January 29th, 2014
While I was in Mexico at Playa Del Carmen for the annual BPM Music Festival, I felt so fortunate to be around people in the know. I can’t tell you how valuable that is.
A lot of them had been to BPM before, but what was even better was some had heard about the Day Zero Festival. Now in its second year, it became a must-do the second I heard what it was.
Celebrating the end of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar on 12/21/2012, the first Day Zero was timed so music lovers would all be together in the Mayan civilization when their calendar ended. They were either going down together or celebrating a new birth together. What a great idea! I only wished I knew about this last year, as the festival fell on my birthday, but being there for its second year was just as monumental.
I had no idea what I was about to experience, but the concept of being in the middle of it through the night into the next day with pyramids, music and a few thousand like-minded contentious people sounded perfect. I went online, paid $77 for my ticket and was ready to go!
Learning more about Crosstown Rebels label founder and Day Zero Festival organizer Damian Lazarus was like unraveling an intricate puzzle. The more I read the more I wanted to learn.
Born in London he worked as an A&R for the label City Rockers before they were bought by Ministry of Sound. He was very skilled at seeking out talent and staying ahead of the game, and even now he's incredibly knowledgeable in all forms of music, but also magical at bringing people together.
Lazarus has big ideas, but more importantly knows how to make them a reality. He lives and breathes avant-garde and is constantly on a mission to reinvent and challenge the norm.
I found myself completely in awe as we sat down in the candlelit VIP area inside a pyramid where Francesa Lombardi was performing a mind-blowing live set with vocalists and strings. He was energetic but relaxed, which surprised me for someone who was the mastermind of the huge production we walked in to.
“I want to create an environment for people to really appreciate the roots of our music,” he said with a smile. “To offer them a unique experience where they can join together and connect with each other.”
This had me smiling too — at how much of an understatement this was.
The site was amazing and the production even more so. Walking in, there were two huge statues flanking the gates. Once we got inside, it was just dimly-lit paths through trees leading to the music.
You can see the lights in the sky from miles away, but nothing could prepare me for what I saw when I finally got to the main area. The lights were insane. There were bright multi-colors shining across the water, creating a vivid work of art that was also reflected on the water. I fumbled to get my phone and snap pictures, none of them doing it any justice.
A larger courtyard area already held quite a few people, even though I was there at the very start of the event. Many were already dancing as the natural and earthy smell of burning wood wafted from a bonfire. As I explored the food and vendors set up just outside, I found natural food, handmade jewelry and artifacts, and even fresh coconut water at the bar. This event blew me away in every sense of the word, and I had yet to even see any of the musical performances.
The music, which was supposed to be the biggest reason why everyone was there, stood on its own. For me, at least. I did hear a lot of grumbling from hardcore techno-heads about Thievery Corporation, but for me and a few hundred others it was a treat. I’m grateful Lazarus took some time to pull together a more heterogeneous lineup for this party. We were literally there for 16 hours and the diversity in music was what kept me sane.
As the exclusive event to take place at this site, Lazerus has no plans to move anywhere else. For me, the event was about entering that next chapter of my life feeling more invigorated. I wanted to cleanse my soul.
At the risk of sounding narcissistic, I always thought being born at the end of the Mayan calendar was quite special. It really felt like the universe wanted me to do something incredibly special on this day. I saw the sun set at Stonehedge a decade ago and thought that would do it.
This event, however, was the endgame. It really was one of those had-to-be-there things. I really hope you all get a chance to experience what it is and what it means someday!
Christa Wittmier has chronicled Honolulu nightlife since 2004. She is senior marketing director at Young's Market Co. of Hawaii and executive director of music for POW! WOW! Hawaii, and also helps promote the popular "Bacardi Pool Party" on Oahu. Contact her via e-mail or follow her on Twitter.