los Tucanes performed a two-hour set and Los Tigres played for 2 ½ hours.

“It was a great night; the artists and fans were happy,” Howes says. “What we’re building is a true traveling lifestyle, Mexican music festival, and I think the audience is really embracing it. All the feedback that we’ve been receiving from artists and fans, and you can see it on our socials, has been very positive.”

LENUSA, a live entertainment agency that delivers Latin music throughout the world, re-launched MICHEFEST as the first-ever traveling music festival that honors Mexican culture. They planned 10 shows across the nation with stops in Denver, Austin, Dallas, Nashville, Charlotte, Salt Lake City, Phoenix and Coachella, California before wrapping up in Las Vegas on Oct. 22. The kickoff event drew more than 10,000 fans from over 20 states.

“It always helps to launch the festival and build on that brand when you have legendary acts involved, which really helped legitimize the overall festival,” Howes says. “It’s only the third time that Tigres and Tucanes performed together, so to have both of those artists on the same stage in the first show, there’s no better way to start.”

No MICHEFEST show will be the same as organizers booked different talent for each market. Mexican pop star Belinda is headlining a few nights, as well as Kim Loaiza and rising star Gabito Ballesteros, a 24-year-old who has garnered more than 19 million monthly listeners on Spotify and collaborated with Latin music heavy-hitters such as Peso Pluma and Junior H. Howes says the reception has been “very strong” for the remaining nine shows and credits his team for curating different experiences each night.

“That’s one of my favorite things about MICHEFEST. It reminds me of the old Warped Tour model where you have all these bands put together but different lineups on each day and potentially having special guests at each show specific to that market,” Howes says. “With Belinda and Kim Loaiza, I mean, those are packages that you don’t even see in Mexico. We’ve got some very strong lineups in each market customized to target those audiences.”

High-touch experiences are also what make the festival unique. LENUSA partnered with Super Fan to deliver VIP offerings not often associated with Mexican concerts that include photo opportunities with artists, complimentary food and wine service, liquor tasting, hair and beauty bar, massage therapists and exclusive merchandise.

“We were very pleased with how [VIP passes] sold in year one and at the first show,” Howes said. “Six of the nine artists who were performing in Fresno were involved in meet and greets, so we had a lot of value for our VIP packages, that’s for sure.”

MICHEFEST’s success shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the growth of Latin music in the past decade, especially Mexican music. Many in the industry have dropped the “regional” in “regional Mexican” because the genre has gone mainstream thanks to a new generation of artists, and interest in them has fans going down a rabbit hole and discovering other music, new and old. LENUSA is tapping into the genre’s multigenerational appeal and reach to cast a wide net of fans.

“The reaction just tells us that there’s a lot of interest and desire for live music fans to see a festival like this in person,” Howes says. “There are definitely five or six additional markets that we did want to go to this year but felt like we wanted to wait until 2024. We wanted to focus on these 10 markets and get the brand off the ground and start [expanding] in year two.”

With plans beyond 2023 already in motion, it may be time to dust off the tejana hat in preparation for the fiesta to come.