Corona Capital Fest 2011 @ Curva 4 Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez; México City, México
Trying to remember every beat, lyric, riff, girl and tiny detail of what happened last Saturday, it is hard to imagine México has to wait another whole year to experience, non-arguably, their best music festival in the last couple years (not the biggest, as its only outnumbered by the Vive Latino Festival, which lasts 3 days and presents many Latin bands and a small number of international acts.)
Filling the hole left by disappeared international music festivals such as Motorokr (with MGMT, The Killers, Incubus, Flaming Lips as headliners) and Coca-Cola Zero Fest (that put together My Morning Jacket, Bright Eyes, The Smashing Pumpkins and The Mars Volta back in 2008), the Corona Capital Fest tried to secure its place as the most important destination for concert goers in Latin América through Rocktubre (“Rocktober”, named as such because of the huge number of concerts happening in a single month, as much as 5 or 6 per week every October).
Its first incarnation was in 2010; with The Pixies, Interpol, James, Echo & The Bunnymen and Regina Spektor as headliners along with 20 supporting acts, both international and Latin. Back then, the festival first took place at the Curva 4 in the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, a huge speedway surrounding the Foro Sol, a baseball stadium, famous for hosting concerts for artists such as AC/DC, Metallica, Iron Maiden and Paul McCartney.
This year wasn’t an exception, and the Corona Capital Fest has established the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez as its home. It now hosts four different stages, an artificial beach, lounge areas, and stands by guitar and technology companies, radio stations and a large number of sponsors. In all the festival grew larger by 1 stage and 10 acts. With Portishead making their first appearance in Mexico and The Strokes first since their 2006 tour, the place was filled with more than 85,000 people from 10 am until midnight.
With a previous week filled with rumors about an expecting hurricane, rain and low temperatures, Rocktober the 15th felt like a sunny, summer evening throughout the day. Trying to fill every musical taste possible, the 2011 edition presented genres from punk-rock through electronic beats, rock bands and pop acts. Artists like Moby, Portishead, The Strokes and The Rapture were the closing acts in their respective stages and all of them exceeded the expectations.
Considering the number of stages, a 12 hour long schedule for 32 bands, the distance between the stages and the lack of a golf kart or super powers, we’ll make a short review on the biggest and most memorable acts on each one of the 4 stages.The Rapture – Sail Away by modularpeople
Bizco Club Stage: Being the stage with the most acts; it was this year’s starter. The line-up: Little Ethiopia, Black Fo, El Cuarto, Javiera Mena, Wavves, El Columpio Asesino, No Age, These New Puritans, m83, Toy Selectah + 3BallMty and The Rapture. With such bands, this stage was intended essentially to be more like a dance floor blended with a moshing arena.
Little Ethiopia: An electro/pop-rock duet formed by the 17 year old boys, José Solé y Santiago Gómez, they sounded like an early tuned down version of MGMT. You can tell something great can happen for this duo within a few years if these guys are given the chance.
Black Fo: Quite experimental, with African-based rhythms, lots of delay, and a whole lot of passion. At first, one couldn’t tell if these guys were being pretentious, but at the very end, it was wished they had given them more than a paltry 15 minute slot in the festival to hear where they were heading to.
Wavves: Having only heard their single “King Of The Beach” beforehand, there were thoughts of them as just another bunch of punk wannabes, like many other bands with their videos being played late at night on MTV2. This author proudly confess that this assumption was an error, not so often you come across with a genuine bunch of kids cursing, playing, head banging and making a 10,000 crowd dance to a punk-surf set. Even people on their way to the other 3 stages decided to stick around and have a tanning session dancing to “So Bored”.
No Age: Reassuring the idea established by Wavves, Randy Randall and Dean Allen Spunt brought an even harder punk-rock set onstage, stealing audience from the other stages with softer acts or maybe with musicians incapable of connecting with the concert goers willing to discover a new band through their live performances. And I’m sure many readers know there’s no sweeter feeling than discovering your favorite new band outside your computer screen.
M83: France’s only ambassador to the festival, and beginning their set more than 20 minutes late; M83 sounded as if a DJ mixed The Cure’s textures, The National’s mood, and the sweet voice of Debbie Harry in “Heart of Glass” into a danceable set of songs. Be sure to check out “Graveyard Girl” (you’ll travel back to the 80’s) and “Midnight City” (with a surprisingly jazzy ending).
