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“When you’re done crying about how much everything sucks, you can find the rest of us at Picó Picante.”
On a recent sunny Saturday afternoon, Maggie Cavallo's public entreaty to get over and on with it had me off my sorry tush, oiling my chain and off to join the Somerville to JP nomadic episode of a spicy night-time fixture.
I had heard the name Picó Picante around and had even “joined” one of their monthly events at The Good Life - so my Timeline tells me - but anyone who knows me and was there knows that I wasn't. How I now regret the error of my laziness. In her spirited response to Gone Begging, Maggie extended Boston a challenge, sugar-coated with an invitation: if the rest of us are at this little spicy event, and I consider myself one of them, namely an artist, then I'm doing something wrong. The party was literally going on without me. Thank you peer pressure.
The nomadic version was touted as a Traveling Tropical Dance Party, which pretty much summed up all I felt like doing on a sparkling August afternoon. Not without a little dread (how cool are these cats? I mean they're artists and DJs), I mounted my bike, tweeted @dance_pajaritos for a location update and soon enough found them by the sound of the bass shaking Central Square. People had jumped off their bikes and were dancing. It was 2pm and the most depressing place in town was thumping under the feet of about sixty people who couldn't stand still.
“You were in the paper”, said one man leaning on his lady friend to organizer Sara Skolnick. The paper, which I now take to be the Globe, kept being mentioned by curious by-standers soon moved to dance – mom & pop couples, a man and his cane, neighborhood bums, folks walking dogs, runners, tourists... until a friendly cop shut it down (who pee-ed in his cornflakes?)
As if it weren't already clear, this is where the beauty of the project came into focus: the party is on wheels and it'll keep moving. Those who had bikes mounted them; some out-of-towners grabbed Hubways; an enthusiastic couple hailed a pedi-cab, and off we went down Mass Ave behind the Picó. As for me, I didn't have to mix and mingle awkwardly, I just biked along, listened and shimmied on my saddle.
Picó Picante gets its name from the mobile sound systems and DJ rigs that originated in the Carribean and took a hold in South America. The picó party-on-wheels is the poor man's dance club. Gigantic, colorful speakers decorated with elaborate designs – in this case a gold piñata, some ghillie-cloth and bunches of fluorescent bananas – blare out bass-laden tunes, a mix of dance-hall, salsa, champeta, boogaloo, at times with a distinct African influence. Today's DJs often mix traditional and folkloric genres to an electronic beat. It's contagiously good.
Given that entry to Picó Picante's monthly gig at The Good Life is a mere $5.00, something more was at stake in this nomadic event. The group of DJs that made up the mix at Nomadic Picó Picante, artists Vela Phelan (HEXbeam), Ricardo De Lima (Oxycontinental), Ethan Kiermaier (Ultratumba and White Walls Boston) and of course Sara Skolnick (Riobamba) and Ernesto Morales (Malagón) of Pajaritos, are friends and frequent collaborators. You could say they form their own little clan of hip, talented artists. Yet here they made it abundantly clear that isn't where they intend to hang up their laurels. Segregation in the city of Boston can persist for cultural, social and economic reasons, or because of a lack of public presence (too many high walls). Going nomadic was a simple, generous, self-evident response: if for whatever reason people won't come to your party, take your party to the people.
When approached by Pajaritos, The Awesome Foundation (created where else but Boston and since expanded to over 50 international cities) threw $1000 at the project, eagerly. It's easy to understand why. Picó Picante is fun. It's as inclusive as you want it to be. It could be our city at its best.
So, are you dancing yet?
Pajaritos AKA DJ Riobamba/Sara Skolnick interviewed by the Boston Globe
And I thought riding while photographing was hard...
"Nomadic Picó Picante" took place 2 to 9pm on Saturday 25 August, 2012.
All images are courtesy of Stephanie Cardon & Picó Picante DJs.