Clarity Tour 2016 Diary: The Gringo Says, “Fuck Your Wall”
We’re 36,000 ft. up and my wife, my partner in crime and slime is fast asleep. Like, mouth wide open asleep in the seat next to me on my left. To my right is a young woman equally as comatose. My palms are sweaty, every slight bump the plane feels is causing my anxiety to fly off the handle with William Shattner Twilight Zone -like panic. I’m trying to find something, anything to calm my racing heart. I pick up the inflight magazine. While I hoped for a SkyMall, all I got was a very generic Mexican lifestyle magazine. You know the kind of magazine that you would never read in your life, and NEVER see anywhere but on a plane. I’m sure the articles were all vanilla, but I wouldn’t know since it was in Spanish. My high C level high school Spanish wasn’t enough to help me decipher the language. So I decided I would take some deep breaths and just start counting. One… two… three… before I knew it I was up to 347. Suddenly a slight calm came over me. I dared to look out the window and I saw a beautiful blue sky. We were gliding smoothly over the clouds, and as I continued to count I started to think about what had just transpired in the last few days in Mexico. It started in Juarez.
Juarez is a city known for being the hub of a bloody drug war. We’ve played Juarez several times before and it’s always been good, but we’ve never actually stayed overnight. It’s a border town so we just hop back into El Paso, TX, when we’re done playing. This trip across the boarder to Juarez was different. We were going to do a mini Mexico tour with our homies from Juarez, Golem. One show in Juarez and two in Mexico City. That was the plan. Since we don’t drive into the country we had to leave our van in El Pas at a good friend’s house who could keep our van shaded so our equipment wouldn’t get damaged in the sweltering El Paso heat. This also meant that we wouldn’t be sleeping in the cozy safe haven we’ve created in our van. We’d be sleeping as what was described as a “punk house”. Not gonna lie… the thought of staying at a punk house in Juarez had us a little shook. When there is animals and a bunch of single dudes IN A BAND for that matter, I don’t care what part of the world you’re in, that house is usually a disgusting cesspool of bongwater, beer cans, and mysterious places where the scent of cat pee slaps your nostrils.
We arrived at this punk house the night before our first show. We were pleasantly surprised at it its condition. Considering there were cats running around, and a few dogs, it was very clean. Our hosts, hospitable and gracious. There was a slight language barrier between us, but Chicky was determined, stuttering the entire way to speak to our hosts in their native tongue of Spanish the entire time. Luckily for me, a few of the guys spoke English real well so I didn’t have to use too much of my remedial Spanish but Chicky pretty much kept her conversations in Spanish. These guys were so good at making us feel at home. They kept saying “Mi Casa, es su casa”. A cliche phrase I’ve heard far too often in the states, the meaning in Mexico was very literal. These dudes wanted us to feel at home from the moment we walked in the door. They made sure we were fed and had a comfortable place to sleep.
(Handing over the computer to Chicky now….)With a lot of time to spare before our first show, our morning was spent roaming the streets of the flea market and downtown, eating delicious tacos and trying to get my iphone fixed. (It hadn’t worked since we came home from the last tour in April and I finally got it fixed so that it charges… but the screen lost its touch sensitivity so it’s still as good as broke. For those of you trying to reach me it’s best to FB message me or through Jason). We walked and lived among the people of Juarez and even if people stared, we still felt right at home.
Night came and people came out in droves. The lineup was awesome. Malahierba killed it, then we did, then Golem, then The Sound Vision. It was a great honor to play with Juarez’s best bands. The event definitely set the tone for what we were expecting the rest of the tour to be.
The following day was our travel day with Golem to Mexico City. We were all so excited. The airport experience was a little stressful for us having to figure out what to do with our instruments and Jason and I were the only ones to deal with immigration. But we arrived safely…. into the arms of our good friend, Jorge, who had moved back to Mexico City from San Francisco… I mean, San Pancho!
Jorge’s sister had come to pick us up with her 4-year-old son and Jorge’s friend (but as I write this now, he just told me she is now his girlfriend…so…Congratulations Jorge and Pamela! Best of luck to such a sweet couple!) and dropped us off their mother’s house. There, we met the rest of the immediate family. Concerned their home would not be comfortable enough for us, it was far from the case. It was a custom-built home with beautiful tiles… just gorgeous. Again, their invitation of “mi casa es su casa” was sincere.
Laura, Sergio and their two children were delightful company. Watching Jason try to interact with their 5 year daughter in English as she steadily spoke in Spanish was rather adorable. Just past the front door was a cobble stone alley of little stores and taquerias that led to a main avenue of the Coyoacan neighborhood. Further down the road, we were able to walk to a small square flooded with vendors of hand-made, beautiful wares. We spent our first night in Mexico City seeing some of the cultural beauty the area had to offer and eating the best tacos ever!
We went to sleep that first night, pleased with what we’ve experienced thus far. Great people, great food, great sights… The next day was going to be so much more awesome because it was going to be our first performance in Mexico City!
