This was it; we had made it to the very last day. It was going to be another long one and I was ready… kind of. There was a mid-morning show/brunch planned at Amplified Aleworks to start at 11AM. So. Early. With last night’s karaoke party hanging over our heads, we talked it over and decided that getting a few more hours of sleep in preparation for another stacked day in lieu of missing a few friends play acoustic wouldn’t be the worst trade off. (What I didn’t know at the time was that The Dodges drummer, Kyle Porter, would be bringing his amazingly cute dog to brunch and now I regret everything!!).
A few hours later, we grabbed food from El Zarape and jumped into the car with Shane, Julianne, and Lenny and headed South. There was a quick stop in Chula Vista to meet up with the Mables dudes and carry some gear and we were back on our way to the border. The TJ day of La Escalera Fest has always been my favorite. There’s always so much going on and that can go wrong and it always turns out to be perfect. The border is a dirty, bustling place that is still slightly confusing and exciting no matter how many times I cross it. There’s always that thought lingering in the back of my mind that they may not let me over for some reason. When we all walk out the other side, it always feels like we got away with something.
Every trip to TJ during LE Fest is different. There was the year that Jorge (DFMK) gave us a guided tour of one area of the city, I saw my first zonkey, and we were followed by a street dog for blocks and blocks. There was the year that we all thought we would be able to find our way to Mous Tache Bar and ended up having to climb down the side of a parking garage and walk on the curb of a freeway. And then there was this year, the year we took cabs to the venue. Getting older and wiser rules.
There was just enough time to check out one of my favorite places in the world, the rooftop on the back building of Mous Tache Bar, before Heck Yes opened the show inside the bar. Much like the changing neighborhood around it, Mous Tache has been gone about a heavy face lift since the first time I visited. Yes, one of the upstairs toilets is still missing a seat. But they now have a great looking new decor, craft beers, some of the best mixed drinks ever (yes EVER), and a stage inside as well as out.
I ping ponged between the stages for most of the day catching second sets of some of my weekend favorites including Hey, Chels, Micah Schnabel, Pity Party and Despero. I also took Julianne across the street to the liquor store – which has a name on it this year translating to Cactus Liquor – to check out their selection of Lourdes and ciders. In case you haven’t had the pleasure of encountering me drunk in Tijuana, there is a chip brand in Mexico called Lourdes )(which was introduced to me by the wonderful Lex) which tastes just like Doritos and Fritos mixed together. It is quite possibly the best thing I have ever eaten and aren’t sold in the US nor does the company ship. SO… every year, I head into TJ ready to cram my backpack (and later, my luggage) full of bags of chips which I eat ever so slowly throughout the year. Second, apparently in TJ they have a Strongbow brand honey flavored cider which is quite possibly the second best thing I have ever eaten. Long story short, America sucks at food and I’m moving to Mexico.
But the food isn’t the only thing that fucking rules in TJ. The bands are amazing too. For the last few years, I’ve seen No Talent play and they always kill it. The same goes for 22 Missiles and Todo Mal. It’s been so great to see these bands grow and change over time. Somewhere in here, my phone vibrated which was weird because I don’t have international service. But somehow, American Airlines used their witchy powers to get into my phone and inform me that they had cancelled my Monday afternoon flight back to Chicago. I had guzzled down just enough ciders to not spiral into a panic. I went up to the Heck Yes and Mables guys and asked if I could tag along on the last tour days of their tour back to Seattle. Glen of Mables Marbles had flown back earlier in the day so there was an extra seat in the van. And that is how I ended up, dubbed as “Glendra,” discussing introducing my hypothetical boyfriend zombie Abraham Lincoln to my parents with Billy and Tony after a few road Garras Blanca.
During Problem Daughter, the excitement of never ending vacation started to die down and I realized that chips weren’t going to be enough to get me through the rest of the day so I rounded up a group and grabbed another rad human and great TJ tour guide, Danny, and headed up to Avenida Revolución to find the shop that makes the best goddamn empanadas I’ve ever had. It took us all about three minutes to scarf down our food.
