Corona Clay-pital : a survivor’s tale

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Kongos making The Beatles palatable.

4 hours. How can a flight be delayed for almost 4 hours? #FuckVolaris and #VolarisdeMierda indeed. Anyways, a late flight became a red-eye flight but after 2 years I finally met again with Janine Doe Jr., who came to this smog cappuccino we call Mexico City to catch Massive Attack and Weezer. On the same late plane was TV’s Alan Tacher. His typical knowing smile, sandblasted into white perfection, was nowhere to be seen. Nor his fans.

Air travel – it gets to all of us.

The drive back home was surreal, with the spontaneous bits of fog emanating from the park near my house providing an eerie visual accompaniment to Eagles’’ Hotel California’.

***

A hearty breakfast is always the fuel required to survive a festival. Previous experience made me go for my own “Tramlines special” breakfast that included:

-2 eggs, fried and over easy.

-Bacon (the stripy one). 3 slices.

-Two bolillos, with all the doughy innards still there.

-4 slices of Colby cheese.

-3 sliced grapefruits.

-2 glasses of mandarin juice.

-Copious amounts of coffee.

All this time and I keep stealing my ideas from Hunter S. Thompson. Oh, well. Janine only had tea and toast with jam. This is why she’ll outlive me.

A quick journey through the wonders of Mexican public transport (excluding line 12 of the metro – fuck that money pit!) and lo and behold, we were knee deep in a crowd of The Thin and The Trendy. I lost count of how many people were wearing flower crowns and headdresses. Not because they were too many, I just think that’s none of my business. If you read my SXSW story you’ll understand.

What you won’t understand is what in tarnation I’m doing here. I gave up reviewing, both live and recorded. Alas, Weezer is Weezer and my reviewing exile was not to be. ‘Sides, I need to get out of the house more often or the trainwreck that is my life will become a full grade Russian pile-up.

As we approached the Corona Capital entry point, the unofficial merch dealers were peddling their wares. Non-sanctioned t-shirts with the festival’s logo, merch for bands that CANCELLED their set (I saw at least 5 Neon Trees tees) and a couple of terrible “funny” trucker caps were a few eyesores. Who the fuck buys a cap that says “YOLO” or “Sorry Mom”?

I know, I know. “Old reviewer yells at cloud.”

So we walked faster into the anthill-like entry, were we got frisked 4 times and then got tagged with a orange-yellow wristband sporting an embedded chip in a plastic square. Were the organisers trying to track us and make observations of our festival habits?

This was the contentious “brazalete Corona Capital” which was announced 4 days before the event. The whole saga for the darn thing reeked of an idea someone had on during a Charlie binge and the ensuing fracas meant that the wristband wasn’t required as your entry ticket, but we still had to wear it. Or summat. It got a little murky. Anyways, you could also put some money into it as the official merch stands and the food trucks would ONLY take the wristband’s credit as payment.

You know what happened, right? If not: SIMPSONS DID IT!

"¡Ay, qué poca!"

“¡Ay, qué poca!”

Anyways, we skipped buying the Itchy and Scratchy money and moseyed and saw what Black English was up to. 2 songs, sounded a-ok but Janine wasn’t feeling it, so I mentioned I had seen back at Live at Leeds about a year ago and described her music. We went there. The long ass walk was quite amusing, as some ingenious/tightwad (remove as needed) member of staff used cheap plastic colanders as improvised light bulb casings/Chinese lanterns.

"¡Bara, bara!"

“¡Bara, bara!”

I’ve seen it done with metal colanders before. Not with plastic, but, hey, it’s the economy, stupid. We made it to just as her set was ending and we ventured into the food truck area. On the distance, a lonely ferris wheel watched us with a silent, everlasting gaze.

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The prices weren’t as exorbitant as I thought, but still, the trendiness of food trucks in Mexico confuses me: didn’t we had this since forever, in the form of tin and metal street taco and torta vendors? Food trucks are supposed to be cheap as chips, not weird (and tasty!) food.

Still, some top notch stuff was available at fair prices. Janine had tacos al pastor, I had a pork and beef kebab that was plentiful and we listened to Real Estate as we talked about the curveballs life throws you. I’ve noticed I have a penchant to have existential crisis and important conversations whenever I’m at a festival, clearly meaning that I can’t have fun and I’m old.

We sat on the grass to listen to the second half of Real Estate’s set. I remember the hoopla in Austin back in March during their set – everyone was queuing to see them, which was fine for me as it meant I could see Sun Kil Moon before War on Drugs-gate broke out.

So, Real Estate: a little overhyped but peaceful music to have an existential conversation to. Fair deal.

Kongos bringin' the choza down.

Kongos bringin’ the choza down.

