Days Without Sleep & A Dozen Drinks Deep, We Catch Yaeji at a Gay Club in Mexico
Evan Dale // April 7, 2020
Landing in Mexico City, the weight of the decision not to sleep the night before an early flight is lighter than expected. Something about being in a new place – new smells, new colors, new customs, new culture – has my spirits high and motivated. My friend and I grab a disproportionately cheap Uber to Roma Norte – one of Mexico City’s many celebrated art districts. With a limited grip on Spanish and a comfortable sense for adventure, things are seamless. Stepping out of the car and grabbing our weekend bags from the trunk, we’re both drawn to the open-air restaurant on the corner. Overflowing with patrons, quick-moving bartenders, and the smell of a fresh catch, we make quick work of putting away our things and coming right back.
The only open seats are at the shucking bar. That’s perfect for us.
‘Red, white, or rosé?’
The first question asked of us is agreed upon without hesitation
Ten minutes of silence taking in the wine, the sights, and the energy is interrupted by a plate of a dozen oysters nonchalantly presented in front of us. Smoked and slathered in tobasco and lemon juice, they’re the best oysters either of us have ever had. We follow it up with a catch of the day, a pork belly pepito, and another couple rounds of wine before we head on our way. We pick up a 12-pack of Dos Equis en route to the apartment. Over the beers and a sunset above the Mexico City skyline, we happily talk tomorrow’s festivities. We came down to Mexico City for Ceremonia – a one-day music festival of eclectic breadth and intrigue. And though it’s the central focal point of our trip, the chime of a phone suddenly changes all that.
A notification tells us that Yaeji, a Brooklyn producer and vocalist of an auditory aesthetic completely unrelated and incomparable to anyone else – also one of the artists at tomorrow’s festival we’re looking forward to seeing the most – is playing a late-night gig at Bar Oriente less than a mile away. We do our research, we use our maps, and we make the decision that if we can somehow get tickets to the impossibly small venue hosting such an explosively growing artist, we better take advantage.
After the sun sets and after a couple more rounds of beer, we head out again. Mexico City is unparalleled in its sense of personal style, so we put in the effort necessary to belong. Sitting on a bench underneath beautifully preserved homes, Jacaranda tree-lined streets, and a cool Springtime breeze, we’re happy to wait for the ticket office to open. Luckily, when it does, we get in without a problem. A couple more drinks at the bar lead us to the realization that it’s going to be a long night. A local DJ – one of three opening DJ’s – is plowing away at his setup. And though he’s killing it, we’re running on nothing more than alcohol and 40-odd hours without sleep.
Things start to get surreal. Drunk, exhausted, and at an acclaimed gay bar in the middle of Mexico City, we do the only thing we can do to pass the time – we dance. Hours go by, DJ’s overturn sets, the crowd steadily grows and indulges in an exceptional amount of substance, and we float through it all.
Undenounced to us and to the entire venue it seems, one more act shows up for a set before Yaeji. It’s well after one o’clock in the morning at this point, and it’s all the same to us. Thankfully, this group of performers shut down the predictable jungle beat womp of the previous three DJ’s and turn up the absurdity of a UK hip-hop show. Flohio is extensively high-energy. A duo – one producer and one lyricist – tear down the audience’s comfortability in such a bizarre place – and switch it to their liking. Hanging from the rafters, bouncing across stage, and turning up consistently for 40 minutes, Flohio’s performance is not only paramount in revitalizing the crowd, but equally so in their ability to blend the keystones of Yaeji’s imminent performance. Hip-hop and R&B are the coalescence at which Yaeji has found her stroke. Experimental production and a rap-inspired delivery has made her one-of-a-kind at a scale almost shocking when she makes her way on stage.
She is small in stature, but with self-confidence and swagger – is the biggest energy in the venue. Arriving at the table without saying a word and with the entirety of Bar Oriente bouncing completely of the walls, she does her thing.
Yaeji first made a name for herself as a club DJ in Brooklyn. Tearing away her set along with the hours of the night to bring people experiences of the same energy and club passion as what we’re experiencing right now. And, with a full, vocally-driven performance expected at tomorrow’s Ceremonia, she returns to her roots. A proper DJ set by a proper DJ in an incredibly intimate and completely bizarre setting brings to light nuances of a Boiler Room set. But the lack of global acclaim as a venue that Bar Orietne brings with it makes it something even more unique and memorable – even for the masses of ecstasy-fueled patrons in Mexico City. Her set continues and continues, and at peace with ourselves, our effort, and the effort of everyone at Bar Oriente, we cut out back into the streets of Mexico City before the set is even over.
We’ve certainly captured the experience, we’ve thrown ourselves to the elements of total absurdity, and we’re getting plenty of it again tomorrow. For now, it’s time to cruise back through the street art smattered walls of Roma Norte for a solid night’s sleep so we can do it all again.