The Rapture: Only overshadowed by Moby itself, as both acts were scheduled at the exact same time slot at night, they managed to entertain half the assistants (more than 40,000) around the Bizco Club Stage and turned the motorway into the biggest improvised dance floor many of us had ever seen. Leaving technical difficulties aside, The Rapture threw hit after hit as the day turned into night. Everyone sang along to “Pieces Of The People We Love”, “Get Myself Into It”, “Sail Away” and so on. The highlight came when the first beats to “House Of Jealous Lovers” caused the whole crowd to yell and raise their fists, and suddenly both the Bizco Club Stage crowd mixed with the Corona Light Stage, linking both Moby and The Rapture into an odd though beautiful double feature.The Antlers – I Don’t Want Love by Transgressive Records
Corona Light Stage: With only 7 bands basically stepping into the alternative pop genre and luckily having Moby as the headliner, the term “light” is the most adequate to describe the general mood throughout the day on this stage. The line-up: Madame Recamier, Bengala, Quiero Club, The Antlers, Disco Ruido, Cansei De Ser Sexy and Moby.
Madame Recamier: Although I tried to find something worth listening to during her set, she’s basically a lousy and softened Lilly Allen copy. She even did an Spanish version of “Fuck You”. She neither proposes nor delivers a memorable performance, it felt like a karaoke party and a waste of a time slot that could’ve been easily filled with a better act.
Quiero Club: This set proved these musicians have formed a nice electro pop band. But it stops there. Their set; sounded like any regular poppy attempt, as they rarely seemed to leave their comfort zone and failed to achieve a set worth watching.
The Antlers: This stage’s first international performer delivered a more ambitious set of songs, from relaxing tunes that fitted perfectly with the crowds mood (like “I Don’t Want Love”) to almost progressive arrangements (such as “Parentheses”).
Disco Ruido: Mexico’s best newcomer in terms of alternative music, they performed with deliverance and passion, guided by their front woman Mercedes Nasta through catchy tunes like “Amorfos” and the beautifully crafted “Mrs. Love”, using The Beatles’ “You Know My Name (Look Up The Number)” as a sample. One of the few bands who truly deserved a spot on this year’s line-up.
Moby: There is very little left to write about Moby’s emotional journeys disguised as concerts around the world. Mexico, and this festival, wasn’t an exception. With an amazingly talented backup band, playing all of his hits and anthems, with a passion missing on most of the acts who played before him while he thanked the audience in an improvised Spanish right after almost each tune, Moby made us all remember why we make his concert tickets sell out in a matter of hours and why we can’t wait for his next tour once he’s gone, even though we don’t buy his new albums: the reason is Moby has at least one or two songs that represent our childhood (“Bodyrock”), a bad time in our love life (“Porcelain”), that time we felt like rockstars (“We Are All Made Of Stars”). And the way he connected to his biggest audience in Mexican territory to date that Saturday night, only made us love him more.Portishead – Glory box by Fixed46
Capital Stage: Although this stage was put away in the back on the motorway, it was one of the best balanced of the festival. From Ruido Rosa’s hard rock to Portishead’s first ever appearance in Mexico, the ladies took over the stage and owned it. The line-up: Yellow Yesterday, Ruido Rosa, Lebaron, Wild Beasts, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Santigold, Editors and Portishead.
Yellow Yesterday: Using classic rock structures in their songs, delay effects a-la surf rock and performing with instruments as the harmonica and the mandolin, the guys and the lovely drummer from Yellow Yesterday made the audience clap and dance just like the old days, with sweet and innocent tunes like “Mi Papel” and Ritchie Valens’ “Come On Let’s Go!”.
Ruido Rosa: After seeing these girls opening for KISS, The Greenhornes, and performing on their own numerous times around the country, I consider myself a big fan of their one and only full length self-titled album. Playing with energy and an equipment full of wall filling Marshall and Ampeg stacks Led Zeppelin would be proud of, Maryluz, Daniela, Carla and Alejandra showed us a new song, made everyone sing along with “Dentro” and left us with a rain of stickers and wanting more.
Wild Beasts: Delivering a softer performance during the hottest hour of the day, with a voice like Muse’s guitarist Matt Bellamy, Wild Beasts offered a style of music quite different from what their name stands for. They are a living bridge between Fleet Foxes’ folk and Radiohead’s orchestral arrangements. A band evolving into something exceptional, song after song, we can’t miss what they are about to become within their next few albums.
Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark: One of the oldest bands in this edition and one of the less know international performers. Well, they are until you hear the first notes to some of their hits like “Enola Gay”, “I Was Only Dreaming” and “If You Leave.” You could tell by the improvised dance floor in the middle of the audience, consisting in people from 14 to 30 years old, that OMD was and continues to be being something special. One of the few “synthesizer bands” left, born in the 80’s.
