Jocotepec is the next county over from Chapala, where I live in Mexico. Both are on the shores of Lake Chapala, Mexico’s largest lake – a little larger than Lake Tahoe in California. It is also the home of the Joco Loco Mayo, a two- day festival of music and art and poetry held on the grounds of a min-estate in Jocotepec, about 30 min from my house.
The estate – known as Casa Joco, features a huge house, a swimming pool, huge grounds, and big patio . It is owned by Rebecca (Becky)Nelson Loveland and Kenji Matsui. Rebecca is a former Oakland, California-based art and music teacher, and Kenji Matsui is a world class rock and jazz guitarist, also from Oakland , California. They bought the place two years ago as their home to use to stage music and art events , and hold large community gatherings with poets, artists, writers and residents. This year was the second annual Joco Loco , (the “Mayo” being for May as last year it was in November).
It is a very big house concert at a very big house – 17 bands over two days in Kenji’s and Becky’s back yard.
The layout for Joco Loco Mayo was a tented stage and sound system on the expansive veranda of the main house, chairs and tables spread around the stage on the lawn under large tents to shelter the audience from the hot Mexican sun, and bars at each end of the half a football field-sized lawn. The low-key, relaxed audience was older Expats, young Mexicans, a few dogs, and a smattering of children. No food, but the fish taco place two blocks away took care of that and threw in Mexican empanadas ( tortillas filled with shrimp and cheese, folded over, deep friend and served with salsa, molé, pickled onions and coleslaw).
The music lineup ranged from top notch jazz by local groups and artists from Guadalajara, rock bands performing both original songs and covers, indigenous music, and some great Mexican talent like Lola Lopez La Tequilera mariachi. Plus poets and an art show and auction.
We were not able to go Saturday but Kenji and Rebecca caught me up: things got going at noon with Trejo Manus Duo, Los Groobeaners, Paul Lopez and his seeing Eye Dog and the Black Sapphire Jazz group. Dancing was powered by 15 Expectancy, followed by Lola La Tequila and mariachi, and wrapped up with 2Meskins, Sen Z.O. and the Vandals.
Well, actually it wrapped up a little sooner when a huge, sudden storm rolled in off the Lake, with winds that toppled the tents, followed by a drenching downpour and lightening. Everyone scrambled to hold down the tents and protect the equipment. After the storm passed through, the remaining audience and musicians retreated to the large closed patio and the party continued to midnight.
I went Sunday with my wife and a friend visiting from Holland. I knew about half the bands and artists so it was a very friendly gathering with lots of high fives and abrazos (hugs). There is no Covid mask mandate in the state of Jalisco, so we could see everyone’s face and people could ( and did) swim.
The day opened with the Blue Velvet Trio – Juan Castañón Acasia, Miguel Soto, and Gilberto Rios – three outstanding jazz musicians who cruised and picked and swung like a smoky night club in New Orleans. They were followed by the Gypsy Jazz Trio which became a quartet when master drummer Tigrita, who happened to be in the audience with her indigenous drum, joined them onstage, much to everyone’s delight. After a margarita break, they were followed by the Black Dogs, a Guadalajara-based hard rock cover band that was very good and got us all dancing. Mary Island and her band came on next, with Mary’s flowing ballad-like rock. Becken, a Guadalajara-based band new to me, played next with youthful rock sound.
Kenji himself got into the act with his La Sensación band , flinging out precise guitar riffs that soared all the way to the lake, followed by the incomparable Veyer, playing songs from their new album “Time” (Tiempo) recently released on Spotify.
This weekend was only the second time Kenji and Rebecca have produced the Joco Loco, but they are queuing up a list of house concerts, jam sessions, music and poetry gatherings by the pool. I can hardly wait for the next very big house concert.
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