Editor’s Note: We asked DIY festival organizer and wunderkind Rene Contreras to share his experience attending Festival Nrmal with us. The 23-year old has cut his teeth in Southern California, creating festivals Viva! Pomona and more recently Viva! El Ley in Los Angeles, placing value on local bands that are usually written off as too “emerging.” He shared his adventures in Mexico City with us – read on for more and a video recap of Remezcla’s Pre-Party.
Growing up I traveled to Mexico every year. My family is from a small town in Michoacan, where they have no paved roads and everyone is Catholic. As I grew older and began to construct my own identity by listening to music and wearing the clothes I wanted to wear, I began to feel removed from what I believed Mexico signified.
So when I found about Festival Nrmal I was immediately intrigued by what they were doing. Their line-ups are so carefully put together and their eye for emerging music is spot on. Being from the United States, influenced by everything pop-culture feeds us, it was rather refreshing seeing a group of promoters from Monterrey, Mexico not giving a shit about how unknown their line up was. They’re simply in it to create a unique atmosphere that exemplifies what an eclectic line up should look like.
This year I was fortunate enough to go to Mexico City for the first time to experience Festival Nrmal. Family and mass media have always portrayed Mexico City as smog-filled and overpopulated place. When I got there, I was shocked about the size of the city – the myths were true, Mexico City is an animal of it’s own.
My first day I went to NODO, Festival Nrmal’s first annual conference, located in Centro de Cultura Digital. When we arrived there, we were sort of confused, because the location was underground and in the middle of the city. NODO is Nrmal’s way of assisting emerging international artists, promoters, record labels, managers, and bands to meet each other, network, and help each other bring their visions to life. It was refreshing meeting like minded promoters from London, Portugal, Costa Rica, Liverpool and of course Mexico. At NODO I ran into Clubz (Monterrey, Mexico) and Late Nite Howl (Tijuana, Mexico).
That night we went to Remezcla’s pre-party for NRMAL. The party was located at Colonia De Doctores and already had a line of about 200 eager people outside by the time I got there. Inside, we had to go through a sketchy looking parking lot, up a stairway, and into a jam-packed room of people drinking and dancing to Les Temps Barbares music. It was trippy, fun environment.
Finally it was Saturday and time to go to NRMAL. Getting there was easy with the UBER app the festival had, where everyone got a free ride. Although, I gave the UBER driver the wrong directions and we ended up at a cemetery – but that was my fault. When we finally arrived there the first group I got to see was Boogarins from Brasil. They had an amazing set full of psychy-garage sounds, I felt right at home as if I were listening to a band in Los Angeles.
There was grass, dirt and great weather – plus people getting 400 peso tattoos, which I was very tempted to do. I ran into a lot of friends in bands like AJ Davila, or some of the guys in Vaya Futuro that live in Mexico City.
As the night went on, my phone died so I able to appreciate Chain and the Gangs energetic set the old school way. They had the crowd with their jaws open. I also caught Porter’s magical set – few bands like them exist, and they were able to come back and renew themselves musically and aesthetically.
I was really bummed that I arrived late to Juan Wauters set on the second day (when I heard he had a Chavo Del Ocho backdrop I almost cried). Nevertheless, I was still able to hang out with him and catch TOPS from Montreal (which was especially cool, since the band has performed at Acerogami Bar in Pomona, CA). Other highlights included Buscabulla, Future Islands, and SWANS who melted minds all through out the festival, they really managed to capture the audience with their heavy experimental sounds.
When all was said and done and Nrmal was finally over, I am happy to say that the festival and the emerging scene that is flourishing out of Mexico City truly delivered. They are changing the way the system is run in Mexico by showcasing emerging artists from around the world, inviting other communities of the world to explore Mexico, and encouraging local kids to act on their creativity. Felicidades y gracias Nrmal!