It’s ‘ladies night’ again as the 34th Mariachi USA festival hits the Hollywood Bowl

Two mariachi singers perform on stage close to audience while a mariachi band plays on a podium in the background.
The 34th Mariachi USA Festival returns Saturday to the Hollywood Bowl
(Victoria Schiafino)
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It’s been decades since promoter Rodri J. Rodríguez first brought a mariachi festival to the Hollywood Bowl, and she’s heard the same platitudes ever since.

Mariachi doesn’t sell records. Traditional mariachi is being shaken up by a new generation raised on hip-hop, pop and cumbia. It still primarily appeals to nostalgic Jaliscienses and other Mexican immigrant families.

So year after year those false assumptions are shattered when the Mariachi USA festival fills the Hollywood Bowl with mostly fans celebrating a cultural heritage — but by no means exclusively Latino.


A festival is a yearly marker of the Los Angeles entertainment season, and the 34th edition returns to the Bowl on Saturday night with a signature lineup of longtime crowd favorites and newcomers eager to become regular fixtures. Given the high energy level throughout the shows, which last almost five hours, the order of the performers hardly matters.

“You start high and then you end up as high as fireworks at the end,” Rodriguez said in a phone interview.

And, she added, you make the melodies come fast and furious.

“I’m not a chatty Cathy. For me it’s entertaining people, they paid for the music. That turntable spins, and they come down onstage and get the applause, and now we’re on to the next group.”

The festival is the oldest attraction at the Bowl, occupying the venue for one-third of venue’s century-long existence. This year, the all-female group Mariachi Las Catrinas will open the concert at 6 p.m., underscoring Rodríguez’s belief in “empowering women by giving them that visibility.”

“Last year I had a group of women who have been working diligently to get there,” she said. “And I love, love, love getting them up on that stage because they’ve worked 365 days a year off that Hollywood Bowl gig.”

“Seventy percent of our audience is made up of women,” she added. “It’s a ladies’ night. And I dare say not because of tight pants onstage, nothing to do with it! It’s something they love to do with their besties, their moms, tías, comadres. They have party buses. And you look around the audience, you can see it, it’s like a women’s convention.”


Once again, the lineup also will include dozens of high school mariachis, many of whom will hone their skills with the support of Rodriguez’s foundation.

As the Bowl has evolved, Mariachi USA has evolved with it, taking advantage of the big screens for an event with powerful visual appeal.

“You’re seeing these mariachi maestros, 14 and 16 musicians, you don’t go to a restaurant and see that many. You probably see maybe six or 10. But you see them in that outfit, those beautiful charro suits and even though you’re not Mexican you feel there in a moment of pride and awe.”

For Rodríguez and for the thousands of followers who return year after year, the soul of the festival is a synthesis of voice and instrumental interplay whose fundamentals don’t change, even when the arrangements incorporate fresh elements.

“The mariachi tradition will not change, at least not on my stage,” Rodríguez said. “I think it’s wonderful to rearrange a standard song. For example, [the group] Campanas often brings keyboards, and they’ll play sax and trombone. And Mariachi Los Reyes, which is an L.A. favorite and is performing this Saturday at night, you can bring in an accordion because it only brings down the hose.”

“But it stays within the tradition of what a ranchera is, what a corrido is, what the mariachi really is. There are many of those who jump on the bandwagon of fame and don’t last long. They forget what is the integral root and the DNA. I think music is experimental and has no limits. But we always go back to tradition.”


Mariachi USA

Hollywood Bowl
Saturday, June 3, 6-10:30 p.m.