Arriving on a Saturday means we’re just in time for the first night of party. It’s after dark when we wake from our respective disco naps, so we opt to take a cab – given all the warnings we’ve received getting around Mexico City.
Caption: View from the balcony at Club Atlántico.
The entrance to Club Atlántico feels like a hallway into a Mexican patio.
We climb the steps of an after-hours office building to reach what opens up into a multi-room nightclub.
The party tonight – a celebration for the second anniversary of Ciudad Radio – gives us a glimpse of the layers of sounds and genre-crossing openness that the city exemplifies. DJ Blacky of Los Magníficos Impostores opens with an Eastern European electronic and Balkan Disco set.
DJ Blacky and dancers at Club Atlántico. Recorded by Pajaritos.
La Orrorosa is on stage next, with their blend of Mexican-meets-Colombian cumbia. We buy CDs from the keyboardist, Norberto, who goes by Norbit. (From here on, almost every young person we meet has an assigned nickname.)
Caption: La Orrorosa live, uploaded by senhortrick.
The headliner tonight is Polka Madre, an energetic seven-piece band that’s a forerunner of the Balkan music scene in DF. The bassist for the band, Andrew “Güero Taquero” Cameron, was introduced to us previously by DJ and travel expert Emerson Breneman (Animal Blanco). Andrew has been the catalyst for many of our upcoming musical experiences here, including the Friday night party at Salón Bombay.
Caption: Polka Madre at Club Atlántico. Recorded by Pajaritos.
- -- -
On Monday morning, we meet up with Andrew in the distant neighborhood of Coyoacán, which was once an isolated town where Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived in the famous Casa Azul. Like many towns surrounding Mexico City, Coyoacán was inevitably consumed into the megalopolis. It now sits on a metro line, accessible after an hour’s journey from our homestead.
Caption: Andrew and Ernesto in Coyoacán.
We invest in some coffee and spend the morning listening to Andrew’s exuberant stories: about hopping trains across the northern U.S., about getting by as an expatriate musician in Mexico, about meeting his wife here and being swept up into the intoxicating city life. He grew up in Portland, Oregon, and he still escapes there for summer jobs that pay for his survival in Mexico until his funds dry up again.
It’s difficult to listen to his stories without daydream-planning our own extended musical escape to Mexico.
Caption: Pajaritos in the studio at Código DF. Unstoppably caffeinated.
Andrew has also arranged an hour-long spot on Código DF, the online radio station of the Secretary of Culture, so the three of us can talk about our projects. Nervous for our first radio appearance, we can blame our shakiness, at least in part, on the fortitud of Mexican coffee.
The show’s host, Roberto, and its producer, Juan Carlos, welcome us to the studio. Andrew plays a few recordings from Polka Madre’s live performances; their new album is set for release later this year. We record a 15-minute set and an interview with Roberto. The full radio show is archived on Código DF’s site: take a listen!
A description of the show, snipped from the Código DF homepage.
Following the taping, we travel back to the city center, where riot police are blocking every entrance to the Zócalo plaza.
Apparently we have synchronized our trip with a free performance by kindred musical spirit (ahem) Justin Bieber.
He’s drawn more than 200,000 fanáticos – some of whom have been camping out here for days. El Bieber’s show was programmed by the government, just in time for the upcoming elections. Paul McCartney played the same grand stage in May, but the “beliebers” are a larger crowd by far. Tribal huarachero group 3Ball MTY is scheduled to open tonight; their hit, “Inténtalo,” from last year brought their combination of electronic and “pre-historic” sounds to the pop music realm.
Caption: Too many beliebers.
Mexico City, you already have our hearts.
Caption: Spontaneous performance of “Bésame Mucho” by a man outside the Morales estate. Recorded by Pajaritos.