MEDELLIN, COLOMBIA – FINAL DAY
After 15 days in Colombia working on various projects, it seemed completely appropriate that I spend my last full day, a Saturday, at an all day punk show. Two other independent, Gringo travel journalists I had met at the beginning of my trip, David and Troy, tagged along with me.
David is a travel blogger from Virginia living in Medellin and is a punk fan from way back. His blog is Travel Blog Success. Troy is a very talented photographer and travel blogger from Missouri, who has hung his travel hat in Medellin for a few weeks. He wanted to get some photos for his travel blog which is called Forget Obligation Go Global or FOGG. It was both David and Troy’s first punk show in Latin America and it was cool to turn them on to the experience.
We got there a little early and I was able to get an interview with one of Medellin’s few all girl punk bands, Insurgentas (Insurgents) while Troy snapped some pics. The ladies gave a great interview in Spanglish (English and Spanish), and they gave me a copy of their CD “La Furia Recorre Tu Sangre” which translated means something like “Blood Fury” I think. Whatever the meaning, I was able to give the CD a good listen through while unpacking from my trip and these ladies are not just some all girl novelty act, they are first rate musicians who blend punk with their own brand of intense hardcore. My favorite song on the CD was the instrumental “Outro”, but I want to give the CD a good couple more listens before I declare this a hard fact.
After the interview and some more pics with Insurgentes, I went inside the venue where the owner treated us with the extreme gracious hospitality that I’m starting to get used to when visiting Colombia.
First up was a hardcore band from Puerto Rico “La Virgen del Pozo” which translated means “The Virgin of Pozo”. Impressed with my Spanish translation skills yet? The drummer and two guitarists do double duty and these guys switch out lead singers later on and the band becomes, wallah, “Tropiezo” (Stumble/Slip), a whole different hardcore experience.
I got to interview these cats after the shows and I’m really pumped because I’ve been wanting to get clued in on the Puerto Rican punk scene for quite some time. Living in NYC I’ve got lots of Puerto Rican and “Nuyorican” (New Yorkers of Puerto Rican Descent) friends and acquaintances and I’ve noticed a big and often unheralded representation of Puerto Ricans in the NYC punk scene.
I wondered what the island culture would be like and I later found out after I interviewed these guys that Puerto Rico’s got a pretty potent scene. The lead singer for La Virgen del Pozo, Rex, currently lives in San Francisco but tours with the band whenever they all scrape up enough money with their side jobs to travel.
They put out their own CDs and even though they almost never get paid for touring (though sometimes they’ll get some cash when in the U.S.), incredibly they have traveled a ton, including Spain, The U.S. (including NYC), Jamaica and Japan, to name a few. This was their first tour to Colombia and they had just played neighboring Venezuela on their way to Medellin.
Maybe because I was able to conduct the interview in English or maybe because I just respect how these guys work their side jobs so they can pursue their love of punk music, but I felt I bonded with these guys during the interview.
La Virgen del Pozo and Tropiezo are as punk as punk can get, not in the way they dress (though the drummer is tattooed up) or even in their music (which does features really, really short, really, really hardcore punk songs) but in their attitude. Punk is their life and they demonstrate it by doing whatever it takes to get their music out there. They put out their own CDs, book their own touring schedules and head to far off (and sometimes expensive) locales in order to spread their brand of punk/hardcore music. I dig that.
I’ve said here before the only think I hate worse than media strereotypes are the stereotypes that people place on themselves. So many Puerto Ricans are stereotyped as Salsa or Reggaeton loving people, when in fact, the underground punk and hardcore scene is very healthy on the island.
I’ve noticed NYC Puerto Ricans in particular, maybe in an effort to represent their small homeland, end up very vocally coming across as speaking for the whole island even though they may have no idea what is going on in the underground scene of their own country. Puerto Ricans aren’t all Daddy Yankee and Don Omar devotees, it is true!
Not unlike here in the states and specifically NYC, where I read in the paper where more and more women are getting their hair colored pink, blue or purple these days. One hairstylists attributed it to Lady Gaga’s influence. As if punk women haven’t been coloring their hair for 30 years?
Puerto Ricans, like all people, can’t be lumped into one big category of culture the media and even other clueless Puerto Ricans sometimes portray. They are made up of individuals with individual tastes, likes and dislikes.
I digressed. Another high point of the show was taking in the local Medellin hardcore band, Renkore which the crowd went crazy over with a style of dancing that is a bit like Karate or the Brazilian martial art capoeira meets the punk pit. It was pretty cool to watch but tough to get good shots and simultaneously protect the camera and keep it from getting kicked out of my hand, but I did. Renkore has two lead vocalists, one with a piercing, high pitched vocal scream and I really enjoyed their music. I suggest you check them out if you like good hardcore.
I’m going to have some video all week from each of the bands’ performances as well as some of that crazy dancing I was telling you about later on in the week once I get caught up, so please stay tuned.
In the meantime, if you want to check all the pics, as always, you can hit up the set at the PUNK OUTLAW FLIKR page and I’d also like to give a shout out and thanks to Andres Ocampo from Los Suziox and Juan Fernando Subero for contributing to these pics.