“Cerveza, cerveza,” shout the vendors who weave through even Corona Capital’s most tightly-packed crowds with trays of sloshing pints balanced precariously on their heads. Others hawk snacks and pouches of mezcal with lime ice lollies on the side. We’re a long way from the grey skies of London and Manchester, but it turns out that even under a Mexican sun it’s pretty easy to roundup 60,000 people who idolise Brett Anderson and Bernard Sumner.
If Mexico City seems a long way to come for a festival with a strong Anglophile twist, your mileage is rewarded with October warmth, all the tacos you can eat and an embarrassment of riches spread over four huge stages.
The two-dayer sprawls over a NASCAR racetrack so I barely have time to see Dum Dum Girls stomp through ‘He Gets Me High’ before I have to hot-foot it all the way to Unknown Mortal Orchestra, whose laidback jams suit the untroubled atmosphere.
Die Antwoord couldn’t be more different when they emerge to steal the weekend. It’s still early afternoon but their set becomes a no-holds-barred rave the moment they drop ‘Wat Kik Jy?’ Ninja’s hilarious acapella opening to ‘Xp€n$iv $h1t’ might be the highlight.
Mexican DJ collective The Wookies take us on an intergalactic tour of dance music genres while wearing Chewbacca masks before Cat Power gets into the national spirit by appearing clad in a Mexican poncho. Sporting a scruffy bleached blonde Mohawk, she could be taking styling tips from Die Antwoord. She stalks the stage with the sort of confidence that was unimaginable from her shows a few years ago. The epic beauty of ‘Nothin’ But Time’ dazzles before she delights her devoted audience with a gorgeous ‘Ruin’.
The night closes with a raucous Suede greatest-hits set and an exuberant if overlong show from The Hives before Basement Jaxx unleash their arsenal of bangers to get the late-night crowd throwing ecstatic shapes.
On Sunday, The Maccabees tell the crowd this is “one of the best lineups they’ve ever been on”. Eager to use the opportunity they corral Florence & The Machine to join them onstage for a touching ‘Toothpaste Kisses’. Next up, The Drums’ big singalong moment on ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ is preceded by Jonathan Pierce cheerfully dedicating ‘If He Likes It Let Him Do It’ to “the homosexuals”. James Murphy’s DJ set of anthemic house is the perfect precursor to New Order’s hit-packed set before The Black Keys bring the weekend to a clattering, riff-heavy halt.
That’s why those Cerveza salesmen are so important. There’s so much here, there’s just no time to get to the bar.
Originally published in NME, 27 October 2012.