Interview: Tulum is the Ibiza of North America – Ritesh

Interview: Tulum is the Ibiza of North America – Ritesh

When you picture a beach club in Tulum, drum and bass probably isn’t the first soundtrack you expect to accompany your mojito. For the last three years, a 170bpm speaker heist has taken Mexico by storm every March, with the mighty LOCUS festival flipping the script to put Tulum on the map for much more than house music, bougie holidays and Spring Break.

The men responsible are Ritesh and Jigar Patel. As well as launching the first LOCUS festival in Tulum in 2022, they are also founders of ticketing platform The Ticket Fairy. With the support of this platform, they’re taking the LOCUS concept to Indonesia for the inaugural LOCUS Bali coming in hot in June. I caught up with Ritesh to find out what inspired his multi-stop ticket to world drum and bass domination. 

“Tulum was one of the only places in the world still open during the pandemic,” says Ritesh of the place he is dialling in from, palm trees waving through the window of his zoom screen. “I’ve been spending four months of every year in Mexico since late 2020.” “There are some incredible beach clubs, and festivals here in Tulum. There has been an electronic music culture here for a long while, even when the rest of the world was closed.” 

With outdoor venues still up and running, the vast majority of bars and clubs started using Ritesh’s Ticket Fairy as their platform of choice during COVID. It was an easy switch. The user-friendly platform provided a better experience for promoters and a loyalty program that drove engagement and revenue. There’s also a built-in resale function so no one can buy and resell for profit. 

“We built strong relationships with local operations crews, production people and promoters as they began to use Ticket Fairy,” says Ritesh. “During that process, I grew to know more about why Tulum was one of the top event destinations for house music in the world.”

Crucially, Ritesh was aware that there has never been a drum and bass festival in Mexico, or in North, South or Central America, ever. “We saw an opportunity to create something brand new, to do something that had never existed before,” he says. “Tulum is the Ibiza of North America. People will always come here for house music. Why not expose them to music they haven’t heard before?”

Ritesh and Jigar have certainly done that, reframing the luxe holiday destination of Tulum as a temporary haven for super sharpshooters and original nuttahs from around the world. Of course, this week in the sun has not been without its challenges. 

“This year we had noise complaints at one of our venues. We were supposed to be there for three days and another venue for two days. We had to move to the second venue, an incredible cenote, earlier than planned. It was very challenging to deconstruct everything mid-festival, but we made it happen.” The core of the success is engaging and working with the local community. “My Spanish is pretty rusty,” says Ritesh, “but we’ve got some trusted boots on the ground.” 

The community engagement element of LOCUS is crucial and goes beyond hiring locals to be part of his team. He offers tickets to locals at heavily discounted prices and feels a strong connection to the culture and country of Mexico, choosing to make it home for several months of the year. 

On June 14, Ritesh and Jigar are taking their tried-and-tested business model to Indonesia to introduce the world to LOCUS Bali. 

The brand spanking new venue, Luna Beach Club in Nuanu is Burning Man tribal meets beach club luxe in a futuristic development that spells bougie in every language. It’s going to be so satisfying to hear the filthiest tunes and most sublime liquid in such an idyllic session. Paradise means lots of things to lots of people, this is definitely how mine looks. Drum and bass originated in dark clubs with sticky floors, but I think we can all agree it’s nice to enjoy it in a fancy place with a margarita. It’s also a great excuse to book another holiday. 

“We were asked to launch the Ticket Fairy in Bali for the Nuanu development,” says Ritesh.“Luna Beach Club where we are hosting LOCUS Bali is just one part of this future-focused development, which encompasses multiple venues, including a residential component and a school.” 

“It’s a similar story to how we chose Tulum. I went there and realised I’d discovered a beautiful and undiscovered location for drum and bass, along with a strong connection to community and country.”

“There’s a historical connection with Bali and drum and bass. Around 10 years ago Paradise in Bali was held, and there’s a passionate local DnB scene, with several crews working hard to grow the audience, such as Oraclesoundlab, and DJs such as Koyuki and Rizkycore.” 

“The venue for LOCUS Bali has been super supportive and is helping us with local logistics, making sure we do things correctly and respectfully. LOCUS’s job is to bring the best DnB DJs we can and create an amazing experience.”

That brief has been well and truly nailed. LOCUS Bali’s second release lineup dropped as I was pulling this piece together. Adding the likes of S.P.Y, Harriet Jaxxon, The Upbeats, Degs, Makoto and Charli Brix to an already stacked lineup including Fabio and Grooverider, London Elektricity, TC, Pola and Bryson, Etherwood and Ivy Lab, LOCUS has made so many dreams come true. If the people weren’t flocking before, they would be now.  

A duo on the first lineup that came as a pleasant surprise for some people was Stakka and Skynet, who haven’t toured together in years. 

“I approached Skynet and asked if he would consider doing a comeback set,” says Ritesh. “I told him how much of a big deal their music was to me back in the day. We tried to make it happen in Tulum, but it didn’t work out.  But we nailed it for Bali. It took a year and a half to sort out!”

It’s a surefire bet that Bali will be filled with even more Australians than usual in the middle of June. Not to mention our drum and bass-obsessed Kiwis and our South East Asian brothers and sisters who are thirsty for a fix of 170 BPM. Not surprisingly the main patrons of LOCUS Tulum are largely from the states, but there are plenty of Brits and Germans who make the pilgrimage. 

“If we can get people to Tulum, then we can definitely get people to Bali as there’s such an amazing DnB scene in the region,” says Ritesh. 

As well as spending time in Mexico, Ritesh splits his time between Dubai and the U.S., but he’s originally from London. The LOCUS concept was bedded down in Bristol, where many iconic drum and bass projects came to life. 

Among other important partnerships that have made the success of LOCUS possible is the Ticket Fairy’s partnership with Sun and Bass. For those who have felt the magic of Sardinia and understand why September is a non-negotiable date in the drum and bass calendar, you may see some common themes in Ritesh’s production. As well as being their chosen ticketing platform, they are strong partners.

“Sun and Bass are very supportive and connected to LOCUS,” he says. “We scheduled our two events very intentionally. The dates are purposefully staggered. If you want to go somewhere in European winter, you’ve got LOCUS Tulum. In June, if the southern hemisphere wants to keep warm, they go to LOCUS Bali. After that, everyone makes the pilgrimage to San Teodoro for Sun and Bass in September. There’s no scheduling conflict.”  

Every year, the fabled Sun and Bass festival sells out in minutes. It’s very hard to get a ticket. They’ve been in the business for decades and a lot of work has gone into building their allegiance. In another smart move, Sun and Bass have added LOCUS to their loyalty program, meaning if you buy a LOCUS ticket, you are one step closer to your golden ticket to Sardinia. 

“It’s the biggest compliment,” says Ritesh. “It’s rare that a festival would consider another festival’s attendees to be equivalent to their own. Sun and Bass is our sister festival and we are proud of that connection.” I’m curious to know where in the world Ritesh wants to stick his next pin as his next destination drum and bass concept. His answer surprises me. “Two festivals a year is enough,” he laughs. “I think we’ll stick to Mexico and Bali for now.” 

Tell your boss you’re taking a week off in June. Book your flight. Grab your bikini. Bag your villa. Decoded will be seeing you at the first LOCUS Bali on 14-17 June. Tickets here.  

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