Outernational is on a mission. They just ended the first chapter of their Todos Somos Ilegales (We Are All Illegals) tour, which kicked off at the Texas/Mexico border and weaved through Laredo, San Antonio and El Paso, ending in New York May 24. The tour takes the NY-based band through indigenous territories, showing solidarity with the native people of this country, and to Austin where they'll play Pachanga Fest with Calle 13. Today, the band performs at Arizona State University's Border Justice Conference and will lead a discussion on music's impact on social justice. Below is a dairy Outernational guitarist, Leo Mintek, kept which documents week one of the tour.
April 3, 2012, Texas Border: Tour began as Miles and I drove the Outernational van down from Austin, TX and headed for the Southernmost point in Texas, called Brownsville. The rest of the band was on a plane from NYC. Tornados in north Texas diverted their flight to Tulsa Oklahoma, and after hours of confusion they finally got a flight into Austin, where they had no choice but to rent a car and make the 6 hour midnight drive to Brownsville. Meanwhile, Miles and I were standing dismayed on the Texas roadside south of Corpus Christi. Our trailer wheel snapped off the axle. I thought we had hit a group of deer and one was hopping away in fear, but it was our wheel bouncing away into the bush. Tough decisions had to be made. This was no simple flat to fix. We decided our 11am tour press conference kickoff in McAllen TX could not be missed. We caught a tow and followed our trailer 3 hours into the night to a shop in McAllen. The next morning with very little sleep Outernatonal was reunited in south Texas and headed to Hermes Music.
April 4, 11am: We kicked off the Todos Somos Ilegales / We Are All Illegals Tour with a press conference at the Texas/Mexico music store chain Hermes Music. We interviewed with Univision and local NBC and ABC affiliates and then played a short unplugged set – "Deportees," "Ladies of the Night," "Que Queremos," and "Fighting Song." Somos Tejanos livestreamed the whole event. We got a deep response from everyone there – all asking: "Why did you make this album? Why are you here? What motivates your art and your tour?"
That night, we headed into Brownsville TX for our kickoff concert at Galeria 409, a badass art gallery 100 ft from the border: the beautiful Rio Grande river. Thru the ugle border wall we could see the lights of Mexico across the river. Downtown Brownsville is all little shoe stores and clothing stores; it reminds me of somewhere between Sunset Park, Brooklyn and the old west 100 years ago; except with armed border patrol. The show was tremendous – local bands Cutters, Farmertron and Son De Valle opened up, local Brownsville/Tamaulipas stencil artist Rene Garza spray painted 'Todos Somos Ilegales' stencils on anything people handed him and the crowd was LIVE! Hi energy, passionate and deeply understanding of the message; it was an inspiring kickoff to the tour. We met university archaeologists of indigenous art and heard about all the tension near the border: the drug wars, the people crossing to work, the heavy police presence everywhere and the dark family histories of murder and harrassment. Afterwards, I interviewed with Somos Tejanos – one of the best interviews yet – she cut right to the chase, "So what can we do?"
April 5, 2012: We traveled to South Padre Island, the tourist spring break strip on the gulf coast. We opened up for Los Amigos Invisibles and Nortec Collective. Nortec played a giant robot laptop along with accordion and tuba. Los Amigos are like the Venezuelan Jamiroquai with some Tropicalia mixed in. The crowd was half locals from the 'Valley' (Mcallen, Brownsville, etc) and half people from Mexico coming up for the show. The cops were all over the place and during our set, a pig went up to the sound board and pulled all the faders down, cutting our sound. We grabbed the acoustic guitars and accordion, went out onto the balcony, and serenaded the crowd with "Ladies of the Night" and "Deportees" until the cops got paid off and we could return to the stage.
