Left Hand’s Culture Jam features Grammy-winning band

Los Angeles-based Grammy winners La Santa Cecilia are scheduled to headline this year's Culture Jam on Saturday at Left Hand Brewing in Longmont. (Humberto Howard / Courtesy of Left Hand Brewing)
Los Angeles-based Grammy winners La Santa Cecilia are scheduled to headline this year’s Culture Jam on Saturday at Left Hand Brewing in Longmont. (Humberto Howard / Courtesy of Left Hand Brewing)

By Quentin Young

The typical Colorado craft beer enthusiast is a guy in his 20s or 30s who has a beard, maybe a mountain bike, a 4-wheel-drive vehicle, listens to Americana bands and has gone windsurfing at least once in his life, or knows someone who has. And he’s white.

This is a stereotype, and a crude one. The point is, from the perspective of companies such as Left Hand Brewing in Longmont, the craft beer industry often hasn’t connected very well with the local, and sizable, Latino population.

Except when it comes to Culture Jam..

The annual event, presented by Left Hand and now in its third year, offers a slate of great entertainment that anyone, from any background, can enjoy. And it’s a community party featuring fine local brews.

But Left Hand’s Josh Goldberg, who organizes Culture Jam, said part of the event’s mission is to foster a relationship between the company and diverse local communities.

The past two Culture Jams have attracted a crowd that’s grown to 35 percent non-white, Goldberg said. That’s higher than what Left Hand sees at its other annual public events. The last census lists Longmont’s Hispanic population, its biggest by far after white, at about 25 percent. Loveland’s Hispanic population is about 12 percent and Fort Collins’ is about 10 percent

Culture Jam casts its community outreach beyond just Latinos, especially this year, when its entertainment lineup represents, as Goldberg put it, “seven countries and four continents.” The bill includes drumming from Africa, pop music from Nepal and samba from Brazil.

The headliner is La Santa Cecilia, a band from Los Angeles that won a Grammy last year for best Latin rock album. Frontwoman Marisol Hernandez often sings in Spanish, and the band’s social media presence is mainly in Spanish. But American influences run through its music, and it’s as much a product of Los Angeles culture as it is a product of Los Angeles’ Latino immigrant culture.

The band’s bass player, Alex Bendaña, whose family came to the United States from Venezuela when he was 2, said his own neighborhood exposes him to a wide variety of culture.

“I live next to Koreatown and Chinatown and Aremeniatown,” he said, adding that he appreciates this kind of diversity. “That’s what makes this country so beautiful.”

The band members — including Pepe Carlos and Miguel “Oso” Ramirez — all grew up in immigrant families in Los Angeles, Bendaña said, and this experience no doubt is present in La Santa Cecelia’s sound.

“We all celebrate being part of that immigrant experience,” he said.

On the other hand, the sound is music first, not Latin music. Bendaña’s parents played salsa, ranchera and balero when he was young. But they also played The Beatles and Eagles. La Santa Cecilia won a Grammy for Latin music, but Bendaña is less interested in the cultural label than in recognition for the band’s art.

“To me, it’s ultimately just music,” he said.

An event such as Culture Jam might allow more people to see it that way. Bendaña likes the event’s approach.

“It brings people together,” he said, “and it helps promote positive aspects of each other’s culture.”

Other acts on the Culture Jam lineup include Ghana-born Denver drummer Paa Kow, Denver salsa band Quemando and Nepalese singer Deepesh Kishor.

The Nepal earthquake hit in April, when Left Hand was planning Culture Jam, and and organizers realized Culture Jam, which annually raises funds for charity, could help. Proceeds this year will go to the nonprofit Himalaya Health Care, as well as local nonprofit Intercambio and Left Hand Brewing Foundation, and a representative from the organization is expected to participate in Culture Jam to spread awareness of conditions in Nepal, Goldberg said.

Left Hand has a history of turning the donation power of its events toward contemporaneous need. That’s what it did after the Haiti earthquake in 2010, Larimer County’s High Park Fire in 2012, and the Colorado floods that ripped through Longmont itself in 2013.

Performances also include native American dance from Grupo Tlaloc, dance from Folklor de Mexico, African drums from Mokomba, and Samba drums from Bateria Alegria.

The event will feature food from Guacamole’s Taqueria, Abo’s Pizza and Sisters Pantry. Family activities include face painting and a kid zone. Visitors are invited to bring their own blankets and chairs.

Quentin Young: qyoung@aespotlight.com or twitter.com/qpyoungnews

If you go

What: Culture Jam

When: 5-10 p.m. Saturday, June 6

Where: Left Hand Brewing, 1265 Boston Ave., Longmont

Tickets: $12

Info: lefthandbrewing.com

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