It’s been two weeks since the shooting. A full two weeks since the music at the last BPM festival ever to be held in Mexico stopped abruptly, interrupted by the panic awash one of Playa Del Carmen’s most famous electronic music beach clubs. Hours before the 10-day BPM techno/tech-house festival concluded its 10th edition, The Blue Parrot beach club became the scene of a cartel shooting that claimed the lives of 5 individuals and injured many more. When I first stepped foot in Playa Del Carmen, Mexico just a few days before, I had been in awe of their beautiful architecture, refreshingly magical ocean breeze, and laid back attitude. It reminded me of Miami without the pretentiousness. I was shocked at Playa’s attitude where drugs were concerned. Within hours of arriving, there were drugs as far as the eye could see, appearing all throughout the city’s touristic shopping district, smacked in between the henna stands and the native women who sold their braiding skills to all interested white women. Local men of all ages were scattered throughout the promenade, offering the most popular vices, “marihuana, cocaína, ketamina,” in a low but nonchalant tone. Especially once they noticed your festival wristband, the drug dealers knew to raise their voice and throw it in your direction. I had clearly underestimated how blatant the drug trade would be down here. This much I realized the first time I saw a man inside a club offering a dozen different powders and pills in a zip lock bag held high to my face. Initially, I had appreciated how relaxed everyone was, but didn’t understand at what price -seeing only the benefit of a society that wasn’t penalizing drug behaviors yet seeing none of the symptoms. But on that Sunday night, as the last party of the festival was underway and then suddenly aborted, I saw the symptom. “Out of security concerns, we must cancel the rest of the festival. Thank you and happy 10 years of BPM.” Confusion and anger painted the crowd. Droves of us left the venues slowly, amidst growing conversation. Little did we know that just a few miles to the east, many of our fellow festival-goers had just witnessed the targeted murder of a fest organizer and many casualties. Within minutes of the announcement, news spread of the chaos which had occurred in a club I had frequented not two hours earlier. Men wielding arms forced their way in through the exit and by the back of the club, in a section directly on the beach where I had sat earlier, as I watched the Elrow party get started. Elrow, the famed Spanish party production company known for their decorative and highly histrionic parties, had set the theme at the Blue Parrot that night to be psychedelic. The DJ booth was framed by a groovy yellow bus. There were pink peace signs hanging all throughout and a portrait of John Lennon to one side. I wonder now, however morbidly, about how these gimmicky decorations and festive 60s colors became the last thing these individuals ever saw before their untimely demise. I consider the onlookers who were paralyzed in fear, surrounded by gunshots and hanging peace signs. The Zetas cartel later took responsibility for the shooting. It marked the end of the BPM Festival’s time in Playa and also took 5 lives with it, traumatizing many others. Let it be known that music was not responsible here. The music had united a globe-trotting crowd for a decade without real incident. Despite Playa Del Carmen’s pre-emptive cancellation of all things electronic music within city limits following the shooting, it was not techno that caused this violence – but rather, had too become a victim of it.
