Arcade Fire

Arcade Fire performs at the 15th edition of the Vive Latino music festival in Mexico City, Mexico, Friday, March 28, 2014.

AP Images

Bands like Arcade Fire, Nine Inch Nails and Los Tigres del Norte lit up the sky with music at Vive Latino 2014. The 15th edition of the music festival continues being one of the biggest and longest events of its type, attracting thousands to the Foro Sol open-air stadium in Mexico City.

Fans were slathered in sweat, relishing the pure joy of bands such as the L.A. group La Santa Cecilia to Mexican rock band El Gran Silencio which seemed to give the crowds an undeniable adrenaline rush. 

Some scenes replayed repeatedly: at one point paramedics pulled a female spectator from the front row after she nearly fainted when the crowds pushed tighter for a scrimmage to the front. In that glowing moment it was as if nothing mattered, but the beats and musical movement that is all Vive Latino. It was an overall celebration of music with subsets of film, art, books, food and booze. It’s an all-encompassing experience that both make Vive Latino a highlight and a distraction, too.

At the first edition nearly two decades ago, festival director Jordi Puig said during an earlier interview, he saw an estimated 20,000 fans at the first festival which was also held at the gigantic Foro Sol. His goal was to make it bigger and despite a few setbacks along the way, the festival has grown exponentially. Other festivals, such as the Lollapalooza franchise, are also making a name in the Latin music festival space which include major acts such as Red Hot Chili Peppers and Soundgarden.

Puig, who is often treated like a celebrity as he walks the Foro Sol grounds, moves about the premises from time to time and greets people. Known for his ability maintain strong ties with those who often perform on the Vive Latino stages, the festival's founder has also earned a reputation for keeping the press at bay and not prioritizing them. 

Still, Puig has been able to secure sponsors such as Coca-Cola TV, Indio Beer and Banamex They had every reason to celebrate this time again. The weather, minus two hours of rain, made the festival a desirable outing for locals who danced into the cool night. Last year's biggest issues were bad weather and the last-minute cancellation of English singer/songwriter Morrissey who was sick.

This time Vive Latino did officially include four days. American rockers Nine Inch Nails fired up the crowds on opening night, followed the next day by Canadian indie favorites Arcade Fire and on Saturday Puerto Rico's Calle 13 hit the stage before the norteño act Los Tigres del Norte gave 50,000-plus fans a colorful show on the main stage.

"We've seen this festival grow especially in the last 5 to 6 years," Puig said in early March, recalling the first year when the festival saw 20,000 music fans in two days. Vive Latino divides its showcases between 4 stages and several tents.

"It's satisfying to have come this far," Puig said, "but it's also a lot of responsibility because we want to represent what we've always done. Vive Latino has to have a spirit of being a platform for all types of music from Ibero-America with music also from the Anglo circuit. But it's important to acknowledge that it has to be a platform important for all the talent from all Latin countries."

During the weekend the bandmembers of the new group De La Tierra, founded by veteran musicians including Alex Gonzalez, Andreas Kisser, Andres Gimenez and Flavio Ciancarulo, said that Vive Latino has been instrumental for them through the years.

"It's a privilege for us being part of Vive Latino," said Gonzalez, who is best known as the drummer for Mexican band Maná. "We genuinely wanted to make music and Vive Latino is a great to place to showcase."

Keeping Vive Latino affordable has been key in the festival's growth as much as has been the programming of bands, Puig says. Major sponsorships are also part of the success in keeping prices down. The average ticket cost is about $40, with other options at higher prices. Many who can't attend Vive Latino can see portions of it on television and online.

This year, social media played an even more important role at Vive Latino as producers launched a smartphone app that allowed fans to get alerts ahead of time so they could head over to see their favorite bands. 

The upshot of Vive Latino have traditionally been the line-ups with new bands get a well-deserved push and bigger names such as Nine Inch Nails, who can make a ticket holder's dream come true. However, a bigger festival is not always the best way to assure success.

There is something to be said for simplicity.

Tagged