In early 2014, a different kind of festival happened in Mexico City, taking the music scene by storm. Hosted at La Quiñonera, a gallery in the Southern part of the city that once held shows for legendary Mexican rock outfits like Caifanes and Santa Sabina, Lxs Grises Fest II was an all-day, two-stage extravaganza for people into heavy sounds and slam-dancing.
Although events like these aren’t rare in Mexico, for a festival of its kind, the event raised eyebrows. It congregated more than 500 paying attendees – without relying on sponsors, a PR campaign, guest list, or activities that didn’t involve music, film, or graphic design. Everybody was there for the music, which ranged from the carefree metallic punk attack of Los Viejos to the instrumental doom of Vinnum Sabbathi to the experimental drumming of Julián Bonequi and the violent power guitars of Annapura, not to mention acts hailing from Guadalajara, Nuevo León, Puebla, and other cities. Both of the stages were packed with people brimming with excitement.
The festival’s communal spirit surfaced thanks to the collaboration of various bands that belong to the Lxs Grises collective. Starting sometime in 2012 with deep roots in Mexico’s mid-2000s screamo scene, core bands like Apocalipsis, Nazareno El Violento, Weedsnake, Into Sickness, K, and others built connections with other musicians and fans that fell somewhere between metal and punk, touring through their own means to faraway places and playing for small but enthusiastic crowds. After Apocalipsis started to pick up steam by appearing at festivals like NRMAL, news of underground shows with bands playing crust punk, sludge, doom, and post-metal started to spread. Other creative groups began integrating themselves into the movement, such as Terror Cósmico, Tormentas, Akuma, and many others. After founding the Grises collective, their hard work attracted more artists; small concerts grew into major, large-scale events.
“Once we built something that worked for us, we wanted to invite others to make something even bigger.”
Festivals are still the main course for the bands in this collective. On Saturday, February 27, Lxs Grises will host the fourth edition of its festival. It’s a departure from what they have done so far, giving two other collectives (the experimental Dorados Pantanos and the stoner rock Loud, Slow, and Distorted Riffs) their own stages for the first time. According to collective member Adrián López, after their third festival, it was time for the organization to change. Unlike previous iterations of the event, the show will take place at Casa Galería in the South of Mexico City and away from some of DF’s trendier neighborhoods.
“We’ve been like a family that has been maturing together,” says López, who is also producer and engineer of the bulk of Lxs Grises discography though his Marginal imprint, as well as a drummer in Tormentas. “After the third festival, we took a step back [to look at things and] do it better, to really be involved in this and take it to the next level in order for it to flow in a cordial way and generate the economy to keep this afloat.”
The festival has expanded its boundaries by inviting bands that have not been directly involved in their shows but share their vision. This year’s headliners are melodic punk legends Gula and returning metal punks Axpi. There’s plenty of bands from all over the country as per usual, including Tijuana’s xHendrix, Guadalajara’s Veritas, Colima’s Nevado, and Pachuca’s Underground Communication Center. The Dorados Pantanos-curated stage is dedicated to free improv and noise, thanks to performances by artists like Rogelio Sosa and Le Trash Can. Meanwhile, the LSDR stage will feature the heaviest portion of the fest, thanks to sets by Vinnum Sabbathi, XIII, and Father Saturnus. This represents a great deal of unity between many genres for underground music in Mexico to thrive (the fest’s bill bears witness to that, hosting everyone from garage rockers The Bloody Benders to melancholic experimentalist Billie Mandoki), a mission that Adrián says they take to heart.
“We’re all on the same road, but each of us has a different vision.”
“I have been able to help out and watch other collectives like N.A.A.F.I., Ensamble, Dorados Pantados, LSDR. That’s when you realize that we’re all on the same road, but each of us has a different vision. We decided to incorporate others to help us out. Some were already involved in a way, like Dorados Pantanos, who had a connection with us through Monogatari…It has been really natural to work together. Tamayo Amps [the custom speaker cabinet shop owned by Vinnum Sabbathi’s guitarist] are sponsoring the backline in one of the stages. [Lxs Grises] has become a collective of collectives. Once we built something that worked for us, we wanted to invite others to make something even bigger.”
Punk and metal are still far from enjoying the kind of recognition and status of other, more of-the-moment genres, but thanks to the work of Lxs Grises, this kind of music is reaching audiences that would otherwise turn a deaf ear to the movement. Likewise, individuals from other creative fields like illustration, photography, art, and film have had a chance to collaborate with Lxs Grises and expose their work to the Grises audience. In this year’s edition of the festival, there will be a photographic expo, a live mural painting, graffiti, and zines for sale.
By adopting a more inclusive attitude, Lxs Grises is a clear example that nowadays it’s crucial to gain allies in different fields and even genres to make independent music a more inviting and expansive arena. López adds, “There’s some prejudice about keeping with just the things you like and the people you already know, but if we can share the virtues of all these organizations in one setting, then that’s awesome.”
For more details on Lxs Grises Fest IV, visit the Facebook event. Be sure to check out the fest’s official compilation below: