If you are a) an indie rock fan and b) Bogotá-based, chances are that Friday, April 5 has been highlighted on your calendar since last year, because that is the day this year’s Festival Estéreo Picnic kicks off, and it promises to be a bakano weekend of live music.
In the past, critically renowned acts such as TV On the Radio and MGMT have performed at the festival, and a lot of people might already know that legendary synth-rock band New Order (consisting, of course, of the remaining members of the equally seminal Joy Division) have been booked to perform, alongside indie pop upstarts Two Door Cinema Club (UK), the moody techno punk duo Crystal Castles (Canada) and the party-loving, eclectic dancehall/house act Major Lazer (US).
But while Festival Estéreo Picnic is known for bringing big ‘gringo’ acts to Colombia (The Killers, arguably one of the biggest bands in the world right now, will be closing the festival), there will also be a dozen or so Latin American acts vying for punters’ attention. We have picked out our favourite Colombian bands and artists, and present them below to make sure you don’t miss out on some great local talent.
Silencio, No Hay Banda
This Bogotá scenester quintet make excellent, tastefully put-together electronica, with just enough pop hooks to prevent the whole thing becoming a tedious, beard-scratching exercise. The band (whose name is a quote from the fantastic David Lynch film Mulholland Drive) was formed less than a year ago and has already played Bogotáno electro hotspots like Latora 4 Brazos and Armando Records.
They are faintly reminiscent of fellow festival performer Passion Pit – the bouncy synths, the wistful vocals – but while they do occasionally sing in English and dress like Brooklyn bartenders, they are no copycats or wannabes.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that this year’s festival is all about indie or synth rock, but this paisa rap group will bring a hefty dose of beats and rhymes to the party. Formed in Medellín in 2005, Alcolirycoz are audibly influenced by jazzy, sample-happy early-90s East Coast hip hop as well as more regional sounds – think salsa, porro from the Caribbean coast, and definitely cumbia.
Their lyrics, like those of fellow Colombian hip hoppers ChocQuibTown, tend to be on the conscious side of rap, but as their name suggests, they like a drink or two and there is a dark humour to their music. “We try to see the good in negative things and present it in a sarcastic way,” they told Entretenimiento Terra last year. It should be a fun show so be sure to catch them.
Another group flying the paisa flag at Festival Estéreo Picnic is Mr. Bleat, an electro rock quartet specialising in emotionally charged grooves supported by funky bass lines, handclaps and chiming guitars.
Their first EP, Mr. Disco, was released in 2010, and felt a bit rough around the edges (grungy guitars, dodgy English lyrics) but on their debut album, Señor Beat, the band found their sound – subtle but slick production, Spanish lyrics and a more nuanced tempo. The latter could be attributed to the classical background of drummer Matías Uribe, who also plays the cello, and of the two guitarists, Alejandro Bernal and Pablo Ángel.
They have been honing their live shows at boutique store openings, festivals and club shows around the country for the last two years and might even try out some new material, apparently inspired by hip-hop and funk drums and leaning more heavily on the electronic side of things. Listen to their album:
It’s no secret that a lot of Colombians love a bit of old-fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. Bands like The Doors, The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath continue to be reference points for a lot of young rock fans in this country, and Diamante Eléctrico are no different.
After playing in a variety of different projects, these three guys have pooled their influences (50s rock and roll, 60s garage rock and 70s hard rock) and created an energetic, infectious sound driven by crunchy guitars and meaty double bass (!) lines courtesy of lead singer Juan Galeano.
At the time of writing, Diamante Eléctrico were filming the video for their single “Revolver”, with their self-titled debut album due to be released in April. Check out the video for “Diamante Eléctrico” (which at one point clearly but cleverly rips off Led Zep’s “Black Dog”) below:
Festival Estéreo Picnic takes place between Friday, April 5 and Sunday, April 7 in the Parque Deportivo 222 (Autopista Norte #222-22).