Next in line was Kongos and we squeezed towards the front. Whereas Real Estate is almost intimate, Kongos is a hoot and a holler in a rhythm heavy box of niceness. Accordion! Groovy keyboards! Dandy basslines! A mash up of The Beatles ‘Come together’ with Dr. Dre‘s ‘Ain’t nothing but a g thang’ (dat keyboard.) They had a big, responsive crowd and they deserved every single platitude they could get. It didn’t matter that some hooligans were waving around stolen poles they adorned with My Little Pony inflatable figurines, we all were having a great time.

Bronies love gigs. Which is cool.

Bronies love gigs. Which is cool.

The crowd dissipated but we still were a good mass of Mexicans (and congeners) when Biffy Clyro came out. Their first ever gig in Mexico, if I’m not mistaken. I will never see Oceansize live, but Mike Vennart rocking out to Biffy Clyro more than satiated my yearning.

Tallest Scotman in Mexico.

“We did it for the buckfast!” I screamed to him as he soloed me out.

There was some quick interaction with the crowd, with phrases spurt in a heavy Castilian accent. We enjoyed that and the public just devoured ‘Bubbles’, ‘The Captain’ and ‘Many of horror’. A girl next to me grabbed my arm when ‘The Golden Rule’ started and she almost tore it into tiny fat bits. So I joined the jumping. Janine was a-ok with the band, I think she only really liked ‘Living is a problem because everything dies’ which is fine with me, because that’s my fave song by them.

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Mon the buffy beefcake Biffy!

We ran as fast as we could to see Jenny Lewis. I’ve had a lifelong crush on her since I saw her on The Wizard. This crush turned into a full blown obsession with Rilo Kiley and her new material is fantastic.

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This was Janine’s first foray into the world of Jenny Lewis and I’m confident to say that she now is a fan. A rendition of ‘A better son/daughter’ broke me, very hard. I rested my head in Janine’s arm and she just said “let it all out”. And I did so. Thanks for the catharsis, Ms. Lewis.

SWOON.

SWOON.

Jenny Lewis’ colourful suit is on par with the suits that The Flying Burrito Brothers wore and I can only hope her music reaches more people now. She deserves all the goddamned praise we can give her so please, listen to her music, dammit! I can’t describe it as masterfully as she performs it, so open your ears to the hard hitting lyrics and lovely musical arrangements.

"Security! It's him again!"

“Security! It’s him again!”

No, she didn’t bribed me for that. Anyways, the drizzle that started halfway through Jenny Lewis’ set turned into rain and we made our way back to the stage with the best acts.

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Front: Weezer. Far right: THE PASSION OF ANIMAL.

9 years. I’ve waited 9 friggin’ years to see Weezer again. The rain intensified as Janine and me (or “and I”) traded horror stories from life. Soundcheck seemed to take forever and I quipped “C’mon, that Japanese woman is not coming back, man, play some music!” I got some glares from a couple nearby. All in a troll’s life.

Remember the stolen poles? I saw one with a poor Animal plushy hogtied to it. Seemed cruel but the combination of Weezer and the Muppets (crucified or not) is a thing of beauty, so I will let this random act of savagery go unpunished. For now. Respect Animal, dammit!

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So whereas Biffy’s Spanish was of the Castilian variety, Rivers Cuomo’s was clearly Mexican influenced. Slang was used (“chingón, poquito”) and that Tiburones Rojos jersey appeared with ‘Undone (the sweater song)’. All good but if the band love Mexico so much, why did it take them 9 years to come back? I’ll place all blame on promoters on this side of the border, though.

"PLEASE COME BACK!"

“PLEASE COME BACK!”

Oh, wait, music! Sorry, this is a “review”, not an editorial. Barring Hurley and Maladroit, songs from all Weezer eras were performed. Nevermind the apparent natural awkwardness of Cuomo and company, this band always delivers a granite solid show and tonight was no exception. ‘Beverly Hills’ got people chanting, ‘Hash pipe’ made heads bang in unison and the 4 band drum solo at the end was a thing of beauty.

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Now, there’s always quirky stuff with the band and there were several happy accidents during the set. Bethany Cosentino sang and I’d love to hear her own solo take on ‘Go away’. Drummer (and all around cool dude) Pat Wilson quoted Temple of the dog’s ‘Hunger strike’, warming the cold hearts of grunge fanatics that miss the era. And then, it happened: Rivers Cuomo sang Ana Gabriel’s ‘¿Quién como tú?’ Sure, strange, but is it really strange when this is a band that has mashed up their music with MGMT’s ‘Kids’ or invited Kenny G for a guest spot? I think not. I know not. So for all the bitter fans who can’t get over the fact that the band has long moved on from Pinkerton I tell you this: listen to them live and stop obsessing about that album. You know you want to.

