The indie-music scene in Tijuana seems to get bigger, stronger and a whole lot more interesting with each passing year. That's the thought that kept crossing my mind as I attended All My Friends Music Festival at Tijuana's Casa de la Cultura on Saturday.
While last year's installment featured a solid lineup, it was hampered by poor organization. This year, the problems had been taken care of (the organizers actually printed out schedules, for example), and the lineup was even stronger, featuring more than 40 bands, producers and DJs from across the United States and Mexico.
Perhaps to entice gringos, the festival brought in a couple of hot indie acts from the States: Long Beach band Crystal Antlers and L.A.-based gloomsmith Chelsea Wolfe. Wolfe put on a magnificent set, despite some technical problems. But I was most taken by several Mexican electronic acts, and their sweet beats.
In a comfy theater at the sprawling venue, Mexicali producer FAX delivered a set of chill, cosmic techno, pairing four-to-the-floor grooves with heady electronics and electric guitar. On a screen behind him, the audience was treated to a surreal collage of spinning Uzis, weed-leaf icons and glitched-out street-fighting videos. It's unclear if the music and visuals were supposed to be related, but they worked perfectly together.
Later, María y José—headed by former Tijuana resident Tony Gallardo—put on a show that felt like a bizarre, alternate-reality version of a political rally. While Gallardo bounced around the stage, mugging for the cameras and singing through an effects processor that altered his pitch, a beefy guy in a ski mask stood onstage like a security guard.
There wasn't always explicit commentary, though. At the end of the night, Ciudad Juárez's Mock the Zuma conjured fluid textures and understated, shuffling beats in a set that recalled influential U.K. beatmakers like Zomby and Burial. There wasn't much going on visually, besides colorful light ing and knob twiddling, but his sounds were alluring.
Tijuana seems to be getting more and more attention lately, and All My Friends' organizers have really risen to the occasion. While this year's event was bigger, better publicized and more organized than last year's, I felt the same raw energy that made last year's version so memorable.