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Music, the Red Button and a virtual Day of the Dead

Governor Alfaro of the Mexican State of Jalisco pushed the “Red Button” Wednesday and there will be less music.

The Red Button, or botón rojo, actually has nothing to do with music and the governor did  not intend to impact music.  He likes music.  Afterall, he is located in Guadalajara, the home of the world’s largest mariachi festival, and he makes many appearances at the festival.

The Red Button is a Mexican phrase for an order from the Governor of a state to close down activities that can contribute to the spread of Covid when cases are rising.  Cases have been rising in the state of Jalisco, hence the button got pushed.

So now what?  The Red Button actually initiates a long list of do’s and don’t throughout the state, but for the music community the most consequential restrictions were the orders that venues and restaurants must close on weekends, all venues have to close and get everyone out by 7 pm on weekdays, no public gatherings are allowed, public spaces must close including those used for outdoor concerts, and even private parties of more than 10 people are banned.

Since the Red Button was pushed at the start of one of the most celebrated holidays in Mexico, Dia de Los Muertos (see the Disney movie Coco for a full explanation) all of that is very problematic.  Mexican families use the weekend of November 2 to gather in cemeteries, repair and decorate the graves of loved ones, hold picnics, play music, and in general do everything the Red Button  forbids.

Outdoor concerts, like this one by Leta Gibney, will be banned on weekends.

The restrictions will last for 14 days but may be extended if Covid cases don’t level off.  Practically this means that Red Button restrictions will take effect throughout the state of Jalisco as of today, Friday, October 30, and last until Friday, November 13. During the two included weekends there will be a stoppage of activities from 6:00 in the morning on Saturday until 5:59 in the morning the following Monday. Stopped activities include live music.

So, what now for live music in my area, or in the state for that matter?

This will be a blow to the restaurant and entertainment sector here in Lakeside.  I conducted a nonscientific telephone survey of music venues to get an idea of how they plan to respond to the two week-long – and possibly longer – Red Button restrictions. In general, most venue owners looked for ways to continue providing live music.  These efforts ranged from concerts at the area’s jazz hub, Casa Domenech , from 5 -7 pm  4 nights a week; to the  rock/dinner/dance venue Adelita’s cutting its music to  only one night a week,and no dancing.

Venues that only had music on weekends are out of luck during the Red Button period and I found some weekend venues scrambling to set up a weeknight of music . Venues with mid-week and weekend music are continuing weeknight music, but starting early in the afternoon (rock out at 4 pm!) .  Major venues that often featured large bands are saving the band costs and running a night of open mic.

The general consensus of the venue operators Italked with is that they hope it is only two weeks; they will lose business without the music and weekend business, and will try to make it up with take-out and deliveries, but for two weeks it won’t be fatal.  Musicians mostly agreed – two weeks of partial income loss won’t kill them, and they applauded venue owners like Ray Domenech of Casa Domenech who keep their music going to support local artists.

So, where will I be during the Red Button period? Mostly catching the early gigs at the venues that are starting at 4 pm, and then coming back home after 7 to finish my writing.   And on the Day of the Dead, Nov. 2, I will be livestreaming the Dia de Los Muertos celebration from the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in LA, watching my friends Buyepongo join David Hildalgo and Louie Perez of Los Lobos, and Tropa Magica.  If you want to see come great Latino music and celebrate the Day of the Dead, it starts at 12 noon PT at  Not quite the same as the event’s usual  40,000 people and 100 bands, but I can kick back with some tequila and enjoy the show even with the Red Button.

Patrick O’Heffernan. .



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About Patrick O'Heffernan, Music Sin Fronteras (364 Articles)
Patrick O’Heffernan, PhD., is a music journalist based in Mexico, with a global following. He focuses on music in English and Spanish that combines rock and rap, blues and jazz and pop with music from Latin America, especially Mexico like cumbia, banda, son jarocho, and mariachi. He is also edits a local news website and is a subeditor of a local Spanish language newspaper. Check out his weekly column Music Sin Frontera on Sunday nights.

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