M.I.A. delivered once again at the MX Beat fest on Saturday night, scoring more direct hits on the ears and hips of thousands of Mexican fans who braved the merciless chill of the highland plain in Toluca where the festival was held. It was the final and biggest night of four in different cities in Mexico that constituted the festival, now in its third year. The simplest analogy is that it's the Mexican Coachella — and you might remember my first impressions of that event. In any case, setting aside the lines and crowds and corporate propoganda that go with any big music festival, MX Beat was an all-around worth-it trip out into the desolate exurban wilderness. M.I.A. kept us dancing and the Beastie Boys kept us spot-rocking and there was plenty of digitech melodrama and dreamscapes in the form of sets from Lo-Fi-Fnk, The Teenagers, and Cut Copy. I was also basically blown away by Digitalism. Everyone was going insane inside the tent when they played at the end of the night, but maybe it was the freezing cold and general delirium.
It was former Pulp crooner Jarvis Cocker, however, who walked away with the most swooning, hysterical fans and the most performative performance in rock I think I've ever seen. Whenever possible, Cocker acted out his lyrics literally, like a mime, and he danced like a maniac and at one point appeared to have fainted and then later went down to the audience and then climbed up a side stagewall.
Once again, as with Coachella, I rolled to MX Beat with Alexis Rivera. And joined by our new homegirl Maru, we of course got into some unmentionable travesuras backstage, where the drinks kept flowing and after a while gender rules and social norms were thrown out into the dark dirt fields past the security gates. “It's Mexico City!” is the excuse people kept repeating to themselves.
There were parties on the periphery of the festival all week. I landed at one on Friday night where Thieves Like Us played, and I sort of fell in love with their sound, inspired, they proclaim, by “high heels and lasers.” At the festival, most of the Mexican bands on the bill were relegated to early slots, meaning that we missed IMS and Disco Ruido. Overall, a sloppy jolly old time. But this blogger that I came across online left MX Beat less than satisfied. He writes in Spanish, my translation:
In terms of the scene, besides the fact that there weren't many people, I ran into the same people of always. I think we're a mass species of postmodern/indie/fresa/posers. We go like sheep to the alternative music festivals. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but it's like going to school; your classmates are always there but you don't necessarily like them.
Ouch. Well, that dilemma will arise, as we know, in any major city these days. And as Mexico City's hip quotient continues to coast upward, internal backlash is inevitable. But, come to think of it, who cares? The line-up was strong, the sets good, the people hyped, and … “it's Mexico City.”
** Cameras were not allowed in the festival but many sneaked through anyway. The image above of M.I.A. performing is lovingly borrowed from Flickr user MKöpke.