Getting Punked: The Night PunkPhunk Changed My Life

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Welcome to the fourth installment of Talk Tuesdays, in which I post a conversation with an artist or someone affiliated with the electronic music industry for your viewing pleasure.

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You never know which moment will alter your life forever.

Of course, a feeling might overcome you during major life milestones – walking to the podium on graduation day, perhaps; seeing your college dorm for the first time, maybe. But other moments may not be so obvious- you might stumble into them, at the right place, at the right time. That’s how it was for me when I met Miguel Maldonado.Known to many as Punkphunk, an eclectic house DJ born in San Francisco and raised in Mexico, Miguel was just another person at the packed club that night for me. Well, at first, anyway. He happened to be standing next to the DJ booth in the VIP section at S.F.’s finest, Love + Propaganda. And I happened to be sneaking into that very same VIP section (after already getting the boot by the bouncer).

Chris Lake, maker of hits such as “Stranger” and “How Deep is Your Love (Remix),” was spinning that night. The room was thumping with the rhythm of his beats as lights danced on the wall behind him. Heat emanated from the gyrating bodies on the dance floor; the humidity was almost sticky on the skin. I decided then that I would take a shot at interviewing Lake, a man capable of controlling the club with such creative means. But that would entail pulling some sleuth-like maneuvers to get up close and personal with the booth.

Miguel noticed this determination from me. As I would soon come to learn, he noticed a lot of things about a lot of things. His eye for body language was almost imperceptible upon observation, but evident in the way he interacted with other people. Having that skill is almost necessary to survive the many social spheres one navigates as a promoter (a role Miguel assumes quite often). But I’d argue it’s almost more crucial as a DJ, where you constantly have to sense the crowd and its engagement with the music one is spinning. In both scenarios, you soar above all, seeing all- it’s no wonder Miguel would later describe his spirit animal as a California condor.

I didn’t know any of this the first time I snuck into VIP, of course. Heart pounding in my ears, all I was interested in was snagging the next exclusive for this website. I struck up a conversation with Miguel, whom I noticed was going in and out of the booth to talk to Chris Lake. I thought, “Hey, maybe this guy has some connections.” I never would have imagined how many connections he had, though, until later that night.

As it turned out, Miguel had opened for Chris Lake and was actually pretty good buddies with him. So good, in fact, that he managed to win Chris over to the Malaysian Safari side (interview out soon- stay posted). After his set, he let me know he would take up the offer for an interview. I was beyond stoked. This was my big break!

But my luck would not end after that Q & A session with Chris Lake at 3 am. After we parted ways, Miguel invited me and my boyfriend to continue the party. We were both astounded- don’t all clubs in SF shut down at 2 am? Miguel shook his head. There was a whole world to which we were not privy. But we were ready to explore – we hopped in the BMW on our way to the first venue on Howard St. There, Miguel greeted the bouncers by name and with a hug, which served as the key that unlocked our admittance into the club. As we crossed the threshold into the dimly lit atmosphere, he turned his head to say, “Yeah, I kinda run shit around here.”

After a few drinks, and practically before I had time to come back from the bathroom, we were off to Japantown for another after hours; after after hours, if you will. This time, getting in for free wasn’t so easy- when the lady in charge of collecting cover said he wasn’t on the event list (though Miguel insisted he was on the permanent list), he stayed calm and collected as he phoned the manager. But before the manager had time to pick up, the lady quickly realized, “this guy must be somebody.” Or at least that’s the conclusion I came to as she reluctantly let us through. Score.

I had a lot of firsts at that venue, which I will not go into detail for legal reasons. But I will tell you this- for the first time in a long time, I felt cool. To put this feeling into words would immediately render me uncool by traditional standards – like, being cool is so whatever –  but just take this for an example. After Miguel introduced me to all the DJs spinning deep house and techno tunes, I literally told him, “I’ve never felt so cool.” He still gives me shit to this day about it, but hey, it was the God’s honest truth.

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Hopefully this teaser whets your appetite for next week’s installment in the exposé series on Miguel Maldonado AKA Punkphunk, where I intersperse our full-length interview with narratives on our wild adventures into San Francisco’s abyss. See you soon!

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