Vive Latino 2012: Day Three

by Claire Frisbie

While Saturday at Vive was all about the new class of Latin American musical innovators and something of a serious continuous musical high, Sunday was very much (though not entirely) the opposite. I’m not sure how they determined the lineups for each day, but Fatboy Slim was the “headliner” on Sunday. ‘Nuff said.

Unfortunately, we got there just after the one actually relevant mainstage act (Hello Seahorse!) had played. Word has it that Denise got very emotional and cried while she sang and jumped into the crowd at one point. I also missed Tropikal Forever, whom I would have loved to check out, but a gal needs her beauty rest and chilaquiles.

So after some Balkan bouncing around in the sun to Gogol Bordello, we hit up a very full Carpa Intolerante for some cumbia cósmica from Toluca. Sonido San Francisco had people moving. Alternating between Colombian-style cumbia mixed with electronica to something of a rebajada rock fusion with matching psychedelic visuals, they were tons of fun. Unfortunately we left early because I insisted on catching Illya Kuryaki and the Valderramas for some reason.

I feel like I need to justify myself somehow. IKV was very much a part of my adolescence. Knowing all the words to “Abarajame” was like a rite of passage. I understand they’re ridiculous—they always were (funk meets kung fu movies meets “hip hop” and an eager libido? Che, why not?). But “Coolo” is an awesome party song, and “Jennifer del Estero,” my favorite, is hilarious. Plus, I was a huge fan of Emmanuel’s solo pop effort a couple years back. My expectations were unreasonably high.

Illya Kuryaki’s entire set felt like a painful throwback. None of us needed to go through that. Leather pants with white fringe, never-ending guitar solos, unsexy pelvic gyrations, mediocre sound, unjustified ego. They seemed to play all their “obscure” songs that no one knew—including a new track (they’re baaack!) that was thoroughly forgettable—, so by the time “Coolo” came around, we were all so relieved that we danced, more out of bored nostalgia than actual enjoyment of the performance. Dante and Emma, I love you guys, but this was not a good idea; some music should just remain in one’s adolescence along with braces and unfortunate hairstyles.

After the IKV debacle, I really needed something to cleanse my palate, and Spanish experimental pop outfit Manos de Topo did just that. I wasn’t familiar with their music at all, and I’m still not sure if I could really listen to it on a regular basis, but I definitely appreciated it. Singer Miguel Angel wails all the lyrics in a desperate, shrill crying voice (how do you say “chillar” in English? ‘cause that’s what he does), apparently mocking super sappy pop music. It’s almost performance art, and I was impressed with how many fans they had because, frankly, it’s really weird. In a good way.

We got so caught up in the Manos de Topo bizarreness that we almost missed Pedropiedra, who had drawn quite the crowd over at la Carpa Intolerante. We got there just in time for "Vacaciones en el más allá," which had all eight black and red-clad band members owning the stage. Gepe played drums. I developed a serious girl crush on the back-up singers. Everybody was dancing. They closed with Pedro and Gepe's song "Oh Oh," and we all sang along. Pedropiedra's generally not my cup of tea, but I really really dug this show. Refreshing!

After a much-needed break, we mosied on over to the Escenario Indio Blanco for some Austin TV, who are always a treat. They ended up starting about twenty minutes late—the first delay in the entire festival for me—, and finally appeared on stage in all-white with what looked like big marshmallow samurai ghost bobble-heads, which mostly came off after the first song (making them look a tad klan-like in the white pointy hoods they wore underneath, eek). But they were all about positivity and love, urging us to “sing along” to their moody instrumental rock however we wanted to, and to make sure we made at least one new friend that night. Good vibes, good vibes. Their set was solid, with a pretty significant crowd, which they were clearly very appreciative of, given Molotov was already playing on the main stage.

We too felt the need to catch the massivity that was the Molotov performance and headed back to the main stage to take it all in from high up. It was just about as packed as the night before, with a lot more testosterone in the air. Everyone was super into the show, moshing and chanting along, fists in air at all the right moments for “Gimme Tha Power,” “Voto Latino,” and “Frijolero” (etc.). Decked out in matching denim vests and looking a wee bit past their prime, the Molotov dudes seemed kind of like a parody of themselves. But I suppose in a way they always have been? The whole show just seemed a bit stale and irrelevant, although not lacking in rockstar bravado. Even their attempts at being political seemed almost farcical to me. My own cynicism and jadedness aside, though, the roar and energy of the crowd was undeniable ("Puto" felt like a an aftershock from Tuesday's temblor), and perhaps a little Molotov does a body—or soul—good, given the current political climate.

Molotov would have been a weird way to have ended my Vive Latino weekend, and Fatboy Slim even weirder. Luckily, much of the overflow from Molotov ended up at the smallest stage of the festival, and everyone was dancing as Mexico City rockabilly group Rebel Cats rocked out like it was 1955. In pompadours and matching sequined red blazers, the three young guys and a dad (!) put on quite the show, standing on top of the upright bass and jumping down into the crowd. I didn't catch any of Fatboy Slim's set, but I think it's safe to say that the Rebel Cats had a better dance party going. This was definitely the right way to end my Vive weekend.

And so, as cleanup and disassembly crews arrived at Foro Sol to take apart the festival, we made our way home, ears ringing, feet sore, musical appetites satiated. Almost two weeks later, I think I've finally recovered.