Awesome Totally Awesome - Guatemala

Radioactive Summer Part 4: Guatemala to El Salvador and Back to Guatemala

The Rays just left Mexico City and were on our way to Guatemala where we were scheduled to play two shows in three nights.

My experience arriving in Guatemala was like that of arriving in Mexico for the first time: all preconceived notions I was told about the country from people who had never been there were completely negated. The airport was clean, the people were friendly, and there was both heavy commerce and heavy industrialization.

There was a young couple, Gabriel (Gabe) and Karina, that met us at the airport where they would then drive us to where we would be staying. They also helped facilitate our bookings down there.

The five of us, along with our merchandise and some equipment, were somehow able to fit into Gabe’s car and were taken to a gated community where Karina’s mom and dad lived.

The house was huge. It was a multi-tiered house with the family room at the epicenter. The guest bedrooms were downstairs where Daniel’s massive entertainment room was.

The backyard was exquisite playing host to exotic fauna and a large patch of grass where their dog, Pussé, would run around. And the downstairs bathroom we all shared was beautifully tiled and had a functioning running toilet, something not ubiquitous to Central American homes and establishments.

In the main dining room, there were tons of pictures displayed showing Karina and her family traveling all over the world. They were an extremely articulate, confident, and affluent family.

I was introduced to Pollo Campero (restaurant chain famous for fried chicken and donuts), Guatemalan coffee, and chicken and pineapple street tacos. We went out the first night to explore the city before playing at a local bar downtown the next night. We had crepes, then burgers with fried eggs, and met with Karina’s friends from the states.

Gabe and Karina took us to Antigua, Guatemala before the show that afternoon. The area was rich with history playing host to cobblestone streets, compact living and shopping quarters, and some of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen.

“Michael Jackson is dead,” exclaimed Ultraviolet.

“Who gives a shit?” we all responded unanimously.

The show that night was incredible, to say the least. Again, the sound quality sucked, but who gives a shit? It was the first time I had ever experienced people living in another country, coming to see my band, and singing lyrics I had written. Surreal would be a more apropos word for such an occasion.

Everyone was sweaty. There was no barricade between us and the crowd and there was no stage allowing people to get close to my face, again, singing my lyrics to me as if our discography was a kissing booth.

Everyone was dancing. The lights were out of our control that night with no apparent light engineer working the board. The fluorescent glow matched the movements of flailing bodies flashing before my eyes.

Everyone was drinking. Very rarely would I like drinking anything before shows, but, my slight level of inebriation proved to be another modicum of solidarity between the crowd and me.

Everyone had their arms around each other and seemed to give no fucks of anything occurring outside of that small venue.

During our set, I saw the owner of the bar, some tall guy from the Netherlands dancing with a pitcher in his hand rocking one of our shirts.

We had met such a great network of friends during our time in Guatemala. Gabe and Karina had been so hospitable and willing to let us into their circle of friends and that they knew in the punk/hardcore scene in Central America. So much so that the trip to El Salvador the next day acted more as a convoy taking us through lush forest areas and a demilitarized border patrol station.

Our passports were stamped and I was able to take in a new country again. We were all excited about El Salvador for a couple of additional reasons: the place that we were supposed to play had a solid reputation of putting on good shows for eager crowds and secondly, the Rays would be crossing paths with our friends in the U.S. hardcore band, The Cape of Good Hope.

The Cape of Good Hope was heading up from Panama to Mexico and then tour the United States while we had broken our tour up into three different legs. They said they got hassled for only having one-way tickets and had to assure airline and immigration officials that they were not planning on staying for any extended periods of time.

When arriving at the venue, I realized that it would be another energetic show as teenagers and young adults were already lining up and waiting outside. The venue itself looked like a cafeteria of some sorts that had all the tables and chairs pushed to one side in order for people to congregate and dance.

Sometimes shows stand out for other reasons other than fans singing your songs back to you or the amount of money you make from merchandise sales. This place was dark, dank, and ominous, but in a good way like a dive bar that plays objectively good songs a little too loudly and makes stiff drinks.

The sound sucked and the bathrooms were gross as fuck with stacks-on-stacks of doodie paper, but the energy was something else.

I would usually let X speak for us in the hopes of being able to sincerely express our gratitude when playing in Central America and in areas where Español was the predominant language, but this time I couldn’t help myself and had to thank the crowd that opened their arms to some random band from Orange County, California. I felt welcomed, I felt humbled, and, yet, felt exalted all at once.

We played a cover of Minor Threat’s “Filler” to close out our set and the crowd nearly lost their shit.

After the show was the only real bummer as no one had places big enough for all of us to crash at. I remember Ultraviolet and I were dropped off at this guy’s house that had two sofas in an otherwise vacant living room. His name and where we were in San Salvador unbeknownst to me. All I knew was my body fit on neither sofa and I was somehow able to fall asleep.

The next morning we were going to head back to Guatemala City to play a free show with our friends in The Cape of Good Hope. While we were not booked initially, we were later put on as a mutual favor with no guarantee in place by the Rays nor the promotional company who attended the convoy back to Guatemala City with us, but in a different van altogether.

Gabe and Karina said we should be wary of those cats that promoted the show as they may try to fuck us over in some way. We weren’t worried because we were both excited to go back to Guatemala and play an even bigger show with another band that had a draw like we did.

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