Festival Nrmal 2012, Part One

by Enrique Coyotzi

After drooling since the final lineup was announced and anxiously counting the hours, the day the third edition of Festival Nrmal would happen finally arrived. Under a cloudy sky, I made my way to Parque Diego Rivera just in time for Dani Shivers' presentation. Consisting of three stages (Nrmal, MtyMx, and Panamérika), this year’s edition held over 50 international bands, with the MtyMx stage curated by Todd P.

A few minutes after 1:00 p.m, dressed all in black, Tijuana’s favorite femme fatale, Dani Shivers, took the Nrmal stage and opened the festival. While her performance would’ve certainly worked better during the night and in a smaller setting, Shivers managed to deliver a memorable performance that had her few spectators absorbed by it. Just after Greatest Hits’ deliriously funky set, Los Mundos took the Nrmal stage and rocked the hell out of it. I had read about how kick-ass they were live, and, shit, they are. They are one of those rare cases when a band playing live sounds almost exactly like their studio recordings, and it’s pretty much amazing how they seem to effortlessly achieve it.

Afterwards came a holy-shit-fucking-mind-blowing set by AraabMuzik, who absolutely killed it and had the audience nodding heads and stoked by his fingers' dexterity, hammering his drum machine. Next was the turn of the first Chilean act, Adrianigual, whose radiant show began just when the sun started to shine. Lead singer, Diego Adrián, seemed fascinated to be at the festival. Enjoying every single second out of it, Adrianigual gave a splendidly uplifting presentation that, unfortunately, was cut before they properly said goodbye and played the last song they had programmed, “Sudamérica.” Now, I must explain. The Nrmal Stage and the MtyMx stage were right next to each other. Each performance on each stage lasted approximately 30 minutes and, so sound wouldn’t overlap, a presentation had to finish on one stage so the next one on the other could begin, and so on.

photos by Gabriel (Chacalall)

Right after getting something to eat, Juan Cirerol’s set began. Cirerol is one of those artists that make even more sense after seeing him live. The way he gesticulates, his guitar playing skillfullness, aguardientosa voice, instantaneous connectivity with the public, and overall stage presence are truly engaging and should convince those who think he’s only hype (fuck, no!); he’s a town poet. Widowspeak was a total snoozefest so no point getting into details. I missed Mentira Mentira’s performance cause Astro had to play before Unknown Mortal Orchestra, and I had never seen them before. One of the high points of the fest, Astro really know their shit and wonderfully work together as a live ensemble, exuding energy in each note played, and translating their repertoire in a pristine, celebrative manner.

Moving to the Panamérika stage, Andrea Balency demonstrated her gorgeous vocals and unique presence, delivering a hypnotizing performance which showcased her admirable solo abilities; strikingly mesmerizing and profoundly inspiring. Then back to the Nrmal stage for Grimes, where Claire Boucher announced that her gear was missing and that she would play her set with borrowed stuff. She was visibly frustrated but, despite not knowing how to use the equipment, Grimes gave her best to keep her audience entertained and totally nailed it, even though she was afraid it’d turn out to be, in her own words, “a total shit show.”

Just after Boucher’s performance, the finest moment of the festival finally took place at Panamérika stage. Although it was delayed for almost half an hour due to technical problems, Alex Anwandter’s presentation was, by far, the most exciting and beautiful one. Accompanied by Adrianigual’s Nacho Aedo on bass and Astro’s Lego Moustache on keyboards as his band, Anwandter immediately connected with the public. He warned us he had brought the solution for the cold weather, and that it would be dancing. “¿Cómo puedes vivir contigo mismo?” opened his set, which was followed by a favorite of his Odisea project, “Casa Latina.” And, as you might imagine, THOSE dance moves! Anwandter descended to into the the audience, breaking any kind of barrier and, therefore, striking up a direct kind of experience with his public. As the artist himself expressed, one of the highlights was when it began to rain exactly when he started to play “Tormenta”—an unforgettable precious moment that almost seemed prophetic.