I have always been interested in learning about and knowing what’s going on in cultural scenes within cities that I live. But with the emergence of the internet, I later became interested in scenes outside of my city. To have the ability to search for what’s happening in far away places, learn about artists I wouldn’t have known of previously, and see the types of creativity happening in different cities helped make the world smaller. It challenged and rounded out my tastes. People everywhere are creating culture. I have friends in many places and I love to ask them what’s happening culturally in those cities so I can know what’s going on, too.
With that I wanted to share a correspondence from Amanda Contrada — an expat from NYC (by way of Massachusetts) — who’s currently based in Mexico City. I met Amanda back in 2014 through friends in the music/media business. We’ve stayed in touch and even worked together for a while. Amanda has always been a passionate DIY participant, truly living the lifestyle as part of a generation of Brooklyn culture kids who produced and booked their own shows in the early part of this decade. She’s walks it like she talks it. I asked Amanda to tell me what it’s like in Mexico city and here’s what she wrote below.
My decision to move to Mexico City was one of the most spontaneous, random, unplanned things I’ve ever done. So far, no regrets. I had visited Mexico City a couple years ago and had the sensation as I left of heart strings being pulled as a part of me wanted to stay, so when I was looking for a new way to push myself and, corny as it sounds, grow as a person, I took a quick trip back down to reconfirm that yes, I like DF and yes, I have enough friends, leads, etc to make it work, and then packed up my life.
One of the reasons I was drawn to Mexico City was the music scene that I knew honestly very little about before moving down. My main insight into the scene here was based around Naafi, a crew of producers and DJs who have become one of Mexico’s most well-known exports, at least with music-blog-reading nightlife addicts (guilty). What I hadn’t realized is how much the scene here is based around parties vs live performances, electronic or otherwise. To be honest, I have mixed feelings about this, but there are some amazing parties, many in the queer scene, ranging from the Naafi ones to Traicion (both of which have Mexican Jihad in common as a driving force) to Por Detroit to Pervert.
In a lot of ways the parties in CDMX remind me of some of the NY parties like Bunker or Papi Juice or Unter, but the onda of the parties here has much to do with the spirit of DIY as the music, repurposing unused and industrial spaces in a way that rarely happens in the post-Ghostship US. One party I recently went to was held in an abandoned hotel, with people crowding the landings on 3 floors to listen to the DJ play in the stairwell, dipping in and out of smaller rooms that held performance installations, art, and bars. At some point plaster from the ceiling rained down on my friend and me and I danced with grit and dust in my hair for the rest of the night. I grew up as a DIY kid and watched venue after venue close in NY – venues that my friends ran, that I booked at, that I occasionally slept at after particularly long nights – and to me, these parties where the environments are created by the organizers are complete in ways that they can never be when they’re in spaces run by traditional venue owners or created by brands.
I dated a Mexican guy for a minute who was a self-proclaimed hippy. Everything with him was ondas, vibras, y siendo fluido. Personally, I think he was full of shit, but the importance of onda is a value that feels very representative of Mexican culture to me. Buenas ondas, or good vibes, seem like an obvious thing to focus on in nightlife, but their weight in CDMX feels far greater than in other nightlife scenes I’ve explored. A party is good or bad here based on the vibe, not based on how easy or hard it is to get in, the name recognition of an artist playing, if you can see and be seen, or how hedonistic it gets. It’s the communities, the spaces, the sense of freedom vs hedonism. It’s about getting caught up enough to not check your watch and clock out at 2 or 3am, and to keep dancing with plaster in your hair.