We woke up that day on Friday with enough time to see more cool sights before heading to the venue. The FB event said there was almost 100 people attending the show to enjoy us, Golem a couple of other local bands and two DJ’s. The way it sounded, this was going to be the event of the year! We got new tee shirts made and we were feeling really good about what would come that night. At the venue, Golem had already arrived early and the sound system was almost set up and then by the time we sound checked, we were feeling pretty good. All we had to now was wait. It was 9pm. The doors were supposed to open at 8pm and the event was going on until 4. Known for being a late night crowd, the venue assured us that people would come. So we waited. And we waited. And we waited…. 11:30pm had fast-approached and not one person had entered the room. Even the one local band who came had brought no one and there was look of worry on their faces. Only one DJ had come and he was late and he had started to set up and he also came alone. The organizer hadn’t showed either. The venue staff were apologetic as they didn’t even know his whereabouts. Our spirits had fallen and after congregating with the rest of the bands, we decided it would be best to take our stuff and head home. Heads hung real low, Jason and I were super disappointed. This was the main show we had made the initial travel investment to come for. Luckily, because Golem was extending their stay in Mexico City to play more shows, they were able to get us one more show for the following day. But this…. this was supposed to be our main gig.
Memories flooded both our minds of similar shitty past experiences of over-promise and under-delivery. We were so mad at feeling good at whatever successes we’ve achieved for ourselves at this small level. Again, we were reminded about the ‘nobodies’ we are. I was trying to rationalize that the investment we had made to purchase new shirts, was going to pay for at least our whole airfare once we sell them all. I was trying to tell my seemingly inconsolable husband that whatever we had spent thus far on the trip was still less than what a lot of people spend on vacations. And he bitterly responded, “We don’t go on vacation!!! We aren’t vacationers!” He went on to say, “I think we have to rethink our trip to Southeast Asia this November”. I was crushed. It’s been my dream to spend months traveling all over Southeast Asia and the only way I could get Jason to agree was to book a tour. I’ve spent time to make contacts to do so and have been getting an incredibly overwhelming amount of positive response. There was nothing I could say to make Jason feel ok. Severely disgruntled, he decided he wanted to lay low for the rest of our days in Mexico City and not do anything else.
There’s one thing about my husband that I love and appreciate and admire a whole lot… his ability to get over things real quick. He may pout hella hard for a moment but unlike me, the next moment he can easily move forward. And I’m glad. Because the following day became the highlight of out trip… becaaaause… we went to the INFAMOUS outdoor flea market for the entire fringe scene…. Punks and metal heads and rockers and rastafarians and skaters….. EL CHOPO!!!! The moment we walked in, Jason could not hide his enthusiasm. A child in a candy store, he was pointing and shouting at the glorious amounts of elaborately- designed tee shirts of the most obscure bands. It was truly heaven for him! For us! It was definitely a time to remember and we found some really good buys.
We were having so much of a good time losing our minds, we had to rush back to the house to gather our gear to get us to the next gig…
(Here’s Jason again)
So this show was to be one of the most bizarre experiences we’ve had so far as a band.
First off, the location was so remote, no one could help us find it. Not google maps, not the local people in the town, it took almost 2 hours of driving around in a taxi to find the spot. Once we got to the spot we didn’t know what to make of it. Was it some kind of garage? A house? I don’t know? All I can tell you was that it was a very…interesting set up for performance. The stage was built on the upper level of the place. There were no stairs, just two ladders to get up the stairs with your gear. Once up the stairs I noticed this performance area was built for tiny people. I hit my head about 3 times on steel beams before we found the best area to set up. Chicky did institute a “NO JUMPING” rule for me so I wouldn’t knock myself unconscious. Golem opened up the night and just KILLED IT! I would call them a slightly more accessible Mars Volta with a female frontwoman…WHO’S GOT PIPES! They were a tough act to follow, but I think we did a good job keeping up.
The night ended with Jorge’s sister and brother in-law meeting us at the venue and us taking off for more tacos before we boarded our early morning flight (5am at the airport) to Juarez. Where we are now. I finally did calm down on the plane. Remembering Mexico city, the kindness of the people that have housed us, fed us, and let us live with them and their families. Again, making us feel like we were right at home. Right now, as I write this, I’m watching the hot Juarez sun dry my hand-washed clothes. Looking out over city decimated by violence and corruption, but still a city with an honest and caring soul. With our new friends here we plan to have a little get together at our hotel. Since it’s 100+ degrees out here in the dessert we decided we should have a pool party. Since this party falls on the day of America’s Independence, we’re calling it the “Fuck Your Wall” party, in honor of a growing sentiment of the population of Americans (led by Trump) who feel it’s necessary to build a wall between us and Mexico. We are gonna hang out, together building a bridge of understanding. The xenophobic fear-mongering is approaching a dangerous level in this country. A country that was LITERALLY BUILT on the backs of immigrants. Wherever you are, whoever you are, Happy 4th from LFADM.