Aterciopelados headlining the 21st Annual Festival Latino Americano on Oct. 9 is not only a sign the Latin music scene in the Charlotte region is gaining strength, but also a signal that hard work truly pays off. Tony Arreaza, events manager for the Latin American Coalition since 2008, has booked shows in the area for more than a decade, and he's overflowing with excitement about the band's upcoming appearance.
"I've been trying for three years to get Aterciopelados here," Arreaza, 38, says of the experimental Colombian act that has a worldwide following. "They're playing in Washington, New York and Miami, but you can see them here for $5. My goal is to take the festival to another level, and I think they're going to help us do that."
Arreaza got his start in Charlotte as a member of La Rua, and his efforts to book gigs for the band around town in the '90s set him as a premier Latin-music promoter. In 2000, he started the production company Carlotan Rock, which put on an annual festival for six years featuring regional and international acts. While the economic downturn put a halt to the festival a couple of years ago, Arreaza hopes it will return next year. "A lot of people think Latin music is going to be mariachi or salsa — we need to educate them on things like reggae cumbia," he says.
In addition to bringing in international bands like Cafe Tacuba and Zoe, he also supports local bands such as Bakalao Stars, in an effort to give the scene a solid base. The Festival Latino Americano has roughly 40 to 50 percent local acts on the bill each year, providing them an opportunity to perform with a good sound system in front of large crowds.
"Having shows like Manu Chao and Molotov do well at the Fillmore proves there is a strong interest in the city for Latin music," Arreaza says. "I'm getting more connections now and more interest from people that want to play here. This has been a great year in Charlotte for rock en Espanol and I think it will get better."