Dani Shivers Jason Thomas Fritz Tijuana witchhouse drag Dani Shivers Jason Thomas Fritz Tijuana witchhouse drag 

Scouring the weekly neighborhood flea market for castaway keyboards with her dog Tou Tou in tow, You Schaffner—the Tijuana songstress behind her wistful toy-pop alter ego Dani Shivers—opted, on this day, for an ice cream cone instead of an instrument. Prior visits to Tijuana’s sobre reudas—as the city’s roving secondhand markets are known—have proven much more fruitful. Walking its aisles, Schaffner bragged slightly about how little her Clapton-of-cheap-keyboards like collection had set her back.

It all started when Schaffner, the singer and one of the principal song writers of indie band Ibi Ego, set out to record a headful of fleeting melodies that often escaped her. Describing herself as, ‘very forgetful,’ Schaffner used a simple formula to remember potential songs by: a cheap Radio Shack microphone, toy keyboards, and her mother’s virus-ridden PC. She started recording in the DIY studio that doubled as her bedroom. But the disconnect between the song constructions that Schaffner imagined and the constraints of shoddy instrumentation produced unexpected results. She started exploring the possibilities within its limitations. ‘The songs are built with layers. It allows me to play a lot with the sounds, the forms,’ Schaffner said. And while her intentions were more polished, the low-fi, serendipitous ends she captured in her sonic note taking became the inspiration for her solo project, Dani Shivers.

‘The sound in my head is very different,’ Schaffner admitted. ‘The songs of Dani Shivers are more of an 8-bit version of what is really in my head.’ But the simple, imperfect versions of the scores in her imagination are a thing of beauty. Dripping with the nostalgia that only the toy Casio keyboards ubiquitous to childhood can evoke, Schaffner’s melancholic numbers capture perfectly those uncomfortable spaces between life’s transition where innocence fades and the heartbreaking truths of this world become apparent.

Jason Thomas Fritz Tijuana

Tijuana hipsterTijuana hipster

Tropics Tijuana hipstersTropics Tijuana hipstersTropics Tijuana hipstersTropics Tijuana hipstersTropics Tijuana hipsters
 

In wilder days of last summer, before Club America soccer star Salvador Cabañas took a bullet to the head in a Mexico City after hours bar and spoiled the fun for the ones in Tijuana, Tropic’s Bar was where the hard charging set drank until sunrise.

In a city of dive bars, Tropic’s Bar was a star, with an only-in-Tijuana collision of randomness that gave it a charm all its own. Last year, on any given night, well dressed gentlemen drinking since they got out of work, would pass out at the bar, beers in hand, next to pretty trannies flirting with guys too drunk to realize, or drunk enough not to care. In its darkest corners, aging women awaited drinks bought by lonely men looking for more than conversation, and willing to pay for it. And when the hipster bar next door closed, the with-it set headed to Tropic’s Bar to stack themselves into its tiny booths, where the ones who hit it off were left to decide whether to buy one more round, or make it home to make it before the coming day’s light ruined the mood.

While the city hasn’t been the same since it imposed new hours in January in response to Cabaña shooting, much of Tropic’s Bar’s essence remains, albeit in a tamer form. Its disparate clientele survives, but comport themselves better with a last call. The brass stripper pole in the back that sits unused on most nights, still invites alcohol induced acrobatics on occasion. And as she always has, the elegant older woman with jet black hair tending bar never allows tipping customers’ “caliente peanuts, wafers smothered in Valentina hot sauce, and Japanese peanuts” to get dangerously low—until the clock strikes 3 a.m., that is.