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iZCALLi's Back to Rock Your May

Luiggy Ramirez, Brenda Avina and Miguel Avina of iZCALLi.EXPAND
Luiggy Ramirez, Brenda Avina and Miguel Avina of iZCALLi.
MAR Photography
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When iZCALLi headlines Rock de Mayo at Levitt Pavilion on May 15, it will be the Denver rock band’s first time playing a concert in over a year.

“We’re getting ready to get back on track, and honestly, this is exactly where we left off last year," says Miguel Avina, singer and guitarist for the band, which also includes drummer Luiggy Ramirez and Miguel's sister, bassist Brenda Avina. Before the pandemic, the act had enjoyed enormous local success, playing nearly every major venue other than Red Rocks and Ball Arena.

This will be the eighth edition of Rock de Mayo, a showcase of genre-spanning Latin music — everything from hip-hop to mariachi to jazz — handpicked by Miguel. This year’s lineup includes his father’s rock band, El Cro; the Trujillo Company; Los Reyes del Huepa; musical polymath Wes Watkins; Mono Verde Collective; the hip-hop group 2MX2; and Verena and Danilo Santoy, with guest appearances by Tamara, Disco Movil Maracay, Andy Gonzalez of Roka Hueka, Bailey Elora and Mariachi Sangre Mexicana.

“The first one was held at Larimer Lounge,” recalls Miguel. “We used to do these BBQ shows on Sundays. They invited us to play a BBQ show, and I pitched them the idea of a festival. The way it was pitched to me was as a Cinco de Mayo party.”

But the more Miguel thought about the project, the less the Cinco de Mayo party concept resonated.

“It’s much more than a Cinco de Mayo party,” he says. “Even as we developed as a band in the scene, we didn’t want to subscribe to that brand — sombreros and shit. We moved away from that into something that’s more organic, that speaks to our essence. When we market it, we let people know they’re going to come to a different cultural experience. It has a little more value than just a lineup.”

Over the past eight years, it had grown to a major event. But while Miguel is excited to play it again, he didn’t exactly mourn the pause in live music. “During the pandemic, I was working on personal stuff with myself,” he says. “It was a welcome rest. We’ve been going at it so hard for the last fifteen years.” The pause gave him more time to spend with his family: Miguel has two children and Brenda has three, including twins born during the pandemic.

Now Miguel is ready to rock again. He's concerned that even before the pandemic, Denver’s rock scene had taken some major hits. “There’s not a huge push for rock-and-roll music,” he explains. “Let’s do our part to highlight that part of our band a little more. Our band is really diverse. We can fit acoustic shows, unplugged, softer shows or heavier shows. If we can highlight [rock], it would do so much for the scene. Right now, I’m really excited about that."

He's excited to play more shows and go on tour with iZCALLi, which the group didn't do much even before the pandemic. But now the time is right.

“The post-pandemic vibe is asking for some heavier or grittier music,” Miguel concludes. “The fact is that people are hungrier to hear something more aggressive, or that crunch that hits you in the heart...that thumping bass line you can’t get with any other kind of music."

Rock de Mayo will rock the Levitt Pavilion in Ruby Hill Park on Saturday, May 15. For more information, visit Levitt Pavilion online

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