One of my earliest and haziest memories of night life hedonism in Mexico City is of an esoteric inspired cumbia and copal smoke infused dance floor of Multiforo Alicia, a cultural and artistic space in Colonia Roma. That night of ritual literally drenched me in the sweat of a venue filled with the spirits of cumbia psicodélica of the past and the sensual and licentious energies emanating from bodies persuaded by the timbales, congas, güiro and electric convocation of Sonido Gallo Negro, a 9-piece, instrumental band from east Mexico City.
That early experience served to inspire my already burgeoning hunger for live music and bands thriving off the energy of Mexico City’s daily existence. I’ve been able to decipher a vast amount of urban space and venue gig line-ups in order to find good music, buena onda. Lucky for me, Mexico City is overflowing with incredible bands, en los unders, con los chavos banda, punks, goths y fresas (because of their shared affinity for electronica, you can find these last two in bars all around El Centro – a trip, lo sé).
Alongside fellow chilangx denizens, I’ve danced to the music of La Santa Cecilia in Querétaro 246. I’ve caught the last midnight metro from estación Miguel Angel de Quevedo to catch the last and best bands play at gigs in el Alicia a dozen times over. And I’ve trekked through dozens of metro routes and dished out pesos for the peseros to take me to the chavos banda ska shows down in Iztapalapa and to back patio tocadas up by Metro Refineria. It has become a quest of sorts, an attempt to witness not only the diverse interpretations and tributes of bands born out of Mexico City, inspired by the creative intensity of the city streets they’ve known indelibly, but also the national and international bands that have been summoned by the great city.
With time and a good number of garage punk shows, I grew to love a particular music venue that wasn’t solely a music venue but also an autonomous space for political organizing and a cultural incubator for youth resistance. Multiforo Alicia has seen the likes of Manu Chao and Los Auténticos Decadentes, among other Latin American greats, and regularly hosts the best garage punk, surf, and local bands, that are among my personal favorites.
In Mexico City, we are unfortunately continually reminded of the purpose of bridging culture and politics within an autonomous space dedicated to the coexistence of independent bands and urban youth. Since the inauguration of both Enrique Peña Nieto as president of Mexico and Miguel Angel Mancera as mayor of Mexico City in December 2012, social protest has been responded with aggressive police confrontation, unseen in years in the capital. Under new federal and district leadership there have been a high number of arbitrary arrests of youth protesters that have resulted in outrageous and unfounded charges.
On October 2, 2013, during the most recent commemoration protest of the Tlatelolco student massacre ordered by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional of 1968, 19 protestors were detained, among them the guitarist and vocalist of Telekrimen and The Cavernarios , two resident bands of el Alicia. For the last six months Danny Lobo has been detained at the Reclusorio Norte prison, under the bogus charges of offenses against public peace en masse and property damage, when in reality he was passing out flyers for what would have been an upcoming show. After months of organizing, the artistic and political community of the city has yet to secure his release.
In many ways, el Alicia is an epitome of the power of resistance through music in Mexico City. Because while we all search for beats and rhythms that inspire the organic creation of mosh pits and elaborate cumbia footwork, we also require music that inspires us to transcend time and space, to literally move us to other times, countries, dance floors long gone, and to help root us in all too real political, cultural and social realities.
Music in Mexico City represents and means many things to me but these all come in melodious lessons on life and resistance.