April 6, 2012: We said goodbye to the Valley and drove to Laredo, TX, only to be shut down by another shredded tire. We hitched a ride into Raymondville TX and got repaired all while listening to local radio Q94.5, who in addition to Queens of The Stone Age and System Of A Down, will now be spinning Outernational in rotation! We hit the road again and made it just in time to Laredo after passing a few border patrol checkpoints aka toll booths with German Shepherds. We hit the stage and I think people had no idea what was happening. As the show went on, people got closer and closer and by the end were singing along and jumping up and down to "Fighting Song" and "Outernational." People thanked us for coming to Laredo, saying no one knows about them or comes to them, let alone make songs about what they deal with on the border. I argued with the owner about the role of the border patrol (apparently they frequent the bar and were in the crowd) and hung out with members of the local Laredo gay community. Very cool scene, very contradictory... we will be back....
April 7, 2012: We headed to San Antonio and passed thru Natalia, TX – beautiful purple and yellow flowers everywhere, oil fields and horse ranches, the air was amazing. We pulled into San Antonio, literally down the block from the White Rabbit where we played with GBH back in 2010. There was an all ages punk/screamo matinee going on– so many kids, hundreds of them all dressed in colorful styles. I wish we could play for them. We set up the stage at Hi-Tones and watched a crew of artists paint canvases in the courtyard along with a fire-spinning dancer and a DJ spinning Hendrix, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs and The Clash all night. The show was wild—moshing, dancing, jumping, singing, old and new fans—and once again a deep connecting response from people asking, 'Where are you from?' "What are you guys?' 'What's the album?' 'Thank you for coming here.' The homies Piñata Protest closed the show with their accordion punk rock. Watch out for them. They're doing a national tour with Girl in a Coma at the end of April. Great band and their singer Alvaro is the only person, other than Dr. Blum, that I've ever seen play accordion and trumpet at the same time.
April 8, 2012: We drive west across the Texas plains and enter what looks more like desert. Another border patrol checkpoint – the agent walks right up and says, "Outernational? What do you think of the border patrol?" We tell him we are going all the way to San Diego and get out of there quickly. We cross the Pecos River and head into what they call The Big Bend.
April 9, 2012: We enter Marfa, TX (population 2000) known for the mysterious atmospheric night lights and their growing art gallery scene. Spend the day meeting people and hearing the Sex Pistols blasting from art studios. We head to the famous venue Padre's and rocked through a mixed electric/acoustic set. Once again, deep responses: 'Thank you for singing about these issues.' Train tracks roar out in front of the venue and we pile into the van to hit the road once again. Tomorrow we will visit El Paso, the other side of Juarez, Mexico which is one of the most violent cities in the hemisphere. Everyone watch the film Backyard to learn more. It's sampled on our album – track 11 - "The Theme From Todos Somos Ilegales V: Señor Juarez."
April 10, 2012: We leave Marfa at 2am through an incredible lightning storm over the desert and drive through small flash floods to Terlingua, TX. Terlingua is a tourist section of the border, a national park. The landscape is incredible: mountains, hills and the river itself. We enter Presidio TX, formerly Texas' largest cocaine smuggling point. It's a tiny town of 4,000 with a huge militarized border entry. From Presidio, we drive a long barren stretch of land to El Paso. Lightning storms flash over Ciudad Juarez across the river. Juarez is 3 times larger than El Paso, one of the fastest growing metropolises in the world. The history of these sister cities is a story of migrations, from the time of Pancho Villa through NAFTA, up until this moment where everyday commerce and drugs move across the border along with new waves of desperate labor from all over Mexico and Central America.
I can see from the hilltop in the historic Sunset Heights neighborhood the panorama of Juarez: the Backyard, the mega-city where the Sierra Madres meet the Colorado Rockies and the United States meets Mexico. One week ago we traveled from the Rio Grande Valley at the gulf coast. Tomorrow, we enter Arizona and the O'odham nation. Soon, we'll be all the way to where the border meets the Pacific in San Diego and Tijuana. Until then...
—Leo Mintek, Sunset Heights, El Paso, TX (El Chuco), sunrise 4.11.12
Upcoming Tour Dates:
4/11 - Tohono O'odham
Follow Voto Latino on Twitter: www.twitter.com/votolatino