Upcoming parties: please visit www.loftparty.org
Along with Jeremy Gilbert and Colleen Murphy, I’m a founding member of Lucky Cloud Sound System, which started to put on London Loft parties with David Mancuso, host of the New York City Loft, back in June 2003. Modelled closely on Mancuso’s New York set-up, the parties are held in the Rose Lipman Community Centre, having started out in the upstairs attic at the Light, a converted power station located on Shoreditch High Street, London. Following doctor's orders David stopped travelling to London during 2011, but he stayed with us in spirit. Thanks to the enduring power of David’s ethos, the parties were going as strong as ever at the time of his passing in November 2016. Lucky Cloud Sound System held a moving and joyous ceremony to celebrate David's life the evening before its winter party on 4 December.
Rooted in the ethos of friends getting together to socialise and dance at a house party, the social potential of audiophile equipment, and the willingness of David to travel to London to put his simple yet utopian party principles into practice in London,parties are held on Sundays 5pm to midnight four times a year as close to the solstices and equinoxes as possible. Kids are welcome to come with carers free for charge from 5:00-7:00pm, Maureen and TJ run a no-charge cloakroom, a buffet is offered until 8:00pm and iced water is available on demand. With David’s help we managed to build up a high-end sound system that closely resembles his legendary set-up in New York. We also decorate the room with a sky of multicoloured balloons. The cost of entry is £12.99. Parties often reach capacity well in advance of the party date so we always recommend to reserve in advance.
The beginning of the London parties can be traced back to the moment in 1998 when David took up a longstanding offer to put on an event in Japan in order to help him purchase the space he was renting at the time on Avenue B in Alphabet City. That purchase fell through but enough good things came out of the Japanese trip to persuade David he could recreate the conditions of a house party outside of his own home, just so long long as he worked with friends and held onto core principles. David then approached Colleen Murphy and me to see if we would put on Loft-style parties in London: Colleen because she had worked as a musical host at the New York City Loft before she moved to London and had also worked alongside David to release the Loft Nuphonic compilations; me because I had become close with David while researching and writing Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, the first book to argue for the centrality of the Loft within New York City's party history. As had always been the case, David believed that friendship and community should underpin the party.
David had already musical hosted once in London when David Hill of Nuphonic Records flew him over to play at the launch of Nuphonic's David Mancuso presents the Loft, released in 1999. Held at 93 Feet East, the party was a big success, and having been invited to write the sleeve notes for the compilation, I took my friend and colleague Jeremy Gilbert along as my guest. That became Jeremy’s first taste of a Loft-style party, and when it slowly became clear that the team at Nuphonic wasn't going to put on a second event, Jeremy suggested we invite David over ourselves—right around the time that David approached Colleen and me with the idea of putting on a party in London. With no experience at hosting a full-scale dance party, I hadn’t been too sure about David’s suggestion but was able to imagine going for it with Jeremy as well as Colleen. As Love Saves the Day went into production in early 2003 I started to visit scores of venues, often with Carlotta, then a year-and-a-half, in tow. Soon enough we hit upon the Light.
With Adrian Fillary (who organised the décor at 93 Feet East) and Nikki Lucas (who worked with Colleen at the record label Bitches Brew at the time) teaming up with us for the first 18 months, we followed David's specifications as faithfully as possible. Invitations went out to friends and friends of friends; the room was decorated with big balloons; the buffet and cloakroom were included in the price; kids were invited to join us for the first couple of hours; and we hired the most musical sound system available. Struck with the idea that the venue was going to be light until late, the summer solstice being the longest day of the year, I asked David if he thought we should cover the windows and skylights that adorned the room so that people would feel less inhibited to dance. David replied, “It’s OK if it’s light. The venue’s called the Light.”
That afternoon and evening we danced as hard as we’ve ever danced, quite ecstatic that we were building a Loft-style party in London. But there was work to be done because we hadn’t been able to hire the kind of equipment David wanted to use, plus the sound company guys who came to set it up were completely unresponsive to David’s wish to work towards building a purist analogue stereo system that didn’t even include a mixer or an equaliser. We managed to mollify David for a while by purchasing a pair of Technics-1100 turntables fitted with Koetsu tone arms and cartridges, which David helped us buy from Japan. With the front end in place, we then converted the cost of hiring the speakers, amps and cables for each party into a five-year loan and purchased the rest of our system, which included three sets of Klipschorn speakers.
The warm, esoteric world of audiophile analogue sound beckoned. Stripped of the support of the sound company heavies, we also became even more dependent on the dancer-enthusiasts who helped us set up the parties, so in the spring of 2006 we inaugurated ourselves as a democratically organised sound system. Titled after an Arthur Russell song that seemed to evoke the warm, three-dimensional quality of the new system—a system that Arthur also used to listen to when he went to the New York Loft—Lucky Cloud included Guillaume Chottin and Simon Halpin, who had already started to work closely with Colleen, Jeremy and myself, as well as something like 25 volunteers.
“I’m very proud to say that London has really got it together,” David in an interview a few years ago. “From where you had to start and get to, there were so many challenges. You’ve all got it together and are doing it, just like in Japan. The parties are also something that can stand on their own. I don't want to go into the ‘I won’t always be here’ thing, but if I’m not here tomorrow, we now know what to do and what not to do.” That turned out to be the case when David flew over for a party and caught a bug. Colleen stepped in at the last minute, played an amazing set and did the same on a couple of future occasions before David confirmed that he would need to step back from musical hosting in Japan, London and New York for the time being. Si and G now join Colleen as our musical hosts. The sound is Loft-like through and through.
Lucky Cloud Sound System are: Mark Allen, Ain Bailey, Martin Beck, Ben Bishop, Ilaria Bucchieri, Valeria Bullo, Rob Calcutt, David Campbell, Lili Capelle, Guillaume Chottin, Simon Coppock, Cyril Cornet, Roberta Cutolo, Alan Dixon, Clod Dousset, Estelle Du Boulay, Adrian Fillary, TJ Gayle, Jeremy Gilbert, Silvia Gin, Karl Hall, Emma Halpin, Simon Halpin, Darren Henson, Louise Hisayasu, Hiroshi Kawanami, Jo Kemp, AJ Kwame, Tim Lawrence, Cedric Lassonde, Fabien Lasonde, Sara Leman, Jo Littler, David Mancuso, Andrea Marongiu, Maz, Iain Mckie, Pauline Moisy, Darren Morgan, Pete Morris, Colleen Murphy, Suiko Nakai, Nurse Wendy, Amit Patel, Aneesh Patel, Davina Pobee, Andrew Pirie, Alejandro Quesada, Mialy Rama, Sharon Reid, Kat Rodgers, Maureen Schipper, David Solts, Alice Stapleton, David Starsky, Christabel Stirling, Michi Sukegawa, Tom Swarman, Felix Thomson, Sophie Tsubaa, Tummy, Jeremy Verite, David Vickers, Kevin Virsolvy, Chris Walker, Shannon Woo, Hannah Yang, Zuliete.