Day Zero | An Immersive Festival

An interview with Eden Schroder and Carlos Lopez.

Written by

Matthew Bedard

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As the global festival market becomes ever more crowded, and the need to escape the default world becomes ever more important, music fans continue to look for deeper and more enriching events to lose themselves in. What sets these peak experiences apart from cookie cutter parking lot raves and mud pit field parties is the care and dedication to the concept of immersion, be that through natural environment, cultural potency, or jaw dropping production and decor. 

No one understands this idea better than Crosstown Rebels leader and one of the most storied selectors on the planet, Damian Lazarus. His groundbreaking events Get Lost and Day Zero sit at the pinnacle of modern rave, charting marathon experiences that test the limits of both of their attendees and the definition of what a party can be. These peak environments for paying tribute to the lords and saviors of hedonism are crafted through a creative and future-forward approach to decor, spatial design, and theatrics.

Day Zero, which returns to Tulum January 9th, remains the crown jewel of the Crosstown event portfolio, created by Lazarus as a celebration of new beginnings with the end of the Mayan calendar in 2012. Each year Day Zero’s dedicated team of dreamers, event producers, and mystics transforms the dense jungles of Tulum into an alternate universe for 18 hours of mesmerizing performances, premier house and techno selectors, and forward-thinking live acts. Set to the backdrop of Mayan culture and natural wonders, Day Zero boasts immersive art installations, hidden environments to explore, and Mayan spiritual guides performing rituals throughout the night in homage to the ancient cultures and traditions Day Zero celebrates. 

Day Zero’s idyllic bridging of the natural and mythic would not be possible without its Experience Director Eden Schroder and Head of Production & Operations Carlos Lopez who have both been a part of the Day Zero team since its inception ten years ago. Integral members of the Day Zero experience, Eden designs the decor, art, and hidden areas attendees experience while Carlos ensures a smooth show by coordinating overall production logistics, stage production, and relationships with local government and authorities.

In addition to working with Day Zero for over a decade, Eden has served as the Experience Director for other iconic events such as the Get Lost Experience, Art with Me, iii Points festival and Vibra Urbana. An equal veteran in his space, Carlos is involved with all Damian’s event properties, one of the founders of Zamna, and has produced some of Mexico’s largest shows such as Ultra Mexico and Mayan Warrior

This year’s rendition of Day Zero features the first ever all Mexican talent stage to be hosted by an international festival in Mexico. The El Teatro stage celebrates the vibrant Mexican electronic music culture and will see performances from a host of Mexican talent including Dramian, Iñigo Vontier, and Robbie Akbal. Further in line with its propensity to support breakthrough artists and sounds, Day Zero will also be hosting trailblazers in the fast-rising amapiano movement such as Major League DJz, Desiree, and AMÉMÉ

We spoke with Eden and Carlos ahead of this year’s Day Zero Tulum for an inside look into one of electronic music’s most acclaimed parties.

Experience Director Eden Schroder

What is your role within Day Zero? 

I’m the experience director.

Can you tell us how you began working with Day Zero and what those first years were like? 

I started working for Day Zero in 2012. I was Damian’s assistant at the time but also specialized in creative design. I was young and eager to learn anything and everything. Whether it was artist liaison, logistics, marketing or anything in the creative world, I was the first in line to figure it out. I began working under someone who was kind enough to show me the ropes, believe me it definitely wasn’t an easy process. I went through hell in the beginning to prove myself and show what I was capable of, but over time I was given more and more responsibility which allowed me to make more impactful decisions on behalf of our team. I eventually started learning the ropes and all the different aspects of organizing events, then I blasted off! Fast forward a few years, I became the creative director/experience director of all of our shows. 

Walk us through your relationship with Damian and how you two collaborate to create new elements of the onsite experience?

