2 hours of suffering to the rhythm of Caifanes, the beating heart of Mexico.
CDMX, November 5, 2022. It is 8:40 pm.
Except for a few security guards and the merchandising stands along the entrance gates — no customer in sight — , there is not a soul at the Palacio de los Desportes the moment we get out of the cab.
Seen from the outside, I do not really measure the size of the building.
We pass the controls and we are taken to our places in an immense room plunged in the darkness resounding the first notes of the show.
In fact, if the surroundings of the palace were surprisingly deserted, it is simply because everyone was already inside. According to Mrs. Reznyk, we arrived “right on time”, which means very late.
She bought the seats. So we are sitting on steep bleachers suspended above other bleachers. Below the dome — I mean literally against the ceiling. We’re overlooking a huge toilet bowl-shaped sinkhole. I’m afraid of heights, and I’m starting to psych myself out. If the earth shakes, what happens next? Damn…
This structure was built in 1968 for the Olympic Games. It has withstood two major earthquakes. It should hold, right? We’ll just have to hold on to the seats so we don’t fall the damn canyon. I test the sturdiness of the plastic chair roughly secured to the concrete: OK, pretty sure it won’t hold.
I listen to Maná, and I love Molotov. I was dragged to a Cafe Tacvba concert in Paris a few weeks ago, but I don’t know Caifanes — or hardly do so. This rock band born in the 80s is nevertheless a must in Mexican popular culture — just like tequila, Lucha libre, or tacos al pastor. So, how can you refuse this remarkable gathering in the mythical Palacio de los Desportes of Mexico City?
My trial will last two hours. Two hours in the middle of 17.000 people, none of whom are as bored as I am.
Under the ceiling, the acoustics are horrible. I should say that the singer is not very good, and would deserve a few sessions with Renee Grant-Williams. The Answer? “It’s normal, he had throat cancer”. Ah OK. That’s cool then.
After having lazily warmed up on boring songs in an intimate atmosphere by multiplying the conventional tributes and the moral lessons, the frontman reads us a poem by Octavio Paz. No, he doesn’t recite it: he reads it.
El Sol se levanta de su lecho de huesos
El aire no es aire
Ahoga sin brazos ni mano
El alba desgarra la cortina
Montón de palabras rotas.
Octavio Paz (Vuelta)
The guy performs in front of thousands of people who paid between 400 and 1.200 pesos for their seats, and he can’t even remember six lines! I bet a third grader could have. He reads out a f*****g paper! Everyone seems to think it’s totally cool. So to avoid a diplomatic incident in an already tense international period, I do what everyone else does: I put on a humanist philosopher face and pretend to soak up the obscure verses of the Mexican Nobel Prize winner.
One song follows the next one, and I don’t know any of them. Clearly, I should have studied the subject before coming. At least get stuffed with the very best hits once or twice before coming. But things have been flowing at a frantic pace the last few days, and I haven’t had the time. The whole audience knows the lyrics by heart. Screaming frenzy with every intro. I feel that dirty thing, the feeling of being the only dork sober at the party.
The singer (whose name is Saul and who looks like he could play in CHiPs) interrupts his recital again to give us a bullshit feminist rant with a fake ass look. You can tell he’s trying to make himself up, so he can get a backstage feel-up. True it is, he slips away just long enough to play a clip of Vivir Quintana, a singer involved in the fight for women’s rights.
Indeed, it was not bad at all. The activist takes us to the guts and the sound is better than the live one.
The concert resumes after this interlude. And after a while, as I start to get used to it and don’t find it so bad anymore, what do I see on stage down there at the back? A bearded guy with a guitar-keyboard! In 2022! Can’t the Rick Wakeman of the barrio stay behind his f*****g harpsichord? No, apparently he has to go with his buddies to the front of the stage with his ridiculous instrument. But where am I now? Finally, I’m not against a little earthquake to put an end to this circus.
The tracks follow one another. The energy rises to a crescendo. The atmosphere is incredible. The Caifanes are at home and the crowd sings louder than they do. This venue is their home and they play two sold-out shows in a row. They could just kick off each song and sleep while the fans do the job.
I’m experiencing it from afar. I’m a bystander. I am utterly waterproofed to the musical mush I receive by reverberation on the ceiling of the dome, but fascinated by this moment of communion and popular magic.
While I am in complete contemplation, a new torment invades me. My brain certainly needs to be activated to protect itself from this hostile environment.
Our apartment is located at the other end of the city, opposite the Granjas district where the Palacio is located. A district that I would humbly qualify as very popular (no offense.) I dread the moment when we are inevitably going to flush empty the room. If we wait until the end of the concert: we are dead. We will be stuck in the crowd with zero chances of getting the subway, or a cab.
So I try to pull it off Marc Maron-style at the Stones’ concert in the hilarious Too Real.
“We need to get the hell out of here before the recalls.”
“What? Oh no…” She said,
“What is your plan to get back?”
“Well, we improvise.”
“Is it a joke? Did you see the neighborhood?”
“But they didn’t play my favorite song, it might be in the encores.”
The end of the gig approaches. The clown who played the guitar keyboard (and the sax) and who is arguably called Diego (like Zorro) takes advantage of my negotiation to take the microphone from his buddy — the half-baked singer. He says something about the DF (Distrito federal). According to him, it should not have changed its name. People approve and shout, likely including the bureaucrat who decided to rename the city CDMX in 2016 and doesn’t feel like getting beat up by the Diego fanbase.
Anyway, the keyboard would have yelled “I like poopy pies” and yet everyone would have yelled, “we want some caramba!”.
“I endured two hours of this hell without flinching. Please explain to me how we’re going to head out of this shanty town without turning into a piñata by the local gangs?” I wondered.
Okay, it’s ugly and a bit exaggerated. But the argument worked.
Running for one and dragging her feet for the other, we sneak in while the fans are asking for more. I called an Uber and a few minutes later, we escaped by zigzagging on Río Churubusco.
Once in a safe place, I regained some points by transferring to Mrs. Reznyk a couple of videos recorded on my phone during the concert.
I discreetly checked the setlist to see if la Negra Tomasa, her favorite song, was in the encores or not.
“What are you looking at?” She asks.
Want to read a less-objective review?
Caifanes convierte el Palacio de Deportes en un crisol monumental by Kevin Aragón | El Sol de México.
Los Caifanes deberían ser eternos : Tremendo concierto en el Palacio de los Desportes by Alvaro Cortes | Sopitas.