It’s easy to get lost in Mexico City’s underground nightlife. As the years have passed, the scene has grown and matured in cycles; these days, promoters are curating to audiences looking for high-quality performances in compelling, unexpected venues. While Mexico City’s chaotic nature might be a turn-off for some promoters – especially those booking international acts – for others, that restless spirit is actually a source of inspiration. Such is the case for Ext., a year-and-a-half-old rave started by promoter Ramón Jaramillo, producer Gabo Barranco (aka AAAA), and Francisco Ventura (aka Lumber Jack). Through their experiences as performers and spectators, they have carved a niche by embracing a global shift in the experience of the dance party. As a collective, they have sought to spotlight artistic experimentation not only in electronic music, but in their unconventional venue and curatorial choices.
Though the city’s nightlife is never stagnant, for Ext., it’s about taking the rave experience in a distinct direction. Barranco contextualizes the growth of the metropolis’ electronic landscape since he began releasing music in 2013. “I have seen how different parties and collectives have surged and have managed to work cohesively to make a scene,” he says, citing SUNDAY SUNDAY and queer-friendly parties like Por Detroit and Pervert – which curate around techno, house, and acid – as examples of nightlife staples with strong community ties. However, many of these events take place in venues and bars, and their vision is to provide a singular experience by producing events in unlikely, almost inhospitable spaces, using unique lighting and sound reinforcements. By inhabiting a space that seems impossible to access or uncommon for a party, Barranco, Jaramillo, and Ventura aim to bring back an essential and sometimes overlooked part of rave culture. Ventura observes, “The scene is very active, and it is a great time to be a part of it. We want to bring back the rave because although music is central to a show, it should be adequately presented to transcend.”
The decision to forge something new in the city’s nightlife landscape also grew out of the desire to bring new acts to Mexico City; the collective aims to cull talent from across Latin America and beyond. The February 22 edition of Ext. featured acts from Berlin, Mexico City, New York and more, including Objekt, Trenton Chase, and Chung. “We’ve had the opportunity to work with acts like Volvox, Via App, Bookworms, Juliana, Objekt, but Ext. also aims to showcase acts from Latin America, [ones who] don’t embrace essentialist notions of ‘tropical’ rhythms and tropes to produce music,” explains Jaramillo.
Not only are they trying to bring fresh talent to Mexico City’s underground, but they’re also hoping to create a community of people that understand the value of putting budding local talent in dialogue with established international acts. “It is important [for us] to give a proper space to emerging talent that not only pushes their own boundaries, but is part of [our] mission to create an exchange between interesting artists, both seasoned and inexperienced.” Francisco says. “It’s hard to get a break as a new artist, so these experiences serve as fertile ground for cultural and creative exchange between peers [from] all walks [of life].” Given the continued neglect that Latin American electronic producers and DJs face from internationally renowned festivals, especially ones like Dekmantel, which employ the rhetoric of cultural exchange but often overlook talent from the Global South when it comes to booking, efforts to highlight local, Latin American artists are all the more important.
To further communicate Ext.’s mission to shed light on the conversation surrounding Latinidad and experimental music, Barranco says that typically, Latin American electronic artists only attract major media attention when they are labeled “folkloric,” in spite of the vast of community of contemporary experimental producers in this space. As Barranco notes, “Latin America has had to get used to being self-sufficient and act independently, as there is no one paying attention.”
Ultimately, the expertise that each of the three organizers brings to the table is what makes Ext. a success. While Jaramillo has experience booking and promoting shows in Mexico and New York, AAAA’s career has flourished as a live performer. He was recently featured in Boiler Room’s Miami edition, live from III Points Festival. Similarly, Ventura is a veteran DJ and promoter whose experience rounds out the team impeccably. It is through a cohesive vision and teamwork that the crew has managed to resonate with locals, as well as international club kids in New York and Berlin. Jaramillo says, “Ext. will draw between 400 and 700 people. We recently co-organized an event with Pervert that brought in close to 1,400 people.”
“We want to bring back the rave because although music is central to a show, it should be adequately presented to transcend.”
Musically, Ext.’s curatorial vision isn’t restricted to a particular sound. And in part, that is what sets them apart from a specific selection of venues or genre-driven parties. When asked if there was a particular style or genre that they looked for, they agreed that they are always on the lookout for compelling acts that fall under the umbrella of experimental dance music. Ext. was conceived – in part – to spotlight music that they believe is underrepresented in Mexico City. But just as the global conversation surrounding experimental dance music is shifting, so are their curatorial criteria. Barranco is passionate about finding the right fit for their events. “We are less worried about perfect DJ mixing abilities, and more concerned with an interesting [approach].” They’ve executed this mission in their visual identity too, keeping the focus on each event and not the company producing it by collaborating with designers like Dylan Tushar, Gabe Berrios, and Lorena Vega to create artwork for each party.
Ext.’s genesis is symptomatic of the changing relationships people have with spaces and music. As musicians, promoters, and residents of Mexico City, the founders have answered a call to push the conversation surrounding Latin American dance music forward, and to challenge the stereotypes that essentialize its producers. Using the rave format as a platform, each edition of Ext. is meant to open a portal to new worlds, harnessing the energy of Mexico City’s idiosyncrasies.