Editor's note: Two weekends ago writer Ryan Ritchie traveled with Long Beach band On Blast as they gigged at the debut of the annual Goliath Festival in Mexico City. He submitted a report on the gig, which West Coast Sound has been running in installments this week. What follows is the final chapter. To read the first chapter, click here. . To read part two, click here.
The crystal clear Mexican sky was in the midst of morphing from blue to pink as the house music ended. Without a light show, an emcee or anything to signify a proper introduction, On Blast was ready, whether they knew it or not. Brown grabbed the microphone and paced, not saying a word. A few seconds passed before the 28-year-old singer mumbled something. Then the beginning to “All I See” kicked in.
Musically, the first three tunes bump harder and deeper than all previous On Blast shows. Finally, the group's pre-recorded tracks have found a sound system to do them justice. When singing, Brown sounds in control. Between tunes was another story.
Plenty of bands claim to be the product of collaboration, but On Blast truly is. Each member adds something to the sound that could not be replaced. Unfortunately, in a live setting, audiences and cameramen focus on the singer. Brown struggled with his Spanish while looking for a way to connect with the crowd. A third into the set, it appeared as if On Blast was going to kill musically and bomb with its stage presence. But like a light switch, something changed in Brown. The singer looked up, saw the legions of fans separated by a barrier no closer than 100 yards away and said, “Viva Mexico, cabrones!”
At this point in the day, no act received as loud an ovation as Brown's declaration of love for his country's southern neighbors. A smile overtook the long-haired singer's face and from that point on, Brown turned in a performance that was smooth, calm and pretty fucking entertaining. In fact, Brown was so in control that no one seemed to notice when the frontman announced the ironic, “We love you! This song's called 'War.'”
By the end of the set, Brown threw up his hands and bounced. The audience followed. And during “One of Those Days,” the crowd mirrored Kiddoo's above-the-head hand-clapping. Between the four of them, On Blast knew fewer than 10 words in Spanish, but the universal language of good music closed any gaps between band and fans.
Six hours later, the group sat in a stalled van waiting to return to the hotel. Traffic near the festival was bumper to bumper and the all-day tequila drink-a-thon that followed On Blast's 40-minute set made the quartet tired and ready to retreat to their respective rooms. As the 12-passenger vehicle waited to move, the members talked excitedly about standing on stage for Crystal Castles' set, getting recognized in the crowd and how, like a bad horror flick, there was a stranger in the backseat of the van who no one recognized.
“If we can do that there, we can do it anywhere.”
Emotions were mixed at breakfast. On the one hand, Saturday's show was a success, which causes everyone much excitement. On the other, the fairy tale weekend is coming to a close and like a neon billboard, the expressions on Kiddoo and Raab's faces tell the story of men who don't want to think about how before the sun goes down, On Blast will be home in Signal Hill (and Raab in Los Angeles) preparing to go to work the following morning.
Blair, Bentancourt and Brown arrived in the lobby 15 minutes late, each looking more tore up than the next.
At 8:40 a.m. Mexico City time, two vans pulled into the hotel driveway and thus began the end of On Blast's coming out party.
Since Thursday, everyone had been fearful of how badly the Toluca Airport staff would mess with On Blast's gear, but the experience of getting out of Mexico was exactly the opposite of getting in. Less than twenty minutes passed before the members had their tickets and the equipment was on the plane.
While waiting for the flight, stories that were sure to become blissful memories were passed around like a hat at church. All eight people showed noticeable signs of exhaustion and more than once the phrase, “I can't wait to get in my bed” was spoken.