Art Basel Miami Beach

One Man's Quest to Make It All 12 Hours of Red Bull's Basel Party

Editor's note: We sent our writer out to Red Bull's Art Basel party, 12 Hours of NAAFI. It was one of the week's most anticipated events, a marathon jammed with some pristine up-and-coming talent in one of the trendiest spots in one of Miami's trendiest neighborhoods. Armed with nothing more than a notepad and a shit-ton of energy drinks, New Times tried to last all 12 hours and live to tell the tale.

5:23 p.m.: Red Bull's 12 Hours of NAAFI was scheduled to start 23 minutes ago. I’ve just parked after an hour of Art Basel traffic. About a ten-minute walk from Coyo, I’m taking a minute to savor my last moments of (relative) silence and grab a seat on the fence of what's either a junkyard or body shop. A brown paper bag barely covers the label of the cheap liquor I’ve brought with me to make things a little more interesting. A converted golf cart, armed with a bright advertisement plastered on its side and a booming sound system, picks up a group of girls in front of me and whisks them away, their squeals fading off in the distance. This is Art Basel, huh? Tight.

6:01 p.m.: Intrigued and a tad jealous, I’m now in the backseat of one of those same golf carts leaving Coyo and heading to Red Bull's Wynwood office. I’m sitting next to acclaimed moombahton producer Dave Nada, whose long hair blows in the wind. Humberto is our driver and he seems pretty excited, all things considered. I don’t know the man, but I imagine he’ll be making some good money this weekend. Good for him.

6:08 p.m.: I’m at the Red Bull offices, where the team is getting some last-minute issues sorted out. I'm still not officially in party mode, but eleven hours of NAAFI is just as impressive as twelve. We watch ICYTWAT music videos until we get word that the doors back at Coyo will be opening up soon. As we’re walking out, I look in the conference room and there is a massive spread on a long wooden table: sandwiches, fruit salads, and floral arrangements — the ripest tomatoes, the greenest lettuce. Is that hummus? Oh, that's hummus. In front of each plate is a DJ’s name. I weigh the pros and cons of stealing a strawberry but ultimately decide against it.  6:28 p.m.: We walk into Coyo through a back entrance, the same way a score of hummus-bloated DJs soon will. There is a woman with wristbands and a large bouncer guarding the pathway. Inside, there are tote bags packed with freebies, tall women in black leather jackets, and men in crisp white T-shirts made of Egyptian cotton smoking cigarettes. With my press credentials wrapped around my wrist, I consider calling my mom to tell her I’ve found my calling. I will be a full-time music journalist, living off swag bags and stolen sandwiches.

7:29 p.m.: Faustio Bahia is killing it, and 12 Hours of NAAFI is fully underway. By virtue of some divine intervention, I’ve found myself on the artists’ drink and food tab, with free reign to order both at my leisure. SANGREE’s art installation is right in the middle of the dance floor. It’s a beautiful pre-Colombian take on modern technology housed in glass cases. I shudder to think about a drunk Baseler accidentally knocking either of the cases over. Then I take another sip of my drink.

8 p.m.: Faustio has passed the controls over to Mock the Zuma. Or maybe it was the other way around. In either case, the night — and mixing — feels seamless. NAAFI’s arsenal of remixes and edits rules the day, blaring out of Coyo’s impressive sound system. The red hues that provide just enough light to see the people around you help make everything feel like a dream. At the couches on either side of the DJ booth, you can find a group of 20-somethings with rare graphic tees, draping shirts, curly hair, blonde highlights, and exclusive sneakers. No Art Basel bros in sight. Not yet, at least. 9:13 p.m.: It’s getting harder to write in my notebook now. I think I’ve reached my personal limit for drinks. I think Lao is spinning at this point. The bartender has a temporary NAAFI tattoo right above her cleavage. I do my best to look away.

11 p.m.: The sheer magnitude of this event is wild to me, a testament to its thoughtful curation. I’m in the back smoking section speaking with Faustio Bahia about club music, pretending I like to smoke cigarettes. As I walk back into Coyo through the long, lonely hallway guided only by faint, hazy red light, I see Tygapaw posing for pictures against the wall. I stop to not photobomb the rising DJ. The photographer shoos me through anyway. Tygapaw looks subdued but happy, unbothered, like she’s enjoying the moment. Good for her. I wonder if she has an extra sandwich.

12:34 a.m.: I think the artists' tab has all but run out. Either that or I’ve been cut off. Maybe I’ve had my last gin and tonic. Maybe that’s not such a bad idea. Tygapaw is spinning now. Her white jacket is draped over her shoulders and her eyes are glued on the CDJs in front of her. She looks up to acknowledge the crowd every time she does something awesome — which happens quite often. The crowd gives her the positive reinforcement she's after. It's the circle of club life.
1:58 a.m.: Venus X has made her way to the DJ booth. I’ve been waiting for her set all night, and I have no idea where she came from or when she got here — it's quite possible, at this point, that she's a hallucination, simply a result of sleep deprivation and gin. She’s in an all-white Hood By Air ensemble, with yellow-tinted sunglasses covering half her face. She is glamour; she is vogue. I’m standing just a few feet away to her left. Behind her, I can see the lights from the flashing neon sign closer to the entrance, made in the image of an Aztec royal. His feet are above his head, like he’s falling from a profound height. He maintains a focused frown, like he’s deciding right then and there to survive the free-fall of a million lifetimes. I can relate.

3:43 a.m.: I spot Happy Colors by the DJ booth. He’s easy to recognize, even from afar, with his trademark hair and wide grin. I wonder if he’ll recognize me from the Skype interview we did a couple of weeks ago. He does, and we hug like old friends. I congratulate him on the Grammy nomination, and we party until the thumping bass makes my ears ring.  6 a.m.: 12 Hours of NAAFI is over, or at least I’m pretty sure it is. I’ve just woken up in a stranger’s home, closer to Marlins Park than Wynwood. My head is pounding, and I’m not sure I can ever responsibly recommend partying for 12 hours straight, but if you absolutely must, I recommend doing so with NAAFI and friends. There was an element of camaraderie among all of these DJs — artists hailing from different cities, different crews, different countries. The contemporary club scene, perhaps more than any other scene or genre, spans the globe and is connected by the glorious world wide web. For 12 hours, this section of the internet, the one that connects people from Uptown Manhattan to the southernmost regions of the American continent, came together in Miami. In light of recent events (cough — Donald — cough — Trump), 12 Hours of NAAFI felt like an affront to that unfortunate wave of white nationalism and bad toupees. These were artists of color from the communities most threatened by a Trump presidency. And they were running a damn good show. Mexicans, immigrants, LGBTQ folks — this was America’s party, whether the suits like it or not. And now, bedtime.
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Jorge Courtade