On a gloomy June morning in L.A., a few hundred fans lined up in front of the Dignity Health Sports Park. The venue would be hosting 102.7 KIIS-FM and iHeartRadio's Wango Tango concert later that night. But all the Latinos outside were waiting for the Wango Tango Village to open, which is a free, pre-show event that usually features up-and-coming acts. On the roster this year was rising Latin boy band CNCO.
As someone who has gone to Wango Tango Village in the past, I've never ever seen a line that long of people waiting outside. Scanning the fans on my way to the back of the line, I could tell that a majority of girls in line were #CNCOwners, a name for CNCO's fanbase. To iHeartRadio CNCO might've seemed like a new act, but a CNCOwner (like myself) knows the guys have been at it for a few years now. On the reality TV competition La Banda in 2015, former Menudo member and Puerto Rican superstar Ricky Martin helped select Ecuador's Christopher Vélez, Dominican Republic's Richard Camacho, Mexico's Joel Pimentel, Cuba's Erick Brian Colon and Puerto Rico's Zabdiel de Jesús to form CNCO.
With five members, CNCO is a shorthand way of saying cinco, or "five" in Spanish. Since launching the Latin music quintet has hit the top of Billboard's Top Latin albums chart twice with 2016's Primera Cita and last year's self-titled effort. Both albums also landed inside the top 40 of the all-genre Billboard 200 chart. This year the guys also wrapped up their first headlining world tour, including a concert at L.A.'s Microsoft Theater back in February. I really enjoyed that show so I got in line to see them again for free at the Wango Tango Village.
The Wango Tango Village opened up at 12 in the afternoon with CNCO slated to hit the stage at 5 p.m. As soon as the gates opened, me and the other CNCOwners rushed past all the carnival attractions and straight to the stage to stake out our spots. In between acts, radio DJ Chuy Martinez was crumpling up slips of paper on the stage and throwing them to the crowd. The slips gave the fan who caught them access to a meet and greet with CNCO. As I stood in the middle of the crowd, I thought to myself, "There's no way in hell that I'll catch one of those in this sea of spirited Latina fans." I reached out when Martinez tossed one of the slips. When I opened my hand, there was one of THE golden tickets.
I couldn't believe I caught one. It would be my second time meeting CNCO after a meet and greet the group did at the Barnes & Noble in the Grove last year. I stood next to Vélez that time because he was my favorite member. Lately, my favorite member has been Pimentel because I'm Mexican-American and he's repping Mexico in the band. When I got to meet CNCO again at the Wango Tango village, I said hi to all the members and stood in between Colon and Pimentel (heart eyes emoji). After the picture, I looked at Pimentel and said, "We're the Mexicans together in the lineup." He smiled, gave me a hug and said, "Thank you for coming." I ran back to the stage and I somehow found a spot closer than before.
At around 5:30 p.m., the sun came out and Wango Tango Village stage was finally set for CNCO. The guys emerged one-by-one to open with "Hey DJ." Camacho was the first to appear, walking in with a cane and hopping onto a box to sit down. In a previous show, he injured his foot. "I had to show up," he said. "You guys have been here waiting for us." As Camacho crooned from his box, Vélez, Pimentel, Colon and de Jesús stayed in formation for the dance routine. The girls, boys (and myself) were going wild for CNCO.
The guys followed with their latest single at the time, "Pretend," a bilingual bop that samples DeBarge's "Rhythm of the Night." That song drew one of the loudest crowd sing-back moments as CNCO slayed the playful moves from the music video. The audience was clapping along when the guys bounced around the stage for the breezy "Bonita."
CNCO dialed it back to 2016 to sing "Tan Fácil," the group's debut single. To show off the their vocal prowess, the guys got as close to the fans as possible on the stage catwalk. Camacho even hopped off his box to join his bandmates as they belted the song in beautiful acapella. They kept the lovefest to the fans going with "Mamita." Things really picked up again when CNCO launched into the Latin club banger "Reggaeton Lento," a global hit in the U.S. and the U.K.
For the grand finale of their set, the guys wrapped it up with my favorite song "Se Vuelve Loca." One of the steamiest songs in their catalog came with some sexy choreography to boot. In Spanish, the guys asked, "Who are we?" The crowd shouted back in unison, "C-N-C-O!" For being on a small stage outside of the Dignity Health Sports Park, CNCO worked it out like they were inside in the arena. That was enough Wango Tango for me that I didn't even need to see the main event.
CNCO is currently hard at work on album No. 3. The guys recently premiered the music video for their new single "De Cero," another Latin pop bop where they sing in English and Spanish about wanting to reset a relationship that's on the rocks. See the cinematic clip below.