LIVE: Wahaca’s Day Of The Dead Festival – London, 07.11.15

Celebrating death on a rainy Saturday afternoon doesn’t usually feature on people’s weekend to-do-lists… But when that includes, tacos, churros, tequila and The Horrors I’m pretty sure most would come around… Did I mention churros? Wahaca brought the vibrancy of Mexico with their Day Of The Dead Festival to honour and remember those who have passed with some of the most exciting emerging talent Mexico has to offer. The event was held inside the Tobacco Dock venue where flower crowned, sugar skull faces welcomed festivalgoers into a beautifully decorated and colourful wonderland. The 12-hour party showcased some of the best of Mexico’s musical talent with the likes of Zoé (arguably Mexico’s biggest band), alongside talks by Mexican journalists and writers… And of course, Savages and The Horrors.

The festival was divided into two floors; upstairs was the Floor Of The Living where art exhibitions, food stalls, music and talks inspired bustling crowds. Downstairs on the other hand was the Floor Of The Remembered; crypts and caves showed how Mexico remembers its dead with brightly coloured alters adorned with the favourite foods and drink of loved ones, a marketplace lined the lower level too, offering brilliant Mexican produce. The twists and turns of the venue really suited the event, the dark hidden areas looked magically alive with the bright lanterns and lights and each corner held something a little different to the last.

From the surreal and bizarre Lucha Libre wrestling to tattoo parlours, the life and thrill of the Dia de los Muertos really challenged the British way of remembering the dead. It’s pretty tricky to review and look back over this festival without reeling off an abundance of adjectives purely because it was such a visual experience and a real over-load for the senses. From the smells of Mexican cuisine to the free-flowing tequila, the excess created a really unforgettable fiesta.

Back to the music though, Severed Limb and Beach Bikini Band kicked off the day, the former blasting their skiffle-punk and fast-paced energy to an eager, tequila-fuelled crowd. Beach Bikini Band have been named “London’s Kings Of Surf Noir’ and it’s easy to see why they’ve received such an accolade; both bands perfectly matched the tone of the festival, they were fun and spirited and definitely made me glad I’d arrived early to catch them. However, the party really got going when the light faded outside and the night began; the colours and lights flooded the venue in vivid pinks and oranges… And by no coincidence it was also around the time that Savages took to the stage. Their mono-chrome and slick look jarred with the colours of the festival allowing their intensity to stand out, and having recently released new single ‘The Answer’, they were met with a crowd eager to here more snippets from upcoming album Adore Life, due out next January.

Savages’ set was incredible, their musical skill is matched only by the energy that they throw into their post-punk sound. As a frontwoman Jehnny Beth has totally mastered how to captivate a crowd. The whole experience that Savages create is unapologetically affecting and intense, it’s also kind of hypnotic. For something a little more light-hearted, one of the most fun acts of the day came in the form of Mexican-Morrissey tribute act, Mexrrissey. The Mexican supergroup performed many well-loved Morrissey and The Smiths songs with a Latino twist. Picture group dance circles and the crowd trying (and hilariously failing) to sing along to the Mexican re-interpretation of ‘Girlfriend in a Coma.’

Grammy-winning Mexican band Zoé were up next, bringing their stadium-filling rock to the festival. With elements of grunge, Britpop, psych and rock it’s not difficult to see why Zoé are a huge deal in Latin America (like 3.68 million Twitter followers huge). It was a great chance to see such a big band in such an intimate setting and definitely a highlight of the day. The small break after Zoé allowed time to grab an (amazing) quesadilla and then head back to the Wahaca stage in good time to get a spot near the front for headline act The Horrors. The band took to the stage in sugar skull makeup and a slightly erratic Faris Badwan almost flew into the spotlight in a pretty amazing sequined top.

The Horrors are one of a few British guitar bands that have actually lasted the test of time; their psychedelic gothic grunge is as exciting now as it was almost 10 years ago. It’s moody and dark and synthy with sinister undertones that make their sound almost as mysterious as their force-defying hairstyles. From the numerous Horrors tour t-shirts scattered amongst the crowd to the sheer size of the audience itself, it’s clear that for many festivalgoers they were the main event, and lo and behold they did not disappoint.

The queues, although at times a little annoying, showed just how much the festivalgoers really wanted to take part in all that the day had to offer. From Lucha Libre wrestling workshops to eating flavoured bugs in the Grub café, the Day Of The Dead festival was a fiesta for the senses. The music gave a platform to many new and exciting Mexican bands, whilst also allowing acts like Savages and The Horrors to treat the crowds with their intense and unstoppable force. The event gave a real insight into Mexico’s Dia de los Muertos and the country’s vividly vibrant culture and by the end of the night I was pretty much ready to book a one-way ticket to Mexico City.

Ash Grady