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Why Adobo Is the Multicultural Dance Party DC Needs Right Now

Fans love its music mix: reggaeton, bachata, dembow, go-go, soca, Afrobeats, and tons more.

Pedro Night, Walter Alvarado, and DJ JCU3, who’s performed at Adobo events. Photograph courtesy of subjects.

Pedro Night and Walter Alvarado met in church as 11-year-olds in Gaithersburg, then stayed friends as they grew up and got involved with the music scene. Alvarado, whose roots are Salvadoran, organized popular parties as a student at Towson University. Night, who is of Nicaraguan descent, worked as a DJ and did marketing for dance-music events. But in 2016, Night was fired from that marketing gig, and he started to get serious about an idea he’d been playing around with: a series of events featuring a distinctly multicultural mix of sounds. It would include plenty of Latin music, along with tunes from the US, Africa, and the Caribbean.

That blend was inspired by the way he and Alvarado discovered new music together as kids in the burbs. “We were jumping around from genre to genre, region to region, from continent to continent,” Night recalls of middle-school parties he attended. “It was all completely natural.”

Night had a feeling he was on to something, so he mentioned the idea to Marcus Dowling, a music writer he’d gotten to know. Dowling loved the concept and wanted to get involved. He suggested expanding it to include older Latin genres. Alvarado soon joined the team, and Adobo was born. Its first event took place in 2018 at Villain & Saint in Bethesda.

Since then, Adobo has staged packed parties around the District, quickly growing into one of the area’s most exciting hubs of cultural cross-pollination. It has taken over venues such as Karma, Big Chief, and the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage. Attend one of the group’s events—the next one is planned for May 1 at the Bullpen in Navy Yard—and you’ll be part of a notably diverse crowd dancing to a head-spinning variety of genres: Latin music such as reggaeton, bachata, cumbia, dembow, and merengue, along with hip-hop, go-go, R&B, dancehall, soca, Afrobeats, and more.

Adobo isn’t just about partying—it also organizes fundraisers: A recent online effort benefited at-risk and undocumented families in Prince George’s and Montgomery counties. And its events are meant to be friendly spaces for Washingtonians who don’t always feel welcome at some other clubs. Night and Alvarado point to an incident they witnessed at a DC Latin-music venue years ago where several of their Black friends were refused admission. For Adobo, the whole idea is to bring together groups who otherwise might not socialize at a party. “The key to our success,” says Night, “is that diversity.”

This article appears in the March 2022 issue of Washingtonian.