For all their charms – gorgeous beaches, pampering luxury resorts, world-class water sports – cape cities Cabo San Lucas and San José del Cabo have never been known for attracting top tier musical talent. Nearby Todos Santos, however, has been doing so annually since 2012, the year former R.E.M. lead guitarist Peter Buck established the Todos Santos Music Festival.
The now highly anticipated event takes place over two weekends in January, with big name bands appearing at the historic Hotel California and plaza principal to help raise money for local charities.
The 2016 edition takes place January 14 – 16, and 20 – 23, and will include performances from alternative country rockers like Drive-By Truckers, Old 97’s and The Jayhawks, as well as alt rock standouts The Autumn Defense (featuring Wilco members Pat Sansone and John Stirratt), Death Cab for Cutie and Filthy Friends (a collaboration between Buck and Corin Tucker of Sleater-Kinney).
Former R.E.M. lead guitarist Peter Buck (right, with Steve Wynn) founded the Todos Santos Music Festival in 2012 — Photo courtesy of Todos Santos Music Festival
Set on the Pacific Coast of Baja California Sur, approximately 45 miles north of Cabo San Lucas, Todos Santos was the first of three towns on the Baja California peninsula to be named a Pueblo Mágico (Loreto and Tecate are the others), a Mexican government designation given to places of particular cultural or historical importance.
The town was a sugar capital during the 19th century, and although it still retains many lovely brick buildings from this period, it’s now best known for its superb surfing, thriving artists’ colony and many notable cultural festivals.
The town’s most iconic lodging, Hotel California, is the primary venue for the music festival. Although the hotel was not, as is commonly rumored, the inspiration for the famous Eagles song, it does have some interesting history.
Originally founded in 1947 by a Chinese immigrant named Mr. Wong – whose attempts to acclimate to Mexican culture included changing his name to Don Antonio Tabasco – Hotel California is fondly remembered by locals as the first place in town to serve cold beer, and the site of its first gas station.
Nowadays, the boutique property boasts 11 chic suites, each individually decorated with local art work and furnishings from around the world, as well as a cool curio shop (Emporio), and one of the area’s best restaurants (La Coronela).
Hotel California is the primary performance venue for the Todos Santos Music Festival — Photo courtesy of Hotel California
In addition to its music festival, Todos Santos also hosts notable art, film, writing, and food and wine events. The Writers Workshop and Artists Open Studios tour usually follow hard on the heels of the Todos Santos Music Festival, in late January and early February, respectively.
The film festival typically takes place in March, with the bulk of screenings held at Teatro-Cine General Manuel Márquez de León, an historic and beautifully restored theater that dates to 1943. Foodies, meanwhile, flock to the coastal Pueblo Mágico in April or May for GastroVino, and during the summer for the town’s annual Mango Festival.
Proceeds from the Todos Santos Music Festival benefit The Palapa Society of Todos Santos, which supports children’s charities in the area. A local musical showcase will be featured on January 20th.