From the opening of the mythical En Bruto hall in Zaragoza to the second edition of Vive Latino in the city there is a stretch that is now approaching four decades. That is the trajectory of the festival’s director in Spain, Nacho Royo.
In an interview with Go Aragón, this music promoter who has brought to the Aragonese capital names like Rolling Stones or Metallica takes stock of how it was, in September last year, the first installment in the country of this festival born in Mexico and that, from 2022, also has stop in the Aragonese capital.
“We want to make Zaragoza, culturally, the Ibero-American capital of musical culture in Europe,” he says about the goal they are pursuing with the Vive Latino in his city, whose city council named last year as Favorite Son.
Is Vive Latino in Zaragoza here to stay?
Yes, in fact there is already a second edition, we have started much stronger than the previous one. We also have to take into account that the first edition had to be postponed due to the pandemic, then cancelled, then started again and, just when we went on sale, four or five days later the omicron fell, which also hit a major setback. Let’s say that the festival was not established in the first edition until almost three years after it started but, fortunately, it was a spectacular success, there had never been anything like that in the city. And we, from the very first moment, came with the conviction that the site was ideal and that we wanted to stay in Zaragoza. Fortunately, it went very well, everything went well again for this second edition and we are working there, with enthusiasm. We also see that from the public’s point of view it will be a similar success, if not better than last year.
The idea is to stay and leave it established in the city for many, many years. We are not renewing the license annually, but the license remains established, unless we reject or there is some issue that escapes us, that for whatever reason cannot be done. But, on the part of the organization, we are convinced that we are going to be here for a long time.
And does the festival have any surprises in store for this year?
If I told you, it wouldn’t be a surprise. But, as far as new artists are concerned, I can tell you no. The line-up is closed, what can happen? Maybe there will be some collaboration… and there is still a lot of time left. For example, last year, due to circumstances that we all know, Bunbury could not be there; we quickly looked for something and ten days later we had Amaral. That’s the only thing that can happen to change the line-up; let’s cross our fingers that we don’t have to look for someone else, because that would mean that something has happened to someone else. As for surprises, there will be activities, as last year there was the Mexican wrestling, the Mexicráneos… a series of artistic interventions, all of that will have a place. There are eight months to go and we are in the phase of defining the implementations, but of course there will be more than just music.
How did the organization feel about this first edition?
Well, to repeat, just imagine. If the first edition had not turned out the way it did and after all the problems we had, we probably would have put the hand brake on and that’s it. But it turned out even better than we thought and the public, the institutions, sponsors and artists have all pushed us to continue with the project. Besides, as it is a question of synergies with the Latin American one, Spanish artists also go to Mexico, to do the Vive Latino. Of those who have been at the festival in Spain, in Mexico there will be Kase.O, Leiva, Sidonie, Miss Cafeína… there are about half a dozen bands from Spain alone who will play at Vive Latino because they have played here. These synergies of bands and cultural exchange between Latin America and Spain is key for us. In one year, there will be around 80 bands. In two years you will get close to 40 bands, because that is the idea, to grow by a couple of bands every year. You’re going to get into a hundred bands that have played in two years in Zaragoza, bands from all over Latin America and all over Spain because, in addition, the festival does not repeat. In this line-up there is not a single artist that was there last year, it has this policy that ‘if you have played this year, you will not play again at Vive Latino for another three years’. We think this is very important because it gives a lot of showcase to many bands.
Last year, for example, focusing on Aragón, the big ones were there; Enrique -Bunbury- missed out, but Amaral was there, Kase.O was there, R de Rumba was there… this year, of course, the big ones can’t repeat, but Los Bengala, Calavera, Tachenko, Gran Bob, Los Santos Inocentes… there are already five bands. And they will not play again next year, there will be another five different ones. Our idea is to give space to absolutely all the bands and to make it a sample of the Ibero-American musical culture that is happening now and has been happening for many, many years. Absurdly, we have lived in Spain, I think, culturally with our backs to Latin America, when we should be totally facing it.
Is that link with Latin America the bet that differentiates Vive Latino in the whole offer of festivals in Spain?
We are looking for something different. First, we are looking for the comfort of the public; of course, that of the artists, but it is also very important that of the public. And that goes through a series of issues that you have to take care of a lot, from the toilets to the food, to having free water in the fountains… there are a thousand details that go unnoticed that make you feel comfortable inside a festival. We must not forget that you spend 24 hours, 12 and 12, and you have to have areas of shade, areas of climatic relief, you have to be able to eat well, go to the bathroom well… there are a series of conditions that are very important.
We focus a lot on that issue, in the same way that we focus on the fact that Vive Latino has a spirit of not repeating bands until after three or four years, and to create those synergies with Latin America and, above all, one main one, which is music in Spanish. That I think differentiates us and having the synergies with Mexico, that ‘you come and I go’. And, of course, the space is unbeatable.
It is true that in a festival you can, if you focus only on the economic, instead of putting a vacuum toilet and that every time someone comes out of one, a person goes and cleans it, put four chemical toilets and the problem is over. The water, you cut it up and sell it and, if you want, it goes through the cashier. Like that, there are many things that, if you take care of them, make the public happy, repeat and the festival is consolidated. We are not here for one day. That’s the difference that I think there is with other festivals that are born and disappear. There are others that are overcrowded and we are not looking for that either. We are going to stay at 22,000 people per day and that’s it, although we have a capacity given by Civil Protection of more than 45,000 per day. But we would be shoulder to shoulder the whole festival and that is unbearable. We do not want that. We want to make Zaragoza, culturally, the Ibero-American capital of musical culture in Europe, just as Mexico City is with the Vive Latino in Mexico, and that cannot be done in one year, nor in two, nor in three. It must have a route that, in addition, during the trip you enjoy it. We will see how far we get.
