Last weekend (13th & 14th October), DiS made the long journey to Mexico City via New York for the third annual Corona Capital festival since its conception in 2010. Featuring a mixture of internationally acclaimed acts such as Suede, New Order, Franz Ferdinand and Florence & The Machine alongside a selection of up-and-coming Mexican artists, this year's line-up bordered on the stellar side compared to many of its European counterparts. Here's what we had to say about our trans-Atlantic trek to North America...
Friday 12th October
When the lovely folks at Anorak PR offered us the trip of a lifetime it was naturally impossible to refuse. A cold and drizzly mid-October in Nottingham or a warm and sunny one in Mexico City? A bit of a no-brainer really and after perusing the Corona Capital line-up, any remaining doubts were removed in an instant. Although the inaugural one-day event headlined by the Pixies and Interpol was only as recent as 2010, it's quickly grown into the city's biggest festival of its kind, playing host to a glut of international and homegrown talent. This year saw the festival extended to a full two days worth of music encompassing almost every genre (although sadly no metal). Quickly running through the timetable, the mark of a good line-up can usually be demonstrated by the number of annoying clashes it holds, and Saturday's simultaneous billing of Suede, Franz Ferdinand and Sleigh Bells across three of its four stages coupled with the following day pitching The Vaccines, The Maccabees and AraabMuzik head-to-head-to-head with each other kind of tells its own story.
But of course before anyone starts planning for the next two days ahead, there's the small problem of actually getting to Mexico City. And thanks to British Airways frankly ridiculous policy of overselling the number of available seats per flight, DiS nearly didn't make it at all. Thankfully there's the small measure of a 600 Euros compensation package for the inconvenience of an eight-hour wait - most of which time was spent making vodka smoothies in Gordon Ramsay's Heathrow Plane Food restaurant - and subsequent diversion via New York that causes yours truly to miss the official festival warm-up shows featuring My Morning Jacket, Diplo and SBTRKT.
Saturday 13th October
Suitably jetlagged and deprived of sleep, it isn't long after our arrival at the luxurious Hotel Camino Real that DiS and the other assorted bastions of the UK music press are transported to the festival site. Situated in the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, essentially a multi-sports complex that's primarily used as a race track; it actually held Formula One status until 1992; it's a spacious if at times somewhat surreal setting for a music festival compared to its UK counterparts. A football pitch lays to the left of the Bizco Club stage, Corona Capital's dance tent. Even the goalposts remain intact throughout the course of the weekend, a somewhat unlikely expectation at V, T In The Park or any number of its more familiar equivalents one cares to mention.
As suggested by its title, Corona Capital is also a very corporate affair heavily dictated by its main sponsors. The only alcoholic beverage available for purchase on-site just happens to be Corona lager unless one is fortunate enough to be in possession of a VIP wristband where a selection of spirits are also on sale. As well as adorning two of the festival's four stages, the Corona brand name finds itself emblazoned everywhere from the numerous merch stands littered around the site to a bouncy castle in the theme park that sits invitingly between the Corona and Corona Light stages. However, don't let that put you off as despite the heavy advertising, Corona Capital is streets ahead of many European festivals where organisation is concerned. At no point over its two days did we witness any queues materialise for the toilets, bars or food stalls.
While ticket prices aren't particularly cheap at 900 Mexican Pesos (approximately £43) for one day or 1400 (approximately £68) for both, they are partly justified by the number of major acts scattered across the bill. With no fewer than six artists having headlined various stages at UK events this past year, the organisers should be commended for at pushing the boat out in creating an enticing line-up comparable to anything of a similar size on offer elsewhere. Perhaps the biggest surprise of all though lies in the fact The Hives find themselves billed above people like Franz Ferdinand and Suede this evening. Still, as they say, there can be no accounting for taste...
