IstmoFest – San Salvador, El Salvador

Checking the line up never made it on to my to-do list before piling myself and my backpack into the bed of a pick up truck on its way to San Salvador, El Salvador for IstmoFest. With faith in the adventure and the motley crew we had in tow, I knew the experience would be worth the trip. Lead by our captain, and driver Tom, the owner of La Tortuga Verde, voted El Salvador’s number 1 hotel by Lonely Planet, and his young El Salvadorian girlfriend who had roped us all into the event with her love for American electronic. Followed by Simon the Scottsman, always on the full power charge of 5 energy drinks and a bottle of rum, and accompanied by the three token Americans.

We set up our stuff at the hostel and preceded to drink as much coffee and rum as possible before entering the guarded festival gates. Our crew expanded with some hostel hoppers, the sheepish Swede, the three token Canadians, to match our camaraderie, and the Italian from Australia who once washed the hands of a sultan. Eventually we were wired and drunk enough to match the electricity of the Latino mob we were soon to be engulfed by.


Small droplets of rain began skimming our skin as we dashed through the city streets, littered with American chains like Wendy’s and Pizza Hut, I call San Salvador La Pequena Estados Unidos, the Little United States. By the time we made it to the outer pavilion, passed the Panasonic circus freaks and the chicas selling cervezas, the rain was going full throttle. Our swampy dancing shoes couldn’t be slowed by the inch deep, damp puddles we stood in. The music of Chilean reggae group Gondwana kept us moving beneath the cloudy sky.


Calle 13

Revolution was in the air as El Salvadorians were out to see Calle 13. From their powerful Puerto Rican roots, Calle 13 sang with vigor in their words and charge in their voices. I stood in awe and appreciation for the El Salvadorians, watching as the crowd recited lyrics against women’s violence and about passion for the spirit and freedom of the earth.

“EAT, SLEEP, RAVE REPEAT!!” The screen and speakers flashed at the stomping, techno hungry mob. This “wisdom” imparted by Fat Boy Slim has never seemed so true as we stagger through Day 2 of IstmoFest. Making a come back this year at music festivals like Ultra Winter Music Conference, Fat Boy Slim seems to have made his new weapon of choice progressive house.


Watching the crowd from 100 feet above, we spun round in the IstmoFest Ferris wheel, lifting off into the starry sky, cascading back into a worm hole of kaleidoscopic imagery on the jumbo-trons. Breezes of the El Salvadorian night tickle our bodies, drying our sweat covered skin. The hands of the crowd rocked back and forth to the music of W&W, hundreds of hands beating with every bass note the speakers kicked out.

Our night ended with a harmonica serenade, parading out of IstmoFest. Harry, one of our token Americans, played his token American folk instrument. Cheering El Salvadorians, surged with stereo wattage still rushing through their bodies, joined the obscure gringo crew, dancing out of the festival into the streets of San Salvador.

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