Most people call him Dubfire, his inner circle calls him by his real name, Ali…but me, I gracefully yell out a simple “hey, uh! Your set was awesome!” after I drunkenly spot him at an after hours club, running giddily towards the DJ booth as his bodyguard looks back and glares at me for my failed attempt to make contact. But I’m in a club, I’m energetic, I’m sociable. I will not stop until I have commended him on the amazing 2-hour set I watched him mix live just a few hours prior. Minutes later, inebriated me decides to take to Instagram. I start the comment with the greeting, “Hey Mr. Fire” and send him my best wishes for the evening. I am proud of this nickname I have spontaneously bestowed upon him. Too proud, in fact, that I don’t stop to think about his real name. In retrospect, I begin to wonder where Mr. Fire got his stage name. I guess I can kind of see where he got Dubfire from Ali Shirazinia. There’s no set pattern with electronic DJ’s and their stage names. The genre of the DJ won’t be an indication. Sometimes they simply choose to use their real names (like Joseph Capriati, Armin, Carl, etc). Other times, they dress up as 1/3rd of a s’mores, pretend they’re actually Tiesto and call it a day. With some, the choice is obvious. Take Claude Vonstroke for instance. Even though his stage name definitely belongs in ‘70s mustache porn, I’m sure even then he thought it would be better than going by his birth name, Barclay Macbride Crenshaw. (Say that 5 times fast.) If you want to have some real fun twisting your tongue, try imagining the unlucky MC introducing Swedish House Mafia by their real names, “Welcome Steven Angello Josefsson, Axel Christofer Hedfors and Sebastian Ingrosso!!!!!” The crowd would likely go confused before going wild. Not unlike strippers, I’m sure DJs have fun with stage names. I never sat down and considered what Eric Prydz might have in common with an “exotic dancer”, but now I know the excitement of taking on a different persona if only for a few hours. Eric Prydz, my favorite man of many names, who is known primarily by his real name also utilizes two aliases to differentiate between genres. Most of the tracks are released under the name Pryda will be more on the progressive house side of things. Tracks under his real name will tend to be more commercial and radio-friendly. And when you least expect it during a Prydz show, his alias Cirez D will emerge with dark, progressive tech-house (swoon). This is what the first 10 of MixMag’s top 100 DJs list would look like if everyone used their real names. See how many you know. I would rather see how many of these names I can butcher.
- Martin Garritsen (Martin Garrix)
- Dimitri and Michael Thivaios (Dimitri and Like Mike)
- Robbert van de Corput (Hardwell)
- Armin Van Buuren
- Tijs Michiel Verwest (Tiesto)
- David Pierre Guetta
- Steven Hiroyuki Aoki
- Olivier Heldens
- Sonny Moore (Skrillex)
- Nick van de Wall (Afrojack)
Being at a festival and looking for party favors (drugs) is incredibly tricky. Or so I’ve heard. Turning on that bloodhound sense of smell, sniffing out who’s holding a beer and who’s chugging water by the liter; observing who’s dancing quite hard and who seems to be sitting down in a trance with just as much devotion. It’s a skill… I’ve been told. On the other hand, getting asked for drugs while you’re out getting lit with the fam is markedly less annoying than typing “getting lit with the fam”. A simple “sorry, man, I got nothing, ” and that’s all it takes to shoo away the asker. It’s a normal occurrence at a festival. Until you realize the guy asking seems to stick out for some reason. You can’t put your finger on it. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s wearing clean leather shoes better suited for dinner than for Dim Mak. He’s also staring into your eyes a bit too deeply as if measuring the dilation of your pupils. Then you remember the guy called them “rollies” when he asked, whatever the hell those are. Not unlike grandma trying to use your lingo and failing, the guy standing in front of you asking for illicit drugs does not belong here. Such has been the situation for those of us who have encountered undercover police at festivals. The aim of course is to target dealers, but in some states, a person can be targeted just for being under the influence of drugs (not so in my dearly beloved home state of Florida). Surprisingly, searching the internet will not help you figure out definitively which shows will have more undercover police (although it will remind you to use incognito mode on the work computer.) The size of the festival does not necessarily parallel how much undercover police will be on site either, but in my research, I have noted that the location will portend to that figure. Ultra Music Festival in Miami which houses 165,000 ravers only saw about 65 arrests in 2016. In stark comparison, California’s Nocturnal Wonderland which services about 60,000 reached 428 arrests, averaging about 142 per day. In Las Vegas, Electric Daisy Carnival (with roughly 400,000 attendees) saw about 101 arrests. Meanwhile in California, police arrested 300 people at Hard Summer this year out of a total of 146,000 participants. See the pattern there, Cali? Most of the arrests made in California are for public intoxication, but it seems asinine that this much effort goes towards enforcing this legislation. As my fellow festi-heads will know, using drugs at a festival is the norm. Even if you’re a straight edge individual, you understand and accept this is normal at a large gathering of people getting ready to shuffle poorly in public. Hiring droves of undercover police to arrest people for doing drugs at shows is in the same line of thinking as scolding a horny teenager for having sex (and just as ineffective, if we’re being honest). Safe practices should be taught, but one can’t expect drugs to disappear from the scene. It’s normal; it’s inevitable and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. (Or so I’ve been told.)