Chicago performers who fled to Mexico for opportunities continue to make a go of it as they await a revived local scene

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A lot can happen in six months. Just ask Kice Akkawi, the director of operations for Treblemonsters, a music management and curation company. Last August, Akkawi and a group of musicians temporarily moved down to Mexico from Chicago to take advantage of the country’s more lax COVID-19 restrictions and continue performing as part of a hotel residency.

The decision was a bold (and controversial) one. In a year where most artists and music industry professionals had to pivot due to the decimation of the live music scene, the Treblemonsters seemed to have found something of a coveted loophole, one that kept the party going.

At that time, numbers in Illinois were slowly creeping up from their mid-summer lows, and most stores, restaurants and other businesses in Chicago were either closed or operating at reduced capacity. And among the many ways one can either catch or spread the deadly coronavirus, travelling (especially through an airport) can be the riskiest.

“Once the shutdown happened, again, we made that almost instantaneous decision to get out of Chicago, and overall, the US, to keep the (…) talent and the creative juices flowing,” said Akkawi.

There were, of course, some difficulties in the transition to performing life abroad. “Even though, personally, I’ve performed in Mexico for the past five years, it was the first time Treblemonsters as a company was able to go and operate and bring out international talent to Mexico,” Akkawi said.

Language barriers, logistics and budgets all proved to be hurdles for the team. “In Chicago, we know what to expect for the most part, and New York and L.A. and Vegas and Texas, all the states that we operate in,” Akkawi added. “However, in Mexico, it is really, really difficult.”

Originally slated for a month-long residency last September at the TOP by Belo on the island of Isla Mujeres, the Treblemonsters group eventually booked two other contracts at additional venues, including a rooftop event at the Canopy by Hilton in Cancun La Isla. In total, Akkawi and his team booked roughly 30 artists from the United States to play in Mexico. And this year, they will make a more long-term investment in the country, performing as part of a five-day yoga and music retreat.

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