This Quirky Music Festival Launched the Careers of Mexican Indie Stars

Lead Photo: Photo by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla
Photo by Itzel Alejandra Martinez for Remezcla
Read more

The town of Tecate in Baja California is known for its amazing pan dulce and being the birthplace of Tecate beer. Legends about sacred hills with healing powers have lured famous new agers and hippies to its spas and campgrounds for decades. However romantic and alluring this may be, for the curators of Doña Pancha Fest, this misrepresents the true essence of growing up there. They’ve been attacking that stereotype with visual art: a mockumentary and performance art piece, which includes a faux-punk band that lip syncs to old Mexican punk songs.

On the outskirts of the city lies a small, run-down dive bar called Doña Pancha. Its raunchy but welcoming atmosphere inspired three friends to use it as a venue for a festival celebrating their own particular take on their town while listening to their friends’ bands perform live. Created by Cristián Franco, a visual artist, Julián González, a videographer, and Memo Estrada, a historian and the brains behind spiritual techno project Rancho Shampoo, the festival is full of weirdness, irreverence, and love for good music. Think John Waters if he was Mexican and a promoter.

Because the organizers focus on booking exciting, up-and-coming acts from scenes across Mexico and the U.S., Doña Pancha has served as a springboard for artists to develop their fan base and later climb their way up the ranks (i.e. Juan Cirerol, Prayers, El Muerto.) In many regards, it has become a small but symbolic rite of passage for bands to be invited to play. Part of the vision of this festival is to expand it to other cities, which has allowed them to host it in Guadalajara, Mexico, and San Diego, California. On May 14, they’re heading to Mexicali.

Every year, the festival finds fun ways to engage with its audience, whether it’s handing out makeshift awards for ridiculous categories, or encouraging followers of the festival to make their own flyers. Not only is the festival gaining notoriety for being fun and full of great music, it’s also aiming to grow and become sustainable.

This year’s lineup includes San Pedro El Cortez, Mint Field, Mondragón, Mother Blood, and Rancho Shampoo y La Indian Gold Orchestra.

Doña Pancha Fest will take place on Saturday, May 14 at The Show Beer Rock Bar in Mexicali, Baja California.