Vive Latino 2012: Day One

by Claire Frisbie

Hello there. I went down to Mexico City last week and this blog's lovely editors were kind/foolish enough to let me share my first Vive Latino experience with you all. I'm not one for official bios, but here are some things about me: full-time melómana, part-time "foodie," aspiring accordion player (in theory, not in practice), and bike enthusiast. Co-founder and former editor of Proud Brooklynite by way of Costa Rica, Mexico, Germany, and Chile. Long-time reader of Club Fonograma, thrilled to contribute for the first time, and tickled to bear the same initials. Hello.

Mexico had a busy week last week. The biggest earthquake since ’85 shook things up for a couple days, Pope Benedict XVI made his controversial visit to León, and then, of course, there was Vive Latino, which was why yours truly was there.

As hundreds of thousands made the pilgrimage to Guanajuato to see El Papa, tens of thousands of us crammed into metro cars and inched along in endless DF traffic towards Ciudad Deportiva for a weekend of worship of a very different variety.

We arrived just after Vetusta Morla had finished their set on the main stage and proceeded to roam around aimlessly and feel generally overwhelmed. I knew Vive was going to be big, but Foro Sol is massive—and without a map or functioning smart phone, I felt more than a tad lost.

by Marlon Bishop

First up (for us): Chilean darlings Dënver, who helped appease the initial confusion/vastness of the fest with their easy breezy pop. The crowd sang along to “Olas Gigantes” as singer Mariana pouted and posed and pranced around the stage. Nothing mind-blowing, but that was fine; it was nice. We bought some beer and danced a bit before wandering off to catch the end of Antoine Reverb’s set. Which we missed.

There’s a rhythm to Vive, and any mega-festival I suppose, that is key to a good time and has absolutely nothing to do with music and everything to do with planning. Four stages is a lot to juggle and with infinite distractions in between—merch! mohawks! mezcal! movies (courtesy of Ambulante)! piercings! pashminas! parkour! a mobile library (why not?)! some dude jumping into a trash can! wait, another dude jumping into a trash can…?—trips between stages easily took 15-20 minutes. (Almost) all the sets started right on time, if not a few minutes early, so I was forced to go against my nature and attempt to be punctual. It wasn’t until day two that I really got the hang of it.

We made our way to the Carpa Intolerante (the smallest stage at Vive, curated by Discos Intolerancia) to see Ruben from Café Tacvba’s side project HopPo! Hair long and messy, skirt long and hippy, Ruben was as beautiful and charming as ever, but forced to hobble around with a cane as he’d injured himself the night before (while performing at some concert protesting violence against animals, bless his heart). Made up of Los Fancy Free drummer Carlos Icaza, several Chilean musicians, someone on a sitar, and at this performance, the bassist from Santa Sabina, HopPo! performed experimental Eastern-tinged covers of Latin American folk classics by the likes of Victor Jara and Violeta Parra, along with some originals off their upcoming album.

Next was Vicente Gayo, who put on a super-energetic show to an overflowing and enthusiastic crowd, giving me my first real taste of rrrrock at this festival, replete with obligatory crowd surfing and chants of “oé oé oé oé, Gayo, Gayo” under the glow of a huge rooster.

Then I made my first bad decision of Vive Latino. According to the schedule, there was a big break at the Carpa Intolerante. ("Why would there be an hour and a half break?" I should have asked myself. Oh, hindsight.) I suggested we grab some food and check out Los Ezquisitos because I liked their name. Halfway through my first moist taco de canasta, I knew we’d made a mistake, one of the generic hard rock variety. Whoops. By that point Rubén Albarrán had somehow made it over to the Escenario Indio Blanco to join the band for a painful (heavy metal-ish) rendition of “Esa Noche.” But what I’m mad about is that back at Intolerante, none other than Torreblanca was performing a surprise show. The one artist not on the Vive lineup who I really hoped to catch while in Mexico City.

Luckily, we have YouTube for situations like this. Check out that fox around his neck!

The big draw of Friday night was Enrique Bunbury, an artist whose appeal I cannot wrap my head around for the life of me. But there were thousands of leather cowboy hats and Heroes del Silencio t-shirts crowding the Escenario Indio Verde from early on in the day, reminding me that I was very much in the minority. About ten minutes before 9, we squeezed and “permiso”-ed our way into the crowd to catch our first main stage show of the festival: Zoé.

Every time I see Zoé live I’m reminded of what quintessential rock stars they are, and I mean that as a compliment of the highest order. Say what you will about their Unplugged album (I say good things!), their talent is undeniable and man, do they put on a good show. They had so many musicians on stage (around 10, I believe)—including Chetes in what looked like a bedazzled dashiki, Pipe of L.A. band The May Fire, and, of course, Denise, aka Lo Blondo, of Hello Seahorse!

León and orchestra made their way through the Unplugged repertoire, which worked surprisingly well in the stadium setting, thanks to really incredible sound. That is, when it wasn’t drowned out by the chorus of the audience singing along to every word. The din surged to a massive roar/squeal when León invited Señor Bunbury out to reprise their duet of “Nada,” which made for the perfect transition into the plugged-in, full-on rock half of Zoé’s set: “Polar,” “Memo Rex,” “Últimos Días,” “Vía Láctea,” “Miel,” “Labios Rotos,” and the descent of León into the crowd as he walked amongst and sang to the fans, flanked by security guards.

With the final applause and a splash of some unidentifiable warm liquid from above (that was totally beer, right?), we called it a night, eager to get some rest before the most anticipated day of #VL12.