A talk with Jane Penny, TOPS’s vocalist, at her home back in Montreal
Always been curious about the music scene in other cities outside your own little cocoon? We assumed you were! So we feed your hunger for insights and secrets in the Scene Report. Party-girl Anna, and historically Subbacultcha’s best intern, hit the streets of dense Mexico City to prove to us that this hive of activity is lot more than just the home of tacos and Frida.
Words & Photos by Anna Baqués
It isn’t easy to define the scene of a metropolitan area with a population of nearly 23 million, especially at a time where things seem to be happening and changing faster every day. I had only heard from NAAFI’s parties, the Guadalajara all-girl collective Cyber Witches and had a vague idea of a reggeaton scene. So I got together with them to get a bit more knowledge on what was going on in the city. NAAFI has been organising parties since 2010, a year where the financial support for cultural events and productions wasn’t exactly free-flowing because of the huge amount of violence the drug cartel was provoking. Most of the clubs where they used to hang – like Pasaje América or El Patio De Mi Casa – disappeared after the government charged and jailed the owners, so gradually NAAFI began organising their own stuff. Since then, NAAFI has become a music promoter and a record label, as well as a cultural producer. At their first parties people weren’t allowed to to take pictures and there were no bouncers or stupid, sexist rules (like not charging entrance to girls). Among their artists you’ll find Lao, ZUTZUT and Paul Marmota, who gravitate from club to regggeaton, cumbia and tribal music.
More great electronic labels would be Maligna, Gold Frame and Lao’s internet-based label Extasis. On a similar vibe there are the wild DIY techno parties called Raymondstock, which are organised by Ramon Jaramillo; and those organised by Cyber Witches, an all-girl collective of creatives from Guadalajara and Mexico City who use new media and entertainment to engage their local scenes. Most of these events take place in the neighbourhoods of La Roma, Juárez and La Condesa, which are near the city centre (if there even is one); however you’ll also find wild reggeaton or whatever else parties at further, more random and unknown locations. The same is true of art galleries and editorials; a few worth mentioning inslude ¡Ediciones Joc Doc!, Museo Experimental El Eco, Yautepec Gallery and Casa Maauad. If fashion is your thing you won’t get bored either: beautiful and transgressive labels like M A T E R I A, FLMNGO and RABIA are proliferating in the country, and stores that only sell Mexican labels – like RIP Rosa Pistola – host most of them. Another great scene would be the post-punk and garage one, with bands like Nelson y Los Filisteos, Los Blenders and O Tortuga; and record labels like Cintas Pepe. Some of the venues where they hang or play are Under, Patrick Miller, El Imperial and U.T.A. Fun fact: Mexico prohibited rock’n’roll in the Seventies after a massive unexpected attendance at the first rock music festival ever organised called Ruedas de Avándaro.
Actually, in this city you can probably find almost anything: electronic music festivals like MUTEK and experimental music festivals like Aural; rad gay clubs like Marrakech; top secret bars like M.N.Roy; street food literally everywhere; Vogue Ballroom and wrestling parties with the friendliest people on earth and more. Lately in the media there have been comparisons between Mexico City and Berlin, but most Mexicans wouldn’t take it that far. It’s just a highly populated city with a crazy amount of resources to take advantage of and not so many restrictive laws and/or easily corrupted police. Inspiration comes from witchcraft, drug barons, political criticism, death, internet subcultures, hentai anime, street life and religion, to mention but a few.
Essential music: Lao, Nelson y Los Filisteos, Wasted Fates, Los Blenders, ZUTZUT, Paul Marmota, Mexican Jihad Essential venues: El Imperial, Under, Patrick Miller, U.T.A, Salon Calavera, Pepsi Center WTC