Spirit Bomb

San Cristóbal de las Casas, México
November 2016

Night falls on the Plaza 31 de Marzo to the sound of landing bombs — more specifically, very hard bass. The usual weekend street performers have been usurped by skaters doing tricks on makeshift metal ramps, while a crowd looks on. You can barely hear the onlookers cheer and applaud, though, nor understand how the skaters can keep their equilibrium amid the din. The bass is so strong, so spine-crushing.

Crossing over to the vast square at the foot of the cathedral, I see the light show immediately and the crowd already bouncing in front of the stage. This is an EDM show. For the uninitiated, this is hard techno, played at an ear-splitting volume and churning from one song to another without reprieve. It is music that is more felt than heard.

The woman DJ smiles and gestures to the crowd, while she twists another knob and punches the next button to raise the sound to a higher level. This must be what it’s like for Alexandra, my former co-worker, when she DJs in Orlando clubs, only the crowd here is several hundred times larger. As the lights leap off the screen behind her, the skies get darker, and the crowd grows and bounces higher.

The crowd bouncing in sync is like a modern ritual.DJ after DJ appears, each taking things up an exponential notch. The quaking beats, the incessant lights and videos projected against the cathedral and nearby buildings, and the crowd bouncing in sync are like a modern ritual, a Jungian experience, some kind of altered state. By the third performer, my skeleton can’t take any more. It’s freezing, my head is pounding, and I need a beer and something to eat.

Two hours later, I’ve surrendered and bunkered into my hotel across the street. The show goes on. The thundering sound rattles the glass panes of the door to my room. It is beating me into submission.

Photo: EDM show, Cathedral square, San Cristóbal de las Casas

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