Scorching Mexico 2011

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Scorched-Earth completed a brief string of shows in Mexico back in May, centered around an appearance at the Metal in the Forest festival. I was enthralled at the prospect of touring south of the border. This would be my first time playing outside of the USA, which made me all the more excited and anxious. A few days before flying out I decided to check the US travel site, only to find that Mexico next to Libya and Somalia on a list of nations with travel warnings. I wasn’t afraid; all three of our shows were based around the Mexico City area, which I had read was one of the safest parts of the country. Nonetheless, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. What I encountered was unrivaled hospitality and absolute dedication to the metal craft.

Flying to Mexico could not have gone more smoothly. Even with a layover in Arizona, traveling from Seattle to Mexico City only took a few hours. After getting through customs, we immediately encountered a swarm of teenagers decked out in brightly colored jeans and shutter shades. We had arrived at the exact same as Puerto-Rican pop sensation Farruko. Seeing our instruments, a few of his fans assumed we were his backing band and asked us for autographs. Members of Light of Dark, a death metal band from the area, picked us up from the airport and we began our journey into Mexico City.

I was in awe; the sights and smells were radically different than anything I had ever encountered before. We spent the rest of the day drinking 40s and befriending Light of Dark, who couldn’t have been more down to earth. They treated us like we had been friends for years. That night we hit up a public square to watch mariachi bands and, well, drink more 40s. On our way back to the vehicle, a white van pulled up next to us, and out stepped a pack of men clad in facemasks and body armor, carrying large assault rifles. Eddie and Minos from Light of Dark quickly led us away from the men, and explained that they were most likely conducting an anti-narco operation. I’ve read a great deal about the Mexican drug war, but I never thought I’d witness any of it firsthand.

We woke up bright and early the next morning to visit the Temple of Quetzalcoatl and climb the Pyramid of the Sun, which is easily one of the most breathtaking places I’ve ever visited. We spent the rest of the day before the show meeting people, eating, drinking the occasional beer, and exploring Mexico City.

The first date of our mini-tour was at a bar called The Blue Factor, and it was the only show that we headlined. I was really impressed at how musically proficient and intense the opening groups were. The only downside was the crowd remained firmly planted around tables while the openers played. Seven bands were on the bill that night, and, since there was an early cut-off time, Light of Dark elected not to play so we could have a longer set. Once again I was taken aback by just how intensely hospitable they were. Attempting to get things up and running with a sound guy who spoke a different language was not easy, but we definitely made it work. The change in climate was causing my guitar to go out of tune frequently (remember to take off your locking nut and loosen your strings when flying with a guitar, kids!), so this wasn’t the tightest show I had ever played, but it was easily one of the most chaotic. The moment we started our first song, chairs and tables were thrown aside and people began destroying each other. Beer was flying everywhere, and the pit frequently expanded onto the short stage. I’m pretty sure we all walked away from this one with a few cuts and bruises, but it couldn’t have felt more satisfying. After, I stayed up until the wee hours drinking with many a new friend.

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We were up bright and early the next day to play at El Chopo, a massive heavy music street fair. Anyone interested in collecting shirts, patches and records should definitely check it out if the opportunity arises. I spent a lot of time before our set browsing the fair and spending far too many pesos. I left all my devices with time telling capabilities back in Seattle, but I assume we must have played shortly after noon, the earliest I’ve ever played. The crowd was absolutely massive and remarkably diverse. There wasn’t much moshing or headbanging, but people really seemed to enjoy our sound. After our set we were presented with a certificate from the cultural bureau of the Mexico City government. Unfortunately, they printed our named as Scorched Head on it. We were then supposed to take off immediately to Metal in the Forest, but signing autographs and posing for pictures got in the way of that. There was, of course, time to grab some tacos before departing.

After a lengthy car ride, we arrived at Metal in the Forest. The name couldn’t have been more accurate; it was literally a metal fest deep in the woods. I was blown away at how much it reminded me of the forests back home – even the climate was similar. We arrived an hour late, but it took them an additional two hours to finish constructing the stage. I passed the time by purchasing even more merch, and having the quintessential heavy metal parking lot experience. I met some dudes in a really awesome black metal band called Suicidal Inc., who made sure I constantly had a Modelo in one hand, and their albums in the other. One of the fest’s organizers requested that Scorched-Earth complete a sound check. The moment we stepped on stage rain began to pour (ironic for a Seattle band), and since things were running three hours late people were seriously anxious for music. We sound checked with a couple of Sodom and Blasphemy covers, which the crowd went nuts for. Scorched-Earth was supposed to play after five or six local bands, but the energy felt right and we elected to play on the spot. This was arguably the best show I’ve ever played – the sound was perfect and the crowd was insane.

The rest of the night was just a blast. Unfortunately, Sinister and Marduk hadn’t made it into the country, but the organizers were able to get Hirax down in a hurry. Watching Watain (with Set Teitan on guitar) play out in the middle of the woods on the day of rapture definitely brought out my inner kvlt-kiddie. This was the least gory Watain show I’d ever seen, but at one point Erik chucked a large cup of some sort of blood out into the crowd. The vast majority of it landed on a woman who appeared to be at the fest only because of her boyfriend – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a human look so horrified. After Watain, I relocated out to the campground with the guys from Light of Dark. We spent the rest of the night drinking tequila, telling ghost stories, and vocalizing Slayer riffs. Heavy metal is truly a universal language.

With no more shows left to play, we spent the second day of the fest meeting people and rocking out. I finally got to hear Light of Dark play, and they definitely brought it. Later that day I had my first exposure to Violator and Gama Bomb, who are now two of my favorite newer thrash bands. Exhumed were the final band to play Metal in the Forest, and they ended things on an absolutely devastating note.

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We spent one final day in Mexico City exploring; Eddie’s family was kind enough to take time off from their jobs to show us around. Our final hours in the country were spent chilling out with Light of Dark. After only a few short days I felt like we had all known each other for ages.

Our time in Mexico was both profound and enthralling. Through the internet I’ve stayed in contact with many of the people I met over our few days there. Plans are currently being made for Scorched-Earth and Light of Dark to do an expansive tour of Mexico and Central America in late 2012. I can’t fucking wait.

— Matt Fields

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Matt Fields plays guitar for Scorched-Earth.

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