Two exchange students, Marione and Carlo, walk through the plaza in the town of Cosquin.
Story last updated at 1/8/2014 - 4:39 pm
The city bus is packed so tight that I have to sit on the floor, I won’t be getting off for another hour and I’m already dripping with sweat as we slowly chug through the overheated city of Córdoba. I must be the strangest looking thing on the bus, because I can feel the eyes of the other passengers on me and they’re not trying very hard to conceal their curiosity. The list of discomforts could be easy to dwell on, but my excitement overwhelms me and reveals itself in a big satisfied smile.
Everyone on the bus is going to the same place, the town of Cosquin, where the musical artist Manu Chao will be playing a live show. The bus has become a party on wheels, with cups of refreshing iced-wine being passed around and green smoke filling the cabin, pouring out the windows. The uniqueness of this Argentinean bus ride is too fun not to enjoy.
Along with the other neighboring passengers, I converse with my two friends, exchange students studying in Mendoza. Marione is from France, Manu Chao’s homeland, and Carlo is from Tijuana, where Manu lives now. They share their past experiences with the music we are about to hear and get me pumped up for what is sure to be an unforgettable show.
Finally we arrive in Cosquin and the bus rapidly empties into the streets. Carlo, Marione and I make our way to the plaza and find that the bus scene has been amplified by 100 degrees. Every public space, including the streets, is flooded with people singing, drinking, socializing and preparing for the event. Dreadlock mullets and spandex booty shorts, punk rock t-shirts of Ramones or Sex Pistols and rastafari bohemians selling baked goods or macrame are everywhere. The music of Manu Chao clearly attracts a diverse crowd, all united by one name.
My new friends and I make our way to the entrance gate to meet up with my old friends. Miles Gayton, a Juneau friend since kindergarten at Capitol School, is also studying on exchange in Mendoza. He arrives with my bicycling buddies, Andrew and Max, along with two others from Córdoba whom he met first while studying in Cuba. With an ecstatic round of hugs and high-fives, our flock flies to the venue just as the opening band finishes their set.
Carlo and Marione want proximity, so they push their way to the front and squeeze against the gate for a first-class view. The rest of us decide to hang back, posting up behind the bulk of the crowd where we’ll have plenty of room to dance. Before the music starts, a passionate announcement is made calling for the expulsion of the agricultural mega-corporation, Monsanto, from Latin America. Not just Argentina, or Mexico, but all of Latin America. Manu Chao is such a big name in this part of the world that he can take on the ambitions of entire ethnicities, promoting messages on an intercontinental level. The crowd erupts as the announcer demands that Monsanto get off of their land and I feel my skin tighten with goosebumps from the collective excitement in the amphitheater.
But that’s just the beginning of it. With the first beats of the drum my feet start hopping and they don’t stop for the next three hours. Manu Chao makes some high energy music that forces the body to move, especially at a live show. It is the perfect rhythm and tempo for the Juneau kids to do what we do best — let loose and flow with it. We pull out just about every dance move we know and invite all our unknown neighbors to shake it in our circle. Eventually everyone in our arms reach radius is letting it all out, thrashin’ with passion.
Drawn toward the source of the energy, with its bright lights and thumping beats, I make a solo mission toward the front of the crowd. About 20 meters back from the front fence where Carlo and Marione stand, I find myself in the middle of the mosh pit. I don’t know if there is anywhere in the world more energized than this pit. It becomes impossible to control my position as I bump, spin, bash, and shove in order to keep my feet below my hips. The world of vision is a blur but my ears keep me oriented. All that I hear makes perfect sense and guides the other sensations of feeling and movement in the body. There is a harmony in the chaos that seems like random bouncing and crashing but is actually a fluid response to the music filling the airwaves. I feed off of the excitement and feel more and more awake with each song.
Yet the draw to dance with friends soon overpowers me. When I return to the group the best way I can think to describe where I just was is “a sauna on Boggle.” As much as I loved being deep in that intense scene I am relieved to be back where I belong, getting groovy with good buddies. All-out celebrations are amazing, but nothing beats all-out celebrations shared with close friends. Caught in the moment of music and movement, I appreciate my awareness that I am living with a unique level of satisfaction, and that this impermanent feeling may rarely be felt again.
As the final pluck of the guitar string resonates through the amphitheater, the crowd releases a final unified roar of gratitude for the incredible sounds of the past hours. I look up and see a pigeon streak across the open sky, riding the wave of thousands of happy people. I imagine the view from the pigeon’s perspective and wonder how long she sat, waiting to make her move. Maybe she watched the whole concert from her perch. If so then we both just saw the best show of our lives.
• Kanaan Bausler is a member of A Trip South. Follow their progress online at Atripsouth.com.