“I don’t give a shit! I’m not moving: fuck the rain!” Remember when this writer told you Mexican fans were hardcore? Against all kinds of health and safety, you have to sacrifice your body and time to get a great view spot for your favorite band, from time to time. The problem is, sometimes, that band is the favorite of another million people (or at least a great number of hipsters). And every serious concert-goer knows 5 minutes could make the difference between being a yard or a whole stadium away from the stage.
That’s why a lot of us were already in line more than 8 hours prior to the concert’s starting time. The sky was sunny, the weather was nice and friendships were made while we all were playing the waiting game. Later, a soft breeze brought some rain drops to refresh us and it seemed this would become a lovely day for a concert. Then, the first test of the night came all of the sudden; heavy rain. Not just any English-like rain: it turned into a resistance challenge for everyone. Not many were brave (neither high nor dry) enough to give that much water the middle finger. The owner of the mouth, who pronounced the opening lines of this article, was soaking wet within 2 minutes.
We did not move. And the firsts in line didn’t move either. The presence of tends and food leftovers near the entrance made everyone aware that some of these fans had been camping for a night or two, at least. They would not give away their spot easily, not even in the name of nature. The rest of us tried to hide beneath anything we could find at hand, others emptied the garbage plastic bags nearby and used them as raincoats. This little “adventure” lasted about half an hour and everything went back to normal, except for the sticky clothes and some funny scents here and there.
As the sun stopped drying everyone and began to shine away, the Foro Sol’s gates opened and ropes had to be displayed around us, as if if we were cattle. We all ran, some even failed to notice the ropes and ended up with red marks around their necks. Our little army ran up to the front of the stage and began to find a sweet spot for the next 6 hours. Even though the concert was hours away from starting, everyone was already amused, as the stage was enormously tall and wide. The sense of expectation grew larger as stories and anecdotes were thrown little by little between a group of people and another. Previous concerts, the Coachella sets, their last visit a few years ago, whether or not they would play certain song: anything could happen, that was the consensual feeling.
A few freshly formed friendships and beers later, the first opening act showed up: Other Lives. With a set of instruments worth of any MTV Unplugged kind of show: a cello, trumpets, a xylophone, drums, a piano, both electric and acoustic guitars, an organ and violins were grabbed all over the stage by 6 pairs of hands. These 5 gentlemen, and lady, began to play As I Lay My Head Down, from their latest record ‘Tamer Animals’. Throughout a half an hour set, a sensation of tranquility and folk was set in México City. That’s the kind of mood we needed after such natural mini-disasters. Their sound is the perfect marriage of Fleet Foxes’ musical arrangements and Interpol’s records’ atmosphere. Try to listen to them as soon as possible.
After such an organic band and performance, the second opening act showed us the other side of the spectrum. Arranging their instruments into a circular form in order to face each other and using 2 drum kits, drum machines, synthesizers, guitar and bass; the 4 members of Caribou (Dan Snaith, Ryan Smith, Brad Weber and John Schmersal) set an unexpected party mood and made more than 50,000 people dance. They describe their music as psychedelic, but there are also both Latin and Caribbean influenced beats and electronic music involved, as well as a solid, emotive and incendiary live performance. Also, the singer’s voice sounds like Coldplay’s Chris Martin from time to time.
While the lights went off again and the stage was being prepared for Radiohead’s arrival, the wet nightmare returned to México City: another pouring rain. The bleachers of the baseball stadium where almost empty when the rain began, as the public located in that section rushed to find cover inside the corridors and under anything that could resemble a ceiling. Us, poor bastards up to the front or in standing zones, had to get creative in order to keep the places we had been reserving during the whole afternoon. Using the same old plastic bags from earlier in line and cheap plastic made raincoats sold, improvised tents where made here and there all over the stadium floor. It looked like a gigantic multicolored market, in which people had their hands up, clinging to each other, while holding pieces of plastic together in order to keep everyone dry as much as possible.
