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LA La Land – Angels in Guadalajara?

Angels in Guadalajara? Getting lost after the Dream Rock Festival

The C3 Rooftop is a small-to-medium sized venue on the roof of a huge -1100  capacity – venue called the C3. It’s located on one of Guadalajara’s busiest thoroughfares, Avenida Vallarta in the entertainment-rich Districo Americano.   I was first introduced to it at FIMPRO, the Latin American music convention produced every year by the Universidad de Guadalajara, so I knew what to expect, sort of.

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I was there last weekend for the Dreamers Fest, a night of dreamy, electric, psychedelic rock music that millennials in Mexico love.   I knew two of the bands – WOHL and The Polar Dream, both of which I had recently seen at the Palindromo Club in another part of Guadalajara.  However, I did not know the other bands – Meltí, LEMAT, Mantenme Despierto. I also did know how to find my way home, but more of that later.

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Guadalajara is a city the roughly equal to LA in size, wealth and traffic. But because it was founded in 1542, 200 years before Los Angeles , its streets are much more complicated and its neighborhoods much older. Because the C3 is on a major street it was easy to find, but hard to park at – actually impossible.  And it was raining lightly when I pulled up on the sidewalk in front of the club. But Mexicans being the most helpful people in the world, it was not a surprise when the security guard came out, listened to my story of being a music journalist, and said in perfect California English, “park here in front of the club so you don’t have to carry equipment in the rain.”

 I was early, so when I went upstairs the bands were hanging out and drinking beer.  I joined Wohl, high-fived everyone, got grabbed at XX Negro and yakked in Spanish and English while LEMAT mic checked.  When it was Wohl’s turn to mic check I deposited my equipment on a table sipped my beer and cleaned lenses. People started trickling in about a half-hour later and by the time the first band took the stage the Rooftop was over half full – not bad for the first band on a night that threatened rain.

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That threat materialized in spades when Meltí hit the stage, with buckets of water drumming on the venue’s canvas roof like a heavy metal snare drum.  For the most part, the club stayed dry, but the back canvas wall sprung a leak behind the drummer and the staff had to rush a blue tarp behind the drum kit.  The music never stopped –it actually felt like they cranked up the volume to drown out the rain.

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Eventually, the rain stopped, but the damage had been done.  I expected the stellar lineup to attract an overflow crow, but the room only made it to about ¾ full. Not bad, but far below what I know these bands could draw if the weather had cooperated.  I recalled last year that a supercell parked over Guadalajara and flooded the city with water and hail, so memories are fresh and people a little careful about going out in the rain.  Except for me of course.

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Wohl was the last band and they wrapped up and came off stage about 1 am.  I hung around with them and other bands for a little while and then packed my cameras into the conveniently parked car, told Google Maps to get me home, despite the sprinkles that were still ongoing.  That almost didn’t happen.

Like I said Guadalajara’s streets are very complicated.  The major streets go through roundabouts, tunnels, and bridges.  There are few street signs and what you think are driveways are really through streets.  Which is what happened when I went into the Heroes Ninos roundabout and Google Maps (GM) told me to take the third exit.  The third street off the circle looked like a driveway, so I took the next major street. Big mistake. 

I found myself headed the wrong way in traffic (yes there is traffic at 1:30 am) for 2 kilometers until GM told me to take an exit.   The exit dumped me into a dark, deserted industrial area but I followed directions until GM ran me into a dead-end of railroad tracks and boxcars.  I backtracked to the major street, turned around and headed back to Heroes Ninos when GM said exit here.  I check the full map and sure enough, it led straight to the highway, with a few squiggles at the end.

The straight part was great; the squiggles turned out to be one of the city’s oldest, poorest neighborhoods with dirt streets, no lights, no people, no street signs and craters and piles of rubble that I had to drive around.  Not scary, but not comforting either. I followed GM’s instructions until I hit a T-crossing that should not have been there. While I was parked at the T looking at my phone (did I mention that it was 1:30 am and pitch black) someone knocked on my window.

Smiling at me on the other side of the glass was a well-dressed young Mexican couple who had been out strolling amid the rubble.  “Are you lost?” the woman said in English. “Yes”, I answered, rolling down the window. “Are you looking for the highway to Chapala?” she asked, and before I could answer she said “you missed the turn back there.  Back up one street, go left, its 400 meters ahead.”

Her partner pointed at a street that looked like the proverbial driveway – tiny, close alongside a crumbling house, and unsigned. I thanked them, and as I shifted into reverse, they both said: “ve con Dios – go with god.”  I don’t know if I had any divine guidance, but after I turned into the street I looked back to wave at them and they had vanished.  I couldn’t help but think of the helpful invisible angels in Nancy Sanchez’s video for “Angel Baby”.

With or without angels, I made it home in record time impressed not only with the rock music of Mexico, but the helpfulness of its people…or angels.

See full gallery of the evening here!

Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist and radio broadcaster based in Los Angeles, California, with a global following. His two weekly radio programs, MusicFridayLive! and MusicaFusionLA are heard nationwide and in the UK. He focuses on two music specialties: emerging bands in all genres, and the growing LA-based ALM genre (American Latino Music) that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America like cumbia, banda, jarocho and mariachi. He also likes to watch his friend drag race.

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