They like to make out a lot in Mexico. Like, a LOT. But they also organize wonderful music festivals in Mexico, so we’ll excuse the PDA OD. El Vive Latino sounded off for three days this past weekend in Mexico City and there was no shortage of amazing moments. Festivals can be daunting at times, what with the crowds (in this case the hormone hopped-up crowds), the heat (oh that Mexican sun!), and the usually-not-so-great sound. But Vive Latino found a way to make you forget all of that and revel in the fact that you’re in Mexico City and you’re about to see bands from all over Latin America leave their mark on el D.F. Oh, yeah, and Caifanes reunited. Don’t know if you’ve heard.
Read below for a day-by-day recap with the best and worst performances from my first-ever Vive Latino (and first-ever Mexican adventure!). Pictures of anything and everything I didn’t cover below are soon to come.
[Charly García, She’s a Tease, Dorian, Jane’s Addiction, Banda de Turistas, Nortec Collective]
We got our passes late, very late, so I was disappointed I couldn’t see one of the best new Mexican bands out there, Bam-Bam. But Friday afternoon, the first day of Vive Latino, it was apparently a ghost town. So we entered el Foro Sol just in time to hear Charly García and what sounded like a stroke. But it’s Charly García, he’s old school, he’s epic, so no judgments here. Then we marched over Carpa Roja (by far one of the best of the tents at the fest) and caught She’s a Tease pleasing a massively big crowd. Last time I saw them was at South by Southwest and they were slaves to awful audio at the venue and about 15 people were there. But in their home country, it was totally a different story. Everyone chanted along to “Fiebre de Jack” and “Why,” which saw the Quiero Club female cuties, Marcela Viejo and Priscilla González, join the band of dudes on stage. But they weren’t the only special guests (from that set or that entire fest), Sax from Maldita Vecindad came out of nowhere, much to the delight of the Mexican hipsters.
Unimpressed by Dorian, we headed back in time to the ’90s to see Jane’s Addiction at the Vive Latino stage. Man, that was a shit show. Bondage sluts on stage, Perry Farrell’s awful incoherent Spanish ramblings, Dave Navarro’s nipple rings, a poor rendition of that song that’s on Entourage, et-al. Weirdness, to say the least. Our faith in live sets was restored when we saw Argentina’s Banda de Turistas, quite possibly the most adorable band out there. They too drew a huge crowd and rightfully so, their live set was invigorating and joyful (sometimes lacking in their recordings). But back at the mainstage for the closing Friday set was a Tron-channeling Nortec Collective with their big band in tow. At that point (this is pre-Caifanes), it was one of the biggest crowds I had ever seen. Nortec catered to the crowd’s every need, every whim, and succeeded as closers.
[Ana Tijoux, Joe Volume, El Guincho, Jarabedepalo, Caifanes]
After some morning tourism (city center and Coyoacán), Ana Tijoux was the first order of the day, as she prepared to play with her original DJ, Chile’s Dacel, and a band backing her. The result was funky and crowd pleasing. I think the biggest pleasure from this whole experience was seeing how well these international artists played in Mexico. To see how Mexicans react, singing along to each song, was such a treat, especially during her last song, the titular “1977.”
A break was needed after the rabid dog show I witnessed during Joe Volume’s set at Carpa Roja, and my favorite, El Guincho, was up. What was my favorite concert in 2010 did not translate to the Vive Latino fest. El Guincho is the venue type, the kind of artist whose sound needs enclosure, walls to bounce off of and into ears. Instead, it lingered then died in the dead of air. Still supremely enjoyable, but not perfection. And he didn’t play “Antillas,” but I’ll forgive you for that, Pablo. One inkling, one whisper of “Por un beso de la flaca” made me unwilling to go back to 5th grade to witness Jarabedepalo. And unfortunately, I missed Torreblanca and Natalia Lafourcade to find a good spot for Caifanes. Whoa. I’ve never been so claustrophobic in my life. To be a part of 60,000 people, all there to see the first reunion of this seminal Mexican band, was…daunting. I had to get out. So instead I heard the set from the top of the press area, where you could see the sea of Latinos (pedestrians and artists alike), reliving their youth during “Mátenme porque me muero” and other classics. I expected Saúl Hernández’s voice to fade or crack, but it was surprising to hear how well it was preserved. That was straight up arena rock, but at its finest. And so, the Caifanes reunion ended, only Coachella, which they sold out themselves, to look forward to.
Since I had missed Bomba Estéreo’s show the first day, I got to see them perform at an after party in Condesa’s Puma Social Club, where they played a new song, “El cuerpo y el alma,” and electro-droned impressively, allowing their sound to transcend its own genre. It felt experimental, but still accessible. Mostly, everyone just wanted to hear “Fuego,” which they played like veterans.
[Chikita Violenta, Rey Pila, Mala Rodríguez, The National, Disco Ruido, Babasónicos]
By far the best of the three days, Sunday was a pleasant surprise. Chikita Violenta drew an unexpectedly huge audience but struggled with bad audio in the beginning, which led to the longest intro a band has ever had on stage. Ever. But once sound issues were resolved (the whole audio even gave out completely for about 25 seconds, unbeknownst to them), Chikita played one of the best shows of the fest, even inviting Diego Solorzano (a.k.a. Rey Pila) up to collab during “Roni.” The Chikita crowd translated into the Rey Pila crowd, even adding some more head-banging fans to boot. Solorzano came back out, hair out, with Chikita Violenta’s guitarist and others, and took no prisoners, jumping into the crowd and photo area and bouncing on stage. The man likes to jump. He also has phenomenal stage presence.
I’d never seen Mala Rodríguez live (or her outfits upfront), so I stuck around, along with thousands of others, to see what she had to offer. Playing with a full band, Mala in the beginning was trying to channel Rage Against the Machine entirely too much (and an even sluttier Xena Warrior Princess), but when Kinky’s Gil Cerezo came out, with no intro or explanation whatsoever, for “Toca Toca,” her sound started to flesh out a bit more and it became a super-charged experience all of a sudden. Well done, Mala. I believe.
Some non-Latin scoping went on afterward and it entailed me geeking out to The National. I won’t bore or torture you with my tear-filled rendition of “Afraid of everyone.” Running back to Carpa Roja I missed Omar Rodríguez-López’s performance, which I heard was quite energetic. Sticking around that tent, which felt like you’re in the woods, we caught the very eccentric Disco Ruido making party music for an all-out bash in the woods. Then some special guests came out to assist with vocals and guitar, none other than Friday’s heroes, She’s a Tease. Before I knew it, Disco Ruido came and went and Babasónicos took the main stage. But I was too busy drinking free booze and oogling the Latin American music elite to care (Café Tacvba everywhere!). And so concludes my Vive Latino experience, with alcohol and taquerías. The appropriate way to send off Mexico. Hasta luego!