We know D.C. Get our free newsletter to stay in the know.
Most of the panels, workshops, and events at the three-day 3rd Annual Washington, D.C., Salsa Festival are designed not for those who casually listen to salsa, but for hardcore rug-cutters who go out several nights a week to dance to the genre’s infectious rhythms. For those who don’t have the time, inclination, or money to spend the weekend mastering salsa’s complex footwork and arm movements, separate admission prices are available for dancing and listening to live music. Saturday night’s bill, with locals Orquesta Melao preceding Puerto Rican vocalist Gilberto Santa Rosa (pictured), looks most promising. The 36-year-old Santa Rosa first became known performing in bands led by others but has wowed the Latin pop world since going solo in 1986. While fond of moderately paced, string-filled material, Santa Rosa keeps his Spanish vocals smooth no matter what the tempo. He is especially adept at keeping up with his large band and backup vocalists when the brass section starts pumping and the conga beat speeds up. On such songs, written by some of salsa’s most highly respected composers, Santa Rosa’s cool intonation is supported by a unique blend of synth-programmed sounds and more traditional piano, accordion, and guitar playing. Orquesta La Romana performs at 10:45 p.m. Friday, April 9; Santa Rosa performs with Orquesta Melao at 11 p.m. Saturday, April 10; and Peligro performs at 9 p.m. Sunday, April 11. At the Holiday Inn, 415 New Jersey Ave. NW. Concert tickets are $10-40; admittance to the remainder of the festival is $60-130. (202) 638-6464. (Steve Kiviat)