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Norteño superstars Los Tucanes de Tijuana launch Coachella weekend 2

Norteño superstars Los Tucanes de Tijuana launch Coachella weekend 2
Los Tucanes de Tijuana perform during Weekend 2 of the Coachella festival at the Empire Polo Club. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)

For much of Coachella’s life as a festival, the undercard has been ruled by hip, Pitchfork-approved indie rock, electronic music and rock, but over the past few years, many of the early sets by Latin artists have drawn the biggest crowds.

That’s due in no small part to the addition of the Sonora tent, which on Friday opened Weekend 2 with a heavy, and bawdy, set by the Chilean reggaeton singer Tomasa del Real.

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Her set leaped into action from the first beat, with blaring air horns, sirens, a hype man and a DJ. Tearing through a set featuring that stutter-snare rhythm and deep bass, Del Real shimmied as she rapped. As she did so, a pair of pole dancers straddled and spun.

During Las Robertas’ gloriously heavy garage rock set that followed, singer Mercedes Oller shouted out the fan waving the flag of their Costa Rican home. With guitars that at times fuzzed with shoegaze-level distortion, their songs were punchy and smart.

The biggest indication of early Friday border busting came via the superstar norteño band Los Tucanes de Tijuana. Responsible for massive gigs at Dodger Stadium, Central Park in New York and Zocolo Plaza in Mexico City, their arrival drew a sing-along crowd that seemed like they couldn’t believe what they’d walked in on.

That was especially true when they busted out their hit “La Chona,” which prompted a serious dance session replete with scrums of strangers spinning to the song. When the quartet shifted to one of its narco-corridos about the lives of drug traffickers, one fan held up a sign with a photo of convicted drug kingpin Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán on it. The back of it included an idea for a festival nickname: #Chapo-chella.

Whether the Indio police department would take issue with such a rebranding is another thing.

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