In Hindsight: An Honest Review of Festival Cordillera (Part 1)

By 17 November, 2022

24th and 25th of September this year marked the first version of Bogotá’s Festival Cordillera. Back at the start of that month, we had reviewed our top picks to watch at the festival, and were patiently awaiting the highly anticipated event. After solving the usual logistical issues that naturally arise from this sort of gathering, we delved into the first day of this equally stacked and diverse line-up.

First and foremost, it’s worth noting that the festival’s organization stayed true to the usual, somewhat rigid scheduling system, where up and coming local artists get a shot at the big stage, yet end up falling short in terms of attendance. In our particular case, we arrived at around 3pm, and unfortunately missed Briela Ojeda’s show, which we were looking forward to.

Though slightly annoyed by long lines, as well as the novelty of the cashless system implemented by the sponsors and organizers, we were able to watch Totó La Momposina, playing what was allegedly her final live performance. Toto looked in poor health [she has since announced her retirement], yet the lively spirit of her band, as well as stellar guests like Adriana Lucia and Nidia Góngora, made up for a memorable farewell show. The set was of course packed with classics of Colombia’s Caribbean folk, including “La Piragua” and “El Pescador”.

As the afternoon progressed, a somewhat unexpected blast captured all ears simultaneously. It was the sound of Molotov’s “Amateur”, the band’s iconic rendition of Falco’s 80s hit “Rock Me Amadeus”.

Molotov’s set was programmed for later that evening. However, the band made a last moment switch with Babasónicos, turning the end of the afternoon into the rock n’ roll frenzy that everyone was waiting for.

Without a doubt, Cordillera’s most exciting sets were at the smaller stages. First off it was Rosa Pistola at Bosque Electrónico. The empress of reggaeton’s more underground and subversive side lit up a chilly Saturday afternoon in the spirit of Bogotá’s grey skies, and the latent threat of a storm that fortunately never came.

Meanwhile the Cocuy tent was hosting a feast of global sounds. After the performance from Serbian gypsy punk juggernaut Emir Kusturica and his No Smoking Orchestra, it was the turn for Soja. The American reggae band captured the attention and the hearts of many with their soulful tunes.

We drank a couple of beers after this. Unfortunately by this moment we hadn’t found out about the local brewery spot yet, and had to pay five times the cost of regular supermarket beers. Besides that, a small hot dog and soda combo from the in-house carts oscillated between 20k and 25k peso, a price that was clearly inflated.

The start of the evening starred Mon Laferte at the Aconcagua stage. We met up with Llorona Records mastermind Diego Gomez (a.k.a. Cerrero), and enjoyed Mon’s solid performance.

The big artist for this day was Caifanes. The legendary Mexican rock band played staples from their discography, such as “Afuera” and “No Dejes Que”, as well as a new wave rendition of El Nervio del Volcan’s iconic ballad “Ayer Me Dijo un Ave”. The originally mellow and subtle track, was turned into a distinct rock anthem, with an epic duelling guitar outro.

A show we didn’t expect to include as a highlight, was the one from LosPetitFellas. The commercial hip hop-jazz band has cultivated a massive fanbase both locally and abroad, and it most definitely showed on their rendition of “Antes de Morir”, which was originally sung by Denisse Gutierrez from Hello! Seahorse.

As the night progressed, we watched Babasonicos at the Cotopaxi stage. Catching them mid-show meant we would most likely not be able to watch any of the hits, but we also had an interview booked with Briela Ojeda, and considering that The Wailers were about to begin, we were only able to watch a couple of songs from them, including 2018’s “La Pregunta”.

The tent and the electronic forest became our go-to spot for the rest of the evening. First off, the heartfelt reggae classics of The Wailers made for a prolonged state of collective bliss that was felt all across the park. Legendary classics from the band’s catalogue including “I Shot the Sheriff”, “Could You Be Loved”, and a “Three Little Birds”/”One Love” mashup, were the perfect fit for their highly anticipated performance.

To close off the night in the best possible party vibe, Mad Professor was teaching a deep dub class at the Bosque Electrónico. The colossal machinery of the legendary dub maestro, turned the space into a colourful feast of sound that included calypso, cumbia, dub, reggae, and other rhythms from the vast Caribbean sonic palette.

Simultaneously, the Cocuy tent (only a few meters away from the Mad Professor set) was getting ready for the appearance of self-proclaimed kings of Venezuelan Gozadera, Los Amigos Invisibles. The band never miss a chance to make an appearance in Colombia, given the enormous fanbase that they’ve amassed over the last couple of decades.

The show was performed in Los Amigos’ habitual synth-funk band format, and it included classics “La Vecina”, “Mentiras”, “La Que Me Gusta”, as well as a couple of covers, and the recent “Váyanse Todos a Mamá”, which the band released as a single with Rawayana.

The awaited headliner of the night was legendary Argentine ska-rock band Los Fabulosos Cadillacs. Though tired from the extensive journey of that day, we were still able to catch the iconic “Manuel Santillan, el León” opener, and minor classics from the band’s catalogue, such as “Padre Nuestro” and “Calaveras y Diablitos”.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this recap, where will be reviewing shows by Mana, La Etnnia, Chancha Vía Circuito, and more.

Festival Cordillera took place at Bogotá’s Parque Simon Bolivar in September. You can check out their official photo and video gallery here.

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