“And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.”
― Roald Dahl, The Minpins
Such was the case Thursday afternoon when my drummer and I pulled up in our taxi to the address we’d been given. We were set to play a showcase for Sofar Sounds Mexico, and based on our first impressions, the magic of the night was most certainly hidden in an unlikely place.
We were presented with a poorly lit, crowded alley. It felt like something out of a Phillip K. Dick novel, minus the flying cars. (Indeed, the original Total Recall was filmed not too far from where we were standing.) We moved our wallets into our front pockets and began fighting through the throng of vendors, children, and sketchy looking hangers-about.
As we moved towards the giant number “16” hanging above an entranceway people gave us quizicle looks. We bumped shoulders and stepped on toes, weighed down and made unagile by the heavy equipment in our arms. Once inside the building we made our way to the sixth floor to find our coconspirators for the evening.
Sofar Sounds is a music event startup company that operates in 371 cities around the world. I’d first become acquainted with it in Toronto when friends’ bands would perform at their events. Essentially, they throw intimate shows in venues off the beaten path, often in people’s living rooms or backyards. They film the sets and record the audio to post online later. Spots on their bills are often very coveted, given the social media bump you usually experience after the video airs. I was extra excited when I found out one of my favorite artists, Frank Turner, had filmed a session in Mexico City just a few months prior (and, in turn, bummed that I missed it).
This particular off-the-beaten-path venue was interesting given the disparity of the situation: After shoving your way through the dank and dangerous looking alley, through the lobby, and up the elevator, you emerge in to what I can only describe as a high-end food court. Tabaqueros 16 bills itself as a gastronomic oasis in the heart if the historical city center. You can eat from a number of different restaurants, order drinks from one of the two bars, and enjoy the amazing view of the city. One end of the building opens onto a balcony designed to look like an abandoned swimming pool.
At any rate, we set up for soundcheck and started getting ready. They set up the lights and cameras, the sound equipment and the signage. Our friends, Peregrino, were also to perform, along with a woman from Argentina named Loli Molina. The audience slowly trickled in, whiling away the time sipping the beers they’d brought themselves and chatting with their friends. The bands were off in the corner enjoying the free whiskey provided them and generally trying to psych themselves up for the performance.
As the night wore on and the bands played and the people clapped and laughed and had fun, the magic of the event took shape. Hidden in the depths of that sketchy looking alley was one of the most unique playing experiences of my life.
Once the video is posted I’ll try and remember to share it in the comments of this piece.
Ty Trumbull, from his base in Mexico City, covers the entrepreneur’s journey and business continuity for ChannelE2E. Each Tuesday, he offers views about his adopted hometown -- his personal Dispatches from Mexico City.