The stages themselves are split between both ends of the complex. The Corona and Corona Light stages which later play host to some of Corona Capital's bigger draws lay at the far, top left and right hand corners. Using a common sense approach to the running orders which also avoids any soundclash, bands start on one stage as soon as one finishes on the other. Both the Capital and Bizco Club stages are situated near the entrance in the opposite corners of the field. Separated only by a large food court that sells any number of tasty-looking Mexican delicacies - provided one doesn't mind overly generous helpings of melted cheese - the sound quality at either nothing short of pristine throughout both days.
It's at the former where we encounter London's Zulu Winter, albeit briefly. Their jangly Foals-inspired mathpop is nice in passing, if a little uninspiring, and it isn't long before we move onto our next port of call. Aesthetically pleasing and musically adept as they may be, Dum Dum Girls just fall that little bit short of perfection in the flesh. Setwise it's pretty much every fan's choice. 'He Gets Me High' into 'Bhang Bhang I'm A Burnout' into 'Jail La La', you couldn't really ask for more except maybe just a tiny bit of audience interaction between songs perhaps? Nitpicking aside, it's as good a start as any. Unknown Mortal Orchestra sound promising too, albeit in a "We've heard Trompe Le Monde by the Pixies and decided to form a band straight after" kind of way.
Making a welcome return on the Capital stage are The Airborne Toxic Event, fresh from writing their soon-to-be-released third long player. One untitled new song is aired this afternoon that sounds like a borne hit single in waiting, fusing Mikel Jollett's familiar heartfelt vocal with a bombastic chorus that borders on The National's territory. Unfortunately for The Walkmen, the soundman on the Corona Light stage appears to have taken his eyes (and ears - sadly not the only time this weekend) off the ball somewhat. After the opening two songs where Hamilton Leithauser's vocal is barely audible, it takes a plea from the sophisticated frontman for the soundman to step aside and let them use their own engineer to inject a spark into The Walkmen's set. 'The Rat' resonates like the anthem it's always been while elegant deliveries of 'Stop Talking' and 'Heaven' remind all those present The Walkmen are far much more than just one trick ponies.
Death In Vegas are on fire too in the Bizco Club, 'Leather' and 'Dirge' providing an incendiary early evening soundtrack to those of a white noise heavy, beat infused persuasion. We hotfoot over to Cat Power on the Capital stage halfway through their set and three songs in kind of wish we hadn't. Now, I'm as big a fan of Ms Marshall on record as the next man, but there's an overwhelming sense of this admittedly rare live performance having more to do with promotional obligations than actually wanting to be here, and it shines through. We leave well before the end. Say what you like about Diplo but as far as the new wave of superstar DJs go he at least knows how to put on a show. Albeit a slightly misogynistic one if Major Lazer are anything to go by, which basically acts as an excuse for scantily clad female dancers to lose even more clothes as the set goes on to beats General Levy or Shy FX probably muster up in their sleep.
Next up, both Suede and Basement Jaxx demonstrate why both are held with such high regard in their respective fields. The former's greatest hits set reminding us why Brett Anderson and co. are considered part of Britpop's holy trinity along with Blur and Pulp while the latter's all inclusive, all encompassing dance party doubles as a joyous celebration and lavish climax to the first day's entertainment.
Sunday 14th October
The following day, suitably refreshed and rearing to go, DiS is informed we're going to be interviewed by Mexican music & arts publication Marvin. Before moving on to the day's musical delights or otherwise, I'd recommend all to check out their latest edition, particularly the excellent "New Kid In Town" section which has an in depth feature on ace electronic three-piece Wildcat! Wildcat!.
Black Lips on the Corona Light stage are our first musical challenge of the day. I use the word "challenge" because once again, the soundman appears to have taken a mid-afternoon nap thereby rendering the likes of 'Modern Art' and 'O Katrina' to near instrumental status as Cole Alexander and Jared Swiley's vocals are virtually inaudible. Full credit to both band and audience for ploughing on to the end, but if there's one improvement for next year it's imperative the organisers resolve the sound issues on this stage. Or maybe just replace the soundman?
