Cafe Mancuso, Bordeaux, France, mix

This recording come from the final day of the first anniversary celebrations organised by Cafe Mancuso, an audiophile cafe opened in Bordeaux by Guillaume Taillieu and Philippe Bonnet. The evening began with Yoshi Hitchcock from Deviant Disco leading a conversation with me about David and the Loft. After that it was party time. To be honest I wasn’t sure if there’d be dancing; Gui has forewarned that there’d never been a dance event in the cafe and that Bordeaux didn’t have much of a party scene. Slowly but steadily, however, the floor began to fill, and the evening turned out to be one of the most joyous, expressive and powerful that I’ve experienced. The hard dancing even resulted in the records placed on the right turntable skipping due to floor movement. I hope that doesn’t get in the way of post-party enjoyment :-)

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.

Creativity, Collectivity, Convergence: New York City Party Culture, 1970-83 at Red Gallery

Creativity, Collectivity, Convergence: New York City Party Culture, 1970-83
Red Gallery, London
May 31, 2018 - June 14, 2018

 

 

 

The opening night of the "Creativity, Collectivity, Convergence: New York City Party Culture, 1970-83" show at Red Gallery, Shoreditch was fun! Thanks to everyone who came along, to Juan Leal for organising and hosting, to Angela McRobbie for chairing the panel, to Josie Berry, Monique Charles and Juan Lealfor joining the panel, and to the audience for their great contributions to the conversation.

For those who didn't manage to get, the show is open for a couple of weeks. Juan Leal suggested that I offer a tour of the show, so watch this space for more on that. As part of the exhibition Martin Beck will be screening his 13-hour film Last Night, midday to 1am (approx.) on the 9th. The film features the records selected by David Mancuso (always in conversation with the Loft crowd) at the penultimate party at the Prince Street Loft in 1984, so bring a cushion, a balloon, whatever you fancy! On the 10th Martin and I will discuss the making of Last Night and the symbolic importance of 1984 in the history of NYC, beginning at 6pm, I think, so please come along to that if you're free.

Loft anniversary set at Brilliant Corners

This Valentine's Day I'll be heading to Brilliant Corners, 7pm to midnight, to select records to mark the 48th anniversary of David Mancuso's Loft. I hope you'll join me--last year was both moving (David had passed a few months earlier) and joyous.

There are many reasons for the longevity of the Loft, which is still running strong in NYC, with Loft-inspired parties also flourishing in London, Sapporo, Lisbon, Rome, Dublin, Berlin and beyond, but the simplest one is that it began with a purpose: to bring friends together in an intimate and warm environment primed to maximise the interaction of David's guests, and thus enhance the potential for the floor to become a space of socio-sonic exploration and transformation.

 
Photo by Peter Hujar, permission for original reproduction in Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-79 kindly provided by the Peter Hujar Estate.

Photo by Peter Hujar, permission for original reproduction in Love Saves the Day: A History of American Dance Music Culture, 1970-79 kindly provided by the Peter Hujar Estate.

 

Admittedly the Loft's run hasn't been seamless. David's relocation to Avenue C during 1984 inadvertently landed the Loft in peril after Reagan slashed a budget set aside to regenerate struggling inner city areas; David ended up losing something like two-thirds of his invitees overnight, many of them female dancers who were understandably fearful of venturing into the heroin-zone end of Alphabet City. The struggle that followed led David to go on an extended sabbatical beginning in 1988, only to lose his space on his return. By the time I started to interview him in the autumn of 1997 he had become a relatively unknown figure. I'd certainly never heard of him, even though I fancied myself to be quite knowledgeable about dance culture and had even moved to NYC in part to be closer to the heart of the dance scene. David had recently started to sublet a space on Avenue B and I got to my first Loft party soon after our first interview. There might have been five people in the room that night, but by the time David hosted his 28th anniversary party in 1998--how young the Loft was back then!--the room was packed. Then, just as David started to think up ways of securing the space, the person from whom he was subletting was kicked out. David found himself living in a tiny walk-up that was only big enough, if memory serves, to hold one Klipschorn speaker, a slimmed down record collection, a bed and some bare essentials.

During this period there were several occasions when I was drawn into conversations about the future of the Loft. Although the details shifted, they always involved people wanting David to make some kind of compromise or other in order to get the Loft going again. Time and time again, David refused, to the point where I also began to experience a sense of frustration with the singularity of his purpose, because surely a compromised party was better than no party at all. But David was clear: here the two of us were, going through this intense interviewing process as I tried to understand the influence of the Loft within the broader history of NYC party culture, and David understood that it was more important to protect the uniqueness of his audio-vision than make some late-in-life change that bring in some extra "green energy" (as he liked to describe money) but would leave him full of regret.

There's always more to tell and there are always other stories. But I'm fairly clear that David's rigorous purpose and the rootedness of that purpose in an egalitarian, participatory and transformational philosophy and practice has enabled a major historical reassessment to catch fire. When I moved to NYC and started to embark on my little history project, everyone seemed to believe that Larry Levan/Frankie Knuckles and the Paradise Garage/the Warehouse were the most influential DJs and venues in US party history. A few decades on, there's now a broad understanding of the foundational role of David and the Loft.

It's to David's credit that he always insisted that the Loft merely brought together several existing influences, from the rent party tradition that took root following the mass migration of African Americans to Harlem, to innovations in audiophile sound, to the emergence of loft living during the 1960s, to the influence of Leary's LSD writings and party gatherings.

David once told my close friend, colleague and party collaborator Jeremy Gilbert that, as Jeremy paraphrases in his book Common Ground (2014, p. 213), he "sometimes felt that there is really just one big party going on all the time, and that the participants in actual physical parties simply try to tune into it for a while."

I'll be trying to tune into this "one big party" when I head to Brilliant Corners on 14 February. Many thanks to Amit Patel and Aneesh Patel for the invite. It's always wonderful to be able to share music in a friendly environment that just happens to be equipped with four lovely Klipschorn speakers :-) I think I'm right in saying that when Brilliant Corners opened Amit and Aneesh even used to have a copy of Love Saves the Day sitting on one of the shelves in the bar that customers and members of staff could borrow. I'm not sure what records I'll take along with me, but I have a hunch that one of them will be Lamont Dozier's "Going Back to My Roots"...