The Insider: John Pantle

Brief conversations with very important people

John Pantle
John Pantle (Photo By Andy Langer)

Who: John Pantle

The Job: Pantle, a former talent buyer for House of Blues and Knitting Factory, now represents Latin alternative acts like Cafe Tacuba, Control Machete, El Tri, and Plastilina Mosh for the Agency Group.

The Music: As far as Latin alternative, we're reaching a renaissance. Cafe Tacuba recently won the Latin Alternative Grammy with an album they considered very experimental compared to some of their past releases. And the press, acclaim, and presence that bands like Control Machete, Kinky, and Plastilina Mosh have generated in the last few years has really perked people up to this kind of music. A lot of the limits bands dealt with – singing in English versus Spanish, presenting music for the stage versus using electronics and loops – you're seeing a lot of the old biases break down. It's a whole new vibe.

The Market: It's hard not to notice the huge demographic shift in the U.S. – the amount of people speaking Spanish and utilizing Spanish-speaking radio, newspapers, and television. You're going to find more and more events crossing over. Look at soccer. A sport that was traditionally played by immigrants and first and second generation Americans is now a mainstream American sport. You have McDonald's and Clear Channel investing in Latin tours. And Kinky is getting exposure through Honda commercials. It's a great sign of change.

Touring: For a long time, you could only fly between five different markets: California, Chicago, New York, Miami, and Texas. That made it hard for bands to tour consistently and make money. Now there are promoters that understand it from a musical and cultural perspective. When Cafe Tacuba played the Austin City Limits Festival and Bumbershoot, they were on main stages, not on Latin stages. And when there's a promoter in Seattle that makes it work, then one in Portland will make it work.

SXSW: South by Southwest has always been a major point for a lot of these groups to figure out what's going on in the U.S. and for people here to peek into Mexico. There's more Latin alternative bands here this year than ever before. And it's great that El Tri, Los Terribles del Norte, and La Conquista – three really different bands – can play together here on one bill. The question is whether the spirit of South by Southwest carries on, whether other promoters and festivals look at demographics in their city and take chances. And I believe they will.

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