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Disco Donnie Talks The Day After Panama Festival and South American Expansion

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Disco Donnie

Mardis Gras has come and gone, the Northern hemisphere lies in silent snowy slumber, and college students struggle through mid-semester blues. It’s not a time of great merriment – unless you’re one of the lucky partiers in Central and South America. Their golden hour of summer has only begun to diminish, and, in the spirit of making the most, it’s time to push the party to the limit.

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That’s the vision behind The Day After Panama, Disco Donnie’s all-out dance fest that turns a Panamanian tradition into a three-day dance music explosion.

“It’s a Carnaval-type theme,” DDP founder and CEO “Disco” Donnie Estopinal says. “The day after (the party) is where you’re stopping everything, so you want to get it all out. That’s the whole basis behind (the festival) and that’s what people do.”

About 45,000 happy revelers passed The Day After’s gates Friday through Sunday, Jan. 15 to 17. For a fourth year in a row, TDA had a grand show, featuring headlining performances from Above & Beyond, Jack U, and Zedd.

 

De esos momentos que es imposible olvidar... #JackÜ #TDA16 #Diplo #Skrillex #Panama

A photo posted by The Day After Panamá (@tdapanama) on

 

“It’s growing every year,” Estopinal says. “It’s exciting, because I don’t they don’t have a lot going on down there. It’s basically new, so the people get really into it and look forward to it every year. It’s like your introducing something, opening a new door. It’s like the states 20 years ago or something.”

That’s not to say there aren’t ingrained expectations. Panamanians have the same Internet as dance fans in the United States, and they’re just as in tune with developing genres, styles, and trends. They demand just as diverse and reputable lineup as their northern peers. Estopinal and his team must compile a variety of artists catering to underground tastes as well as delivering major players.

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If anything, the stakes may be even higher, because it’s not just Panama you’re entertaining, but fans flocking from nearly 20 neighboring countries. It’s the most multicultural festival Disco Donnie has ever been a part of. Even Estopinal, with his more than 20 years of experience, is continually stunned.

“It’s really an international type of festival, and Panama is such a growing market,” he says. “You feel like you’re in New York City. Most people (from the U.S.) probably don’t understand what’s down there. There’s a lot of international people down there as well that have moved to Panama for the beaches and for the banking and for the tax benefits, so it’s a mix that we don’t normally see at our other shows. We get a lot of people, but it’s not like an international crowd, so it is a totally different vibe.”

 

¿Listos para tirar tus pasos en Carnavales? #TDA16

A photo posted by The Day After Panamá (@tdapanama) on

 

Four years deep, the festival has truly come into its own, but no amount of planning or experience can ensure a smooth flight. Like for instance, when Jack U’s Diplo and Skrillex were held up in customs the night of their performance after the duo’s literal flight from Miami was delayed.

“It was one of those things that basically built up and everyone was like ‘are they coming? Are they not?’ and once they finally went on the whole place just exploded,” Estopinal says. “I think they actually got there five minutes before they went on. It was crazy. They went on a little late, and we couldn’t really extend the night, but it worked out. And like I said, the crowd just went crazy.”

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Hiccups, trials, triumphs and all – that’s what Estopinal lives for. Every flag trailing behind a painted body, every smile plastered on a sun-kissed face, that’s the real motivation to push the Disco Donnie vision to new countries, new fans, and new heights.

“It feels good to make so many people happy,” he says. “To see people with their hands in the air and a smile on their face jumping up and down, I know I played a part in that. I’ve been that person, so I know how appreciative they are. That makes you feel good.”