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It's safe to say that no Seattle DJ burns more calories per gig than Waxwitch (aka Isabela Garcia). At any of her dozen-plus events per month, Garcia is in near-perpetual motion behind the decks (and sometimes in front of them), dancing up a tropical storm while flashing a beatific smile. The fun she's clearly having while spinning records such as Tom Tom Club's “Genius of Love” or Björk's “Big Time Sensuality” acts as a contagion on crowds around the city, particularly at Babe Night, the event into which she's currently putting the most time and energy—with big dividends.
The Babe Night concept seems so obvious and ripe for success, but nobody's really capitalized on it like Garcia has. She and a rotating cast of the area's savviest women selectors (including La Mala Noche, Kween Kaysh, and Gold Chisme) play female-centric tracks geared to get hands in the air and butts in gear. Garcia describes the ethos as “essentially 'Barbie Girl' by Aqua. It's a popular song that kind of fell out of favor because it was found to be too goofy. So it perfectly encompasses that silly, carefree, feminine energy that I want to reclaim.
“Speaking as someone who grew up here, Seattle can be too cool for its own good. I want to let people know that it's okay to embrace fun. I am confident that I can melt that 'freeze' down with some Vengaboys.”
Babe Night has been going strong every third Thursday at Capitol Hill club the Woods and at other pop-up spots since last fall, but the idea actually goes back to 2016, when Garcia was working at the now-defunct Speckled & Drake. Her friend Morgan Elizabeth suggested they create a night that, in Garcia's words, “was centered on women partying together and championing this feminine energy and female-made music and icons.” Garcia didn't need coaxing to manifest that notion. Thus, her DJ career kicked off in grand style.
“It seemed like a one-off at first,” Garcia remembers, “but really it was lightning in a bottle. It featured other female DJs and artists. We had my friend Marcy Stone-Francois doing graphic video work for the night. I became known as Waxwitch of Babe Night due to the success and relatability of the concept.”
Babe Night had a successful run that surprised Garcia, but she decided to pause it in 2018 as she worked to get sober and to hone her DJ skills. It was an opportune time to do so, as her fellow babe DJs had moved to Los Angeles.
Quitting booze was a game-changer for Garcia. “I used to think that I couldn't really be myself or make genuine art if I wasn't filtering my experience through the lens of some inebriation. I realized that once I got sober, all the things that I thought were making me be creative were just hampering what I was able to do. So these last four years have been the shift and all these other nights of being so productive is the beauty of sobriety. All the money I used to spend on shitty beer and hangovers now goes toward records.”
Garcia's mental clarity has enabled her to launch a number of different-themed dance parties, which she prefers over an open night of DJ features. “People can tap into and take more ownership of a night versus 'Oh, I'm just going to see a DJ.' No, we're going to the Night Moves darkwave party.” (That night was a hit at the defunct Ronette's Psychedelic Sock Hop.)
“Playing at the SAM Remix party last year was a super-pivotal point for me,” Garcia says. “I felt truly seen for my passion genres, which are warm, outsider disco and French and Latin rare groove. It was an experience I never had before—people didn't know what I was playing and they still loved it and were dancing to it.”
As for Babe Night, its aesthetic is malleable. When Garcia decided to revive it, she figured she'd strictly play female artists from the '80s to the early '00s. That policy held for a while, but, Garcia says, “I also realized that even though Babe Night is about feminine energy and creativity, it's not a party exclusively for folks who identify as women. Anyone can find their inner babe. It's an indescribable quality in a person. I hope it can be accepted by anyone, regardless of their pronouns or orientations.”
Garcia still wants most of the vocal tracks she plays to be by women, but she also wants “to weave in alien, robot, queer voices” into the mix. The male-singer ban faded when she realized “there are some tracks—like Mo-Do's 'Super Gut' and Right Said Fred's 'I'm Too Sexy'—that are presented in these baritone male voices, but they possess this obvious feminine, babe energy.” But, she stresses, “Selecting specific tracks is less important than having cohesive world-building. I want Babe Night to be more than a party; I want it to be a state of mind. A big part of that is letting go of that self-seriousness. I really associate with the '90s early-rave/dance culture.”
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Garcia praises the crowds that have flocked to Babe Night so far. “There's a strong feminine energy and appreciation of the different styles of the night. I have a solid younger crew who totally understand and appreciate the Eurohouse and the revival of rave culture. And then I have another side, which is more my side of the crew, the 30-plus crew who can enjoy the fun, throwback nature of the night. The energy as a whole is very light-hearted. With some dance events, the music can be kind of aggressive, dark, and misogynistic, and that is the total opposite of [Babe Night]. [Babe Night's] vibe is very happy. People seem to be dancing with each other, but it's not like somebody's trying to dance on you.” Garcia credits her partner, DJ Repoman, with helping to build “the dream state that is Babe Night” with his graphic design skills and art direction. “He is the behind-the-scenes babe who makes the night possible.”
Ultimately, Garcia wants Babe Night to expand to other cities and to feature DJs from around the country. “I want it to fill a vacuum of a specific kind of carefree expression in the dance scene. My goal is for it to become a vibrant ecosystem of events that can vary greatly from one to the next. But it would have that kind of Babe je ne sais quoi. I want to continue to build the community and keep featuring different babes and voices.”
Babe Night is every third Thursday at the Woods. There will also be a special edition of Babe Night at Benbow Room April 14, and an offshoot of Babe Night, Babe Fest, will happen at Lo-Fi on June 10.