RedMonkey: A Party for the History Books Goes Down This Weekend
For the last few years, the schedule has been set for us on Thanksgiving Day: help mom pick up the last minute things she needs from the store, wait for the family to arrive; stuff our faces with pierna de puerco (no turkey at our house), mashed tatoes, veggies and tons of dessert; endure the inevitable drama that ensues when a bunch of your peeps get together; head over to RedMonkey to see the cool people in town and pretend to burn off the calories dancing awesome house music.
RedMonkey is an event that DJ Pete “Supermix” Salaz started as a platform to feature house music in our city and it has been part of La Phoenikera’s night scene for over 20 years.
But we can’t tell you about RedMonkey, without telling you about Chupa! (the exclamation mark is part of it and the phrase is a command: Drink!). In 1991, Chupa! was officially a music storage warehouse; its business license said so. But, every Saturday from midnight till about 7 or 8 in the morning, it was La Phoenikera’s underground house rave.
“This was the beginning of the rave scene here,” says Pete. “For three or four years, little ravers, drag queens and cholos, people from all walks of life, were all there under one roof.”
Chupa! eventually closed as an underground rave because some party crews were creating too much trouble. There was an incident where a group of drag queens was leaving the party and some kids from a party crew followed to harass them. Eddie Amador, co-partner in Chupa! went after the girls to make sure they were safe. When the kids from the party crew bothered them, Eddie defended them and violence broke out. For Pete, whose brother and sister worked the door, it wasn’t worth it.
The urge to continue the house scene in La Phoenikera didn’t go away with Chupa! though. One night, as he looked down at the city from the Durango curve on the freeway, he decided he was going to do it again.
“Man, I’m going to throw a party and it’s not gonna have any meaning behind it, I’m just ‘gonna call it ‘Monkey,'” Pete recalls thinking. “Then I saw an Alpha Romeo and I was going to call it the ‘Alpha Monkey.’ But then I thought, let’s tie it in with the décor I like, which is just red lights.”
And that’s how RedMonkey was born. This time the party was at Riverbottom Lounge, a mom n’ pop bar in South Side La Phoenikera. Local house DJs, including Pete, as well as international acts, would congregate every three or four months to turn up the crowd.
“We would go in there, they would serve cheap drinks, we’d put up a few nets and a little red light bulb and have parties till 4 or 5 in the morning,” Pete remembers.
Fast forward 20 years and this blood-colored simian ain’t at a mom n’ pop shop no more. Pete Salaz is a club owner now, and RedMonkey is held at Monarch Theatre, a club he co-owns with a couple other partners.
There is also a team of people behind RedMonkey, as opposed to being just Pete like when it started. Hector Primero, Alejandro “Hando” Castañeda, Veronica Goldweber and Matthew Hinman are the people responsible for this now staple of La Phoenikera’s music scene.
But why are we telling you about a Thanksgiving Day party when it’s the last week of May? Because RedMonkey is going down this Memorial Day weekend!
We were always under the impression that it only happened on Thanksgiving Day but Pete says it’s actually a twice a year party, they just took a break from Memorial Day weekend for the last couple of years.
If you’ve never been to RedMonkey, you must, even if you think you don’t like house music. Actually, Pete Salaz didn’t like it much either in the beginning. He’d only heard it in mix tapes from Chicago radio stations that his friend made for him. But then he went to Medusa’s, an underground club in Chicago.
“It was the first time I saw that people didn’t dance in couples, you just went out and expressed yourself,’” says Pete. “I had no idea what I was experiencing, the music was just pounding. It was almost like when your heart rate is elevating and I was kinda’ put into a trance.”
He also remembers there was very little lighting and it was used sporadically at just the right time to enhance the vibe. That’s what Pete aims for with RedMonkey.
In its 21st year of existence, the party is going back to basics. The line-up this year is composed of quintessential local house DJs including Eddie Amador, Pete’s former partner in Chupa! and Pete “Supermix” Salaz himself. You’ll also dance to the beats of Turner, Heit, Cocoe, Santos, Cormac and Sean Watson.
What you won’t see is the massive light show, emblematic of modern EDM parties. Pete and the team are intentional about using production to enhance the music and not overshadow it. For them, it’s about the music and how it makes people feel. What they want is for you to lose yourself in the rhythm.
WHEN: Sunday, May 28 from 10 p.m. till 5 p.m.
WHERE: Scarlet Lounge of Monarch Theatre (entrance through the alley), 122 E. Washington St. Phoenix
HOW MUCH: $10 presale, $20 at the door (buy tickets here)