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Arts & Entertainment

From the Founder of Carne Asada Fest Comes Cucuy Fest, Just In Time for Halloween

Sonia Kilo's Carne Asada Fest quickly became one of the city's most notable festivals, highlighting Latino vendors, cumbia, and bachata. Now comes Cucuy Fest, which will bring DJs, a haunted house, and more to the creepy Sons of Hermann Hall.
DJ RayBurger, one of the performers during the inaugural Cucuy Fest. Courtesy DJ RayBurger

The creator of Dallas’ rapidly growing Carne Asada festival has a new vibe for spooky season.

On Saturday, October 14, Sonia Kilo will launch the inaugural Cucuy Fest at Sons of Hermann Hall. Carne Asada’s cumbia, reggaeton, and bachata, as well as the Latinx and Hispanic-owned food vendors, attracted so many attendees that it quickly grew out of the old Sons of Hermann. It is now an annual event at the Southside Ballroom. Cucuy Fest hopes to do the same with alternative music.

“We as Latinos, we really pull from a lot of different things that happen around us, especially first-generation Latinos,” says Kilo. “We try to pull from everything that we’re experiencing, not only from our culture but [the culture of] where we’re living.”

Kilo envisions Cucuy Fest as a “Latin-Alternative rave.” She chose to start the event at Sons of Hermann, which has been a welcoming launching pad for her ideas over the years. The venue was built in 1911, and is Dallas’ oldest free-standing wood structure and bar. The venue has also served as a filming location for movies like RoboCop. Kilo felt that Sons of Hermann’s old-time aesthetic, as well as its “creepy” atmosphere, made it the ideal spot to start Cucuy.

Cucuy Fest alludes to El Cucuy, a mythical, ghost-like monster present in Spanish and Latin folklore. The story of El Cucuy, which is often described as an ugly hairy creature, is traditionally told to Hispanic and Latinx children, warning them that if they are not well behaved, they will be kidnapped by the monster.

As for music, Kilo sought out DJs who could spin “a Peso Pluma and Metallica type of mix” and encourage lovers of Latin music and rock music to come together. 

“A lot of the times when you tell somebody ‘I listen to rock,’ they’re like, ‘Oh, okay, you listen to Mana,’ and it’s like, yeah, we do,” says Kilo, referring to the popular Mexican pop band from the 1980s. “But we also listen to all of these other amazing, bands.”

Kilo grew up listening to Deftones, The Used, and My Chemical Romance. She also remembers this type of music having negative connotations in the Hispanic community.

“I think alternative music kind of gets a bad rap sometimes and being Latino, I will say a lot of the times our tios and tias will be like ‘Are you like a devil worshiper?’ and it’s like, no, we’re not,” says Kilo. “We’re just really into this music that makes us feel a certain way.”

On the line-up is headliner DJ RayBurger, who has become a mainstay at the Carne Asada festival. As a lover of Halloween, saying yes to Kilo when she approached him was a no-brainer. Ahead of his set, RayBurger teases “lots of sing alongs, Latin classics, spooky cumbia, and in general, very energetic dance music.”

Also on the bill is Dj Uneeq, who has previously worked as a tour DJ for Houston rapper Paul Wall. DJ Mark Cutz, who has mixed and cut tracks for Sirius XM’s Sway In The Morning Show and is a regular fixture on Miami rapper Pitbull’s Globalization show on Sirius XM, will also be on the bill.

Like Kilo, Cutz also maintains a perseverant spirit, which is what drew him to Cucuy Fest.

“I saw [Kilo] hustling and putting up successful events,” says Cutz, “so I naturally follow people who are making moves. I always respect people’s hustle.”

Cutz hints at “some creative moments” in his set, which he says will comprise of EDM, rock, and hip-hop. “I like to mix fast and keep the energy high,” he says. DJ Alaska plans to bring goth remixes of cumbia songs, rock, and goth club tracks.

“I’m known mostly for my goth cumbia sets since it’s kind of rare to find in Dallas,” says Alaska. “I’ve always been a rockera growing up in a Mexican household, so I’m happy I’m able to bring more of it to Dallas. Cucuy Fest is the alt-Latin fest people like me have been looking for.”

DJ ALASKA will perform during the inaugural Cucuy Fest. Cesar Santos

The alternative rave will take place in the upstairs area of Sons of Hermann. Downstairs will be a full-fledged haunted house. At the time of our Zoom call, Kilo was planning the terrifying elements of the haunted house, which she admits even spooked her. 

“We have a theme that we’re working on,” says Kilo, “We’re hiring actors, and we’re having a whole production setup to give us those haunted house vibes.” 

Though she remains tight-lipped about the haunted house, she promises its entrance will feel “like you stepped into a scary movie.” 

Kilo’s track record has proven her endeavors to be fruitful. Over the course of two years, Carne Asada has grown to be a household name in the Latinx and Hispanic community, earning a ranking in USA Today’s top 10 festivals of 2023, as well as the Best Festival award for 2022 in Dallas Observer.

In the next few years, she envisions the same trajectory for Cucuy, bringing together rock fans in the same vein as Edgefest, and other festivals she grew up attending. Additionally, attendees will be able to commemorate the inaugural Cucuy Fest with a flash tattoo from Alma Azul, a Hispanic-owned tattoo and piercing shop.

“I’m hoping that Cucuy Fest will bring back some of our favorite alternative bands in the future,” says Kilo, “as well as create a platform for Latino alternative artists to be on the same stage.”


Alex Gonzalez

Alex Gonzalez

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