My earliest memories of people gathering together to enjoy good vibes and good music was probably the tenement parties I witnessed as a small child. Now blotchy memories – more sensations than recollections – my brain paints pictures of water colored visions, a grill cooking hot dogs, hamburgers and chicken, the smoke rising as high as the project buildings, hip folks passing joints and sipping on drinks in brown paper bags, elders talking, people playing cards and dancing. As I think about those images, what resonates the most is the feeling – a feeling that settled into my tiny soul only to be resurrected at certain times. That was my first taste of going out – a sip if you will. As I got older the block parties got replaced by house parties. Small basement settings replaced the open spaces of the courtyard. Silhouettes of perspiring bodies outlined by blue and red light bulbs created heat and energy while folks tried not to bump the makeshift DJ booth.
And these reflections are the makings of me and countless others who walk under the beam of the moonlight to enter venues where electric pulses blast out of speakers and open the doors to our souls, where baby powder is sprinkled on the floor to transcend. These reflections are also the makings of Joann Jimenez and Antonio Ocasio, the life force behind ¡WEPA! a monthly party held at Bar 13, located at 121 University Place. Both Joann and Antonio are staples on the underground house scene and are New Yorkers from Afro-Latin descent. With ¡WEPA! they have orchestrated the quintessential homage to their roots. They are the pied pipers and we are the children of the night happily following them along their musical and visual journey.
The last Friday of every month people of various ages and backgrounds venture to the third floor of Bar 13 and enter into an entire universe to itself – a time capsule of classic and contemporary. Flags and myriad articles of clothing hang on a line, cigars are rolled for a quick excursion to smoke on the rooftop, live percussionists, artists and visuals are mixed in with the best in Afro-Latin rhythms to create the spiciest soul session fit for consumption today.
Jimi Hendrix asked the question, “Have you ever been experienced?” Well, I can now say I have, but what would be more appropriate would be to say that I’ve been re-experienced. I’m an old dinosaur that vividly remembers the golden era of nightclubbing in New York City. Nothing like the water-downed, table service driven parties of today, the ¡WEPA! experience evokes the spirit of old NYC nightlife with a vengeance. Under one roof are elders, circle dancers, prancers and people just enjoying the scenery. The amalgamation of the intimate party vibe and laid back fun from the block injects ¡WEPA! with a dose of freedom and community, the likes of which I haven’t felt in ages – it is the very essence of home.
Everyone knows the expression, “Thank God it’s Friday!” Well, I would like to revise that antiquated sentiment and say, “Thank God for final Fridays!” ¡WEPA! turns every final Friday into a holiday – a blithe fete that culminates the end of each month. Without at doubt, it’s the best $15 party in the Big Apple (RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive the reduced price of $10).
Photos and video courtesy of Joann Jimenez and Antonio Ocasio