Sad band y qué: One Macuanos' Report of Festival Nrmal

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A lot of people don’t realize it, but being in a band is tough business. Not that they should. The glamour shots and high-profile features project a certain image of success and do a fairly decent job of impressing the fairer sex. But the rest is just, well…

Let me just get this out of the way before it gets confused as the subtextual raison d’être of this article. I am not jaded. Also, I’m not bitching. OK, maybe the latter. Maybe a little.

I’ll start over. It all began the night before the festival, as we rode the shuttle to the hotel and I overheard a conversation between two people. It was between some guy in a band and one of the festival’s organizers, presumably. They were talking about discovering new bands. One guy proceeded to recommend a band, and then jokingly added that it was the only interesting band he’d heard lately, since he hated most music. Then they went on about how finding music was becoming more and more of a chore for them (they were 26 and 28, respectively), and they found it either too tiring or too difficult to come upon new stuff that could interest them anymore. I found this very depressing, but I wasn’t sure if it was due to the fact that I had been stuck in the exact same situation for some time, or the fact that other people––musicians and people in the industry––were too. It dawned on me that once you get into something so deep, you find fewer and fewer reasons to be moved by it. It’s not just listening to music that stops being interesting after a while, it’s playing it, too.

The next day we woke up, got dressed, and took the first shuttle we could find to the festival. In case it wasn’t already obvious, I was pretty fucking blasé about this whole Festival Nrmal thing. Maybe it was a self-defense mechanism, maybe indolence, but I wasn’t finding the prospect of closing off a main stage all that exciting. Hell, I was making all efforts to avoid thinking about it.

As we got to the park where the festival was taking place, I looked over the bill, but didn’t feel too eager to see any act in particular, except maybe Füete Billete and Kelela, and only because everyone on my Facebook feed hadn’t shut up about them for the past two weeks. I missed the latter, but did manage to catch a surprisingly good set by BFlecha, whose gear was set up in such a way that you could witness all the maneuvers she executed on her synth. She sang pretty well and was kinda cute. I only saw about two or three acts before we had to get back to the hotel to get ready for our performance, but by then I was already exhausted and out of breath. I had to drag myself into the shower and shift the handle to the coldest setting, only to stay afoot. Slowly, the pressure of having to perform shook me out of my zombie-like grogginess.

Sad band y qué

When we returned to the venue, I immediately made my way toward the bar and ordered a shot of mezcal. Then, another. I figured If I was going to make it through the night, and our performance, I would need to be drunk. Considerably drunk. Making my way through the stages, a number of people greeted me and told me they were looking forward to the show, another few asked for a picture. You figure, if nothing else, do it for the fans (that always sounds so nice on paper). As I danced along to Matias Aguayo‘s unabashedly exuberant set, only a part of me was present. The other part was thinking about our set, while another part was intricately studying the drum patterns on Matias’ songs, worrying about whether ours stood up in comparison. A friend pointed at a Sad Girls y qué sticker, which a few friends from Tijuana had been giving out throughout the festival. It was a screen cap of a tweet that read: “vales verga.” I drank some more.
As the hour approached, and we were the last band on the bill, we went over to the tent where we had stored our gear. I started to feel a light drizzle above me. Suddenly, it started pouring.

“It’s really up to you now,” the stage manager informed us, as we witnessed our stage slowly being filled with rain. A tough call, no doubt, since we were, for all intents and purposes, headlining the festival. As I turned to my bandmate, I proceeded to utter that old show-business saying: “The show must go on.” One of the speakers then burst into flames.

As we stood under a tent, far from the flooding stage, we gazed upon our would-be moment of glory. I felt the pressure slowly wash away among the acid rain. “Are you guys playing?” a musician from one of the American bands asked. “We don’t know,” we replied. “Did you guys get paid?” he asked. “Yeah…” we said.

Then get the fuck out of here!

Upon this stupidly obvious realization, I quickly ran toward the last remaining stage, on the far end of the field where the remainder of the festival’s attendants were, mostly because it was the only stage sheltered by a tent. I suddenly felt an enormous weight lifted from my shoulders. With the pressure of headlining a festival no longer an obstacle, I took whatever substance I could find. Without realizing it, I found myself onstage, feeling the glory of the crowd’s cheers, only to be quickly ushered off by security as it was, presumably, during Siete Catorce’s performance. But what did it matter? I was free, I was blissful, I was actually enjoying myself.

Afterwards, DJs Rashad and Spiin came on and the last living souls at the festival collectively lost their minds amid calls to “Get doooooooooowwwwwnnnnn!” and stomach-churning bass lines shooting at us from the stage. Lights were blinding, fists were pumping, and the next thing I remember is being on the last shuttle to the hotel, along with a number of attendants and performers from the festival. One of them was an old friend and mentor from Tijuana. I explained to him what had occurred and mentioned my overarching anxiety with the band. I then asked him what one was to do in such a situation.

Keep going,” he said.

Simple words, almost cliché, yet it felt like all along, that had been the answer to everything…

…although I’m sure he was just referring to the afterparty.

Reuben Torres is a member of Tijuana band Los Macuanos. Despite what the text might suggest, he actually enjoys it very much.

(Photo Credit: Perry Skegness)