Mexican summer

Exploring the Mexico City punk scene through house shows and tumultuous SF pit stops


MUSIC There was no reason for me to be awake at 7:31am, since I'd flown into Mexico City the day before. Losing two hours of sleep from the time change left me dazed. Exactly 10 minutes later my hotel room started to shake. I sat up, alarmed, and assessed the commotion I heard in the hallway before I realized I was experiencing a 6.2 earthquake from the fifth floor. I clicked on the TV and saw structured evacuations of buildings that could have easily been near me. I wondered if I should be doing the same, but the shaking stopped. It was like my welcoming jolt — "Get ready, you're with us now. You do what we do."

I'd trekked to this monster of a city before, but only spent three days last time. I loved it on a touristy level and knew I wanted more, so I planned a return this summer. Coincidentally, SF's Alcoholocaust Presents (which books punk shows) had Los Headaches and Los Vincent Black Shadows slated for some Bay Area appearances shortly before my trip, as part of both Mexico City bands' West Coast summer tour. Intrigued, I spent two consecutive nights at the Hemlock Tavern checking out the bands, which were bouncing off the walls with energy (even when the musicians weren't playing). Bob Log III and the Okmoniks headlined to a hot and crowded club the second night.

I bought Los Headaches' CD, Never Ending Hunger, the night before from Twist!, the bassist [Ed. note: All last names are omitted to protect the band members from immigration]. At the time I didn't realize he's really not a member of the band (I figured they had interchangeable members since he is in Los Vincent Black Shadows) and that US Immigration, some weed in a guitar case, and those pesky work visas had marred the tour plans of two Headaches; granting them deportations and a five-year ban on US entry. Alcoholocaust would put me in touch with Twist! He'd be my point of contact for a week of strangers showing me kindness, sharing music, and letting me in on parts of the city I may have not otherwise seen.



"Ever had Mezcal?" Twist! asked. I'd been off the sauce for nine months, but before I arrived an itinerary email suggested plans to infiltrate an invite-only VICE party (where the Growlers played), record shopping (my request), seeing some venues where local bands play or a house show (ultimately my goal), and the problematic hint of grabbing some beers.

We ate a salmon and caper pizza and I was introduced to chimichurri at a restaurant in the trendy Condesa neighborhood. His wife and 5-month-old joined, along with Carlos (one of the deported Headaches). Everyone but me had a beer. "Yes," I answered. "What about pulque?" he retorted. The concoction of fermented agave sap evaded me on my previous trip. In the spirit of trying new things and rather than be a slave to any rules about substance (yet cautious not to be enslaved by the bottle), I decided the next day to alleviate my anxiety and imbibed.

"It's like Jeeez" Fosi said, joking about the drink's suspect consistency in a thick accent. (They told me they don't normally speak English, but since my Spanish is limited they made an exception). He's the other deported Headache, a guitarist who faced tough questioning and an invasive search from immigration officers who threatened him with up to 20 years in jail if he didn't adequately cooperate. One mango, one pistachio: down the hatch. Both were delicious and I had no regrets, body buzz and all.

Hell bent on finding an in to the VICE party, a barrage of texts and phone calls flew across the table. Pepe (Twist!'s brother and Los Headaches' drummer) met us at the bar. I envisioned the lost home video mentioned of the two brothers taking turns throwing themselves into a drum set, honing their Nirvana impersonations as kids.


A story on DF punk that does not mention tianguis El Chopo, interesting.

In 1994 we were in DF headed to Oaxaca by rail, so we went to Buena Vista station to buy some tickets. Streaming through the station was a never ending line of punk kids. We scored the tix and followed the line of punks to the street next to the hulking station which was Tianguis el Chopo, an open air DIY punk mercado that happens every Saturday.

We were told that we HAD to go to this show the next day, which was at the southern end of the #7 orange Metro line, then required two combis out to a community center over the border in the Estado de Mexico.

The streetscape was littered with kids in near coma states from huffing all sorts of nasty organic solvents, many of whom could not afford the gate. I almost headed back to the hotel to get a C note and spring for the lot of them but the trek would have taken hours more and I'd miss the show along with them.

Serving up liters of corona in plastic bags, the crowd was getting pretty ripped, which was helped by the razor blades attached to their leather jackets as they thrashed in the pit. There were multiple bands, as much speed metal as punk, but the culture was puro punk.

At one point, a drunken guy, not very punk, pulled a knife on a friend of ours in the bathroom. Most folks there were so interested in seeing punk gringos afoot that they all swarmed on the perp and kept things safe.

During my first trip to the interior of Mexico in 1986, to Zihuatenejo via rail and bus with a gang of housing co-op mates from Austin, I took a solo side bus day trip to Playa Azul in Michoacan. While swimming in the crashing waves in the pristine waters, in addition to seeing a 4' tiger shark thwapping around me, I struck up a conversation with a teenage kid. I was wearing a Sid Vicious t-shirt, and the kid asked for it. I decided to give it to him, hopefully introducing the magic of punk rock to a generation of Michoacanians...

It was so awesome to see anglo-american punk culture transplanted to Mexico and thriving in ways unimaginable to us decades after it petered out here.

Posted by marcos on Sep. 21, 2013 @ 7:00 am

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