[Concert Review] Sabroso Taco Festival (2018)

A “taco festival” with only one vendor dedicated to tacos? Excelling in gluttony should be a priority for Sabroso Taco Festival, like noteworthy food festival Bite of Seattle, if they intend to overtake retiring punk rock festival Warped Tour. If music festivals are declining in ticket sales in the United States, new and remaining festivals need more diverse content enticing wider audiences that might otherwise only be moderately interested in music. Sabroso is nearly there.

Music Rating: ★★★☆☆ [“2.8″/5]
Non-Music Rating: ★★★☆☆ [3/5]
Tacos/Food Rating: ★☆☆☆☆ [1/5]
Overall Rating: ★★★☆☆ [“2.2″/5]

Navigating Around
White River Amphitheater is a quaint venue about one hour south of Seattle. Bring patience and a map, even if you’re local, and arrive in the area early if you want to see everything. I arrived later on and still saw everything I wanted to see. Compared to other festivals hosted here, there was more to see (mainly: lucha libre) than hanging out in the amphitheater at Pain in the Grass 2017, yet less to see than the multiple band stages and vendor booths at Mayhem Festival 2013 and 2012.

Sunny afternoon

Where’re The Tacos?
Despite being on a fitness kick, I planned my diet and caloric-intake well enough to factor in one good taco meal at the Sabroso Taco Festival. While complaining about insufficient eating options seems like a silly thing to complain about, it is literally in the name. I expected more than waiting over 15 minutes in the shortest line around for food. If I’d known, I would have eaten a bigger breakfast, lunch, and skipped the food like I skipped the beer! What happened? Did Kobayashi eat them all?

Not tacos

¡Lucha libre luchas!
One scrawny unmasked luchador challenged two overweight luchadores. Our underdog tried, unsuccessfully, throwing one luchador around, who barely needed to hold onto the side of the ring to stay put. Even after being joined by another luchador, shown being thrown around in the photo above, the match seemed entirely one-sided! The two overweight luchadores dominated most of the fight. Shortly after the jump shown below, the underdogs overtook the match, and won! That match was easy to follow. I couldn’t clearly follow some other matches as well.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ [3/5]

Exciting wrestling

Los Kung Fu Monkeys
“Discover anyone worth seeing again?[1]” I’d see them again, if they shared the bill with another band I’d also want to see. They added a tinge of hardcore punk and Mexican ska to more traditionally ‘milder’ ska punk sound and put on a good show. Their lyrics were straightforward, though occasionally maybe too cliché, with melodies that weren’t catchy enough to be noteworthy outside of a general positive sense of mild satisfaction. With practice and refinement, they should be great. That said, they were fun!
Bias: None
Rating: ★★★☆☆ [3/5]

Ska fu?

Unwritten Law
“Or to put on the active avoidance list?[2]” They are good at performing easily forgettable and generic pop punk. I forgot what they sounded like when I last saw them, also open for Pennywise. I forgot what they sounded like while watching them during this performance. I’m forgetting what they sound like now, while listening to one of their albums. Perhaps that’s the trick to their name? It’s not that the law referred to in the band name was unwritten… it was just forgotten.
Bias: 2-stars in 2016
Rating: ☆☆☆☆☆ [0/5]

Technically illegal…

I was almost completely disinterested in their set within minutes, ready to write them off as an unenergetic pop rock band lacking memorable melodic or lyrical hooks, until the bassist pulled off a cool solo to prove they had some musical substance. That solo wasn’t enough to reinvigorate any interest in seeing again by themselves, but I wouldn’t scoffingly skip their set if they were on some future concert bill. Their brand of pop rock has just been done better by other bands.
Bias: No preconceived notions
Rating: ★★★☆☆ [3/5]

Moderate lighting

Against Me!
When we worry about perfection, it’s because we compare the people doing “impossible” things in our fields to our own temporary inadequacies, and we think we’ll never be able to achieve half of what they’ve done. The only skill that matters is persistence. With persistence, you can continually refine your craft, like Against Me!, until you can blast out the gates with your work and do well. They are nearly there, with somewhat-memorable lyrics and energetic songs, maybe just needing more of both?
Bias: Dug them recently
Rating: ★★★☆☆ [3/5]

Against boredom

If the preceding bands all had hindrances preventing them from being great, what makes Pennywise stand out? Catchy lyrics with distinct lyrics like “Fuck Authority” or “Society” and memorable melodies like “Bro Hymn (Tribute)” are great. Many bands can do that. Pennywise brought in the third and most important element: audience engagement. They goaded the audience along through some teasing cover songs from bands like “Nof-ix” and Circle Jerks before playing Nirvana’sTerritorial Pissings.” It was fun and the audience loved the unpredictability.
Bias: Enjoyed twice before
Rating: ★★★★☆ [4/5]

