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Let’s be honest, Halloween is all well and good but it’s always been a somewhat cheesy, pre-fab holiday. The Latin American tradition of Dia de los Muertos, on the other hand is a tradition that stretches back millennia where celebrants honor their dead ancestors and remind themselves that they too will someday be gone. Hola Indio has been on a mission to remind people of the holiday with their four city, Dia de los Muertos tour, which rolled into Chicago’s Metro on Thursday night, which happened to be the Day of the Dead proper.
There were lines of Chicagoans shivering in the November chill when I arrived, all eager to dance, do their their thing and sample some Indio. Happy to throw in a donation to the city’s National Museum of Mexican Art, people waited impatiently to enter, with some bounding up the steps towards the sound of the night’s first DJ once they finally made their way inside.
The Metro had been giving a makeover this evening with a small shrine full of lights, calacas (skeleton masks) and votive candles, giving the stage an appropriate holiday vibe. In the back, a video screen had been set up which people could post pictures to by tagging them #HolaIndio. This screen provided entertainment throughout the night, as people began letting loose and getting into the music, the pictures got increasingly interesting.
The evening’s music was a non-stop dance party from beginning to end, starting with Chicago DJ and producer British Knights. Boasting Richter-rated waves of bass, his set started slowly, as people filtered in, grabbed an Indio and got the lay of the land. By the time it ended however, a critical mass had arrived on the dance floor and energy was high. Before leaving the stage, he got the crowd making noise for everything from Indio and Vice to their love of Mexican music.
British Knights was followed immediately onstage by Ernest Gonzalez, a San Antonio producer who DJs under the moniker Mexicans With Guns. He grabbed the musical torch from Knights literally without missing a beat, bringing a slightly more melodic brand of dance tunes to the floor. At this point things were starting to get nuts. Girls got into spirit(s) of the evening, pausing to pose for a photo in front of the stage altar before plunging into the dancing behind it while I saw several hombres who decided that doing their own thing was best accomplished shirtless. It might have been a shameless attention grab but their dance moves seemed to justify it and their bonhomie proved to be infectious.
After a while, Gonzalez was joined onstage by Toy Hernandez aka Toy Selectah, a Monterey-based DJ who supplemented the beats with wonderfully scuzzy low-end and a production approach that (befitting his roots) sounded a little bit different than what we’re used to hearing Stateside. Gun Selectah (as the de facto supergroup went by) clearly had the crowd’s ears and hips. By the time sometime-DJ and member of Vampire Weekend, Baio took the stage things had jumped off, allowing him to pump out bass-heavy jams that kept people dancing until well after bedtime on this weeknight.
The Dia de los Muertos tour was not only a success but one that you can take with you via Indio’s online collaboration with Mog music. At one point during the evening I was in the middle of chatting with a guy in a full business suit when he stopped in mid-sentence, entranced by filthy new beat and said “Oh my God, this sounds awesome! Mexican dance music kicks ass! Sorry, I gotta go!” and made a beeline for the dancefloor, business attire and all. It was that kind of night.