The rain seemed to go away and we wandered around, queuing at that biohazard/landfill the port-a-potties had become. 20 minutes to pee. People cutting into line. Dudes just getting their manhood out and sprinkling any nearby tree, to the amusement and loathing of everybody who had a little bit of civility in their bodies. This is how humanity ends.

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEW!

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEW!

After the judicious application of antibacterial gel, we went back for Massive Attack. We knew this was going to be the last act we were going to see.

Then this happened:

“We are not going to make it to the front. This is jampacked.”

“No, we are going to. Follow me.”

I was going to retort but Janine pulled me by the arm, making her way through the crowd. Some were amused at the scene, which basically was akin to a sleek trimaran towing a destroyer ship through an atoll filled with debris from a shipwreck. I heard some abuse and some snickering guffaws. A guy even told me “good luck” and I said “my belly is made of play-doh”. I couldn’t see his reaction, he disappeared in a human sea made of tired, droopy faces that had consumed too much watered beer and cheap chronic.

We made it halfway and we got separated. I could see her, a few humans away. Then everything went dark as the rain intensified. Ponchos were useless by then. You were going to get wet, no matter what you did.

And out came Massive Attack, with an impressive light show and a fierce display of music. The thunder and lightning helped intensified the mood, but once a lightning stroke about a kilometer away, I started to worry. I put my heels together as it supposedly a good way to prevent the current from a lightning strike to travel (and burn) through your body but it’s probably all wishful thinking.

Alarm bells rang in my head once I saw people on stage trying to dry equipment and the floor. This looked like it was going to be force majeure-d like Deftones’ recent gig in Guadalajara. And so it did. Just as ‘Future proof’ finished, that voice of doom said aloud on the speakers that the festival would be “on hold” while the storm was raging and that it would continue soon.

We knew this meant that it was cancelled. Later I would hear that some announcers said the whole day was over and we should get the funk out of there. So our long way back home started. Here’s a little bit of music to start it:

So we walked from that stage to the exit, in a sort of a big, energy wasting J shape of a “holy shit, are we stepping on mud or have the port-a-potties been overturned?” death walk. Why not open the closed exits and help us get out faster, you maniacs? It matters not; 10 minutes after the rain had ruined the rest of the night, looting and pillaging commenced. I think I saw a guy running from security with Jack White’s hat, a bunch of young girls plucking a headdress and cooking it with salsa verde and a trio of tiny intoxicated Mexicans with southern accents carrying Del Naja’s keyboard into the food truck area.

And the puddles and mud, oh, dear God. I saw a Best Coast fan disappear slowly as he sank into the mud, while people both guffawed and screamed in pain. If you were one of the morbid ones taking photos instead of trying to help him, here’s a helpful image for your #sinkingBestCoastfan meme:

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Imagine that walking bit in War of the Worlds/Cloverfield but with muddy ponds and half-naked people trying to make it to the metro. Then imagine being turned away from the entrance and having to go out through another exit that adds 30 minutes to your walk. Yeah, it took us an hour to get to the metro station and I was cranky as hell. Janine was all zen about it, but I could see the tiredness setting in.

First metro wagon that came in 15 minutes was filled to the brim with wet and stinky revellers. No one fitted and it groaned as it struggled to move away from the station. 10 more minutes and in came another one. Janine pulled me in and I got stuck like Winnie The Pooh between a guy that smelled of patchouli and a woman that looked me as if I scratched her Arcade Fire vinyl collection with a crochet needle.

We made it to Metro Auditorio and picked the fastest looking bus back home. The last time I took a bus here this late at night was after Vive Latino and the fucker took 80 minutes to take me back home. The bus tonight only took 30 minutes and that was due to a couple of terrible traffic lights and a spot of flooded carriageways.

Funny enough – the musical selection included ska music (which was ok) and then it turned into “The Broken Hearts” megamix of ranchera and salsa. We dragged ourselves back home and after a shower with plenty of chlorine and antibiotics, we had tea.

The day after, I could barely stand on my feet and ideas flew away like butterflies (so I chased them away, ooo!) I tried to make a cold, clinical assessment of the festival and while I really enjoyed most bands, I still have this creeping suspicion I’m too old for festivals. Also, why in Brad Pitt’s seven fucks wasn’t Biffy Clyro a headliner?

Pfft, what do I know about music, uh? I’m throwing in the towel. Back into hiatus I go until you kids appreciate Jenny Lewis, Weezer, Kongos and Biffy Clyro a little bit more. And please bring back Massive Attack.

Words: Anónimo Vespucio, as told to Sam J. Valdés López

Photos: Sam J. Valdés López

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