I usually like to keep a journal of sorts when I travel. Whether it be in writing or photo, but ideally both. I thought my adventures through the Yucatan and the BPM festival would make a good blog post this time around so here we are. I’ve split this up into three sections.
The Land mostly talks about the sight seeing trip my travel mates and I took to the ancient Mayan ruins in the area. The Music section talks about the primary reason we went down there, The BPM Festival. And The Food talks about, well, food. Not all of my adventures are in there so perhaps I’ll add more to it later. It’s good to be home but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the beautiful Mayan riviera.
Aside from being a dance music fan, the fact that BPM takes place in such a beautiful corner of the world makes it that much more appealing. Laying in a hammock strung up between coconut laden palm trees on a pristine white sand beach with with crystal clear, 80 degree water just feet away isn’t just for Corona commercials. That actually happens on the Mayan Riviera. Not to mention places like Tulum that literally have ancient ruins overlooking and crumbling into the sea. It’s like a scene from an Indiana Jones movie. So as much as I like dance music, I always make it a point to soak up some local sights and culture while participating in a little techno tourism. That and Im too damn old to party for days on end anymore.
We enlisted the help of a tour guide to show us around the Yucatan for a day. Juan AKA Maroosh, which is what Mayans call curly haired people, was a knowledgeable and entertaining guide despite our group’s party-worn, lackluster enthusiasm at times. The first destination was a 2 hour ride out to Chichen Itza, which is one of the more famous and well preserved (and restored) of the Mayan ruins. The main temple is quite a site to behold (pictured). The amount of time and calculation that went into all the Mayan structures is amazing. Much of it based on the cosmos and its timing. Their calendar is still more accurate than the one we use in modern times. Amazing. You used to be able to climb the 91 steps of the main temple until just a few years ago when they finally decided enough people had fallen to their death to warrant roping it off. No matter, we later climbed the ruins at Ek Balam, which actually has more steps than the Chichen Itzan temple.
We toured the major interest points of Chichen Itza. These included the ancient stadium where the Mayans would play a ball game that is kind of a cross between Football (Soccer), Basketball, mixed with a bit of the brutality of American football. Only much more brutal because it’s speculated that in some versions of the game the loser would get sacrificed. Perhaps even having their head chopped off and then having the decapitated head used as a ball for the next game. So the loser of the upcoming Superbowl shouldn’t feel so bad Monday morning, things could be a lot worse. Other structures of note were the obervatory, a barracks of sorts for the elite warriors, and a nunnery. A pretty amazing site, to say the least. Even more amazing is that they’ve only excavated a small percentage of it. It’s believed the city of Chichen Itza is over 47 square miles in total.
After a couple of hours of trekking around the ruins, I was sweaty, tired, and hungry. A refresher was in order and we did just that by finding a 150 foot deep hole to jump into. Otherwise known as a cenote. My preconceptions of a cenote were akin to a deep jungle swimming hole in a cave and it actually was that. But it’s also a commercialized water park of sorts complete with a gift shop and a restaurant. It was still quite beautiful and refreshing to jump into, nonetheless. And after I chatted up our tour van driver for a bit, he divulged that the wild cenotes I’d pictured in my mind were in fact a reality and that he and other locals visited them, and even discovered new ones, all of the time. They aren’t the safe, tourist friendly, experiences a place like the one we visited is however.
After a stop off in the little town of Piste for a taco lunch, we pushed on to the ruins of Ek’ Balam. Ek’ Balam was much less trafficked and more rustic than Chichen Itza. Much less regulated too so we could climb in, on, and around the ruins. This included a climb to the top of the main temple which was something like 120 steps, much higher than the grandiose looking Chichen Itza temple. Although at first look, it might be hard to tell because the ruins at Ek’ Balam haven’t had as much earth excavated from the surrounding area so it’s not quite as dramatic. 120 perilous steps in the oppressive central american sun is no cakewalk. And coming back down is the hairier part. It was interesting to learn that the Mayan royalty were granted their own internal, spiraling, safer staircase to the top of the temple rather than the straight-up-the-front approach we took. Our route was meant for the commoners. Oh well, at least us commoners get to stay in shape I guess.
One last stop in the town of Valladolid, which had some nice old architecture, and we were then on our way home. It was a long day of sight seeing, with a bit more driving than I had anticipated, but it was a good experience and a nice break from the non-stop kick drum back in Playa.
