"We're going for maximum disruption." Zoë Beery profiles a party where adventurous dance music meets the fight for immigrant rights.
One Sunday afternoon this June, the building's shadow loomed over something that's never happened before outside: a protest rave. Dancers holding signs reading "PLUR Not ICE" and "Ravers Against Trump" bounced and thrashed to industrial techno, EBM, hardcore, reggaetón and noise that echoed down office-building canyons. All the DJs were Latinx. "I was a bit scared that if something happened, the police would seize me as a foreigner," Tomás Davó, a co-founder N.A.A.F.I. who played that day as Fausto Bahía, told me later. "But it was worth it. It felt good." Throughout the afternoon, families of tourists leaving the nearby Brooklyn Bridge stopped to stare, but the protest was not designed to draw outsiders in. It was by and for the people who showed up.
The action was the first daylight event hosted by Melting Point, a year-old Brooklyn collective that throws parties for immigrant rights. They were inspired to do a sonic protest partially by Atari Teenage Riot's incitement of an actual riot during the 1999 May 1st demonstration in Berlin, and although this protest didn't lead to chaos, defiance still reigned. "It was a healing moment," says Brytani Caipa, one of the organizers. "We have this marginalized, queer people of color community that's comprised of a lot of bodies that feel safe at night in a club, so taking our community to the ICE headquarters was huge."
As far-right regimes rise globally, bringing violent hatred to the doorstep of global rave culture, much of the worldwide underground is trying to figure out how to get back to electronic music's political roots. Striking the right balance is difficult: we go to the club for a reprieve from a crumbling world, not to be reminded of it, but pure escapism feels wrong, too. By focusing thoughtfully on both music and politics, Melting Point is building a community that wants to party and agitate in equal measure.
Their work began last May, when reports surfaced that the Trump administration had secretly been separating migrant children from their parents for months under a so-called "zero-tolerance" policy. Caipa and a few other Latinx ravers started texting each other frantically. "We weren't able to sleep at night knowing what was going on," she says. Coming from immigrant families, the dehumanizing rhetoric blaring from the White House was not news to any of them. But this level of sanctioned cruelty was. In June, they sat down to figure out what they could do. "We had all found refuge in nightlife and really wanted to make space for ourselves and others in our community using hardcore music," Caipa remembers. Having organized parties in several cities between them, they decided it made the most sense to use the skills they already had.
Two months later they threw their first "fundraver" with the help of over a dozen friends: promoters, designers, artists, techs and more. Out of the many organizations they'd researched, they chose to benefit Al Otro Lado, a small Los Angeles nonprofit that provides daily direct aid and legal support to asylum-seekers in Tijuana. A slate of local DJs, led by Physical Therapy, signed on to volunteer their time. For its name, the group borrowed from a slogan of the immigrant rights movement: "Melt ICE." Other than the soundsystem blowing out, the night was a success, raising $7,000 for Al Otro Lado and showing that the community was hungry for opportunities to politicize the dance floor.
What was originally planned as a one- or two-off thing became a monthly event. Now, Caipa books the DJs with her friend Joel Rodriguez (AKA Channel63), adding performers who draw on punk, noise, dance and hardcore (the guitar kind) to form the most vibrant corner of Brooklyn's musical map. In blending these confrontational live acts and the DJs' high-intensity, often high-BPM selections, Melting Point has developed a clear sonic identity. "It's exposure therapy for modernity—very hard and violent, but at the same time, there's a beauty and an otherworldliness to it," says Cole Carter, the collective's production manager. Filtered through distortion pedals and CDJs, the anger and violence of the world outside transforms into collective release, uniting multiple scenes in a search for change. "There are so many beautiful freaks in the city, but parties get so genre-specific and scene-specific," Carter adds. "When we got all these people under one roof, we found there's a lot more in common that we realize."
Although the party's activism focuses on the US-Mexico border, it's making a local impact, too. Parties like Black Hole, Papi Juice and Half Moon that promote DJs of color are increasing here, but the Brooklyn landscape overall remains a monoculture. "There's still work to be done in the scene with white people understanding where people of color are coming from," says Black Hole cofounder Felton Cortijo, who DJs as Xiorro and played the protest rave, "and I think collectives like Melting Point pushing POC artists are helping to push that conversation." Most editions have happened in Bushwick, a historically Latinx neighborhood where recent white transplants make noise complaints about the bachata that soundtracks summer nights. To hear the same rhythms blasting out of DIY venues that developers have exploited to promote gentrification is a full-circle reminder that Latinx communities have been influencing New York dance music since before Masters At Work changed the game.
Other than the median age of the crowd being around 24, Melting Point's dance floor is truly diverse, which does more than create visibility: it's opportunity for dialogue about how immigration policy and its amplification of racism affect the community. Everyone I talked to for this story agreed they're feeling the effects of an administration that openly encourages xenophobia. Cortijo, a first-generation Puerto Rican, says this year marked the first time a white person felt emboldened enough to tell him to "go back to where you came from" (which is Boston). Davó, who lives in Mexico City, has noticed an uptick there in new, deported residents who don't speak Spanish because they've lived in the U.S. their entire lives. Caipa says many of the Latinx artists who have played Melting Point have had family members deported. Just a few weeks after attending the first fundraver last summer, two of Carter's immigrant friends were detained on the drive back from Sustain-Release.
These are the threats that many Latinx ravers live with every day, making Melting Point a place to heal and celebrate. "It's meaningful to have a space of resistance and protest, but also joy and a celebration of the culture that we come from," says Ecuadorian-Lithuanian DJ Sara Skolnick, AKA Riobamba, a Melting Point collective member. "The stuff that's happening right now is heavy, and we're all keeping up with it and internalizing so much."