The day? September 11, 1971. Location? Valle de Bravo, Mexico. Event? Festival Rock y Ruedas de Avándaro.
The Avándaro Festival was the brainchild of brothers Alfonso and Eduardo Lopez – a 2-day music and arts festival held on an abandoned golf course 140 km west of Mexico City, in the rural town of Valle de Bravo. The festival was a high-water mark for the worldwide free-love movement, which Latin America came to dub, La Onda or The Wave.
La Onda defined the entire counter-culture movement: an ideological patchwork of ecological concern, altered consciousness, and visceral sexual exploration. Central and South American youth, then referred to as “jipitecas” valued peace and love akin to their “hippie” peers further north, while expanding on their own Chicano tradition. One day, in 1971, they gathered.
Calamitous masses of jiptecas, willingly offering their flesh and spirit to the high priests of Latin American Rock and Roll for a 2-day lake-side seance. A Confucius musical pilgrimage for the regional youth, attracting hundreds of thousands to the movement. Musicians from all across the continent made the bill…$240 was promised to each band, which was to include travel and fees. Reportedly, these dues were paid few and far between. Bands like Los Dug Dug, Three Souls in My Mind, Tequila and El Amor headlined the 2-day South American Woodstock.
It was more or less a disaster. Some bands did not anticipate the traffic, and failed to make their set time. Instead of 100,000 music goers, the festival drew north of 200,000, sending the promoters into a frenzied panic for more supplies to meet the unforeseen increase in demand. They fell short in many areas, and similarly to Woodstock – it didn’t seem to matter.
The show began Saturday afternoon, and went straight through early Sunday Morning – ending roughly around 9 am. A mass exodus of the grounds followed. The small town of Valle de Bravo, with only one highway in an out, was ill-equipped for the fleeing crowds. In an ironic gesture of either allegiance or concern, the Mexican Government assisted the promoters and sent 300 buses to help safely transport the dazed herds home.
The full line-up in order of appearance: Los Dug Dug’s, El Epilogo, La Division Del Norte, Tequila, Peace and Love, El Ritual, Mayita Campos & Los Yaki, Bandido, Tinta Blanca, El Amor, and Three Souls in My Mind.
The sound that came out of the speakers that day marked another momentous, albeit subtler trend: Psychedelia. The combination of classic DIY folk-rock aesthetic with modern-day technology opened up endless possibilities within the aural spectrum and beyond. Unique engineering and brave artistic vision gave way to a vibrant psychedelic underground scene. The countless rags to riches stories of the Rock n’ Roll archives arguably enforced an important notion that “anyone can do it,” when it came to making records.
Los Dug Dug’s was one to break the mold; they had the image and the attitude that paralleled the Bohemian scenes in London, Los Angeles and New York. Fuzzy and romantic melodies. Reverberated heavy atmospheres. Lingering and lucid delays, illusionary and disorienting in affect. Dug Dug’s frontman would even sing and perform their songs in English – strange, I know. The band’s founding member and guitarist, Armando Nava, spoke of the group’s decision to sing in English rather than Spanish in a 1997 interview.
“We wanted to be popular in the States, Popular in the World!”-Nava
These Latin American pioneers were not alone in the world, Psychedelic Rock n’ Roll Music was explored as far as Cambodia, Germany and Iran – to name just a few. For Latin America, this was a continuation of the success and popularity of the 1960’s Pop era – not an entire paradigm shift.
Latin artists like Carlos Santana, João Gilberto and Caetano Veloso had previously reached great heights and were widely represented as international stars. Their contribution laid the groundwork for a fervent youth scene of local bands, labels and promoters. Psychedelia had become, in the seventies, an apparent and defining mark of the days zeitgeist. Latin American musicians contributed seminal works, adding to the already iconic catalogue of politically charged and sonically astounding records being released at the time (T.Rex, Pink Floyd, The Grateful Dead etc.). They dared, like many others, to continue the apathetic view of social norms. These were divided and politically divided times. There was the Tlateloco Massacre in Mexico, a political killing during the 1968 Olympic Games, and the fall of President Allende in Chile in 1973 – political unrest had become a pandemic of its own.
The Festival Rock y Ruedas de Avándaro was a critical juncture in the history of Psychedelic Rock and the iconic vibes of the “Jipiteca” movement. Over the following years, far right politicians who opposed La Onda and the jipitecas ran a slander campaign, attempting to paint the gathering as an anarchist rally full of junkies and bums out to revolutionize the state. However, this, as history has shown, was simply not the case.
The ripple effect of happenings like Avándaro, or bands like Los Dug Dug’s cannot be measured. There is no libra scale at which we can judge any of this – we can only honor and respect their novel contributions to pop culture. True pioneers at the forefront of an artistic revolution. The quick paced narrative of mainstream rock hadn’t yet polluted this emerging sub-genre. Initially, psychedelic pop music was an esoteric inquisition into universal love and hippie sentiments – a far cry from its contrasting contemporary offspring found in today’s mainstream alt-rock market.
Who’s your favorite psychedelic rock band? Hit us up in the comments.
Los Dug Dug’s, El Loco (1975)
Photography by Pedro Meyer, 1971