Catalina Maria Johnson

International radio broadcaster, bilingual cultural journalist, music curator

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Day Two of Ruido Fest had a hard act to follow after the triumphant opening of Day 1, but despite a smidge of stormy weather in the afternoon, the acts we saw did not disappoint. Nor did the supremely delicious tacos (to be had in lengua, cabeza, and for a modest dos bucks). In fact, one of the things that struck us throughout Ruido Fest were the amazingly intelligent decisions, from the great food selection, to including local artists  (terrific posters created by one of our favorite graphic artists, the amazing CHema Skandal!) to involving local artistic institutions (Yollocalli, the National Mexican Museum of Art’s youth initiative), great family activities (iconic posters for murals to be painted by kids), and of course, last but not least, the superb lineup.

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The experience of the festival was first and foremost an experience in the many nuances and features of our many cultures as latinos and the way we are crafting a new transnational identity which is in differing degrees: bicultural, bilingual, multiracial, multigenerational and the enormous importance of nuestra music in forging our path.

We started off our day with Chicano Batman, a quartet whose ferocious lead singer, Borda, is Colombian and Mexican. Other members have Cali, Colombia and El Salvador in their blood, and their sound is 100 per cent pan-latino Los Angeles with the most unique touches. Their retro psychedelic tropicalia veered between punk and lounge in ways that were astonishing, and their ruffled white shirts, brown pants and brown bow-ties said “Smooth Latino dapper” in ways their music reflected.

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The surprise discovery of the day was the band Rebel Cats, an equally-dapperly-dressed retro-ish band led by father and son who came out in glittery purple tux jackets–well equally dapper at least until their tux jackets came off to reveal some intricate, amazing tats! Then things got kinda hot, and we’re talking more than the weather.

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That was also precisely the moment the music went from straight-up rockabilly en español to what a Spanish-singing Jerry Lee Lewis would have sounded in the 21st Century after doing some deep hanging with The Ramones. Their fantastic punk take on rockabilly culminated in several of the musicians standing on the stand-up bass, and the crowd understandably went wild.

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Descartes a Kant, from Guadalajara, put on a cerebral modern art-museum kind of performance which also took us completely by surprise. There’s a reason for that name, and if you know anything modern philosophy it is clear to you. For the rest of us, let me elucidate that the name comes from the two opposing philosophers who defined the beginning of the modern era of philosophy. This bipolar name fits the band’s visuals and sound perfectly, as they veer from beautiful harmonies to whimsical, playful beats to shrieking dissonance. The band is somewhat reminiscent in its feministic stance of Teri Gender-Bender’s awesome antics (who curiously enough, is also from Guadalajara as is the band Porter that blew us away on Day 3 of Ruido!) so it appears that Guadalajara is a hotbed of sonic theatrical experimentation.

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We got a marvelous taste at Ruido Fest of how Mariel Mariel (a fierce and talented chilena whose father is Pedro Villagra, a renowned folk musician and ex- member of Inti-Illimani ) and her music have evolved in a considerably more urban and rhythmic bent after a move about seven years ago to Mexico City and time in Carla Morrison’s band. Easily transitioning from tribal, African beats to hip hop to accordion playing and Andean touches, the charismatic Mariel Mariel completely dominated the stage and captivated the crowd, even stealing the show several times as a guest during both Mexican Dubwiser’s set and Cafe Tacvba’s sets later in the day.

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From Monterrey and now residing in Los Angeles, Mexican Dubwiser, aka Marcelo Tijerina, easily mashes up cumbia, soul and electronic beats. It was nothing but fun beats that were irresistibly danceable, but the presence of Wil-Dog from Ozo and Mariel Mariel sitting in at different moments during the set, there were unforgettable moments in of all kinds of beats colliding in joyful and super ruidoso energy.

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…which takes us to Ozo’s set. We are never disappointed by the veteranos of Ozomatli, one of the first bands to truly understand and channel the power of pan-Latino beats into crafting a joyful tribal musical identity since they were formed twenty years ago. We have long loved their activist dedication to topics that matter to us such as immigration reform, gay rights, fair food movement and the ease with which they move from cumbia to jarocho to rap and more with unique flair. Not to mention at least one banda tune (El Caballito) thanks to Wil-Dog (aka Gavachillo’s) long-time love of this classic Mexican genre. Long live Ozo!

It was hard to get a taste of every performance, but we did our very best. A quick spin by the stage where local roqueros Killer Moon were bringing insane levels of energy to their guitar-driven psychedelic jams melted into moments of Jessy Bulbo taking us on an enjoyable punk garage ride which was often informed more by the 90´s than the aughts.

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I did pretty much miss his most Serene Highness Silverio’s show (the self-denominated “primitive cave-man electronic musician), while waiting for his iconic and incessantly profane verbiage to end. Said verbiage was the ubiquitous background in which I attempted to begin a live radio report. A friend did fill me in on the fact that the Silverio was par for the artist’s course, ending in his underwear after pouring copious insults as well as beer on the audience.

My comments for NPR’s Alt Latino did finally get recorded without any of Silverio’s profanity sounding in the background (necessary to avoid FCC issues) but delayed me so I was only able to catch the very very end of Molotov closing out Day Two. From a distance, the veterano bilingual rockeros and their intense guitar riffs had a mass of the nearly 8000 ruidosos from Day 2 melted into a joyous, raucous mass.

Stay tuned for the Grand Finale of Day 3!

Check Catalina’s show Beat Latino! Also airs Fridays at 1pm and Sundays at 11am on Vocalo.

Photo of Chicano Batman Ruido Fest Poster, courtesy of the artist CHema Skandal!

All other photos by Catalina Maria Johnson.