Sleep deprivation! I hate sleep deprivation. However, sometimes, it just can’t be avoided. I’m in Medellin, Colombia for a variety of reasons and the beginning of my trip happened to coincide with the end of the big “Feria de las Flores” festival, Medellin’s biggest festival of the year so the place is crawling with tourists and Gringos just like me.
Hotels are packed and I swear I am hearing English almost as much as Spanish. Medellin has been invaded by Gringos from the world over! My first few nights I stayed at the noisiest hostel / hotel I HAVE EVER in my life stayed in and that is saying a lot my friends, hence my sleep deprivation. The hostel in question is Tiger Paw. Nice people but avoid like the plague if you, like me, need a more than 2 hours sleep per night.
Today I’m in a much better (and cheaper!) hotel and I intend to catch up on sleep and after I do I may re-read this post and say “uh-oh” what was I thinking”, so you are forewarned, the thoughts may be half baked and the errors numerous. Sorry. I blame the Paw, Tiger Paw.
If you can’t sleep, may as well party right? Well, lucky for me in addition to the Feria de Las Flores, there was also a great punk show being staged in downtown (El Centro) Saturday night and my buddy Andres from the Medellin punk band “Los Suziox” promised to guide me there so I could enjoy some good punk music, Medellin style!
The bill featured a band my amigo, bad ass filmmaker and punk musician, Jose Juan Posado played with when he lived in South Florida a few years back, a kick ass female fronted band called “Flees” hailing from Ft. Lauderdale.
Now you may be thinking, “punk in South Florida?”. Hey man, if they have punks in Cuba (be sure and see my interview with Cuban Punks from last December here) then they are bound to have some cool punk bands in SOFLO right? What’s more punk than hating on Fidel and fighting over Che’s legacy?
From what I hear from Jose Juan, there is quiet a scene in South Florida. I mean there was bound to be a pretty healthy backlash against the silly stereotypical South Florida music scene and Flees seem to capture it perfectly.
The lead singer, Elyse, is half Cuban/half Jewish (Jewban) and even though the band had some strong Latin roots it was Flees first time in Colombia and they seemed pumped to be there.
To kick the night off, Andres and I met at the San Alejo Market, a once monthly market, held downtown in Parque Bolivar. I arrived really late just as the market was shutting down, which was a shame because it looked very cultural and really fun.
So Andres and I made our way over to Parque Periodista which is where many of Medellin’s punk contingent hang out. It was Saturday night and the place was packed and the mood festive. I was happy to run into some of the new friends I had made my last trip in about a month ago.
Like many downtown areas in Latin America, the El Centro area of Medellin is gritty and can be a little dangerous for a Gringo wandering alone at night with video equipment, so I was happy to be given the full punk tour by Andres.
El Centro is also chock full of punk history going back all the way to the 1980’s when punk burst on the scene in Medellin.
From what I’ve heard, back then, it was dangerous to be a punk in Colombia because of the period of “La Violencia” and plain old intolerance. Hell it was tough to be a plain old civilian back then much less one who stuck out like an angry, sore thumb.
It seems the rebels and the government wanted the punks to take a side in the war and punks being punks, refused to side with either, alienating themselves from both sides, a dangerous position to be in during those times.
After spending significant time here, I think one of the reasons the punk scene is so strong in Colombia is that it was forged out of the war and narco traffic violence in the 80s and 90s. Like a wild flower growing in a trash dump, one good thing came from all the misery and now both Colombia and the Colombian punk scene are on the upswing as witnessed by all the tourists visiting and punk bands touring (The Casualties last December, The Addicts coming in September, etc.).
After hitting Parque Periodista we headed over to the venue to catch the show. The venue was Teatro Matacandelas and it wasn’t your typical hole in the wall dump where most punk shows are played by a long shot. It was a very nice acting theater with a great stage and bar area, clean bathrooms and really good sound.
The show started late but kicked off with a really good ska band called Niquitown. Ska is really big in Latin America, the bands are first rate and these guys did not disappoint.
They were followed by two other local punk bands, one of which, Humano X, played together for the first time in 15 years.
I think my favorite band of the evening was the band that came on just before Flees, a garage punk band called “Los Sorners”. The lead singer was f’ing nuts (in a good way), the guitar player had a Social Distortion tattoo but mostly their songs were just plain tight as hell and kicked ass (I have some video of these guys that I will post soon so stay tuned and you can judge for yourself).
Flees came on next. As I said this was their first foray to Colombia and Latin America in general but they had just finished a tour in the U.S. with GBH, one of my all time favorites.
I got to hang with these guys a little before the show and let me tell you they are really cool and good musicians to boot. Elyse had issues with her microphone at the beginning but she kept going and handled it like a pro until they could get it fixed about 3 songs in.
I enjoyed Flees immensely, as did the rest of the crowd which actually seemed to know a song or two word for word, despite them all being in English. If you are ever in South Florida or Flees is in a city near you be sure and check them out. In the meantime enjoy the video below and check back soon for more updates from Colombia!
Oh, almost forgot, if you want to see the complete set of pics from the show, be sure and hit up the set from the night at our FLIKR Page here. Now I’m off to get some much needed sleep!