Since Saturday’s brunch never happened, I’d be fucking damned if I missed out on it again. The Four Lights guys made the wrong choice and went to the Chicken Pot Pie place near their hotel for food. So Kendra and I said, “Fuck everyone. We are going to Breakfast Republic, suck our collective dicks.” It being Sunday, the holy day of brunch for goofy white people everywhere, the wait was about an hour. Good thing we planned for this as we hauled ass on our scooters to North Park Brewery to get our god damned glitter mimosas! They were pretty gross, but really glittery and totally worth it. By the time we made it back to Breakfast Republic, our name was next on the list and soon I was enjoying a Bloody Mary and a mashed potato omelet. Fuck yes!
Since our scooters probably wouldn’t make it to Mexico, we caught a ride with Trick Coleman and his (soon to be OUR) buddy Danny Lopez. Our friend Sergio isn’t allowed in Mexico for some weird legal reasons, so we bid him ado with one last giant hug, and met Trick and Danny at a nearby gas station for the trip South. We drove across the border with absolutely no problem, and Danny took all of us to his apartment he shares with DFMK drummer Alex. We drank a couple of Dos Equis followed by some tequila and headed for El Tigre, a bar in the properly named Plaza Fiesta that serves liters of fucking booze. The greatest person in the world, Lex Followill, showed up and gifted Kendra a unicorn piñata before disappearing back into the plaza. We shot more tequila, ate amazing vegan burritos, and talked with our new friends. But eventually, our liters of various boozes became empty and it was time to get to The Moustache Bar for the fourth and fucking last day of La Escalera Fest bands.
The Moustache Bar had expanded in the last year; there is a new inside stage you can reach by heading up the back stairs. We headed up there and made it in time for a second helping of Boss’ Daughter and a very wild smoke machine (it was too much, it kept me out of the upstairs stage all night, except to go in during Buckfast Superbee and hard nope back out). The only bad part of the new inside stage was that the open door blocked off access to the roof, which has always been my favorite part of watching bands at the Tijuana venue. We made it past the door at one point and onto the roof, but the security guy for the inside portion of the bar padlocked the gate shut, trapping everyone up there. Fortunately he forgot to actually lock the lock and we were able to escape but the very annoyed dude didn’t make the same mistake a second time. We were locked out of the roof for the rest of the night.
Squarecrow was supposed to start things off on the outside stage, but apparently none of them except Kevin White had brought a passport, so we were treated to Heck Yes instead. Trick and Pablo went off earlier to try the DFMK beer that Amplified Ale Works and Ley Seca Brewery collaborated on, officially titled “Venenosa,” and it was fucking delicious! It’s so much better than that gross-ass Western Settings beer that I’m pretty sure Adam Kissell put too many hops into. Speaking of Adam, Regan Ashton and the Western Setting Boys were able to perfectly capture the same good time vibes they were throwing out the day before with their TJ set.
We hung around for The Dodges before taking off with Danny to go search for the empanada place Jorge from DFMK took us to two year prior. He knew exactly what we were talking about and lead us straight there and I was reunited with the lovely Hawaiian empanada and special green sauce that I missed so dearly. We got to talking about how last time, Jorge said we had to try true Mexican Mezcal but then we ran out of time. So Danny stepped up and lead us to a fancy restaurant which not only had it but also had fried crickets. Yes, the bug, just like Jiminy. We got a side of them and they were delicious. Danny was trying to talk us into going to the place across the street that birthed the Caesar Salad into the world, but we had to get back for Allweather. Next time, Tijuana. Next time.
Western Settings was up next on the outside stage with a trick up their sleeve. Kevin White joined them on Will’s guitar for a few songs as Will Castro hung out in the crowd, singing along. I couldn’t tell if it was a supposed to be a special treat for the audience or a trick to get Will to finally sing backup vocals (hey-oh!). I started to get real drunk around the time Success started, and of course found myself onstage with a handful of other people screaming along to… some song. “Resignation”? “Revolution Schmevolution”? Who can be sure? What I do know is it was a goddamn good time.
The bands tore down the entire backline onstage to the confusion of almost everyone in the crowd. I heard murmurs of “I thought there was one more band?” as some strangers I hadn’t seen all day started setting up equipment in the middle of the outside venue. It started to drizzle as four shirtless dudes in masks grabbed their instruments and started playing directly in the middle of the crowd. It was time for Daikaiju. I was excited to see this band as I have heard… stuff about them. But that excitement wore thin as they played their instrumental surfish metal and pointed at people for about an hour or so. I mean, it was interesting when I went to the bathroom mid-set and came out to the guitarist playing in the lobby area, but that’s not what we were all waiting for. But, then it happened. The guitarist climbed onto the drum set as the drummer stood up and sprayed lighter fluid on everything and set that shit on fire. When that went out, they took apart the drums and had members of the audience hold them in the air as the drummer and guitarist stood on a very rickety table and played away. It all reach maximum radness as they once again set the drums on fire, and the two guitarist and bassists dipped their respective instruments in the flames and then just dropped it all and left the building. Show fucking over.
A few of the audience members jumped on the discarded instruments and started jamming. Tristan from Decent Criminal started shredding guitar as some random lady beat away at the drums. It was tight. Eventually everyone moseyed outside and we planned out the rest of the night. With our guides Danny and Pedro, we engaged in our three year strong post-La Escalera Fest tradition and headed to “Taco Blocko” for some bomb ass street tacos. Knowing this was one of the last times to get this delicious food, I took down seven fucking tacos. Feeling like I was going to explode, it was time to go home. (Editor’s note: but not before I stepped up to the challenge of eating a taco where the shell is made completely of fried cheese. I savored the fried masterpiece with Burn X3’s Adam France as we shared cute puppy photos on our phones).
We walked back over the border into America and hitched a ride to North Park with Burn Burn Burn. The three guys jammed in the back of the van were making a ruckus, as one drunkenly kept asking for the “gin” (rhymes with wine). There was a shuffling sound as they searched under seats and backpacks until they found it. I shuddered as they opened a bottle of something in the dark van careening down the freeway through the rain and poured its liquid contents down his throat. Minutes went by and all was fine and dandy. But then a gurgling sound and it suddenly smelled strongly of tacos. That enjoyable scent quickly gave way to the stench of puke. Because he puked. A lot. Skyler and Oliver had to check out of the hotel early the next morning, so the guys in Four Lights were nice enough to let us crash in their hotel for the night. As we pulled up to our accommodations, we jumped out of the van and exchanged our hasty goodbyes as Burn Burn Burn started shoveling out the river of puke right there on the front steps of the “Hotel and Swim Club.”
The next morning, we headed to El Zarape for our last burritos/tacos of the trip and then over to Lancers for the unofficial official La Escalera Fest goodbye meetup. The crew was strong this year: Dan, Jeff, and Brian of Four Lights; Kevin White of Squarecrow; Ricky from Western Settings; Rev and Andy from Succes; Regan from Problem Daughter; Devito from your dreams; Jacque from New Way On; and a special appearance by the man himself, the other half of La Escalera Records, Ziggy Pelayo. We slowly sucked down our last Blue Drinks of the weekend and fought the urge to miss our plane home. But unfortunately, every party has to come to an end. And this party had me recovering for a solid week afterwards.
Happy seventh fucking birthday La Escalera Records! We’ll see you all next year… and probably a few times in between.
(Editor’s/Photographer’s Note: Apologies to any bands I shot in the indoors, upstairs room. The dark cavernous stage along with the fog machine didn’t always render the best outcome. But you were all great, except that one band. Yes, you.)