David always used to say that a measure of a good party is if those who have gathered on the dance floor leave the party with more energy than when they arrived. That was how I felt at the end of the party to mark the first anniversary of Cafe Mancuso in Bordeaux. It turned into quite a night. I was left with the impression that David's party blueprint along with many of the records he helped turn into "Loft classics" really do contain a transformative power.
Early on I had my doubts about how things would go. Some pre-trip talk had led me to think that maybe Bordeaux would offer a more promising setting than Paris, where interest in Loft-style partying has extended to Slym Bouzavitch building his own Klipschorns (impressive!) but not, as far as I understand it, a whole lot more. But when I asked Cafe Mancuso co-owner Gui to tell me more about the Bordeaux scene I started to wonder if the evening might turn out to be quite lowkey. Gui explained: there was one club in town; most of the dancing revolved around techno raves; Cafe Mancuso operated as a very tasteful cafe/restaurant with a bar and a lovely sound system, but there'd never been dancing there; and there wasn't really a dance tradition in Bordeaux so people might be reluctant to dance.
There's no such thing as a "wrong town", but there have been a couple of occasions when I've turned up to do a talk and haven't been entirely sure how to establish a connection with the audience. Not everyone speaks the language of cosmopolitan integration, arcs of musical intensity, audiophile sound system culture and dance floor transformation. Many people haven't heard of David Mancuso and Larry Levan. Some simply aren't interested. So I wondered if the story of the Loft and NYC dance floor culture would fail to resonate in Bordeaux.
Instead the eight-hour event that followed felt like something of an epiphany. The talk was well-attended and engaging--many thanks to Yoshi Hitchcock for moderating in such a relaxed and informed manner. At the end of it kids (i.e. anyone aged around 25...) came up to me excited that they now understood where this culture they loved came from. As for the party that followed, it slowly but steadily developed into one of the most joyous, expressive, powerful gatherings I've experienced.
Whatever happened--and these things can be hard to quantify--it seemed to be something of a first. It communicated itself through the sense of excitement in the air, the expression on people's faces, the response to certain records, the joy that vibrated around the room at the end of the night. At one point a dancer came up said how grateful he was to have been introduced to a whole new world of music. Another came up and said he had just experienced a musical orgasm. A third wondered out loud why one record (the instrumental version of "Mystery of Love") had no lyrics and subsequently started to belt out her own improvised lyrics on the spot. It was incredible to see the faces and bodies of others as they responded to the funky, driving strangeness of the François Kevorkian remix of "Go Bang" as if they couldn't quite believe what they were hearing but were happy to go along with their involuntary bodily responses. By the end of the night there was just so much joy in the room.
The wonder of these Loft classics--which, more than any other set of records I know of, have the power to compel people to come together, relax, move their bodies, smile at one another, and throw themselves into the vortex of the dance floor--could be seen all over the faces of those who gathered and danced their hearts out. At the end of it all I was like, damn, I want to come and live in Bordeaux!
I felt like I'd experienced a slightly outlandish experiment produce a positive result. There might be no such thing as a "wrong town" yet nor did Bordeaux resemble the kind of urban setting where Loft-style parties have historically taken root. It didn't matter. As hosts Gui and Philippe Bonnet demonstrated, a Loft-style party can work pretty much anywhere, just so long as certain rudimentary elements are in place.
Outlined to me by David during one of the interviews I conducted with him, those elements begin with the desire of a group of friends to dance with one another. They continue with the task of finding a comfortable party room that ideally features good acoustics and a wooden floor. Next, the party needs a nicely-tuned, musical-sounding stereo system. As the day of the party arrives, the host should send out party invitations, decorate the party room and think about what food will be offered to guests. And last of all? The host needs to organise for someone to select record that the guests will want to dance to.
Many thanks, then, to Gui and Philippe Bonnet, to talk host Yoshi Hitchcock and everyone at Cafe Mancuso for making Saturday so special. Happy anniversary and long may the dancing continue!