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basking in la solar [A&C]

utopian performances and performatives at a medellín music festival

Driving into Medellín feels like skating across a blanket of stars. The city is nestled between two mountains, each of which is scattered with lit-up homes that make them glisten like a galaxy. When my cousin and I arrive at the park where La Solar Festival is held, the mountains glimmer in the distance. From the vantage point of the main stage, phone flashlights light up the audience and the mountains reflect their light back to create one cohesive glow.


This is my first foreign music festival. It’s tamer and much less crowded than Coachella or Lollapalooza. All of the core elements are the same, but rather than being a who’s-who influencer fashion show where one cocktail costs $25, the ambiance is much more low-key. The lineup contains a mix of international house DJs and Latin pop. The food tent embraces a similar dichotomy: I can go from eating an arepa to downing chili cheese fries.


La Solar attendees dress in everything from normal street clothes to more eccentric rave get-ups of neon nylon and face gems. Contrasting styles and identities mix and mingle on the dance floor, and I am reminded of an article I recently read for madison moore’s Queer Nightlife class called “Party Politics.” In this piece, Simon Wu shares a key observation that “partying, I think, performs a dual, somewhat self-contradictory social function: it can let you perform an identity, and it can let you forget you have one at all.” I look out into a sea of people embracing both realities—sometimes simultaneously––all thanks to a shared love of music that transcends language barriers via a universal embrace of a collective energy and identity.

We meet up with an Italian kid from my cousin’s exchange program in Bogotá who has five lovely Colombian boys in tow. The shy, adorable, tall one begins talking to me; our conversations are a delicate dance of Spanglish, switching back and forth between the two every few sentences for the sake of comfort and clarity.


He challenges me to a game of Dance Dance Revolution, the music video game from the early 2000s that I didn’t even realize still existed. From the ages of 10 to 13, I spent every arcade and laser tag birthday party I was invited to wishing a boy would ask me to play this game with him. A decade later this feels like an unexpected bucket list item I forgot I wanted to cross off. I revel in the randomness of the delightfully unpredictable identity of this festival. Seemingly impossible realities become possible in this utopia that collectively elevates its inhabitants. Dancing in the pattern outlined by the arrows on the screen gives way to getting down and jamming out to Disclosure. 


I’ve seen the English electronic duo live three or four times, but only one of the two brothers is here tonight. He opens with “When a Fire Starts to Burn” and my cousin and I go crazy, but the audience remains remarkably still. It quickly becomes clear that the local crowd is not very familiar with their music.


Disclosure’s sound has escalated into a deeper house vibe over time, mirroring house music’s climb in popularity over the past five to 10 years. He integrates most of their lyrical hits into the mix, but a lot of the set is made up of straight dance beats that he mixes live.



I love Disclosure, but he is not connecting much with his audience. This may be due to the fact that he is missing the other half of his duo and that the audience doesn’t know their music very well. The production is solid, and Disclosure’s signature graphics of outlined faces dance around the big screens playfully, but the performer himself is locked into his switchboard and barely engages with the people in front of him.  


Up next is Peggy Gou. I’ve been obsessed with the 32-year-old South Korean, Berlin-based DJ/singer/songwriter/producer for about as long as most other people have: since her June 2023 single  “(It Goes Like) Nanana” became popular. She notably became the first Korean DJ to play at Berghain in Berlin and was the first female DJ to headline Ushuaïa Ibiza’s closing set. Needless to say, my expectations are high.


She gracefully takes the stage with a cigarette in one hand and a flute of champagne in the other. I am used to DJs spinning bangers from afar but interacting far less with their audience than a band or a singer would, but Peggy performs. She maintains her cool girl façade and pulses back and forth with her lips pursed, but she dances like we’re all up onstage right next to her.


Her team’s cinematography via the cameras that float through the crowd is also impeccable and elevates the connection. The large circular image on the screen toggles back and forth between Peggy and random people in the crowd to create a narrative between them. One guy who gets a moment of screen stardom acts like he’s been put on a kiss cam and shows his overflowing love for Peggy by dancing like crazy and raising his hands above his head, his fingers clasped together in a heart shape. The next girl whose face is broadcasted is on her phone and oblivious that she’s being filmed, which gets laughs from the crowd.


Unlike Disclosure, Peggy caters her set to this specific audience. She mixes everything from “Murder on the Dancefloor” and “Body” by Megan Thee Stallion to reggaeton songs I don’t recognize. She teases us with snippets of her original songs but only ever plays one in its entirety.

In the middle of her “Body” remix I find myself surrounded by a posse of gay American men dancing and doing poppers. I realize that this set is fully for the girls and the gays. The Colombian boys we’ve dragged along are just humoring us; they’re patiently waiting to see Tiesto later, but dancing with us for now in a way only shy straight men can.


Being a current Queer Nightlife student has changed the way I analyze the party settings in which I find myself. I am constantly pondering party-goers’ reasons for being there and the goals they hope to take away from their experiences. Peggy’s set is the perfect example of the utopian performatives Jill Dolan writes about in “Feeling the Potential of Elsewhere”—“small but profound moments in which performance calls the attention of the audience in a way that lifts everyone slightly above the present, into a hopeful feeling of what the world might be like if every moment of our lives were as emotionally voluminous, generous, aesthetically striking, and intersubjectively intense.” You can tell which members of this crowd have attended real raves and which people embody Dolan’s message of “small but profound moments.”


There is an undeniable power in collective experiences such as this one—losing oneself in the music and in a sea of strangers. Peggy’s effervescent energy reciprocates and radiates throughout the crowd, opening a dialogue like the one Dolan speaks of, that elevates us above the present. Whether speaking or playing tracks in English, Spanish, or Korean (her native language), there is a universal dialect carried by the beat. The transcendent power of La Solar brings a utopian togetherness to Medellín, in which a diverse set of strangers quickly become lovers and friends.

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