Lainey’s Latest: GCAC Visits Tijuana!

Mexican Flag along the border and the view of a hillside in Tijuana

Well not quite the whole crew, but our former preparator, Christopher Wormald, performed at Moustache Bar while I traveled through for the Tijuana Zine Fest where we ran into some familiar faces. Here is a detailed report of what happened and why Tijuana should be your next stop for local art.

First off, may I add that my first visit across our southern border into Mexico could not have been any better.  Every person I formally encountered accepted me graciously and Tijuana felt like home, but in another country. So you should definitely throw away any antiquated preconceptions you have of Tijuana and visit, even if it’s just for 24 hours like my little romp.

My first day there I completed the tourist Tijuana to-do list and walked up and down Avenida Revolucion.  I could not help but think I was thrown back on Fourth Street here in Santa Ana.  With family businesses, an upscale food court, murals scattered on storefronts, and street side vendors.  There was even an art house movie theater with a rooftop restaurant and bar, of which I indulged in.  It seemed most American’s flocked to this trendy spot as I was seated across from a sunburnt, cigar smoking bachelor party.  The views from this point give you an ample sense of downtown with mismatched buildings, some recovering from fire or other trauma, all providing to the melting pot aesthetic of Tijuana.  From here I decided to try the nightlife.

My first night’s festivities featured a Los Angles based psych showcase with an opener from Ecatepec, Mexico.  Young God started the night with his experimental noise set using only percussive elements and manipulated keyboard tones.  The grinds of the keyboard and crashes from his symbols transported me to a musical slaughterhouse with the occasional screech and halt.  Holy Cuts followed with a sound that changed based on the singer.  When female vocalist and guitarist, Leila Perry, took the lead, Holy Cuts had a Jefferson Starship meets contemporary Feeding People sound. But when led by Will Bire, guitarist and vocalist, the band’s sound took a bluesier edge with his raw and occasionally raspy vocals.  Their constant change of sound refreshed the crowd and kept them engaged until the bitter end of their set with calls for encores.  Moon Grass Mountain took the stage next with their shoegaze psychedelic cross over.  I had a chance to talk with front man Matt before their set and he informed me that they often have a new line up every show that creates an improvisation with their sets.  They took the stage and enlisted the help of the first performer as percussion.  This created an uncanny flow as if the drummer had always been playing with them.  Their set was familiar and gave a sense of ease to the show.  They even ended their set with a cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My,” that included a mind blowing guitar solo that left the crowd speechless.  Then it was time for Intimatchine, a dark and dreamy electronic duo consisting of none other than Christopher Wormald and his partner Chelsey Holland.  Chelsey opened the set antagonizing the crowd asking “Do you wanna, Tijuana? Then get up here!”  After drawing the crowd in, she enchanted them with her vocals, and some community rosé, while Chris got everyone moving with trance-like beats and guitar overlays.  HOTT MT ended the night and began with transforming the patio into another universe with a screen of smoke and minimal lighting.  The singer’s voice had a sense of childlike wonder that made the set feel so exploratory and new to the viewer as if discovering a different land with them.

The following day I trekked to Pasaje Rodriguez and Pasaje Gomez for the 2017 Tijuana Zine Fest.  These literal passageways house small boutiques, cafes, and art galleries.  For this day, they were transformed into an outdoor market for independent artists and zine makers.  I started at Pasaje Rodriguez, and the first booth I ran into was Elizabeth Hega’s zine booth whose mission appropriately matched my “Girl Power” tattoo.  Hega offered zines, buttons, and stickers that promote self-love and female empowerment.  In the spirit of zine fest, I purchased Hega’s “GRL PWR V.2” with illustrations of women of all shapes and sizes and a cat.  Next stop was Los Angeles based publisher Tiny Splendor with a myriad of zines from various LA and Berkeley artists.  Still feeling the aura of girl power, I purchased Tuesday Bassen’s third volume of “Ugly Girl Gang” with yet even more illustrations of women of all different shapes, styles, and temperaments making you want to become one of these “boss ladies”, as seen on the jacket of the first illustration.  Still on cloud nine and feeling like a strong powerful woman supporting artists I stopped at the punk rock older sister of the zine fest, Razorcake.  Razorcake writes their mission as promoting “positive, progressive, community-friendly DIY punk”.  Razorcake offered their most current issue for free as well as different versions of “One Punk’s Guide to”.  As a child of southern rock loving parents I absolutely had to purchase their “One Punks Guide to Outlaw Country” by MP Johnson with illustrations by Art Fuentes and layout by Madeline Bridenbaugh where they give the history of Outlaw Country and even state how similar Outlaw Country is to the roots of Punk.  They also vehemently dispute that Johnny Cash cannot, and should not, be included in anyone’s history of Outlaw Country.  Then it was time to cross over to Pasaje Gomez, but not before the representative for Madwoman offered me a chance to hang out at her booth and converse because I fit their ideals of existing without permission and outside of “whack archetypes” and stereotypes.  So obviously, by the time I reached the second half of the fest, my feminist ego was through the roof.  Though that’s a bit of an oxymoron.  In Pasaje Gomez I was greeted by sounds from the night before.  Young God had been invited to play the zine fest and his beats from the night before set a nice pace for exploring this next half.  Protein Press first caught my attention with their graphic novel “Shitty Watchmen”.  The graphic novel follows the exact format of “Watchmen” but with “super shitty drawings”.  They also offered Mallory Ballard and Dakotah Wens’ zine “Free Period, Go With the Flow” which removes the stigma behind the natural monthly visitor with information, humor, and proceeds from the zine sales go towards benefiting the hygiene of homeless women in Houston, TX.  They also asked me to pose for a picture and, still beaming from my previous encounters on Pasaje Rodriguez, I gave them the most radiant, goofy smile possible.  As I turned the corner I ran into the both of no other than Teresita de la Torre, a former resident while completing her MFA at Cal State Fullerton and current collaborator with Grand Central Art Center.  Teresita offered her zine “365 Days In An Immigrant’s Shirt”, which can also be bought in our Gallery Store, about a flannel she found along a border and wore for a whole year while contemplating her upbringing along the border and the life and journey of the person who wore it before her, while her partner B sold handmade necklaces.  Their items drew quite a crowd by connecting to the diversity within the border town.  Before leaving the fest and heading back over the border home, I stopped by Xicx Zine’s booth with a mission of creating an intersectional and inclusive community with no limits and no borders.  The members of this collective were very accepting and generous to all who visited and I bought their “Self Care, Self Love” zine full of affirmations and recommendations for daily self care.

Zine show and tell

As I headed back across the border, in the 3 hours long “general public” line, I contemplated on my 24 hour, first, visit across the border.  Though Tijuana is so close to the border and very similar to Southern California, I was a great destination to see the art and lives of those “on the other side”.  I came back with amazing connections and even galleries and museums to visit on the next trip I take down.  As an added bonus, I had a show and tell of the zines I purchased with the Border Patrol Customs Agent and got him excited for the art scene in Tijuana!