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¡Viva Monterrey! Exploring Mexico's Pa'l Norte Music Fest

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The 2014 Pa'l Norte Music Festival took place in Monterrey, Nuevo Leon, Mexico over Halloween weekend, with headliners such as Los Tigres Del Norte, Snoop Dogg, Juanes, Foster the People, Molotov and more. Rocks Off's Marco Torres was on hand to capture the highlights.

One of the joys of working as a music journalist is befriending people from all over the globe while working music festivals. A few years ago, I met Omar "Mexico" Pasillas (above, center) in Austin during PachangaFest. He is the editor of Vinil Magazine and host of VinilTV, a public access television show in Monterrey.

During ACL 2014, he suggested that I visit his hometown to cover the Pa'l Norte Music Festival, which in its third year of existence is quickly becoming one of the best music festivals in Latin America. Their success can be attributed to the Apodaca Music Group, a booking and management firm whose more than 30 years of history in the Mexican and international music scene serves as a firm base for the festival.

So I packed my camera bag and traveled south for the weekend. This is what I saw:

Pa'l Norte, which translates roughly as "Let's Go North!", is held at Parque Fundidora near the center of Monterrey, which is like the city's Central Park. Day 1 landed on Halloween, so many people came to the park in costume and ready to have a good time. And drink cerveza...mucha cerveza.

The sunsets in the shadow of the surrounding mountains were spectacular, especially with the contrast of the stage lights. The production of the festival was top-notch, with dual stages running like clockwork for nonstop entertainment.

The main attractions for Day 1 were AFI (above), Kinky, and Zoé, who set the stage for Mexican Norteño powerhouse Los Tigres Del Norte, who headlined the night and played well past 3 a.m. (below). I was so honored and happy to meet Hernan and Jorge Hernandez, who shook my hand and laughed when I told him "Portense Bien," which means "be good," one of the catchphrases he says on his albums. My dad would be proud. They have a show in Houston on November 28, although I'm still trying to find out the venue.

Los Tigres hold a special place in my heart as they were one of my mom's favorite music groups, as well as one of the first major bands that I was able to photograph seven years ago in Houston. Their new single "La Bala" is currently holding the No. 1 spot on he Mexican music charts, and the new album Realidades debuted in the Top 10 of Billboard's Top Latin Albums chart.

Day 2 saw a large increase in attendance and a full day of music, beginning with the lovely Argentine songstress Daniela Spalla (below). We expect to see Daniela bring her indie-pop sound to SXSW 2015.

While venturing over to the food court, I ran into Don Federico Caballero (below), aka La Guayaba. Mr. Caballero is the author of the cumbia oldie "El Pipiripau" with his band Los Plebeyos. He runs a cabrito restaurant in the Mercado Juarez in Monterrey, and actually lived for five years in the same Northside Houston neighborhood near my house.

Great musician and businessman. He invited me for dinner the next day, then drove me back to my hotel once it got dark. Amigos for life!

Story continues on the next page.

The rest of the lineup was an all-star set of international and regional artists, with Los Amigos Invisibles and Plastilina Mosh bringing their funky dance party to the scene, rocking out with La Ley, Juanes, and Foster the People (who performed in full Dia De Los Muertos face paint), headbanging with Molotov, taking it back (back) to Cali with Snoop Dogg, and ending with a high-energy DJ set by Chromeo.

Even the surprise, random sets in between acts were a hit with the crowd. Over the course both nights, we saw the Inner Circle (The Bad Boys of Reggae), Chingy, Proyecto Uno, and Vanilla Ice. So crazy. Much weird. Very odd. Wow!

Good music and good people makes for an awesome experience, no matter what city you are in or what language is spoken. ¡Musica es vida! ¡Vamos pa'l Norte!

When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Marco points his camera lens towards the vibrant Houston music scene (and beyond). Follow his adventures on Instagram at @MarcoFromHouston.

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