While the Yucatan is truly a beautiful place and an important piece of the BPM experience, without my love of dance music, this trip never would have taken place. So let’s talk a bit about the music and the parties! I showed up the 2nd day of the festival and by the time I got there my flat mates for the week were just getting back from the All Day I Dream party that Lee Burridge and crew put on. Judging from the state they were in, it appeared as though it was in fact a good time. I expected no less as ADID was a big impetus for coming down to the festival, them being huge fans of the new year’s day event ADID puts on in LA each year. I can only rely on their recap but I hear it was good times. The recording of the set that can be found here lends itself to this notion too. I had thoughts of heading out to the Life & Death party @ Blue Venado that night but after learning it was a bit of a trek out there, I wasnt up for the solo mission. So I decided a few beers and some tacos were the only party I needed, calling it a night.
Culprit – The next day the mission was the Culprit showcase down at the Fusion beach club. I was looking forward to this one as I’ve known the Culprit guys for years now and always enjoy hitting their parties up in LA. Took me a bit longer than anticipated to get over to the party after getting caught up in some exploration of Playa Del Carmen and some pre-partying at our beach front pad, but such is the pace of life in the tropics. After our prerequisite number of drinks was met we strolled up the beach to Fusion to find Jozif bouncing around behind the decks in his usual fashion. I’m fairly certain as I waited outside while the venue sorted out the ticket scanner’s wi-fi connection, I heard him drop Mousse T’s remix of “Shakedown – At Night”. It’s virtually impossible to have a bad time when that comes on. The ticket girl also offered me a sip of her LSD infused soda for my troubles. I politely declined but all signs were pointing towards a wild ride.
The dancefloor was pretty packed so my crew and I took up a spot in the back on the beach. But even there, little room to dance was to be had. I decided to head towards the DJ booth to say hi to my Culprit friends at which point my pal Justin Sloe of Droog came out to greet me. It’s always good catching up with him and he introduced me to several of the other artists and fellow party goers. I even pedaled a few of my recent tunes to those that would have them. By now, it was time to rejoin my core group which turned out to be quite a chore in all the chaos. The dancefloor was heaving with great sets from Maxxi Soundsystem, Edu Imbernon and Benoit & Sergio. Everyone took notice of the big track coming on, Benoit & Sergio’s “You Might Say”, recently out on Culprit, it certainly perked me up. Would love to track down a recording of those sets but I dont think they got recorded. Or at least aren’t publicly available. Adriatique came on to close things out. Im a fan of Adriatique’s productions for the most part but on this night their vibe wasn’t meshing with me or my group so we headed home for the afterparty about 30-45 minutes into their set. Overall though, a great party from Culprit as expected. Over to Hotflush to catch Ben UFO and Joy Orbison, 2 artists not checked off my list yet, was the plan later. Sadly, a sold out party meant no joy (Orbison) for me as I elected for no festival wristband, just single event tickets. Which was a wise choice overall I’d say but I did miss out a couple of times because of it.
The next day we got a pretty late start. Days turn into nights that turn into even later nights will do that to you. I had designs on going to the Maeve party with Mano Le Tough, DJ Tennis, Baikal, etc. I had already purchased a ticket in fact. My friends were more intent on hitting the Bedrock party however. Which admittedly, in our hungover state was the most convenient option with our condo being located just steps away from Blue Parrot (more on that later). That paired with my desire to just hang with friends won out. Jozif and Mr. Digweed played fine sets but I still felt I missed out a little on Maeve. With the big established names I notice you often get more of the “just there to get as fucked up as possible” crowd and a bit lighter on the music nerds. Being the music nerd that I am, I can sometimes get a little irked by that kind of crowd (or just creeped out maybe). I got over it and still had fun though. Digweed dropped one track with a bubbly, arpeggiated rising synth line that I have to track down. Goose bump inducing. We made some new friends who came back to our place after Digweed finished up but we called it a relatively early night due to an impending 6:45am tour van pickup the next morning (See: The Land)
Fast forwarding to Wednesday (after the day off for sight seeing), we had several options on the menu party wise. Apollonia @ Canibal Royal? Endless @ Fusion? Save up some energy for the Making Shapes party later that night? Yeah, none of that happened. Instead we opted to throw our own party in our beach front condo. The moment we started making the stiff tropical drinks, it was on. I mean, it’s not exactly the most difficult decision in the world to stay home and party when this is your front patio (pictured). And I played tunes for 7 straight hours that day in our makeshift DJ booth. So the soundtrack to the party was on point of course. ;-b Top that off with a 70 minute massage that cost a mere $20 and a dip in the carribean and you have the makings of a pretty epic day. I wish I had more like it!
