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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Music festival season has begun, and not just in the U.S. Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd co-host NPR Music's Alt.Latino, a show about Latin alternative music - and they have just gotten back from one of the biggest music festivals in all of Latin America: Vive Latino 2012 in Mexico City. The festival features bands from throughout Latin America, and these bands are playing Spanish-language rock, hip hop, and electronica, which don't exactly dominate the radio dial in the U.S. or Latin America. And here with some jetlag and some great band recommendations, Jasmine, Felix, welcome to the program.

JASMINE GARSD, BYLINE: Thanks for having us.

FELIX CONTRERAS, BYLINE: Thanks.

MARTIN: OK. So, tell us more about this festival. I mean, tough job, music festival coverage.

CONTRERAS: It had its moments. Officially, it's called the Festival Iberoamericano de Cultura Musical. But it's known as Vive Latino throughout Latin America. And when it started in 1998, it had two stages and 40 bands. And this past weekend, there were 120 bands, four stages, tens of thousands of people each day and three days' worth of music. It was very spectacular.

MARTIN: I want to get right into some of the highlights. Jasmine, there are some major artists at this festival, right? Who left you a little bit star struck?

GARSD: Absolutely. My favorite of the bigger rock bands was the iconic rock band Cafe Tacuba.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INGRATA")

GARSD: They played on the second day of Vive Latino and they gathered over 90,000 people.

MARTIN: Ninety thousand?

GARSD: Ninety thousand people dancing and screaming and singing the lyrics of their songs. And I just want to share with you one of their most well-known songs. This is "Ingrata" or "Ungrateful."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "INGRATA")

CAFE TACUBA: (Singing in Spanish)

MARTIN: I love it. It's kind of dance-y music. Were you in that crowd of 90,000 people?

GARSD: I was in the crowd. I took some pictures in the press area. And then I was like, you know what, I need to experience this, 'cause it's one of the most important bands in Mexico. Cafe Tacuba came of age during the golden era of Latin rock, which was in the '90s. They have amazing lyrics. Musically, they have that really eclectic vibe of mixing traditional Mexican music with rock, with ska, and they hadn't been at the festival for two years. So, they just kind of got on stage and were like did you miss us? And everyone started screaming and...

CONTRERAS: The answer was yes.

GARSD: ...dancing, yeah.

MARTIN: OK. Shifting gears here a little bit now. Felix, I understand you brought along some music from the festival, sounds almost like a string quartet.

CONTRERAS: It's very close to a string quartet. It's two violins, a cello and a percussionist. They're called Thesconek-T, and it was one of those music discoveries where it's like, oh, my gosh, you know, I didn't even know these guys existed before, but now I'm totally into them. This is a track called "Algodon de Azucar" and it's from their album "Corriente Alterna."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALGODON DE AZUCAR")

CONTRERAS: You know, it's hard to pick one cut to play 'cause they're just so multi-talented.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALGODON DE AZUCAR")

CONTRERAS: The percussionist sat on one of those cajons(ph), it's like a big box they use in Peruvian music. So, he was playing cajon and using the palm of his hand to get a bass drum sound and his right hand on the top drum to get a snare sound. So when they're doing rock stuff it sounds like a drum set.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALGODON DE AZUCAR")

MARTIN: Staying in this vein of lesser-known bands, Jasmine, anyone kind of capture your imagination?

GARSD: I saw this punk rock band called Puerquerama, which is a play on words. Puerco means pig, right? They all play with pig masks. And they're very...

MARTIN: Wait - they play with pig masks?

GARSD: They play with pig masks on. Most of the members of the band are pretty overweight, and they have a lot of tattoos and piercings. And they all took their shirts off and started playing, and at one point the lead singer of the band says this body you see here is less grotesque than the violence that's taking place in Mexico today.

MARTIN: Wow.

INTERVIEWER: I should say a lot of the artists did mention the situation in Mexico today.

MARTIN: The escalating violence as a result of the drug wars.

GARSD: Yeah. They have a new album called "Gente Come Gente." And this is song off of that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "FIN DEL MUNDO")

PUERQUERAMA: (Singing in Spanish)

MARTIN: I dig it. I can't understand what they're saying but it's a cool vibe. So, Felix, back to you. I'm wondering what else kind of caught your ear at this festival.

CONTRERAS: You know, one of the things they do there is there's a long strip of vendors where you can buy T-shirts and CDs. And I found a band called Los Twangers.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BACK TO SONORA")

MARTIN: Los Twangers.

CONTRERAS: It's exactly like it sounds. It's for the twang named after the twang guitar, and it's an homage that the whole sound - Link Wray, Duane Eddy - they just blew me away. And they weren't at the festival, but it's one of the albums that I picked up there. This is from their album "Planeta Twanger."

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BACK TO SONORA")

MARTIN: Ooh, I love that. It's haunting.

CONTRERAS: I was impressed by, if you listen to it sonically, if you listen to this record all the way through, there's a lot of attention to getting that guitar sound just right. And this guitar just floats through the whole record. It's just a great, great album.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "BACK TO SONORA")

MARTIN: So, it sounds like you guys had a good time at this festival.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONTRERAS: It's really a lot of fun. And most importantly, it reflects something that I've seen over the years, is that the rock is tied to identity in Latin America. Not just a youthful identity but a national identity. There were bands from Venezuela, from Mexico, Argentina. And they're sort of a pride in your own band in your own country.

GARSD: And at the same time, it's just really beautiful that no matter what band was onstage, people from every single country in Latin America were singing along. Like if it was a really iconic Argentine band, all these Mexican kids were singing the lyrics. If it was a really iconic Mexican band, like Molotov, everybody, like, tens of thousands of people in the audience knew those lyrics by heart. So, it had a really nice sense of unity.

MARTIN: Felix Contreras and Jasmine Garsd co-host NPR Music's Alt.Latino. It's a show about Latin alternative music. They stopped by to share the highlights of the Vive Latino music festival in Mexico City last week. You guys, thanks so much, as always.

CONTRERAS: Oh, thanks for having us.

GARSD: Thanks. You should come with us next year.

MARTIN: I'm on. Sign me up.

GARSD: Vamonos.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COMO TE EXTRANO, MI AMOR")

TACUBA: (Singing in Spanish)

MARTIN: Cafe Tacuba with their song "Como Te Extrano, Mi Amor," or "How I Miss You, My Love." This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Rachel Martin.

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