“So that means that I have less than five minutes to run a mile or so through 50,000 people using these shoes full of holes in order to photograph two of the main acts at this festival? Well, let’s give it a try.”
And yes, it was more than just a try. Lots of sweat and two blisters later, this writer found himself in front of New Order, just four minutes after witnessing Florence + The Machine’s debut on Mexican soil. That was one of the many sacrifices worth living through at this year’s Corona Capital Festival, held for the third time in a row at the Hermanos Rodríguez racetrack.
Considered one of the most ambitious festivals of its kind despite its few years, the Corona Capital even went a step further this time. Just after turning three stages into four for its second edition, this time the extension went into more than just mere talent distribution: the one day experience turned into a two day odyssey stretched out over four different stages, with one of the most jaw-dropping line-ups México has yet to witness.
New Order’s first time in México; the theatrical antics by Florence + The Machine; the rock and punk force driven by Franz Ferdinand, The Hives and The Vaccines; legendary beat sessions by DJ Shadow and James Murphy; modernized blues-rock on the hands of The Black Keys; amazing display of national talent through many genres by Technicolor Fabrics, Vicente Gayo, The Plastics Revolution, The Wookies and many more; the representation of many Latin-American cultures and international artists for a 2 day bash right in the middle of Rocktober: this and many other reasons made this the most attractive and awaited festival in the country.
Just like last year’s edition, the four stages set throughout the racetrack turned decisions into headaches, as artists were playing simultaneously and considerably far away from each other. If you decided to stick around the Bizco Stage, then you would have electronic music, hip-hop, tribal and club related music genres pumping from noon ‘til midnight.
The Corona Light had a wide selection of alternative rock and pop-rock acts, with bands like L.A., Iron & Wine, Tegan And Sara, The Walkmen and Hello Seahorse!, always beginning with soft sounding nights in the morning and closing each night with living legends such as New Order and Suede. But the band that managed to be the first one in making people head bang and dance at the festival was MUTEMATH, whom needed only 7 songs to tattoo themselves in the ears and minds of the attendances, becoming one of those bands many of us hope to see with a full concert next year.
Snow Patrol’s Called Out In The Dark
The Stage Capital was the odd one out, location wise. Built on the furthest point of the racetrack and isolated from the other stages’ crowds and noise, is the Corona Light’s twin brother. For many, this was the stage with the most surprises. The unexpected display of talent from the mouth of L.P. and Alabama Shakes’ Brittany Howard, acts with little to none known fan base in México, were some of the reasons many people stood around and filled the place early in the morning and went home with their t-shirts on, singing Hang Loose or whistling Into The Wild on their way back. Florence + The Machine’s Florence Welch’s voice helped nickname it as the stage with the best female power during the weekend, with one of the most expected and romantic performances the festival has seen on his mere 3 year existence; just right after Snow Patrol’s return to México, a band beloved since they opened up for U2 for 3 nights at the Estadio Azteca, just last year.
Cat Power’s set was one of the most talked about, but not for any good reasons, but for the supposedly lack of energy on-stage. Thankfully, Franz Ferdinand saved Saturday night, though. With an eighty-minute set and their now classical rock-dancing anthems, more than five thousand people stood up and danced in the cold night to The Dark Of The Matinée, No You Girls and This Fire.
Bizco Stage was the only tent shaped stage, always filled with the wildest crowd. Thought as homage to electronic, hip-hop, rap, rave, and their many subgenres and lifestyles, it felt like a never-ending party for two straight days. It began with María & José and ended with a spectacular set by DJ Shadow. The stories and acts in between came from the underground of Mexican electronic music, Panamá¸ United Kingdom, South Africa, the United States, Sweden, Denmark, Germany and Canada; once again proving the global reach of the genre. The aggressiveness on Die Antwoord’s set, the fun printed in the air by The Wookies, the way the crowd went crazy as Miike Snow played, the singers and band crafted by Basebement Jaxx, the energy of Los Rakas, WhoMadeWho and James Murphy were just a few of the highlights witnessed under the giant tent with the thousand lights.
As for the Corona Stage, more experimental driven rock, hard-rock, blues and familiar artists delighted the audience until way into the night, as this was the closing stage of the festival. México’s own The Plastics Revolution was one of the most applauded and surprising performances as they played the first set on Saturday. But they were not the only surprise, since this was the stage with the most unexpected appearances, energy and collaborations. The ballsy performances by Tribes and The Vaccines combined with the soulful set given by The Joy Formidable were a great preview for what was about to come. Back grounded by a giant leopard sheet, masked drummers and dark blue lights, Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince from The Kills began to play the war-like tune No Wow, like some sort of preparation against the army-looking audience of thousands with their fists in the air, shouting at the beat of the drum machine’s echoes. A shaking and possessed Mosshart head banged and wailed across the stage, with a pink and blonde mane always covering her mouth and yells.
Later on, the kings of Saturday night came and, with a thunderous set, took over the Corona Capital on the final hours of the remaining day. The Hives, wearing top hats and looking over-the-top polished with black and white cocktail suits, came over and exploded, blasting and inciting everyone with Come On! Using their lead singer Pelle Almqvist as bait, having him flying 6 feet in the air from the drum kit, with his microphone as a weapon and speaking the best on-stage Spanish this festival has ever heard, these fancy rock-star-looking penguins won over any other act at any other stage that weekend.
My Morning Jacket’s Circuital
More surprises came the next day, when M. Ward, known for his work alongside his ex-fire Zooey Deschanel as the band She & Him, was joined on-stage by his musical brother Jim James from My Morning Jacket, giving us half of Monster Of Folk during 3 songs. A couple hours later, My Morning Jacket electrified the beginning of the night with Victory Dance and Circuital, having the favor returned while playing Off The Record, when M. Ward joined them on-stage.
Corona Capital’s last rock like set was marked by the first appearance of The Black Keys on a Mexican stage. One of the most awaited and beloved, without them knowing it, Patrick Carney and Dan Auerbach acted as the icing on the sound cake with an 18-song long set. Playing the tip of the iceberg that is a career with eleven years touring and seven albums, the duo (and four-piece band from time to time) took the hopes for an even better festival next year.
You might be surprised at how many of your shoes could wear off in case you attempt to run as much as many of us did this year at the Corona Capital Festival. But truth be told, the weariness, sweat and a skin so burned that defies cancer are worth it. Despite this being a mere third edition of a still-young festival, to witness an increase of A-level bands and extremely talented undergrounds artists fill the line-up every year should make this the most sought-after overseas. The presence of foreign audiences is becoming larger as the Corona grows. The blending of cultures and countries on and off stage, the flags displayed throughout the Autódromo Hermanos Rodríguez, at the front of the audience pits, on the lawn at the back of the stages and in the languages spoken in the air do nothing but good to the public. To be able to show the love the Mexican audience has for international acts and share some of our national talent with them under a same sky is now a dream many want to accomplish or be a part of annually.
The side effects of this festival are the appearance and growth of others, such as the 72810 Festival, Indie-O Fest, One Music & Arts Festival and the upcoming first edition of the Indio Emergente Festival. All of them with international and worth-watching national artists, trying to showcase just how much talent there is out there, on the other side of the world or just around the corner.
So thank you, Corona Capital: for the mayhem, the bands, the memories, the skin cancer and the blisters. We’ll see what else you got in 2013, we already know is going to be something good and pain worthy.
Written by Jorge A. López Mendicuti
OurVinyl | Senior Writer