By Megan G. Razzetti
In a garage tucked away near Garfield High School located in East Los Angeles, cumbia-punk band Thee Commons rehearse their set list for their biggest show yet, the 2017 Coachella Valley Music and Arts festival.
The band is set to play both weekends, April 15 and April 22, taking the stage just moments before headliners like Lady Gaga, Future, Gucci Mane and Bon Iver.
“Its our first time playing,” bassist and East Los Angeles College student Jose Rojas says. “My friends are always inviting me or asking ‘When are you going to go to Coachella?’ and I tell them, I’m not going to go unless I am playing.”
Recently, Thee Commons ranked number 28 out of the 161 acts in L.A. Weekly’s Coachella 2017 ranked bands list. Despite recognition, there are still challenges they face leading up to the festival.
According to guitarist and singer David Pacheco, not only must they shorten their usual hour-long set to 40 minutes, but the band must also stage their performance for the Coachella crowd.
Rojas says the band is known to have wild live shows. They feature a hot pink dancing gorilla named Chilla Gorilla, and a friend or two going home with a bloody nose as seen on the band’s facebook page.
“We don’t want to come across as a gimmicky-circus band,” David says. “We want to be like Salt Bae: just a little sprinkle of the carnivalesque aspect of the psychedelic elements.”
The band was taken by surprise when their manager Gil Gastelum told them they would be playing the festival.
“I was slightly confused because when we came back from the West Coast tour last December, we had already done a full U.S. tour, but our goal has definitely been to play festivals,” David says.
“We weren’t anticipating it to be this soon, so that took me by surprise. Actually, the festival we were going to be playing at was a shock.”
To the band, the opportunity to accomplish a goal like this means much more to them and those they represent. David says that although Thee Commons has yet to make it to the point of appealing to mainstream audiences, the band has room to experiment with its sociological and political expression.
“We are in a very turbulent time in which certain demographics have been scapegoated and highlighted for the wrong reasons,” David says.
People such as people of color, different sexual orientations and various religious backgrounds who have been targeted by the Trump administration.
“However, this has created a spotlight for people like us to thrive in, which was a very unintended consequence by Donald Trump.” The formation of the band began in 2012 with brothers David on vocals and Rene Pacheco on drums.
Thee Commons have dealt with a rotation of bassists, one after another since its beginning.
It was not until a random meeting at ELAC in the S2 Performing Arts complex quad that current Thee Commons bassist and ELAC student Jose Rojas meet David, who was also attending the school at the time.
“I bumped into David at ELAC and I thought: ‘is this the singer, guitar player of Thee Commons?’I wasn’t too sure, so I took out my phone,” Rojas said. “I pulled up an Instagram photo of him, and I just stopped him like, ‘Hey is this you?’shoving my phone in his face.”
The two introduced themselves and talked about their music. Rojas says that during this interaction,he mentioned that the band had gone through a few bass players and pitched his own talents to David. “I told him that I’m a bass player, and if you’re interested, hit me up, let me know. I’m really good with my bass playing skills,” Rojas said.
When they met, Rojas was playing in a hip hop indie band. However, when they had their first practice Rojas told the others he played in a norteño band called Konsequensia.
“My first show with the band was at a burlesque show,” Rojas said. “A month or two into the band, they began to travel around and I had never been in a band that would travel.” With a background playing multiple genres of music like hardcore and norteño. “The music so far feels more like a summation of the genres I’ve already been performing,” Rojas said.
He said that he was attracted to Thee Commons because they had booked gigs, had notoriety and played cumbia. More importantly, Rojas was attracted to the personalities of David and Rene.
“The brothers Pacheco have very strong personalities and are incredibly motivated,” Rojas said. “I realized that I wanted to surround myself with more people like that, and to be in a band like that definitely means that I will have better success with these guys than in my past bands.”
Rene and David started playing music at an early age by playing an out -of- tune guitar and banging on pots and pans in their grandparent’s garage.
Thee Commons have a show on April 20 at the Teragram Ballroom in downtown, which was scheduled in between the two Coachella weekends for those that can’t make it; Rene feels optimistic that the band can reach music lovers on another level.
“I want the Coachella audience to leave with a restoration in their faith in live music,” Rene said. “Live music is something that can be easily ignored when you go to a show, unless the performers really grab your attention. I just want to give them that feeling that they’re alive and right there with us.”