The event, organized and coordinated by the Brian Stack Civic Association, was a five-hour show meant to bring out residents of Union City who wanted to have a good time, free of charge.
The vast array of ages represented in the stands attested to the cross-generational draw of Latin music. Many of the acts on the bill are well known in the Latin music community.
The roster included local band "Cu Jazz," a band that featured Union City Cultural Affairs Co-Director Lucio Fernandez on vocals. Cu Jazz got the crowd going with their fusion of Latin and jazz. According to lead singer Lucio Fernandez, "We do a fusion thing. We like to mix it up a bit. Sometimes we'll take Broadway songs and 'salsa' them up a bit."
The next band on the bill was a curious choice considering the Latin-heavy flavor of the rest of the bill. Slinker, a Hoboken-based band, tried their best to get the crowd on their feet, and despite severe sound problems, was successful. Having played this summer's July 4 Celebration, the band, while not Latino, received a warm reception.
Playing a mostly cover-laden set, Slinker opened their set with Stone Temple Pilots' "Vasoline," and singer Jason DeRuggiero was a capable front man, inciting the crowd to "get on their feet."
Said DeRuggiero in a pre-show interview, "It doesn't matter that we're not a Latino band; music is universal. It's the one fraternity that everyone is invited into."
The next band was Son de Madre who entertained the growing crowd with their eclectic mix of Cuban "Son" music (which is the Cuban version of Salsa), timba and rhumba styles. Featured in the band is guitarist David Oquendo, who is legendary in the Latino community and has played with many accomplished musicians while in his native Cuba.
The next two acts, Grupo Truendo and Cuco Valoy, kept the crowd on its feet and acted as perfect setups for the evening's headliner - Aventura. The New York-based "bachata" band is becoming a musical force to be reckoned with in the Latino music community. In fact, right after their performance last week, Aventura was scheduled to play Madison Square Garden.
Judging from crowd reaction to the band last week, this is a band with a great future. Said Lucio Fernandez, who acted as emcee of the event, "It was huge! When Aventura came in to the stadium, it was like the Beatles. It was the first time I saw people, men and women alike, just screaming 'ahhhhhh!.' "
Continued Fernandez, "I grew up in Union City, and in all my life I've never seen so many people in that stadium. It was really phenomenal."
Roosevelt Stadium, according to Union City officials, seats about 9,000 people.
Big police presence
While the event was well-organized and run, Union City officials wanted to make absolutely sure that the crowd was safe and no one got out of hand. Any time thousands of people congregate in one location, the logistics of safety and security become quite complicated.
According to Union City Mayor Brian Stack, the Union City Police drilled in the stands before the event and during the drills, put many of the things they learned during their crowd control training in May into practice.
According to Union City Officials, other than one scuffle, there were no incidents necessitating police action.
Certainly, the helmeted officers placed in strategic locations throughout the stadium prevented any silliness from occurring.
Said Stack, "People are really behaving themselves, and that's a testament to the kind of people we have here in Union City."
As for his reasons for putting the concert on in the first place, Stack said, "I am trying to give something to the community. Some fun for these people. A lot of them can't even afford to go on vacation, so I want them to come together and have some fun. It's really another event to bring the community together, give them a night of enjoyment."
Said one effusive fan outside of the venue after the concert, "Brian Stack is the best mayor I've ever seen in Union City and I've seen a lot. He really does put 'Union City first.' God bless him."