Lucky Cloud Sound System is rooted in the ethos of the house party, the social potential of audiophile equipment, and the willingness of David Mancuso to travel to London to put on parties four times a year. The first of those parties was held in the upstairs attic of the Light Bar, a converted power station located in the southeast corner of Shoreditch, in June 2003. A little under three years later, Lucky Cloud came into formation (as clouds do). What happened in-between resembled the tweaking of a sound system inasmuch as the adjustments appeared to be slight, but the consequences were far reaching.
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 on Avenue B. 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, as long as he worked with friends and held onto core principles. After that, David approached Colleen Murphy, who had played at the Loft and was now living in London, along with myself. “But I don’t have any experience working as a promoter,” I told David. “Exactly,” he replied.
David had played in London once before when he was invited by David Hill of Nuphonic Records to play at the launch of David Mancuso presents the Loft — David Mancuso’s compilation for Nuphonic, which was released in 1999. Held at 93 Feet East, the party was a huge 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 the potential of a Loft-style party, and when it became clear that Nuphonic weren’t going to stage a second event, Jeremy turned to me and suggested we invite David over ourselves. The comment was made shortly after David approached me about putting on a party in London — because David wanted to return — and was also without any knowledge of David’s proposal. In other words, serendipity struck, and having hesitated after David’s initial approach, it became easy to imagine putting on a party as part of a team with Jeremy and Colleen.
Along with Adrian Fillary (who organised the décor at 93 Feet East) and Nikki Lucas (who worked with Colleen in Bitches Brew), we followed the Loft set-up as faithfully as possible as we went about putting on our first party. Invitations went out to friends and friends of friends; the room was decorated with hundreds of balloons; a buffet, iced water and the 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. But although revellers danced hard on a talc-coated floor, there was work to be done, because we hadn’t been able to get hold of the kind of equipment David wanted to use, while the sound company reps who set up the system struggled to grasp the no-mixer, no-equaliser simplicity of David’s stereo philosophy.
After twenty-one months of borrowing and saving, we purchased a pair of Technics-1100 turntables fitted with Koetsu tone arms and cartridges, and when it became clear our ongoing hire costs had hardly been dented, we converted those expenses into a five-year loan and bought the rest of our system, which included three sets of Klipschorn speakers. The warm and esoteric world of audiophile analogue sound beckoned, but stripped of the support of the sound company heavies, we also became more dependent than ever on the dancer-enthusiasts who worked at the parties. And so in the spring of 2006 we took the just and also logical step of inaugurating ourselves as a democratically organised sound system.
Titled after an Arthur Russell song that evoked the warm, three-dimensional quality of our equipment, Lucky Cloud included Guillaume Chottin and Simon Halpin (who had already joined Colleen, Jeremy and myself in organising the day-to-day business) as well as the twenty-five volunteers who worked on the day of the parties. That work remains gruelling; the Light’s furniture is preposterously heavy, while the hulking-yet-delicate Klipschorns weren’t built to be lugged up the Light’s narrow stairwells. The collective status of Lucky Cloud has imbued everyone with a sense of ownership, however, and turnout at the regular meetings we hold between parties is high.
After five-and-a-half years of putting on “Journey Through the Light” parties with David, we have achieved a level of sonic and social equilibrium. Seasonal celebrations are staged four times a year around the solstices and equinoxes. A diverse group of dancers travel from all over the UK and Europe to form one of the friendliest crowds in town. And David picks out vinyl records according to the mood of the floor, keeping the volume at a fraction over 100dB to avoid ear fatigue. With the upstairs bar closed, and the warm sound contributing to an open atmosphere, the dance floor becomes the centre of a socially inclusive, sonically expansive universe for a seven-hour shindig.
Travelling to Japan and London three and four times a year respectively, David has developed such a settled international rhythm it has become strange to remember that, for the longest time, it seemed inconceivable he could put on a Loft-style party outside his own home, never mind New York. “I’m very proud to say that London has really got it together,” says David. “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.
Lucky Cloud Sound System: www.loftparty.org
The Loft: www.theloftparty.com
Lucky Cloud Sound System 2008: Ilaria Bucchieri, Corinne Burlaud, Lili Capelle, David Carlton, Guillaume Chottin, Simon Coppock, Cyril Cornet, Claude Dousset, Estelle Du Boulay, Adrian Fillary, Jeremy Gilbert, Emma Halpin, Simon Halpin, Darren Henson, Hugh Herrera, James Hoggarth, Jo Kemp, Tim Lawrence, Cedric Lassonde, Fabien Lasonde, Jo Littler, David Mancuso, Iain Mckie, Pauline Moisy, Darren Morgan, Pete Morris, Colleen Murphy, Alex Pe Win, Alejandro Quesada, Sharon Reid, David Starsky, Tan Ur-Rehman, Elin Vister, Shannon Woo, John Zachau