Portishead: These guys were clearly one of the more awaited performances since the lineup for this year’s edition was announced. Making their first appearance in Mexico, Portishead had an easy job as the second to last band to play the festival. An unexpectedly amazed Beth Gibbons trapped the whole audience with her howling voice and made clear why they were the biggest name on the bill that night. Through anthems like “Sour Times”, “Glory Box”, “Threads” and “Carry On”, Portishead made an intimate connection with the audience through Gibbons, and suddenly all those hours under the sun, through the heat and a winter-like cold night were worth it.The Strokes – The Modern Age by camilamodamundi
Corona Stage: Although this was the stage with the fewest number of bands, it had The Strokes as the main event in the entire festival. The line-up: Torreblanca, Ximena Sariñana, Austin TV, Mogwai, Coheed & Cambria and The Strokes.
Ximena Sariñana: Beginning to make a name for herself in the North American market, Ximena has been in the Mexican public eye since she was a little kid. Known as Mexico’s sweetheart, she played some songs from her first solo album, and even invited her producer and fellow solo artist Natalia Lafourcade to sing “Normal” together. Alternating English and Spanish tunes from her two albums, her pop set ended with a big “gracias” to her biggest audience yet.
Austin TV: Being better known for their unique on-stage costumes and shows than for their music, Austin TV is an instrumental band known for their participation in the biggest festivals on the continent. You either love them and think of them as real independent artists or you hate them and categorize them as a pretentious excuse of a band, a bunch of Sigur Rós wannabes dressed as Muppets.
Mogwai: The only band that can compete with Sigur Rós’ genius, Mogwai showcased a set full of their finest instrumental compositions. Owning the stage with songs like “How To Be a Werewolf”, “Rano Pano” and without the need of silly costumes, stage crafts, fireworks or even lyrics, they proved why after almost 20 years of career, they remain as a cornerstone for the post-rock genre. They even took the time to thank Mexico with a superb interpretation of “Mexican Grand Prix”.
Coheed and Cambria: their energy didn’t matter; neither their music nor their attempt to reach the audience, most of their hour long set was ignored by us. They were the odd band of this festival’s incarnation. It wasn’t because they weren’t good; it just seemed that they just came to the wrong festival at the wrong time.
The Strokes: Scheduled to play as the last and most important band of the festival, the HermanosRodríguez motorway was already packed to the brim by 10pm. With more than 85,000 screaming fans and all eyes on the Corona Stage, lights went out and the stage began to light up, as Julian Casablancas, Albert Hammond Jr., Nikolai Fraiture, Fabrizio Moretti and an injured Nick Valensi came in and grabbed their respective instruments to begin the most anticipated set of the night with “New York City Cops”. After their third song, “Machu Picchu”, Casablancas saluted the audience with “buenas fucking noches” and even tried to make sure some people were safe during a fight in the audience, before returning to their set with “Modern Age”. After 19 songs, including some of their brand new album “Angles” and hits from their decade long career like “12:51”, “Reptilia”, “Last Nite” and “Hard To Explain”, Julian’s chatting with the almost 90,000 people crowd and with Valensi sitting the entire time because of his broken leg, The Strokes put an end to an amazing night with a 3 song encore, the last one properly called “Take It Or Leave It”.
After spending the entire day, from 10am until midnight, running between 4 stages, meetingnew friends, and losing them as some sets ended, and losing a few pounds as well as gaining a nice tanning color, all that’s left to say is that the Corona Capital is a few years away (maybe just a couple) into becoming one of the most important festivals in Latin América. The only thing is, the organizers have to choose between splitting the bands into separate days and being more selective with them so they can reduce the number of stages. Four stages and more than 2 headlining bands in a single time slot just won’t do.
We are a year away from the Corona Capital Fest’s 3rd edition. The first edition had better bands, or at least a better balanced bill. But festivals don’t have to be all about the “big names” in music business, they also need to be a platform for emerging talents in need for an audience, for a solid fan base in which to feel inspired and payback their applause with good albums and a solid career than can last beyond mediocre albums, scandals and reality shows. That’s what the “music business” needs right now, real artists. And The Corona Capital Fest can be that platform, it has what it takes, it just needs time to grow stronger.
Recalling Julian Casablancas’ words during the first pause of their set: “Don’t worry: we’ll keep playing”. Let’s hopes all the great bands discovered, and the ones we keep falling in love with, can fulfill that promise.
Written by Jorge A. López Mendicuti
Guitarist, multi-instrumentalist, law school graduate, amateur writer and music fan