Steve Aoki's recent visit to Mexico City on Friday, November 6th left dozens of people from the city disappointed—and that wasn't because of what tracks he dropped or didn't, or even his infamous pastry-throwing antics. It was because many street vendors in the city found themselves in the red after branding hundreds of objects—hats, shirts, flags—with the famous DJ's face, and failing to sell them.
One such street vendor, who called himself Alberto, says he struggled to sell rip-off Aoki t-shirts outside the Arena Ciudad de México on the date of the event. "It's pretty dead today," Alberto said. "Some days I sell well, but today's going to leave me broke."
Alberto makes his living traveling from one event to the next, selling pirated artist merchandise outside some of Mexico's biggest shows. The previous Thursday, he'd set up shop outside a performance by Blur, and sold merch themed around the iconic British outfit that he'd designed himself. The next day, he'd traveled to the city of Guadalajara to sell Café Tacuba t-shirts that had been left over from a previous event. He sold them all.
And the same thing happened a day later, when the Ariana Grande t-shirts and sweaters he had printed in Mexico City sold out.
While it might work to sell knock-off merch for big pop stars, though, Mexico's EDM-loving youth seem to see through the BS.
Steve Aoki's stop in Mexico City, Alberto says, had been penciled into his event calendar for months. The day before the event, Alberto spent all day looking online for the Aoki images, designing the shirts, and ironing the logos on fabric. "I put all my cash into this," he tells THUMP.
On the day of the party, however, hours into his sale, Alberto's collection—mostly dayglo t-shirts with Aoki's signature facial hair on them—remained untouched.
I spoke to several of the vendors selling rip-off Aoki goods, and they all said the same thing. No one was buying any Steve Aoki stuff.
It seemed possible that the dubious origins of the goods on offer might have been a contributing factor to the weak number sales on Friday night—but then again, there were a few items on sale that were pretty damn amazing.
In the latter category, I found the following items outside the Aoki concert: dozens of neon trucker hats emblazoned with scandalous words, "Sorry Mom"s, and of course, the ubiquitous "YOLO." Still, no one seemed to be willing to shell out any money for the swag.
It seemed easy to conclude that the more gullible youthful buyers had simply stayed home. But much to the chagrin of many of the vendors present, hoards of kids actually did show up in legitimate Aoki merchandise. They arrived all together on a single bus and descended on the venue in a swarm, all wearing t-shirts emblazoned with the DJ's image. Apparently, the minds behind Aoki's merch camp had figured out the best way to get legitimate gear into the hands of his fans: providing them with the clothing for free, inside a controlled space.
"We came on the party bus," one such t-shirt-clad fan said. "We won tickets on Twitter to a meet-and-greet, and got to ride with him. He's got a really good vibe. He was like calm, but nice… kinda talking to people. Cool guy, Aoki."
"He signed my chest," another fan proclaimed, smiling from ear to ear.
Andrea Noel is on Twitter @MetabolizedJunk.