Innervisions – It’s now Thursday and the impending big night is almost upon us. The vaunted Innervisions party. Last year’s party goers put this party into the “Legendary” category so it was high on our must-attend list. With a lineup of Marcus Worgull, Ame, Mano Le Tough, Henrik Schwarz, and Dixon, it was pretty much a no-brainer anyway. We all took substantial disco naps in preparation, I was ready to go! There were a few concerns about logistics as Blue Venado is a 20+ minute cab ride from PDC and reports from the night before were that Jamie Jones’ Paradise party was a total cluster-fuck in terms of traffic and entry queues. We did experience a bit of traffic getting in and almost made the mistake of abandoning our cab at the highway turn off and just hoofing it from there. Mere seconds from making that decision, traffic started moving steadily down the dirt road to the venue. It would have been a dusty 1.5 mile walk had we gotten out of the taxi. Bullet dodged and it wouldn’t be the only stroke of luck we had that night.
We pull up to the venue and despite a packed venue, we breeze right in through the non-existent line. There’s vibey red lights blinding me everywhere and Kristian from Ame is already laying down a thick groove. If Frank Wiedemann did his Ame live set, we sadly missed it. No worries though, there would be no shortage of good music. After Ame, Mano Le Tough came on and his style was a significant contrast to what Kristian had been playing. There was some beautiful stuff in his set, reminiscent of the melodies often heard in his productions so I wouldn’t be surprised if several of them were his. My only complaint would be what I felt was the overuse of tracks with signficantly long breakdowns. After awhile it left me yearning for a more consistent groove. Near the end of his set he played a belter of a techno tune and I finally thought “ok, here we go” only to dive back into another melodic breakdown. Again, some beautiful stuff he played, it just wasn’t the time I wanted to hear it in. Then the music stopped… and Henrik Schwarz fired up his live set. Despite owning much of his music catalog, this was my first time seeing Henrik live. Wow, when he came on the party was elevated to another level. He lit up the room with with a heavy latin drummed stormer. It was exactly what I needed for my dip in energy. Really great set, one of my favorites of the festival.
Next up was the head honcho, Dixon. He brought it back down and started building his set, as he does. Every time I’ve heard him, he loves to start with those big long basslines. One of the big basslines belonged to a tune I ended up hearing a few times that week. Good stuff and it will be added to my search list. I couldn’t trainspot much else until the Roman Fluegel remix of “Idle Eyes” came on. I didnt really care, to be honest. Too busy dancing with my head down. The only other song I’ll trainspot is Dixon’s remix of “Joy Wellboy – Before the Sunrise“. Which we all knew was coming at sunrise. And even though I knew it was coming, it was still an awesome moment. That song playing in that moment as the sun comes up on a beautiful carribean beach with good friends after an epic night of music is what it’s all about. I mean really, as far as party experiences go, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Things got a little weird after that and we later learned that we got really lucky. Blue Venado is a very secluded venue with one road in/out, which is part of its allure. Well, we had caught wind from some industry friends we’d made that night that the party was going to get shutdown around 7am due to some problems with the local authorities. Bummed about an abbreviated Dixon set but wanting to beat the traffic jam on the way out, we high tailed it up the dirt road and found a taxi ASAP. We would later find out that the police basically came in and setup a roadblock and did body searches on many of the exiting party goers. Some getting shaken down for money and some even getting carted off to jail. We had to have missed all this by mere minutes. All this was probably occuring while we were joyfully riding home in our favorite taxi ride of the trip. Our new cabbie friend, whom had surprisingly excellent taste in music, let us bang it out all the way back to PDC. The rave gods were smiling down on us this particular morning.
Last Night on Earth – After some recovery time, we mustered up the energy to venture next door to Blue Parrot for Sasha’s Last Night on Earth party. Scuba was on and banging it out to a nearly full venue. I dug most of his set and recognized a healthy number of the tracks. Morgan Geist – Detroit (Carl Craig C2 Remix1), Trus’me – I Want You (Alan Fitzpatrick Remix), Mr. G – It Dub, Recondite – Caldera are just a few I recognized from my own record bag. And of course I can’t leave out Deep Dish – Future of the Future, an all-time classic. It was a bit of an awkward moment for me though as I looked around for a fellow head to acknowledge a classic record like that and couldn’t find much. Again, like I mentioned earlier with Digweed, it felt like long established artists (like Sasha or Digweed) and the large Blue Parrot venue, probably attracted more clueless partiers than heads. Which I suppose is understandable but it seems like it could be a sign that BPM may be reaching a growth point that could scare off some of the more music minded people. That seems to just be the way these things go though. It happened to WMC many years ago now. Im sure somewhere out there, someone is already formulating another plan for a more intimate festival experience. I digress, back to the music…
After what looked like some technical delays in getting Sasha setup, which ruined the end of Scuba’s set because you could tell he had no idea how long it would take the problem to get resolved so he just bounced around musically, Sasha finally stepped in with some huge bass flooded ambient stuff to reset the mood. After that, he took about 30 minutes to ramp up to Tricky Disco – Tricky Disco (The Martin Brothers Thizzy Disco Mix) and the place started jumpin’. From there, he really banged it out. I honestly haven’t heard him play that hard and fast in quite a few years… and I kinda liked it. After looking up the set later, (listen here) I wasn’t surprised to see a lot of Drumcode and Mood type stuff in the tracklist. A far cry from his more melodic driven sets I tend to expect from him. Not that I’ve seen him a ton in recent years but I’ve always kept tabs on him as he’s attached to quite a bit of nostalgia in my overall dance music experience. Not amazing or anything but a solid and surprising set from the man-like.