I’ve known Damian for so long I feel like I basically finish his sentences. I know what elements he wants to tie together in order to create a vision and tell a story to our guests. We do everything in our power to come up with a theme that we then tie into the Mayan culture and begin portraying it into real life. I know what Damian wants and expects so I’m constantly challenging myself to be bigger and better each year. The more abstract and out of the box the better, then it’s up to me to develop that and make it even better than he would expect. He’s an inspiration in himself and working by his side the past 10 years has encouraged me to read his mind in one way or another. I’ve become super in tune with his vision so I usually know what to expect and which direction he wants me to go in… creatively speaking. 

How do you think producing an event at such a culturally significant location affects the vibe of the show and experience?

In my opinion anyone can organize events and throw parties, but to really connect with your surroundings and submerge yourself into the culture that curates your event… This is where the magic happens. The land around us is so sacred and you can feel it when you’re walking through the jungle; it inspires me to go above and beyond to make the overall experience absolutely exceptional. I use the location to my advantage and try to incorporate my surroundings into the art and structures that we create. We work hand in hand with the Mayans throughout the whole building process, they constantly open our eyes to their culture and teach us new things. I feel peace in my heart while working at Dos Ojos and try to fully submerge our guests to feel the same when attending our event. 

What is your process for designing new aspects of the Day Zero experience? How do you put yourself in the shoes of the attendee and come up with these ideas for immersive elements?

I constantly try to come up with new ideas that will blow people’s minds. I think back to being a teenager when I would go to my first festivals and try to remember what I thought was cool, then I multiply that by 100. I think about what impresses me and what impresses my friends who also work in this industry who have seen it all, from country to country all around the world. How do we stand out and how do I one up myself each year? Well, I create experiences you won’t find anywhere else in the world. Where else can you walk through a maze in the middle of the jungle that leads you to a secret door that takes you into a mini club just big enough for you and your friends. Over the years I started to learn what works and what doesn’t in this setting. I started basing a lot of our activations around light and how to make things immersive both day and night. I try to make things playful but also abstract and exciting.  

How do some of the experiential elements at Day Zero honor Mayan culture?

A lot of the elements I create at Day Zero are based off of time. Whether it’s a play on time or the connection between different time periods. One of our all time favorites is the correlation between the mayan culture and ancient aliens. We translate physical engravings into stories that are then displayed throughout the festival through performers, installations, portals, art and the overall experience. It can be difficult to illustrate these ideas in real time and even harder to get people to catch on to the story you’re trying to tell, but I think we’ve done a pretty good job and I think people feel they can relate. 

What is the biggest challenge regarding creating the event in such a remote location? 

The biggest challenge creating an event at such a remote location is not being able to use machinery in the jungle. Everything we physically bring in has to be brought out. We can’t build mega structures unless they can be built with man power. We have weight limits and complications that arise when it comes to building massive structures. If 20 guys can’t carry it to put it up, then it’s not happening. There hasn’t really been any time that we haven’t been able to do something we want to do, we usually do a pretty good job and pull it off. 

How do you feel the experience of Day Zero has evolved throughout the years?

I think we’ve created a platform for people to really understand what we’re all about. They can rely on coming and having a phenomenal experience because they know what to expect especially if they’ve been in the past. Our venue isn’t used by anyone else so we have the opportunity to expand and activate new areas each year which create more hype and excitement for new things to explore. We went from a small 1000 person festival to a 6000-800 person festival, yet we still pay attention and stay true to who we are. 

What can attendees expect from this year’s edition of Day Zero?

This year's edition of Day Zero will evolve as it always does. We have more areas to explore and new activations for you to get lost in. The lineup alone has me speechless. 

How does Day Zero compare to other events in the Crosstown universe ie Get Lost?

