It's been almost a month since my mind was completely blown at Damian Lazarus' Day Zero jungle rave which took place right outside of Tulum in Mexico and I must admit that I am still completely mesmerized by what I experienced on that very extraordinary Friday the 13th.
Was it the ethereal soundtrack spun by the very honored track selectors such as Dixon and Satori or was it the sacred jungle setting that sat atop the Dos Ojos Cenote which made this event extremely exceptional? Or Perhaps it was the unique performance aspect brought on by the hired Cirque Du Soleil performers. One can't possibly say for sure what created the undeniable magic but what's definitely certain is that nearly everyone agrees that the event was legendary. Some even thought that this year's Day Zero was better than Burning Man! Now that's a bold comparison but it goes to show that the event made a huge impact on those that attended.
Dial the clock back to the eve of the 13th. It's about a quarter to 7PM and the sun's just gone down over the Mayan Riviera. We've finally discovered the secret locale for Day Zero while anxiously finishing up a delectable plate of tacos complemented by mouth watering margaritas all around. The hipster waiter and his obvious handlebar mustache walks out of the oddly situated on site airstream trailer and hands us the bill. It's time to go because we have one more stop up the road where we pick up a couple more members of the crew and toss back a couple more roadie shots of mezcal as a supplement to our 20 kilometer northward journey towards Day Zero.
As we carefully raced up the police littered highway towards Dos Ojos, I noticed that we were were now staring down the 22nd hour. Somewhere between the local craft brews and the Mezcal shots we had shaved off a good three hours.
It's 11 PM and we've entered a dirt parking lot which is almost completely unlit. We've wedged our car between two others. Will they be able to get out? Who knows? I can hear the music calling in the distance so we didn't have much more time to figure out any other real life issues. With almost no light to guide us, we wander down a dirt road towards the music following others stopping only at a remote liquor store purchasing some ridiculously inexpensive warm cervezas from the local Mayans. I've convinced myself that warm beer is completely acceptable under these circumstances.
Fifteen minutes and a few shenanigans later, we've finally entered the festival and immediately we are blessed by a group of Mayan shamans who were also gracious enough to snap a photo with us.
Venturing a bit further down the road we stumble upon an awe-inspiring scene. A naturally shaped amphitheater filled with maybe a thousand revelers among a forest of trees facing a skillfully crafted, yet inconspicuous stage featuring the shamanic audio pleasure from one half of the legendary Ame, Kristian Beyer.
Unfortunately I had discovered that I was only witnessing the closing minutes of Kristian Beyer's DJ set but standing beside him cueing was the well respected Dutchman, Satori who was prepping an unexpected whopping two and a half hour live PA which was about to set the tone for the evening.
The Mayan inspired scenery and Satori's incoming organic, tribal vibes were a match made in Yucatan heaven. The tempo started slow around 110 bpm but the rhythm began to progressively build and it appeared that Satori began to sing along to to his live PA in his characteristically raspy voice. The scene was rather psychedelic. The multi-colored lasers pierced a sea of thin, smoky fog only to get stopped dead in their tracks on the narrow tree trunks thereby creating the unique effect of hundreds of scattered lights across the jungle. Nearly everyone was hypnotized and the downtempo, tribal rhythms of Satori continued on as he unleashed a dazzling live rendition of his then unreleased Crosstown Rebels jam "Imani's Dress."
Shortly thereafter he did the unthinkable and spun his own private edit of Harry Belafonte's Calypso classic, "Banana Boat Song."
Two and a half mind altering hours laters Satori was wrapping up a monumental set and I was seeking refuge from the thousands of people who had then made their way into the site. Per my usual preference, there were too many people but it was very apparent that the large gathering was feeding off the energy of the jungle and vice-versa.
It's 2 AM and the incomparable Mathew Jonson has just instantly taken the musical tone in subterranean territory by opening up with the astonishingly ethereal "Northern Lights."
In addition a troop of stilted performers have entered the make-shift dance-floor to perform an LED hula hoop light show that fittingly matched the soundtrack of Mathew Jonson. The scene was completely surreal and that moment was the most goose bump inducing of the entire event. I then realized I was witnessing something truly remarkable. When I think back to Day Zero, this is the memory that is cemented in my mind.
Thirty minutes later I found myself lazily grooving to Jonson's off kilter electro so it was time to venture off and do some exploring. I didn't get any further than the overwhelmed bar so I took care the necessities. Beer, water, and a good amount of people watching. I then wandered up a carved path, went a few steps down a hill and planted myself in the sand in order to comfortably experience the remaining thirty minutes of Mathew Jonson's eclectic live set of music.
One of Crosstown Rebels' newest trophies, Serge Devant was up for the next hour or so with his own brand of lively tech house which may have not have been the obvious choice for a jungle rave. However, he sure did prove me wrong as he rocked the outdoor soiree with some big tech house bangers including Samu.l's "Good Die Young" and of course his own mighty remix of Jonas Rathsman's "Complex."
The four AM slot belonged to the Brooklyn duo Bedouin. I was starting to slip into in a tunnel and their indie/arabesque sound wasn't doing much to snap me out of it. However, a quarter of the way into their set they grabbed my attention by dropping their very own remix of The Doors' 1968 Waiting For The Sun classic, "Not To Touch The Earth" which I had heard them play on their Essential Mix just a few months prior.
About two hours before the sun is scheduled to come up, I notice a change in the style of music. I gaze over and see the the co-founder of Innervisions. My personal favorite DJ in the universe. Dixon!
Aside from the Masters At Work classic, "Release" and the mighty Gorge & Homm remix of "Andranik", plus a couple of other tunes, the Innervisions boss spent a solid 90 minutes hurling one unknown monster (and probably unreleased) tune after another at us. We grooved among the trees in the darkness absorbing the lasers like one would absorb the sun for Vitamin D. The natives gathered around with their hand-held instruments in their Mayan garb. The inevitable sunrise was looming. The night was nearly complete. Dixon was a musical god and Day Zero was his realm.
Enter the magic hour around half to seven. I look up and through the trees I can see that sky is starting to take on a lighter shade. The lord of Crosstown Rebels, Damian Lazarus has just stepped behind the decks to masterfully weave his aural magic.
It's getting much lighter out and the crowd is starting to thin. Damian is hammering Nick Curly's "The Voodoo" while many are scrambling towards the exit while others are just getting started. An hour later at 8AM, I'm starting to run on fumes so I find the pathway towards the nearest exit only to encounter the on-site cenote filled with morning bathers. Some clothed and some not. Some just swimming and others doing a lot more than that. We were free. We were all doing what we wanted. We were partaking in activities that would normally be prohibited. However, this was Day Zero. The only rules and ideals involved with this sacred event were to have fun and be kind to one another and that's we did.
While my story may end here, it was said that gathering continued further into the day well past Noon with both Dixon and Damian Lazarus spinning a back to back set that captivated the remaining audience who may have seen the very last of Day Zero ever. Only time will tell.