You mentioned the exclusivity of Spanish-language music. Is it not envisaged that in future editions, as in the case of the Mexico festival, bands from English-speaking countries or other places will perform?
It is possible yes, for a very simple reason. Mexico’s Vive Latino is going to celebrate its 25th edition next year. They started to introduce Anglo-Saxon groups I think in the sixth or seventh edition. But because if they can’t repeat, as is the philosophy of the festival and that’s where we don’t want to get off, and every year you do 40 different bands, there comes a time when you run out. Eventually, I guess so, but we are talking about a long time. The idea is, for the time being and for a long time to come, to have only Ibero-American artists.
How does a Vive Latino materialize in Zaragoza?
The director and founder of Vive Latino Mexico, Jordi Puig, has been my partner in America, mainly through Enrique (Bunbury), for 24 years. And, for years, seeing the Vive Latino there, where Bunbury has been three or four times headliner and one of the artists that has had more pull in the festival, I fell in love because it has a different point to what other festivals are. And I thought, nine or ten years ago, why not in Zaragoza? During all that time, as I was working in the meantime, I was more time away than here in Spain, I was thinking about it. And every time I came here, I thought about how to put it together. Because this is an issue in which there must be many social actors integrated; otherwise, it is impossible.
I was proposing it to the institutions every new legislature. Because, of course, everyone has their own way of doing politics and all of them are respectable. There were people who told me ‘I don’t see this anywhere’ and you have to wait four years. Or others who said ‘yes, this is clear’, but as the site is half of the city council, half of the Government of Aragon… it was very difficult, but I always had it in my mind. And finally, the year before the pandemic it crystallized, the stars aligned and from there we started. And, seeing how it started, and seeing how the institutions and local sponsors understood what the philosophy of the festival was, they said ‘this can’t go away’. If now, suddenly, there is a change of cultural policy in the city, next year there will be no Vive Latino because the support of the institutions is absolutely essential.
Because of all these circumstances, we were ‘yes, no’ for nine years; in the end, when it came out, the pandemic came up with the idea of saying ‘well, not now either’. But, in the end, as good “maños”, at the end of the day we did it. It’s not that we Aragonese are stubborn, it’s that we are right (he laughs).
By the way, even though you come from Mexico, the Vive Latino has also counted on the talent from here?
Absolutely. More and more, we want to root it in Zaragoza. We showed ourselves, everybody took the baton and we are still there. The day that the social actors do not take the baton, that day, with regret, we will have to leave. But we have every intention of staying here and we know that, in order to stay here, we have to go local. And that means that the economic investments stay here, that the workers are from here, that the largest companies that can participate are from here, that the gangs, as far as possible, must be given their space. Our intention is to continue with this so that the festival stays in Zaragoza. Besides, the fight is going to be stronger and stronger for it to stay, because there are other cities that want the Vive Latino, this festival is candy. For example, in Seville, if the Colombian year arrives, what could be better than the Vive Latino. This cultural exchange, the truth is that we like it. And I also believe that the city cannot afford to lose this, I think so, sincerely. Just for the economic return it has, it would be ridiculous, since we have managed to bring it here.
Apart from the festival, last year you received the title of Favorite Son of Zaragoza, what did this recognition mean?
First of all, surprise. You never expect it. To be recognized in your city for your professional work is very nice, and to be recognized unanimously in an event like this is incredible, especially considering my professional career (laughs). It is a miracle, practically. The truth is that it was a surprise, a joy and a great pride. I started with this since I was a little boy, I was like the secluded one, the long-haired one… and to be recognized as Favorite Son by those who used to close the hall is nice.
From the En Bruto venue to the Vive Latino, it has been a long journey?
Very long because I opened En Bruto when I was 21 years old, 37 years ago. At the beginning, here it was also very difficult because the hall was absolutely advanced to the times that marked the Zaragozan society; from there came a lot of the key to success. It was a tremendous struggle, there was no way they would give you licenses, the neighbors, the people, the street, the night… and 37 years later, they make you Favorite Son, and you say, ‘at least I must have done something right’.
It must have helped to have brought names like Rolling Stones or Metallica as promoters, right?
Of course it did. In fact, the list of artists who have come is spectacular. The truth is that as a promoter I have always had Zaragoza in my mind, except for Bunbury, logically, which is something else. Why? First, because it is not an easy place and, what happens when it is not easy? There is no competition. And what happens when there is no competition is that there are many things that you cannot opt for, but when it falls, it falls big. You have to use all those energies and efforts, be very attentive to all those artists to see when they have the space and enter them, because you will never be able to compete with Madrid or Barcelona, never in life.
With the Rolling Stones it happened that they had a free date in Europe. I don’t know which city fell, I don’t remember, maybe Amsterdam, and they had a free date. With a month and a half they called me to tell me ‘we have this day free, do you want it’. I was in America with Enrique on tour. I quickly got on a plane, I came here and we set it up at the Feria de Muestras, because there was no room for it at La Romareda. And it was done in record time, in a month and a half. Because you can’t go in to fight the cities where the big artists perform.
With Metallica it was three quarters of the same thing. They went from Oporto or Lisbon to Paris and passed through here. When I found out, I made them an economic offer that was well below what they charge. And it fell through; the only concert in Spain. In three days there were 45,000 tickets sold. That’s how you get it, there’s no other way.
And what is it like to work with artists of this stature?
If you are professional, easy; if you are not professional, hell. You have to be as professional as they are, and being as professional as the Rolling Stones means being the best professional. If you’re not, you have no chance of getting in. You have to have a resume; they know perfectly well who you are, how you handle yourself, what artists you have done before, what you are going to do next, how you are connected, who you work with, how you work… and then they give you confidence. And, if you are a professional, zero problem.