This being the first time I’ve attended All My Friends, I didn’t have a lived reference of what the past editions of the festival had been like. Yet, every single person I talked to seemed to commend the idea of moving the fest from a cultural center in Tijuana, to Rosarito beach. Perhaps because our party (joined by fellow Phoenicians, Ricardo and Abraham) traveled from 110 degrees in Phoenix (our home), the beach was just a little too cold to fully enjoy it. It was a wonderful scenery at the hosting hotel, Castillos del Mar though, where we were greeted by a concierge who could’ve easily been a character out of The Grand Budapest Hotel. As we sat at the bar early on Saturday to watch World Cup matches, we witnessed Rosarito beach be invaded by hipster tribes and subcultures from the nearby bordertowns (Tecate, Mexicali, and of course Tijuana), as well as a good number of kids from “the other side.” This bicultural target being one of the big attractions from the festival’s new infrastructure, as this is the first year it’s held under the acquisition of NRMAL.
Stamped fruit-salad shirts and well-fitted shorts predominated amongst the crowd, though it was surprising how many kept their industrial and abbey road boots on. Despite the attraction of the beach, people were prepared to rock it out –or so they thought. Early on and with the bliss of the sun at its finest, Monterrey’s CLUBZ proved to be as infectious by the beach as they were back at Foro Sol at Vive Latino this year. Listening to the beautifully aching “Golpes Bajos” by the sun and on the sand was a great way to start the day. CLUBZ invited Costa Rican band, Las Robertas, to join them on stage for their closing number –people couldn’t contain themselves flirting with the extremely good-looking Monserrat, Mercedes, and Fabrizio. When it was time for their own set, Las Robertas showed a great skill of controlling shoegaze timing while maintaining assertiveness to their sometimes-difficult-to-grasp melodies (like that of “Ojos con dientes.”) A group of anglo baby boomers watched from the backyard of their mansion, dancing all along.
The main stage (at the beach) then welcomed its American cards, who had various degrees of success: Bleached looked and sounded like they were truly happy to be there, Lumerians alienated about half of those at the audience (we walked out), while the highly-awaited Gonjasufi was embarrassingly cacophonic, although the sound department was responsible for half of that performance’s flaws. Over at the very green Jardín stage, things were a hit and a miss, where the analog warmth of Late Nite Howl and the synths of the leather-covered L.A. Drones were the breakthroughs. Not to forget the energetic set by Santos, who really upstaged Sonidero Travesura (the closing act at the main stage), who we had very high expectations from after seeing them with a funkier and double-the-members formation at a strip club in Ensenada a few years back.
Lastly, if any single thing was worth the 6-hour drive to Rosarito (other than the personal joy of being able to pick up a copy of Mexico's VICE, where I’m featured next to Juan Gabriel –thanks Marty!) was the triumphant performance by Füete Billēte. Prior to the festival, it seemed like the buzz slanted more towards the American acts and the bands with new albums. Many understated the livelihood and relevancy of the masterpiece that is Música de Capsulón. Whatever sound discrepancies the main stage had on its earlier headliners, Füete Billēte sounded truly bold and deflowered every punk, snub, and rockosaurio that might have been in attendance. It sure was fun seeing so many booted people descending to the floor with “Hasta El Piso.” And when those heart-trenching synth crescendos of “La Trilla” (the best song of 2012) broke through the speakers, we saw a few of the featured chefs of the event abandon their food trucks just to live that moment. The fireworks that were fired up during “Bien Guillao” were nothing short from fitting and an extension of what many of us were feeling on the inside.