About an hour after sunrise on a recent Saturday morning, when many New Yorkers had just woken up, a line of people in Christmas outfits stretched 300 feet in front of a warehouse near train tracks in the neighborhood. Brooklyn industrialist.
There were Santa hats, red and green sweaters, elf ears and reindeer antlers. The temperature was 38 degrees.
Kayla Williams, one of the first in line, had arrived at 8 a.m. She had started planning her white faux fur ensemble a month earlier. “I’m here to party with my girls,” she says with a smile.
It turns out that the party in question started at 9 a.m.
New York always does Christmas big: there’s a 25-meter tree in Rockefeller Center, a dazzling light show on Saks Fifth Avenue, postcard-worthy ice skating in Central Park, ballet dancers crossing “Nutcracker” at Lincoln Center. There are company parties, cocktail parties, house parties. And while sober early-morning dance parties are growing in popularity, very few booze-fueled parties require a wake-up call.
The 9 am Banger – a dance party with DJs and a few hours of free drinks – has become an unlikely New York institution in recent years, floating from place to place across the city and attracting a young crowd who appreciate apparently the novelty of a wild morning on the town.
“We all went to evening parties,” said Jonathan Espinal, 33, one of the organizers. “We all went to boozy brunches. But not everyone got up early in the morning to party.
Sixteen hundred revelers attended The Banger Before Christmas, which was the biggest yet, according to Mr Espinal. It was the seventh 9am party he and his friends had thrown this year.
The idea started small in 2015 as a pre-SantaCon get-together in a Washington Heights apartment, but quickly grew into something much, much bigger. And while SantaCon is often a largely white event, 9 am Banger primarily attracts black and Latino revelers.
Mr. Espinal and his partners – five friends in their thirties who want to be DJs and host events – have formed a multimedia production company, We Are House 78, and now host regular breakfast parties. There’s an annual St. Patrick’s Day party at 9 a.m., a summer event at 9 a.m. (Rise and Rosé, where the dress code is pink), and a Halloween party at 9 a.m. as well.
The average ticket price is around $55, and attendees often find out about the party by word of mouth, though the guys have built a solid social media presence, with slick videos of what you missed if you slept.
Organizers are targeting an eclectic crowd. It’s not just a hip-hop night, Mr. Espinal noted. “It’s hip-hop, reggaeton, bachata, soca, reggae, you know, Caribbean mixed with African American, mixed with a bit of EDM and house music.” They’ve tried to create an inclusive environment, he said, that’s welcoming and doesn’t have a VIP section: “Where no one is afraid to be themselves,” he said.
At the warehouse site on Saturday, it was clear no one was trying to be cool. There were grown men wearing Christmas onesies. A man in a reindeer jumpsuit watched as a group of glamorous women dressed in fur-trimmed red sequin jumpsuits and fishnet stockings took selfies at the bar. There were dozens of tacky Christmas sweaters and crowds of candy cane striped leggings. A Grinche or two were on the dance floor, and a gingerbread man carrying a fanny pack was frolicking in the crowd.
The mood was dizzy.
Christian Cruz, 27, set his alarm clock for 5:30 a.m. “I repeated it four times,” he said. He and his cousin had eaten omelets for breakfast, then drove 45 minutes through Brooklyn to their first 9 a.m. Banger. “Just to do something new,” he said.
He wasn’t the only newbie, but the morning party has loyal fans, who all enjoy the positive vibes as well as the exhilaration of daylight.
“This is my fourth year,” said Yessenia Ramos, 28. “I love it here.” She and her friends spent the night at a hostel in Brooklyn so they wouldn’t have to drive all the way from New Jersey in the morning. For breakfast, she had a hash brown and hard seltzer water, she said. “Oh, and a fireball shot.”
Miguel Reyes, 28, stared at his pals as he confessed: ‘Our breakfast was booze. Maybe an empanada on the side. Mr. Reyes also stated that the Christmas Banger is actually his second favorite Banger; his favorite is El Bangero, the Cinco de Mayo party, where attendees dress up to celebrate their Dominican, Puerto Rican, or Mexican heritage. “It’s amazing because you walk in, there’s a bar open for two hours, right? And then they throw sombreros, they throw chicken nuggets, and then at the end there’s like a surprise artist.
Saturday’s event also featured a surprise special guest, rapper French Montana, who took the stage at noon. But clearly, he wasn’t the draw. Partygoers came for the vibrant vibe — and the free drinks.
“We drank at home. We drank online. And now we’re going to drink inside,” said Naja Franklin, a 26-year-old from Brooklyn who woke up at 4:30 a.m. to witness what was her third banger. She had persuaded friends who had never been there to come with her. “Later we’ll go to brunch, then we’ll party later,” she said. “I’m so serious.”
And tomorrow? “So we’re going to die,” she laughs. “We will sleep and recover.”
Around 10:30 a.m., Mr. Espinal, one of the organizers, grabbed a microphone and went on stage. “Hello,” he thundered. “You are all beautiful this morning.” A woman in a white tutu shouted heartily.
Kayla Pantaleon, 22, had arrived at 8:30 a.m. from the Bronx and was planning to attend another party later. Would she go out the next day? “No, no, no,” she said. “We are staying home tomorrow. It is Sunday. It is the day of God.
As for Mr. Espinal, following the last big event of the year, he planned to get some sleep. “I’m not a night owl,” he said. “I try to be in bed by 10 o’clock.”