The rain was invited to Caracas. Not enough to shower the protest mood of the reggae group Novanout who sings in front of the audience of one of the last scenes dedicated to the Venezuelan alternative music which, besides the economic crisis, must face censorship.
"Nothing stops us!", Says proudly to AFP Julio Zamora, after descending from the scene of the "Festival of the new groups", a national competition which, in its final phase, scrolls twelve formations of rock, punk and reggae in front of the demanding public of Caracas.
In the 1980s and 1990s, the Venezuelan capital was one of the strongholds of the bubbling rock galaxy "en español" where groups such as Caramelos de cianuro (Cyanide candy) or Sentimiento muerto (Feeling dead) did not hesitate to make the nick to their elders - and to the political class - on the stage of the club Mata de Coco, now closed.
"Politicos paraliticos" (Paralytic Politicians) sang in 1988 Desorden publico (Public Disorder), Venezuela's best-known ska-rock group, denouncing corruption on the radio.
But today, whether wisely stirring or frankly protesting, Venezuelan rock is only a shadow of itself.
Julio, the singer of Novanut, would almost have fun. "Thanks, Poliedro!", He shouts in the microphone of his rehearsal room, as if he were facing the 20,000 spectators that the Poliedro can hold.
This huge room in the suburbs of Caracas has long vibrated to the sound of famous bands like Queen or Metallica. Distant memories: it now hosts political meetings more often.
More generally, rare are the renowned foreign groups and their promoters to dare to invest in a concert in Venezuela, whose economy is hit hard by a terrible economic crisis.
And even Venezuelan groups are struggling. "I would not say that the (musical) scene has disappeared, but it is probably less active than a few years ago," says Julio Zamora.
The taste of the public has also changed in Venezuela, where salsa and reggaeton are ubiquitous.
The musicians of Agente Extraño (Foreign Agent) have nothing to do with it. They look like veterans with their old school punk, all guitars ahead.
- Censorship -
This year, they have just picked up "Miraflores", a piece of Sentimiento muerto from the mid-1990s that begins with these words: "I want to work for the government / To have a huge barracks".
Words that are not trivial 25 years later, in a Venezuela that is going through a serious political crisis where opponent Juan Guaido is trying to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
But if Agente extraño strives to pogot Caracas, "it's for the sake of art," says Rafael Pire, 44, the guitarist. Because he and the other members of the group could never live on their art.
They are electrician, accountant or administrative secretary and sometimes have to go out of their own pocket to pay the $ 20 per month cost of rehearsals - in a country where the minimum monthly wage is about $ 12.
A concert of about forty minutes in a bar brings them 30 to 40 dollars. In these conditions, difficult to buy a new set of strings for guitar (8 dollars).
And if it's complicated to give concerts, it's even more difficult to get on the radio or television. The National Telecommunication Commission (Conatel), created in 2000 under the late President Hugo Chavez (1999-2013), is keeping watch. One of its tasks is to censor all content broadcast on Venezuelan channels.
Only "compliant emissions, those tolerated by the government," laments Marco Santos, presenter of the radio program "Rock en Ñ". It is not "under any pretext" a critical song of the government. "Many people would find themselves without work," he says.
The NGO Espacio publico calculated that between 2004 and 2018, 138 radio stations were closed, including 92.9 FM, the bastion of rock fans.
But Max Manzano, the director of the "Festival des nouveaux groupes", is consoling himself. "As long as there is internet, you can communicate without censorship," he says.
© 2019 AFP