I write this from Wild Rover Hostel in Cusco. It’s what’s classed as a party hostel and there’s several of them across Peru and Bolivia. Great for meeting people and taking part in fun activities that usually involve lots of drinking. Sadly, the music is not so great for underground electronic music fans. A barrage of Reggaeton, pop music and EDM techno that never really stops unless you’re sleeping. Thankfully however, I’ve found that some cities in South America have more to offer on that front. Cusco in Peru is one of them.
Walking around the Plaza de Armas (the main square) if you look carefully enough you might spot the sign for Mushrooms Lounge & Bar above some tour agencies. Turns out the day I spotted it, Michael James (Mulen Records / Constant Sound / The Zoo Project) was booked to headline. Of course, I went to check it out.
First impressions are a little deceiving – the music is pretty chilled, there’s a pool table in the corner and small tables are filled with people taking advantage of the cocktail Happy Hour. But resident DJ Gian Ferrari is on warm up duties and unlike us silly English folk, he knows where the night is heading. He dellicately moves away from the downtempo and proceeds to work the vibe. From deep progressive house, to groovy tech house and all the while the bar is coming alive and the dancefloor is starting to fill.
Michael James comes on at midnight and it’s not long before the whole place is pumping. The crowd remains at his disposal for the next three hours, lapping up a tidy mix of deep and groovy house and techno. The atmosphere is on point and it’s now very clear to see that Mushrooms Lounge & Bar is an important destination for underground electronic music in Cusco.
I caught up with Gian to find out a bit more about the place.
When did Mushrooms Lounge & Bar open?
Next May Mushrooms has been open for 11 years – we didn’t get chance to celebrate our birthday this year so we’re planning to do something for the next, to celebrate all the artists we’ve had playing there over that time.
What is your role at Mushrooms?
I am the resident DJ (usually playing four nights a week) and the host for international DJs. Somehow I also ended up doing the bookings! It happened through word of mouth – I take care of the artists, so they started to contact me directly. I’ve been there since the beginning but I also go to spend time in Europe – DJ’ing at Global Reggae Bar in Ibiza and other gigs/festivals depending on connections I’ve made through Mushrooms.
Tell me about the music policy, does it change based on the night of the week?
We run Mushrooms as a bar during the day where people come to eat and drink. With the music, we don’t have any rules but we won’t play the music you hear at typical discos in Cusco. We play downtempo, dub, reggae, dancehall – all the genres up to techno. It really depends on the night who’s in there.
And Friday is the day for international bookings?
It depends on the availability of the artists, could be Friday or Saturday. Usually artists come to us – they want to DJ in Cusco because they’ve heard it’s a mystical and magical place. We don’t pay ridiculous fees because we don’t support that beurocracy in the industry and so we try to avoid using agents. Mushrooms is a small place but the people fucking love it; DJ T has played three times, John Acquaviva, Robert Dietz, Ryan Crosson – lots of people keep contact with me and they always want to come back.
Also Thursday nights is for something I create. It’s called U&ME and it was originally a project to support new producers. Sometimes people who have never heard about Mushrooms, they show up and I end up DJing with them. Last week a DJ from Russia came and we ended up playing together for like three days non stop and now I have an invite to his tent at Burning Man! But U&ME is also for people who don’t get booked and they want to play. It’s more open to people who are passing by in Cusco.
Clearly you get some solid bookings here. Michael James last month was on point. How else do you choose the artists who come to play?
We usually have one or two international bookings a month. We do work with two agencies who send people our way when they’re in the area or if they’re doing a tour in South America. Otherwise I just check my emails; contact from friends or artists from labels like Visionquest who want to visit Machu Picchu and want to come DJ. They were going there anyway and they heard of this electronic club – we connect them to play. I used to be a tour guide so sometimes I’ll take them on their trips first.
It’s nice that you have so much interaction with the artists. They’re not just coming for a gig, it’s a whole experience! During my travels I’ve noticed some cities in South America have a growing underground house and techno scene where you might not expect it. How would you describe the electronic music scene in Cusco right now? How has it changed?
Cusco and Mushrooms are two different things completely. Mushrooms work with tourists and most of the people who come to see the artists – they don’t know who the fuck they are. That makes it really interesting because even though they’re as good as they are, if they don’t put on a good show, people will leave. The Cusco scene is based on local people – and they grow out of it. I’d say I’m more in the Europe scene and in Mushrooms, most of our crowd is from Europe.
And that’s the calling right there. If you find yourself in this part of the world, Mushrooms Bar & Lounge is a must attend; you never know who might be playing at the weekend.
Listings for the next month include Timo Maas 30/10. You can contact Gian Ferrari via WhatsApp +51 964 317 219 or Facebook
More info on Mushrooms Bar & Lounge