They’re both so unique in so many different ways. One thing they both have in common is we encourage our guests to ALWAYS GET LOST. No matter what, take the path you don’t think you should go down and explore new things. Day Zero has this mystical feeling of getting lost in an unknown place in the middle of the jungle. At night you don’t know your right from your left, then when the sun comes up you have this hazy fog floating through the trees with rays of light slowly starting to shine through light everything up, it’s absolute magic. Both events are marathons but Get Lost is the definition of a marathon, while Day Zero is focused around the Mayan culture, I base Get Lost off of illusion and surrealism. 

What makes Day Zero the best party on earth?

Day Zero is the best party on earth because we’ve managed to stay true to our hearts no matter what each year. No matter how much we grow and how much more recognition we get, we constantly reach for the stars (quite literally) to achieve and create the best experience humanly possible. We’ll continue to pay attention to details and give you something else to explore besides music stages. There’s something about wandering through the jungle and seeing light at the end of the path, then following it only to find something unimaginable. One of the most beautiful things about Day Zero is the experience people walk away with and discover. The stories I hear of magical experiences people have while roaming the jungle looking for nothing yet find everything. This is what makes Day Zero the best party on earth. 

Head of Production & Operations Carlos Lopez

What is your role within Day Zero?

Head of Production.  I'm in charge of production, operations, maintaining government relationships, and supervising all the areas. 

What is the impression of the event with local governments and communities?

At the government level, they appreciate the work we do. The president of Tulum, Mr. Marciano Dzul always brings full support to the event.  They appreciate all the logistics we do and especially that we share all our information with them in order to bring a satisfying experience to our guests. We bring an important economic spill to the region, hire people from the zone, and invite local artisans and small businesses to collaborate with us. I can say that the Mayan community from Dos Ojos looks at the festival with good eyes, not only for the economic spill but they take the event as a flagship of the community.

How does Day Zero’s relationship with these groups differ from other events in the region?

The respect of the heritage and culture is basic. We respect them and always try to give something back. For example, we fixed the road and support the local school.  The fact that we are in a nature park and consult with them makes all the difference. The community is with us. We take care of them they take care of us.

Day Zero prioritizes sustainability initiatives and protecting the grounds it takes place on. How does this translate into the production process?

All the team understands perfectly where we are. We don’t cut trees or remove plants. We have a local team that is in charge of moving plants only and the ones we can’t move we build stone fencing around. The garbage is separated during the set up and all materials we try to be non plastic.

What are some of the challenges that come with producing an event in the remote jungle landscape of Tulum?

We are in the middle of the jungle, so the intense heat and humidity makes the  job more challenging but there are days with storms that any app can tell you when is happening. The fact that we have only ONE chance to do the event is the most challenging thing, we don't have room for mistakes.

How has Day Zero evolved from a production perspective?

It has been a process where we start with 1 stage and some lights , with local suppliers and now have 3 stages. One of the most important lighting companies of the country is behind all the lights which are a must in the event (KONA). For sound we use only Funktion one with the guys from Loto Audio. We bring power generators from Monterrey with Sielek , it's the only company that can make this happen. No power, no Festival. The amount of cable in between all the areas are more than 15 kms 

How does Day Zero compare to other events in the Crosstown universe ie Get Lost?

All of our brands have their own charm. Day Zero will always be held in natural venues,  which have some mystical meaning that we adapt to create a magical experience  outdoors. The Get Lost vibe is more industrial .

How does Day zero compare to other events you produce in Mexico?

Day Zero is the most challenging show I produce not only in Mexico. I don't think something in the world can be harder than this, it's not only the climate conditions, it’s the politics, security situation, logistics to get there, etc.  Definitely one of a kind 

What makes Day Zero the best party on earth?

The complexity of holding an event like Day Zero in the Mexican jungle for more than 20 hours, where every detail of production, experience, and operation is prepared by hundreds of people, makes Day Zero the best event of its kind in the world. We have everything against each edition and we always give everything so that our attendees have an incredible moment, that they put all their problems aside and that the magic of this event serves to vibrate and heal them. That is our goal.

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Day Zero Festival, Damian Lazarus, Eden Schroder, Carlos Lopez