Mexico City is the new Ibiza.
Berlin, NYC, Detroit, and Chicago are all commonly referred to as the epicenters of the electronic music scene. Highly respected and world-renowned DJs such as Marcel Dettman, Jeff Mills, Carl Craig, Ben Klock, and Chris Liebing paved the way for newer techno/house DJs by making their music the soundtrack of these cities. Often overlooked, however, is the new wave of burgeoning global destinations that have been making a dent in techno culture. Mexico City is one of them. We at The Knockturnal decided to scope out three of the city’s top electronic music venues – Foro Normandie, MONO, and Club Rhodesia Social – and admittedly, we more than pleasantly surprised by what they had to offer.
The history of the rising underground electronic music scene in Mexico’s capital is a unique one. For decades, Mexican club culture was reserved for those who could afford to drop a pretty penny during one night of debauchery. The most illustrious clubs invested in preserving a prestigious image, as opposed to in the quality of the talent they booked. They tried to attract a crowd that was indifferent to the music that was playing as long as it had a danceable beat and they could get off-the-walls intoxicated. This created a significant discrepancy between those who wanted a place where they could listen, enjoy, and dance to to quality electronic music and those who simply didn’t care. As a result, a community of young, creative producers decided to join forces and create an underground scene for artists to showcase their music and for dance music aficionados to get together and celebrate the culture. DIY ethic grew and a result gave aspiring local DJs a platform to grow their local fan-base. In addition, the normalization of techno and house incentivized promoters to book popular, out of town DJs in some of Mexico City’s most popular nightlife destinations.
Normandie is located in the very center of Mexico City just a couple of minutes away from a tourist must-see, the palace of Bellas Artes. It is hidden from plain sight and can only be detected from the clear, pounding bass produced by its state of the art Funktion-One system. You can access the venue by going down a set of stairs and entering what best be described as an industrial cave that lends itself to pristine acoustics. The size – albeit certainly not massive – comfortably fits around 150. In fact, if every night is a testament to the “Normandie Experience”, I can safely say that it is one of the best electronic music clubs that I have attended. There were no issues in regards to overcrowding, everyone – even at the peak of the night – had space to move and groove. Because of the mystical architectural layout of the venue the light display seamlessly complements the mood set by the music and adds to the ambiance.
Normandie booked Tel Aviv’s Chaim and deep house veteran Yokoo to provide the musical stylings for the evening. Both of their styles helped highlight the appeal of Normandie and the reasons as to why so many international DJs are eager to play there. Chaim played an organic live set that brought forth his eccentric tech-house style. His set was comprised of a combination of minimal classics with bass-heavy tracks that brought the funk. He mixed in a couple of his go-tos including ‘The Poem’, and unreleased gem by Osadon and Stephen Bazbaz, ‘No Distance’ by Guy Gerber and Dixon, and his very own original masterpiece ‘Blue Shadow’.
The main attraction of the evening, Yokoo, once again proved why he’s Lee Burridge’s, the mastermind behind All Day I Dream, right-hand man. He brought a piece of his Burning Man residency by invoking a sense of emotional teleportation through his transcendental set. He took the crowd on a journey of ethereal beats and exemplified why deep house is such a universally loved genre: it’s as versatile as it is nostalgic. His carefully curated selection of tracks provides sounds that not only induces the rhythm within but also penetrates you deep in the feels, which creates a powerful connection between mind and body. The immersive venue enhanced the effect of Yokoo’s hypnotic beats and helped provide an experience akin to that provided by Brooklyn’s Output Club. Yokoo has been performing around the world as a paramount asset of the All Day I Dream line-up, check out if he’s dropping by a city near you here.
If you’re looking for more of a typical clubbing experience with the accompaniment of popular local DJs, MONO is the place for you. Located in La Condesa, aka the neighborhood that is commonly referred to as “The Brooklyn of Mexico City”, this venue prides itself in being an exclusive who you know club. The line can be unnecessarily long and door policy is stricter than most but worth it if you want to get a glimpse of the bougie Mexican life. Visitors are encouraged to book a table and purchase bottle service, but if you don’t have a pretty penny to drop (like us) there is plenty of space on the dance floor to bust a move. One of the coolest things about MONO is the decor – the dance floor is surrounding by red, blue, and violet lights, and there are neon cubes aligned on the far right. Individual drinks aren’t too pricey, either. If you’re not feeling up for bottle service there’s a dive bar a couple of feet away from the main dance floor that serves spectacular drinks for half of what you’d pay for a well drink in the big apple. On it’s best night, MONO lends itself to garnering a spectacular atmosphere with excellent tunes; on its worst, it’s just like any other club. In regards to what kind of DJs they book well…they got Dixon last year so they must be doing something right.
Rhodesia is not exclusive to techno and deep house, in fact it hosts a myriad of themed nights to accommodate all musical tastes, from rock to indie to electronica. It’s not as prestigious as MONO, though you do have to dress somewhat nicely (think: preppy alternative) to make it through the doors. The unique thing about Rhodesia is the layout of the venue: the dance floor is located in a narrow room while the DJ booth sits above it, creating the illusion of more space. There is a smoking area complete with its own bar, plenty of tables scattered around the venue if bottle service is your thing, and a bar on each floor. The service is always outstanding and the drinks menu is expansive, to say the least. You can score a house shot for 35 pesos ($2!), a mixed drink, or try one of their infamous cocktails, all of which are guaranteed to be relatively inexpensive. If you want to dance to quality music at an actual club, this place is for you. Although they sometimes book international DJs, the main appeal is the local talent that they recruit to play on rotation. They are the ones who fought to foster the underground scene in Mexico City, after all.