Lyrical/Melodic/Energetic trifecta

The Offspring
Is around 18 years of anticipation impossible to surpass? Maybe. It could be meticulously studying the energy of “All I Want,” to the point of feeling underwhelmed when it wasn’t quite as invigorating, or noticing that some of the melodies weren’t as perfectly played live as they were in studio recordings years ago… But when the singer played “Gone Away” on a piano it all clicked. Moments like this are why live music is important: it’s not about perfectionism, it’s about imparting memorable impressions.
Bias: Love some songs
Rating: ★★★★☆ [4/5]

Generic shot

Recommendations/Closing Thoughts
I emailed my thoughts about the food vending situation to Sabroso’s management on Sunday morning, the last day of the tour, and received no response by Monday evening. It’s not that I expected an enthusiastic response, or even much of a response at all. I don’t carry any clout or influence. Since I did put time into writing the email, I’ll paste it in below, redacting any personal information:

To: info@sabrosotacofest.com
Sunday, May 13, 2018 7:27 AM

Suggestion for Sabroso 2019


I am writing to present a suggestion that the Sabroso management could implement, if there will be a festival next year.

Firstly, this is the first time I’ve attended the Sabroso Taco Festival. I attended the festival at the White River Amphitheatre location on May 12th. Overall, I enjoyed the festivities. I’m glad I went, and I would consider going next year, if there were similarly noteworthy bands. The surrounding “festivities” weren’t enough to sell my friends that aren’t too interested in punk rock and the one major selling point would have disappointed them:

It’s not really a taco festival if there’s only one vendor – [heavily-advertised taco company] – dedicated to tacos at the festival, is it?

From my memory, there was a Laos food truck with one taco on the menu, two or three barbeque food trucks, [company], and the venue’s food stands. If there were others, they were not clearly labeled. If [company] had an exclusive taco vending contract, as implied by being heavily advertised, that would have been fine were it not for the horrendous line. Even waiting in line at the venue’s food stands in one of the less busy areas in the venue took over 15 minutes.

Considering that we have the Bite of Seattle around here, there is definitely room for improvement.

That food festival is free, so in order to charge a ticket fee for a food festival, there should be some inherent quality that makes Sabroso more special. The easiest answer to that would be either more food vendors or free food. I present this suggestion as a fan that wants this festival to succeed. If the name of the festival is “Tasty Taco Festival” and there were major impediments toward getting a taco, then was that successful?

To conclude, despite minor frustrations, I do write this email with all due respect.

I would like to see a Sabroso 2019 and I think there are only minor variables that need to be adjusted for the festival to be successful. With the Warped Tour retiring this year, Sabroso could fill that niche. Some friends, for example, were not interested enough in the music to go, but they do enjoy food festivals, so if there were advertising that stated “over 10 food vendors!” that might have appealed enough to them to consider purchasing tickets. The lucha libre wrestling was a great idea and fun to watch.

I think with some brainstorming from Sabroso management over food vending and additional entertainment, 2019 could be much more successful.

With my sincerest regards,

I do enjoy festivals like this.

There’s something fun about opting in to see bands, leaving whenever you get bored to see something else going on nearby, or freely walking around the venue while still half-watching the bands from different angles. It’s nice seeing a handful of “I’m mild curious” bands, like a buffet. Since these festivals are day-long events, they conclude early enough so I can wake up early and not be exhausted.

It’d be unfortunate if music festivals like these went away completely.

Quotes: [1] [2] IDKFA

Sources: My experiences

Inspirations: None

Related: Concert Reviews category

Photos: Taken with either no zoom or 8x zoom on my smartphone camera. In order of appearance:
[1] “Mandatory lighter” – My favorite shot, during the “Gone Away” portion of the Offspring’s set.
[2] “Sunny afternoon” – Might have been obviously a b-roll shot, but it conveyed the venue and day.
[3] “Not tacos” – Explained in-line
[4] “Exciting wrestling” – Explained in-line
[5] “Ska fu?” – Band shot
[6] “Technically illegal…” – Band shot and hot take on the band’s name.
[7] “Moderate lighting” – Band shot and another hot take on another band’s name. Was I on a roll or what?
[8] “Against boredom” – Band shot and, well, I ran out of ideas.
[9] “Lyrical/Melodic/Energetic trifecta” – I should brainstorm on this and write about it. This idea could be a measuring stick for future reviews…
[10] “Generic shot” – Another mandatory band shot, this time of The Offspring.
[11] “Pennywise moshpit” – This was originally going to be the introductory photo, but here’s a secret: I wrote this review out of order so I could complete this 1500-word beast of a review before deadline. I wrote the Offspring section last, and concluding with my finally-articulated thoughts on “Gone Away,” I knew I had to use that photo.

Pennywise moshpit

My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.