Mexico City has always been a magnet. Post-Toltec Nahua tribes gravitated there to live along the shores of the now-drained Lake Texcoco. The Aztecs then claimed it as their promised land and the center of the universe when, as legend has it, an eagle landed on a cactus holding a snake in its beak, fulfilling ancient prophecy. A rogue named Hernán Cortés went on to conquer the land in the name of New Spain and, over the years, French, U.S., and Zapatista troops would briefly capture the highland capital.
These days, the sprawling metropolis of over 21 million inhabitants attracts artists and musicians from across the globe to share their wares among the Spanish façades and cosmopolitan cobblestone passageways. On a recent visit of ten days, nearly just as many borderland musicians performed in the Pan-American Mecca of Mexico City.
One afternoon, Bostich and Fussible of Tijuana’s Nortec Collective joined forces with the Philharmonic Orchestra of Mexico City for a free concert at the Zócalo plaza. Oceanside anthemic rockers the Burning of Rome played the massive Vive Latino festival, while across town at Bósforo mezcal bar, Tijuana tribal guarachero jockey Yelram Selectah gave pointy boots something to stomp about. A few days later, Warm Places — the solo electronic project of Xavi from Tijuana/San Diego outfit Sixties Guns — performed at an open-air café called Muebles Sullivan. The show was organized by Jessica Smurphy of Mexico City’s NAAFI crew, who released an EP by Mexicali doombia wunderkind Siete Catorce last July — no doubt precipitating his booking at Vive Latino the same night.
Tijuana-raised singer/songwriter Julieta Venegas performed at Vive Latino a couple days later, but I passed in favor of the more grassroots Aqui No Hubo Escena 3 festival. Their story is a familiar, yet noble one. A few friends — Yair, Chazz, Fabro, Ana, Andres, and Moy — became disenchanted with bigger festivals (Vive Latino charges $60+ a day) and decided to make a party all their own, to sing the songs that they like to sing, and to charge 25 pesos (about two dollars) at the door. Opting for venues outside the trendy Roma and Condesa neighborhoods, they called it Aqui No Hubo Escena: “There was no scene here.”
Located in Colonia Centro, Dirty Sound Bar looks like it could be a squatted punk mansion in Golden Hill. The bartender says the building is 150 years old, but the bar has only been in for a few months, and the future is uncertain. My mind and heart moistened by tequila, I immediately feel guilty that such a DIY event has just let me and several friends in for free. Is this what Cortés did? I seek comfort in knowing that we will all be buying drinks and find solace in aggressively over-tipping the bartenders and food vendors, eventually regaling the asaderos out back with multiple cold cans of beer.
“There were a fair amount of women in the bands that played, as well as a variety of subculture musical approaches, getting louder and weirder throughout the night, by design,” says guitarist Bobby Bray of San Diego space-tropicalia duo Innerds, who shared the stage with Mexico City locals such as Mongatari, Dandy Overdose, Acidandali, and about ten others.
“People have to remember, Mexico City is huge,” Bray says. “When you have a city that size, you can find subcultures for anything you can imagine, like you can on the internet. It serves as a place to move to for the freaks who can’t stand the normalcy of their limited cities. As a result, you get a city full of creative go-getters.”
Crash your party? Call 619-235-3000 x421 and leave an invitation.