This year’s Flying Burrito Festival was off to a more auspicious start. Last year’s Flying Burrito Festival took place on a rainy day, and while this year’s fest happened under gray, cloudy skies, not a drop of rain came down and the weather was otherwise perfect. It was a pleasure to stroll down Second Avenue in the cool breeze, bouncing from one stage to another. The festival had four stages for music (three outdoors, one inside Crescent), with a lucha wrestling ring set up near the banquet-hall style rows of tables set up for folks to nosh on food truck grub between sets.
A one-day festival that manages to cram over 20 bands into just seven hours, Flying Burrito makes more “traditional” weekend-long festivals look like the overrated pain-in-the-asses that they are. No need to twiddle your thumbs between sets: There’s basically nonstop music happening. Everything is close by, so you don’t have to plan long walking treks between sets into your schedule. Tickets are relatively cheap, so you don’t have to cough up an entire paycheck to go to it. And you don’t have to commit two to four days of your life to being stuck in one place, rubbing shoulders with a drunk throng of smelly people, just to watch a handful of good music sets peppered in between a whole bunch of other shit that doesn’t move your needle in any way. One-and-done fests like Flying Burrito and Desert Trash have the right idea, distilling all the restless energy and choose-your-own adventure fun of a fest down into a bite-size format.
Tucson’s Mute Swan unleashed their wall of shoegaze sound over on the Nopales Stage, located right next to Crescent Ballroom. They were perfectly pleasant, an almost-textbook shoegaze band right down to lyrics about being “lost in a dream” (I’m pretty sure every band with a Loveless or Souvlaki fixation are required by law to use that phrase at some point). Inside Crescent hometown heroes Bogan Via were putting on a moody and compelling synth-pop set. The duo had a pair of cardboard box towers set up onstage that they were running projections on top of. Ghostly Stranger Things footage and fractal images floated across them while they laid down beautiful soundscapes.
Following Calexico on that stage was the Houston funk-soul ensemble The Suffers, who (dare I say it) suffered from some technical difficulties before their set kicked off. Scheduled to play at 7:15 p.m., The Suffers didn’t get going until 20 minutes later. But it was worth the wait. Suffers singer Kam Franklin has star power to burn: Not only does she have an astonishing voice, she had the best look of the night with her animal print dress and huge halo of bright purple hair. By the time they got around to doing a cover of Kirk Franklin’s “Melodies From Heaven,” they had the crowd in front of them swaying like the front row at a gospel concert.
The Nopales Stage outside hosted a string of post-punk and neo-New Wave groups: Soft Kill, Numb.er, and Italians Do It Better act In Mirrors, who delivered the most compelling set, a harsh, heavy industrial-tinged show that felt reminiscent of Primal Scream circa their XTRMNTR record. Locals Breakup Shoes and Nanami Ozone played solid indie rock sets over at the Asada Stage, warming folks up for Playboy Manbaby’s unhinged closing set.
This year’s Flying Burrito Festival didn’t boast the comparatively bigger names of last year’s fest (with folks like Albert Hammond Jr., No Age, and U.S. Girls topping that stacked bill), but it felt like the organizers struck a better balance between local groups and touring artists. It also felt like a great blend of diverse sounds: If you like Mariachi, shoegazi, harsh electronic, punk, indie-rock, cumbia, or country-rock, there was something for you at this year’s fest.
And best of all: We got all this music without having to deal with festival port-a-potties. Ugh.
Saturday Night: The Flying Burrito Festival at Crescent Ballroom
The Crowd: A wide-ranging crowd, reflecting the eclectic programming of the fest. Indie rock-loving teens, older couples who came down to sway to Mendoza or nod along to Calexico's Gram Parsons homage, foodies in nautical hats gorging themselves on horchata and burritos, even a human statue dressed from head to toe in a chess patterned bodysuit.
Overheard: “Only put something in your mouth that you love” — Kam Franklin, talking about how cooking (for yourself and others) can be an act of love. Thankfully Michael Scott wasn’t present to shout "That's what she said!" all over her monologue.
Random Notebook Dump: I saw at least seven different dudes over the age of 40 who were all wearing Joy Division Unknown Pleasures T-shirts. Peter Saville must be making some mad bank.