As Radiohead had just two dates in México City, a lot of fans came over from the furthest corners of the country. Taking expensive flights, doing than 20 hour long drives by car or taking bus trips that last a day or so; these people knew true sacrifice and patience. “It’s our favorite band, what else could we do?” and “I came from too far away in order to be scared of water” were among the most heard reasons around my “tent”.
Almost an hour had passed and, as the Foro Sol went dark for the third time, the storm went away and all the lights on the stage turned on: a giant led screen, 12 individual human sized squared screens with their own rotation and elevation system, an upper screen just as wide as the stage itself at the top of it, light bulbs coming on and off from everywhere, spot lights. And then: Thom Yorke, Jonny and Colin Greenwood, Ed O’Brien, Phil Selway as well as Portishead’s very on Clive Deamer in a second drum kit came on stage. And when they appeared and began to play Bloom; we realized all the sorrow, pain in our legs, our soaking wet clothes, the waiting, effort and team work had a purpose: to witness one of the most important bands in the last 3 decades and, our imaginations desired, one of the best concerts of our lives.
Radiohead’s Paranoid Android
After Bloom, along came 15 Steps, and then Airbag. After the roaring ovation from more than 50,000 wet people quieted, along came Yorke’s signature wailing and dancing. After 16 songs, along came 2 more encores. The dozen individual screens showed shots from every Radiohead member taken from hidden cameras located on the instruments and secret spots all over the stage. That’s the way technology is supposed to improve music and live concerts: not with the use of auto-tune or cheap live productions, but with an intimate connection between the public and the artists through it. Trying to use technology as another instrument could add even more to a performance if it’s done the right way.
Like when a piano was brought onstage and Yorke sat in front of it. A camera was hidden inside of the piano, and his whole face was distributed through the dozen individual screens, creating a “Big Brother is watching” sensation. But then, his performance got more intense and everyone could see the song taking him over. Part of the magic in Radiohead‘s career consists in the intensity of their albums, the honesty in which they are carefully crafted, taken care of, detailed and delivered to their fans. They don’t care about marketing, artificiality, profits or losing and gaining fans. They simply play their hearts out, both live and on records, to show music is all that matters.
Going from live opulence with such a display of high-tech production, there was a moment were only Yorke and Jonny Greenwood were on stage, cameras turned off and with a pair of guitars in hand. Showcasing that, no matter the situation, these guys have lived 3 decades of up and downs of the music industry, and they can always pull it off. And they have even changed the curse of it, keeping musicians and music fans’ hope afloat.
More than 100,000 people stood through 2 rainy nights who sang along with 46 songs were witnesses of it. Yorke and company thanked, connected and shared a special weekend with México. It might be too early or maybe already late to say this, but: Radiohead might be this generation’s very own Pink Floyd. Why this writer does have this opinion? Well, just like Pink Floyd did in their prime, Radiohead has been in constant evolution within each record: updating their influences and live shows, changing their sound without losing their essence, delivering different records with distinctive cores and themes, all of them ending up with a special place in many music libraries. Theirs is a career built for the sake of music and not for the sake of musical fashions and greed.
A friend of mine went to see them as well, and he told me: “If I ever said that Pink Floyd played music from another world, then Radiohead plays music from another galaxy”. Some might say we believers might be wrong, but many others find we are right. All I can say is that, you had to be there. And if you are able to, you have to give yourself a chance to be there as well. Radiohead’s tour is the living proof that they are one of the biggest bands in history, and they might share with you the best concert of your life. Try to witness a band in its greatness, a show of a lifetime.
You might think it is impossible, an exaggeration. But remember: sometimes 2+2=5.
Written by: Jorge A. López Mendicuti | Senior Writer
To see more picture of this concert check out the photo gallery of it here.
P.S: thanks to Enrique Calvo and Transportes K for their support when we got cheated upon our arrival, for bringing and taking me back home safely these past months every time and making me able to do what I love: enjoying live music and writing about it. And a special thanks to my “No Rain” team for keeping me dry, helping me built that improvised tent and making such a long trip from the other side of the country in order to live such an experience and share it with me: Alice, Jerrymon, Larimon, Juanmi, Balim, Osito and most specially Reginita. Friends made at concerts are always unforgettable…