I will never forget my first trip to Multiforo Alicia.
I had traveled to Mexico City in the summer of 2000 with my two friends, Carlos and Serge. I had been told by another friend that upon my arrival in Mexico City, to pick up a copy of Tiempo Libre at a newsstand; it is Mexico City’s weekly culture magazine, with concert and film listings and the like. For the Saturday night that we were there, we were looking for something to do, and under the music listings, the show at Alicia was the only game in town. The three of us went to the club, got up into the venue, and all thought the same thing. “This is insane.” Carlos left after a few minutes, but Serge and I stayed and loved it. So much so that after plenty of beers, we met some of the band members playing that night (everyone was curious who we were, being white at a Mexican rock show), and they invited us to a house party after the show. To be honest, we were both kinda scared, but we went anyways. I can’t remember much except to say that we made it back to the hotel in a taxi around sunrise. We were sick as dogs the next day.
I still go to Alicia every time I am in Mexico City.
Multiforo Alicia is, in their own words, an underground culture laboratory. I know them primarily for the many concerts I have attended there, but they hold youth conferences, they fight for political causes, and do whatever they can to serve Mexico City’s five million youth.
The following is what Alicia is like at a concert. I fear my words won’t do it justice, but I’ll do the best I can to convey the experience.
Located at Cuauhtémoc 91 in the Colonia Roma neighbourhood, Vertigo Galeria is right around the corner at Colima 23. There’s a head shop/tattoo shop next door to Alicia, and a strip joint a few doors further down the street. You can see the venue by opening Google Streetview and copying and pasting this:
Eje 1 Poniente 91, Roma, 06700 Cuauhtémoc, Distrito Federal, Mexico
Music fans gather outside and hang out, there are street vendors selling bootleg cds and wrestling masks, and manning the door patiently is Ignacio Pineda, the owner of the venue. Here’s a Youtube interview with him. His crew of staff and volunteers – Los Alicios – help keep the place running. Upon paying your admission you step inside the doorway into a small room where band merchandise is for sale behind a counter, along with bottles of cold beer, fifteen pesos each the last time I was there.
At the other end of the room are two tiny bathrooms, and a doorway that leads up a winding flight of stairs to the concert/event space. Every time I go there the same thing happens as I go up the stairs – the temperature rises by 5 degrees each step you take, and the oxygen in the air diminishes by 5%. By the time you get into the space, it is so crammed with people, the heat is almost unbearable, and your lungs feel like they’re about to explode. But you know what? If all these other people can take it, then so can I. So I do.
The room is a big rectangle and fits probably 300 people, but I’m sure many more get wedged in. I actually played there, and am proud to say that neither myself nor any of my bandmates fainted from the physical exertion. You really have to go to this venue to understand what it’s like. I have seen thousands of bands, and played in all kinds of clubs around the world, and there is nothing – nothing! – like Alicia. Here’s four reasons why.
First – the audience. If it’s a surf or garage show, you will see lots of people wearing luchador masks and moshing. To surf! Amazing. Because there are so many people and you’re all pushed up against each other, you become part of a living extension of humanity, where everyone becomes One. People are jumping up and down and crowd-surfing. It is a riot.
Second – the sightlines. There are no posts in the way, and the stage is nice and big, up about four feet from audience level, so there are no bad sightlines in the room. It’s a great venue for me because I am 6’5″, and the tallest in the place.
Third – the sound. It’s magnificent. Check this out – Los Twin Tones performing live, with a full-on horn section. Alicia is also set up to record bands live in the space as well.
Fourth – the heat. You have to wiggle your way through the crowd to a corner of the room, where two frazzled beerslingers serve cold cervezas up as fast as they can. It is FREAKISHLY HOT, and the beer is SO COLD AND GOOD. Always drink them double-fisted, you’ll just save yourself repeat trips.
I hope you go to Multiforo Alicia if you’re ever in Mexico City, but be quick about it – it is under constant threat of closure by the government and the police, for its ‘subversive’ activities. If you make it there, tell the owner at the front door, Ignacio Pineda, that SuperD from the Tijuana Bibles says “Hola!”
Next up, I’ll write about the biggest sandwich in Mexico City – El Gladiator! Until then, Vive Mexico!