Next up over yonder are The Vaccines, possibly lower down the bill than they've ever played since forming just over two years ago. Not they have anything to fear judging by the impressively large turnout. As with UK their UK shows, album tracks are as well if not better received than the singles, the anthemic 'Wetsuit' and 'All In White' resulting in several thousand Mexicans singing the lyrics back, pretty much word for word. Afterwards singer Justin Young tells us he's genuinely overwhelmed by such an unexpected response. He needn't worry, as something tells me The Vaccines will be playing to even bigger crowds over this part of the world in the none too distant future. The Raveonettes too are something of a revelation. Having witnessed their storming set commemorating the 10th anniversary of Whip It On earlier this year, they opt to play the nearest thing to a greatest hits set here and from start to finish it's little short of sublime. 'Observations' and 'She Owns The Streets' off their latest record Observator rub shoulders delectably with older classics 'Love In A Trashcan' and 'That Great Love Sound' while a dub heavy rendition of 2007's 'Aly Walk With Me' brings proceedings to a close.
Buoyed by the infectious enthusiasm of the Mexican audience; we're told on several occasions how honoured they are to have English musicians and music fans in their company; we head for mezcal and lime ice lollies in the sociable confines of the bar. En route we catch The Drums play 'Let's Go Surfing', something many UK audiences won't have had the pleasure of hearing for the best part of two years. Why that is the case, only Jonathan Pierce and co. can answer. In the bar, faced with the surreal sights of Black Lip Jared Swiley shooting tin cans with an air rifle and Florence Welch giving herself an electric shock before engaging in conversation with James Murphy, no doubt with the intention of orchestrating possibly the most unholy of alliances we make our excuses and leave.
The excuse being My Morning Jacket are about to take their place on the Corona stage. Having missed their set two nights ago, it's something of an eye opener looking at the size of the crowd they've amassed this evening. While still considered something of a niche band back in the UK, they're obviously a major draw over here, Jim Jones every word greeted like a recital of the new testament. New Order too have that reverential aura about them. Having spent the summer wowing festival crowds the world over, tonight's show is no different. 'Crystal', 'Ceremony', 'Bizarre Love Triangle', 'True Faith', the hits are reeled off effortlessly. In between we're given choice cuts from Power, Corruption & Lies, arguably their finest collection from a near flawless back catalogue all told, and an electro-heavy rendition of Joy Division's 'Isolation' similar to the one they performed at Bestival last month. For the encore we're treated to 'Atmosphere' and 'Love Will Tear Us Apart', a neon backdrop that simply reads "Forever Joy Division" poignantly sat behind them. Tears of joy ensue for what is a remarkable ending to one of the most enjoyable festivals DiS has visited this year.
Back at the hotel, there's after parties galore which see shenanigans such as members of Tribes diving into knee high fountains and Florence lurking in every corner of every room. Scared, DiS retires gracefully to bed.
Monday 15th October
Although primarily here for music festival, there's so much else to see and do in Mexico City besides watch bands.
The next morning we're invited by our Mexican host Berto Ceballos to take in one of Mexico City's finest underground record shops, Retroactivo, where Depeche Mode imports and rare punk compilations on Ebullition Records are purchased forthwith.
Afterwards, we take a trip to the borough of Xochimilco. Essentially created around a series of canals around the Coyoacan neighbourhood in the late 1920s, there we're treated to impromptu performances from various mariachi bands and musicians riding alongside us on gondolas, Xochimilco's main method of transport. The sight of numerous dolls and cuddly toys - some beheaded - hanging from trees along the side of the canal makes for an eerie spectacle. Legend has it they're placed there to ward off the ghost of a woman seen at the canalside over the years crying over the death of her son. Finally, the ornately decorated Mero Toro - one of Mexico City's finest seafood restaurants - becomes the scene for DiS to say farewell to what has been one of the most enjoyable and highly recommended weekends of a very long, but ultimately rewarding festival season.