The seventh edition of Festival NRMAL is around the corner, effectively kicking off Latin America’s festival season, and we couldn’t be more excited. Taking place in Mexico City this weekend, expect to be caught up in a vortex of international talent, sideshows, and parties. The main lineup boasts many “it” names in Latin and U.S. indie, including Deerhunter, Empress Of, Health, Föllakzoid, Mitú, and Future Brown – which means this year’s edition of NRMAL is bound to be their biggest blowout to date. With all the commotion and running between stages and food trucks, some of the festival’s lesser-known gems run the risk of slipping through the cracks. To help you stay on top of your NRMAL game, we’ve put together a list of five under the radar acts you should definitely make time to see in Mexico City this weekend. Be sure to check out the whole lineup here.
Luis López Varona and Ángel Emanuel Figueroa are the founding members of Puerto Rican indie pop duo Los Wálters, an act that is sure to have the NRMAL crowd swooning with their mix of uptempo tropical synths and earnest songwriting. Their most recent album, Verano Panorámico, was packed with dance friendly singles like “Porsche” and “San Juan,” and their summer romance vibes are certain to charm every couple in attendance. Los Wálters don’t often make stage appearances since the musical partnership between the two Boricuas is largely online (one is based in Puerto Rico and the other in Miami), so make sure to catch this rare set and dance to your heart’s content.
Gentle, thoughtful synthpop from Argentina, Coiffeur has made a name for himself as one of the artists to watch on Chilean label Quemasucabeza. His most recent record, 2013’s Conquista de lo Inútil, was a sublime and understated work in songwriting and atmospheric production, a departure from the rock-oriented format of his earlier releases. Coiffeur’s sound can be described as a mixture of Diosque’s electronic oddness and Fakuta’s emotional songwriting (both currently his labelmates), all sung through his own delicate falsetto. Coiffeur has also been super busy with touring, playing all over Argentina and the Chilean and Mexican editions of Festival Neutral, so it’s safe to expect this to be one of the most polished and fine-tuned shows of the whole festival.
The bizarre psychedelic trio is part of Colombia’s super strong showing at this year’s NRMAL, sharing the bill with compatriots Mitú and Ela Minus. Drawing from the immense spectrum of tropical music, like champeta, chicha, and Afrobeat, Los Pirañas are led by Eblis Álvarez, who performed at last year’s festival with his other band, Meridian Brothers. The music is nothing short of demented guitars, distorted into almost cartoonish twangs with enough percussion to lead a carnival. Los Pirañas promise to be a blast, bringing much-needed levity to a festival that can sometimes get bogged down in hyper-cool moodiness.
A very different take on the usual cumbia hybrid formula, Mareaboba offers trippy, fuzzy, unsettling sounds. The music is glitchy and noisy, while retaining the basic rhythmic structure of cumbia, resulting in a trance-inducing dance experience. The Mexican producer’s most recent EP, Bioamorfo, is a wildly experimental effort that will translate beautifully to NRMAL’s avant-garde stage. This is a set that’s sure to bring together one of the festival’s most diverse crowds, with goths and drunk bros all crowding under the same tent.
Cakes Da Killa
This New York City-area rapper has cut his teeth in the underground queer hip-hop scene for years. With three mixtapes under his belt, the MC has been acclaimed for his raunchy lyrics and heart-thumping club beats. Cakes is the epitome of New York cool; stylish to a fault and lyrically sharp as a tack. The floor will surely take the shape of a Harlem ballroom early on, with plenty of amateur voguing and pose holding going around. Though NRMAL provides a queer friendly environment, it’s certainly exciting to see that attitude reflected on the bill once again, a glaring absence since Mykki Blanco’s wild headlining performance three years ago. Rest assured, Cakes Da Killa will deliver one of the weekend’s most in-your-face and lit sets, and you’re just going to have to see it to believe it.