Don't be deceived. Hardpop might sound like the trashiest gay disco this side of Soho but scratch beneath the name to uncover one of the globe's most unlikely outposts of underground techno. Located in the volatile Mexican border city of Juárez, this small unassuming rave-box is every bit as explosive as the city around it.
Forget the diluted hip-hop and US pop that seeps across the border and saturates elsewhere in Mexico, at Hardpop it's all about a young crowd reacting to a dark DC10-esque soundtrack with the sort of fervour you'd expect at a Prodigy concert.
Indeed, Juárez might have more chance of topping the world's most dangerous cities list than one for the world's greatest club, but that's part of the reason that DJs like Magda and Damian Lazarus have been put under its spell. In a city where gang slaughters and warring drug cartels are part of everyday life, Hardpop is a hedonistic release as pure as the powders these cartels are fighting over.
But whilst DJs often require gun-wielding bodyguards as precaution, the only protection they usually need is from the hoards of fans treating them like megastars.
"The crowd are so into the music and they respond to the DJs like they would at a concert," explains Hardpop founder Ricardo Tejada. "We open at 9pm every Friday and Saturday with queues from the very start. And we only go on until 2am so the crowd really let go and are full of energy from the start."
Born in Paris of Mexican descent, Ricardo now resides in the modern Mexican city of Monterrey, but his Juárez baby was first conceived during his clubbing experiences whilst living in London. Inspired by the underground techno he heard at venues like The End and Fabric, the veteran clubber felt determined to provide both an outlet and a platform for underground techno in his homelands.
First opening its doors back in October 2006, Hardpop has been synonymous with techno as raw as its rugged interior. Guests like Deadmau5, Jesse Rose and James Lavelle all frequent but its pedigree is best rubberstamped by its tight association with ultra-cool Berlin label Get Physical and Damian Lazarus's Crosstown Rebels, the latter holding a bi-monthly residency with guests like Pier Bucci, Jamie Jones and Matthew Styles.
"It's kind of in this shopping mall and you arrive there thinking, 'So what, this is a club?'" explains Get Physical's Heidi. "But inside it's the most intense atmosphere I have played. The soundsystem is great, the crowd are mainly under 25 so they're young, intense and crazy. But most importantly they really know your music, they're grateful and they thank you for coming over to their city and shedding some light on the dark city that is Juárez. It's been one of my best gigs of the year."