Since the first time I went to see my friend Thomas DJ ended up as a hazy, ecstatic blur of good times that only occupies about 15 minutes worth of space in my memory, I jumped at the chance to see him again when he invited me to another show. This gig was down in Mar Del Plata, Buenos Aires’ summer fun destination, and since I’d been wanting to get out of Buenos Aires anyways, the 5-hour away Mar Del Plata seemed ideal. Especially when the pot was sweetened by Thomas’ whole “come hang out in VIP and drink for free” enticement.
After some back and forth confusion about rides down there and lodging, Harrison and I decided to take the bus down on Saturday and splurge on a hotel so we could easily coordinate with Thomas. The “I’m-with-the-DJ” shtick doesn’t work quite as well when you then have to explain that you’re staying in a flea-bag hostel, sans DJ, on the other side of town. The hotel was a bit pricey, but included access to their spa which boasted THREE different types of saunas, so we decided to live it up a little. Once we arrived and checked-in, I tried to contact Thomas’ agent but I couldn’t get the number to work on my piece of shit Nokia phone. Seriously, the phones we have down here are worse than the burners drug dealers were throwing away on The Wire.
We couldn’t get the number to work, but when we told the hotel we wanted to leave a message for Thomas Penton, is was pretty apparent they knew exactly who we were talking about. They said he generally didn’t arrive until 6 p.m., and it was only 1 p.m. now, so we decided to walk around and explore Mar Del Plata. Unfortunately, it is currently winter in Argentina so what everyone promised us was a hustling and bustling vacation paradise in the summer was kind of a desolate city with lots of closed shops while we were there. But a beach is a beach no matter what season and we did see some awesome stuff. Like this ghetto trampoline playground thing.
It was 5 pesos to jump on the trampoline. This really made me feel like I was in Mexico, except in Mexico there would have been a poorly drawn, copyright infringing Shrek on the trampolines. Also, right around the corner from this broke-ass bounce castle was a sick skate park that was jammed packed with little 12-year-olds yelling, “Boludo!” at each other, which is kind of an insult and also kind of like “dude.” Standing in this skate park for 15 minutes, I heard “boludo” more times than I have on the rest of this trip combined.
We watched some of the older, better skaters shred it up for awhile and then walked through a market, but since Argentina isn’t actually much cheaper than the US, the urge to randomly buy crap I don’t need is pretty weak. I found a throwing knife that was actually a decent price, but then I thought about the hassle of bringing it back to the US and the probability of it being a total piece of shit, so I decided against it. Harrison and I walked through town until we found a parilla (like where I ate that meat platter one time), but the grill was closed so all we could get was whack-style Argentine pizza. Everyone else in the restaurant was watching the River Plata game and between Harrison somewhat understanding the announcers on the TV and me having learned about this in class the other day, we figured out what was going on.
In Buenos Aires there are two important soccer teams: Boca Juniors and River Plata. Last year, River sucked hard enough that they got demoted to the B league, which screwed up their long standing rivalry with Boca and was all around embarrassing. The game that we were watching was a final for a B league tournament, and since River not only won but scored two goals that got them enough points to move back up to the A league. Argentines are passionate about soccer and so once this happened, the city freaked the fuck out.
As we walked from the parilla back to the hotel, more and more cars went past us honking their brains out and waving River flags. Then we got to this plaza and it was a zoo. Dudes were climbing all the way to the top to hang off the statue and people were throwing these crazy fireworks that sounded a lot louder than your wimpy, American M-80s. As we cut across the park to move away from the soccer freak out, we ran into yet another horde of Argentines waving flags and banners. But these weren’t soccer fans, it was a political protest. Literally two blocks away. Insanity! And if that wasn’t wild enough, we walked another two blocks away from that protest and ran into a puppet show!
The puppets were playing “Oye Como Va” when we stumbled onto their show, but then they moved out into the crowd and began freaking out kids by climbing on them. These two girls were truly impressive puppeteers. It reminded me of John Cusack’s character in Being John Malkovich. After we got done with the puppets (you can only watch a marionette terrify a 7-year-old for so long) we headed back to the hotel and met up with Thomas, his agent Hernan, and Hernan’s wife. Harrison, Hernan, and I chilled out in the spa, enjoying the Turkish, Finnish, and classic style saunas and then Harrison and I passed out in our room for a few hours. At 10 p.m., we all left the hotel to eat dinner at Nacho’s, the promoter of the show, friend’s house.
Nacho’s friend, Rodrigo, lives in exactly the sort of house you’d expect a well-off, Argentine electronic dance music aficionado to live in. There was a mirror disco ball Buddha statue, a recording studio with a vintage Moog, another disco ball that came out of the ceiling when you pressed a switch, incense burning in every room, and shag carpet. I was seriously waiting for someone to offer me a ‘lude and then we could all switch wives. Everyone was super nice and impressed with our Spanish since Thomas speaks almost no Spanish so we looked awesome in comparison. But Thomas is a superstar DJ and we’re not, so I guess that makes you think about priorities a bit. They ordered everyone sushi for dinner, which was a much needed change of pace from the shitty pizza/plain meat/empanada trifecta.
After dinner, we headed to the club, this giant complex called Sobremonte that occupies almost an entire block. Inside, Sobremonte is your one-stop shopping destination for Argentine night life. It’s like a food court approach to music clubs: in one room it’s reggaeton, in the next it’s gay pop music, in the next it’s progressive trance (or whatever it’s called that Thomas plays. It all sounds more or less the same to me). When we arrived, it was still early in the evening, a pathetic 1:30 a.m. and the sparse attendees in the club were mostly high school aged. But we relocated to VIP, posted up to sip our “homies with Thomas” discount Speed and vodkas, and pose in front of these disco-ice queen babes that were go-go dancing. Within an hour, the club was getting packed and people were rocking the dance floor to Nacho’s DJ set, which I guess is a style called “tech-house” which is a good warm-up for Thomas’ set. Once Thomas went on, Harrison and I went out into the poor people area, because it was more awesome, and danced with Thomas’ lady friend who had taken a 10 hour bus to attend the party and… uh, hang out, with Thomas.
Halfway through Thomas’ set, we headed to the DJ booth to hang out with him and watch the crowd. As I said, I don’t know shit about electronic music and its many sub-genres, but sometimes you can just tell when someone is good at what they do, and Thomas is a fucking awesome DJ. The way he built the crowd’s energy, let it dampen off, and then kicked it into hyperdrive, over and over, was incredible. And in addition to being a bad ass DJ, Thomas is also one of the nicest dudes I’ve met and was super awesome about letting Harrison and I hit buttons and twist knobs (on his command of course).
Even more fun than pushing buttons is pumping your fists at a throbbing mass of hundreds (probably almost 1,000) people while fog machines and lasers blow up all over the place. Standing next to Thomas and getting the crowd stoked while he dropped the beat was seriously one of the coolest things I’ve ever done. It really made me regret my decision to become a journalist instead of a superstar DJ. After Thomas, Hernan played a short set (which Thomas made fun of to me the whole time) and then it was time to head back to the hotel at an early 5:30 a.m. I was so utterly exhausted that when we piled into the cab, I was too busy trying to stay awake and figure out if the version of “Needles and Pins” on the radio was the Ramones’ one, I didn’t even noticed Thomas and his lady had gotten into a different cab until we got back to the hotel and I was like, “Hernan, where’s Thomas? Huh, what’s going on? I don’t know where I am. I need to sleep. Now.”