We walked down Revolución looking at all the shops and vendors. The guys in Heck Yes had been hellbent on getting woven friendship bracelets and decided that this would be the perfect place. Well, indeed it was because once the bracelets were purchased, the owner insisted that Skyler do a shot of tequila from a glass shaped like a boob. It was right then that we caught Kevin Skalba, his lovely girlfriend Jamie, and their friend Taryn (who actually won our ticket giveaway contest!) walking by. The next thing I know, the owner insisted that Kevin also do a shot of tequila… but out of a penis shot glass.
At that point we lost Julianne and Shane, who went back to catch whatever was left of Los Alex and Mercy Music. The rest of us went to a nearby bar to try our hand at eating crickets. It was the same place that I broke vegan edge (haaaa) last year when I tried a pinch of insect sprinkled with some delicious powder. This year, I backed my invertebrates with a fancy smoked pineapple mezcal cocktail which was actually set on fire before consumption. Have I mentioned how much I fucking LOVE Tijuana?! Skyler headed back to Mous Tache to ensure he caught Slumped again and I lied I would be there soon. But Danny had other plans for us all. We ended up at a nearby dark and dingy (read: absolutely perfect) dive bar for another round of shots before heading back.
Last year, DFMK wasn’t able to play La Escalera Fest because they were on tour and that had just felt wrong, especially in TJ. Anyone who says that they’re not impressed by DFMK’s live show is a goddamn liar. But you haven’t seen shit until you’ve seen these guys in their hometown. There energy is purely palpable. And while they were down one guitarist, adding Davey Tiltwheel really brought something powerful.
The rest of the night played out on fast forward. Todo Mal inside then a very personally emotionally charged (possibly a little drunk from too many Honey ciders?) Western Settings set outside. Squarecrow closed out the inside bar by starting their set sitting and laying down. My sentiments exactly guys. People has started to head back across the border early, which I get, work and all. But that was the wrong move because having Decent Criminal close out not only the night but the weekend was epic. Their day show set yesterday was good. But tonight got me even more amped for their new album (Bliss out June 21st via Wiretap Records)! In true TJ fashion, the whole set dissolved into a group sing along before the night ended with a group photo.
Once the show ends in TJ, there’s only one place left to go… we loaded into three cabs and headed over to Taco Blocko, an actual strip of taco shops on a single block of the city. There were a few first timers and I loved watching their eyes get wide when they took their first bite. It’s like a free for all there. You order whatever you want. They make it and serve it. You order more. They serve it. And somewhere near the end, when you’re too full to keep your eyes open, they come around and tally up how much you owe… and it’s always amazingly cheap. Taco Blocko is Heaven on Earth.
When it was time to finally say goodbye, we hopped into a Lyft with Lex and headed back to the border. Skyler and I walked over together and ran into Jacque and Ricky, who were wonderful enough to offer us a ride back to San Diego, as our ride had left some time prior to Taco Blocko. We listened to Sweet Spirit (members of A Giant Dog) on the way and Ricky told us all about them. It was the perfect music to come down to after such a long weekend.
Skyler and I headed back into Morocco one last time. I received a text from American Airlines that they had scheduled me a flight from San Diego to Los Angeles on Wednesday… but nothing near Chicago. We sleepily packed up all of our stuff and I sat on hold with American Airlines who had a three hours wait time to talk to a representative. I lasted about four minutes before hanging up and crawling into bed, resolute that I would deal with it somewhere on the road tomorrow.
A number of factors almost kept me away from going to LE Fest this year. I actually walked out of line to board the plane to SD twice. But in the end, I was so glad that I made it out. While nothing can prevent us from going through hard, depressing times, it’s so comforting to know that I have family all over the world. If, say, my flight cancels, I can hop in a van headed to Seattle with a Buzzballz pit stop in Reno. If I want to grab a drink in Salt Lake, I know I have people there I can count on. If I need a weekend escape and some amazing food and drinks, I’ll just cross the border into Mexico. And there’s always California. And I hope you all know that if you ever need anything from me, La Escalera extends all the way to Chicago. Thanks for another great year everyone and I will see you at LE Fest 9!
Check out the below photos of the last day, Day 4, of La Escalera Fest 8!
- 22 Missiles
- Decent Criminal
- Heck Yes
- Hey Chels
- Mercy Music
- Micah Schnabel
- Pity Party
- Problem Daughter
- Western Settings