A few other parties of note that I made more fleeting appearances at were the D’Julz vs Seth Troxler set @ Fusion, the Apollonia pop-up party, Solomun+1, and Joseph Capriati @ Fusion. The latter two having solid music I was into despite needing to pull myself away.
I’ll keep this section relatively brief, which you may or may not believe Im capable of at this point. Food is right up there with my other favorite things in life though so it deserves a little attention. Im not a food pornographer so don’t expect a bunch of photos. I eat my food too quickly to take pictures of it.
Tacos and ceviche. So much tacos and ceviche. I love tacos and ceviche but I think I’ll be taking a few weeks off from them now that Im home. Some were better than others but I didn’t really have a bad taco while in Mexico. Even the beach hotel next door to us we’d go to when feeling lazy, whom I expected subpar tourist aimed food, still hit the spot with their fish and tacos al pastor. But here are the places with tacos I felt were the best.
Tacontenedor – I think we hit this taco spot the most. At least my travel companions did. Definitely an interesting selection of tacos, including octopus and stingray. I thought the tacos were good but not great and they were definitely on tourist pricing. The selection of about a dozen salsas was awesome though.
Coco Maya Beach Club – This was a club right next door to our place. I didnt expect much but the tacos here were actually really good, as was the ceviche. Beach front tourist pricing for sure but convenience was king for us here. They also had an open DJ booth one could just roll up to with USB sticks and start playing. I like it.
Aguachiles – Another tourist focused place but they had an interesting selection of food. My tacos were all unique and quite tasty. They make a fine michelada as well.
El Rey Del Taco – On a solo food mission one day I went off looking for El Fogon, a spot some other BPMers Id met had recommended. When I got there it was mobbed. I hate mobs. I quickly hit my phone for plan B and saw El Rey mentioned and it was across the street in the parking lot of the MEGA grocery store. It was all locals crowded around the cart, usually a good sign. It was definitely a good call. Probably the best tacos I had the whole trip and they were less than $1 each. They truly were the king of the tacos as the name would suggest.
Breakfast. Two breakfast spots I thought worth mentioning are Madrez cafe and Imprevist. I went to the former 3 times. The food was quite simple, along the lines of egg dishes, breakfast burritos and breakfast sandwiches (bagels, croissants, etc). But usually for $6-$7 I could get a solid breakfast and a capuccino. Also the owner and his wife were super hospitable so I liked supporting them. Imprevist was catering more to us gringos but it was a good breakfast. It included quite a bit of food too. Fresh juice, pastries, fruite, granola, yogurt, coffee, all in addition to the main dish you chose. The eggs benny was a hit here.
Alright, one last restaurant I need to mention because it was an experience like no other. Alux. It’s in a cave. Not a man made Disneyland like plaster cave. A legit, underground limestone bat cave complete with stalactites and stalagmites. Seriously, bats flew by us as we were eating. Im not sure that’s sanitary but it was a fun moment. It’s not even a small cave. I explored the trails that go back into the cave only to keep discovering new rooms and passage ways. One of which was a pretty creepy Eyes Wide Shut altar like room. Not sure what happens in there but it’s either a really awesome party or a really scary one. In addition to the unique setting, the food was pretty damn good as well. I opted for the steak arrecharra which is a cut of beef popular in Mexico. They had a unique cocktail list as well. I opted for a mezcal margarita of sorts. Add in a pretty killer jazz saxophonist for some vibe and you have the makings of an experience not soon forgotten.
I will warn you that I came back home with a bit of a stomach bug. It’s one of the reasons I’ve had the time to type all this up! I’m not sure if any of the places mentioned here were the culprits but I’m all for full disclosure. I honestly feel like the airport food I had in Phoenix on the way back might have done it. Phoenix airport food is worse than 3rd world country food most days of the weeks anyway I’d imagine.