Blog clubs come of age
A fresh wave of cutting-edge blogs is bringing old-school party principles back to the capital.
It's Wednesday night at one of London's most storied nightclubs, Plastic People in Shoreditch. At 10pm, a queue has already slithered out of the entrance and along Curtain Road; inside, on the barely-lit dancefloor, the club is heaving to underground house, disco and techno tapestries that weave in and out of the famously beefy soundsystem. Big Apple-based disco linchpin Lee Douglas is spinning a rare DJ set on our shores for the launch party's theme: One Night in New York City. And, truly for one night only, you really could be down in a semi-legal SoHo basement on a skid-row alley in 1970s Manhattan.
Not only is this new party a welcome addition to the list of must-attend midweek nights, but it is hosted by an electronic music blog Feel My Bicep. In years past, a blog-run party wasn't exactly what you'd circle in red on your clubbing calendar. Unless it was Blogger's Delight, London's longest-running blog-led rave-up, which had a residency at The Lock Tavern and Fabric's room three, you could expect to hear a mash-up of anything from Moravian techno to Turkish cab music on the decks. Or, there are Slutty Fringe's sporadic parties, though they are few and far between these days. But Feel My Bicep is taking over the internet and clubland with its discerning party principles.
Andy Ferguson and Matthew McBriar launched Feel My Bicep in 2009 and its influence now extends far beyond the blogging sphere. Ferguson and McBriar have built a mini empire and as well as DJing they have a T-shirt range and have made remixes for record labels including Throne of Blood and Wolf Music - so it seemed like a natural progression to throw their own regular party too.
With successful FMB shindigs at both The Camp in Old Street and the Dalston Superstore, the Bicep boys earned a monthly residency at Plastic People, the first of which is a resounding success. 'I think it helps that the crowd is really open minded,' says Ferguson. 'They've come down to listen to something different from what you might expect at your average club night.' The school-night slot sorts the real heads from the club tourists, leaving a writhing mass of seasoned discoites, label bosses and DJs, all eager to hear the freshest club sounds and classic gems when they're not networking at the bar.
In contrast with the hyper-futuristic world that blogs exist in, however, FMB's night harks back to the days before the internet was an everyday necessity. 'What we are trying to do is steeped in the tradition of the US club scene back in the late '80s and early '90s. It's an extension of our love and respect for an era that we missed out on,' he continues. 'It's very much a rough and ready, anything goes vibe.' The club flyers are little more than a photocopied black-and-white sheet of paper (remember those?) with the website and date that you can pull off at the bottom to keep.
But it's anything but beardy. Feel My Bicep's party is not without a cheeky sense of humour and is smart without being nerdy. The second night in November boasted a B-movie theme, 'A Night of Grindhouse Terror', for which they provided 'frenzied synth trax, vocal attacks, trashy Italo hooks and vintage Giallo looks'. And the third (December 7) celebrates Christmas with a 'mystic brew of house, disco, techno and Northern sulphuric soul' and a set from Electric Elephant's The Unabombers.
Another blog that has recently passed the clubbing threshold is dubstep-geared site Sonic Router. It also launched in 2009 and quickly established itself as a leading independent voice on dubstep and its many mutant strands, with values of quality of music over quantity of blog posts. It's an approach that is reflected in its parties. In July, Sonic Router hosted a showcase in room three at Fabric for the first time, with members of the cutting-edge underground scene including Numbers' Mosca and Redhino, Hessle Audio's Randomer and Rinse FM's Braiden.
'It's an honour to put something on at Fabric,' says the blog's co-founder Oli Marlow, who, as Fabric's PR by day, has a lucky 'inside line' at the club. 'The night itself gave us a great opportunity to reach more people and generate content for the site. I still love the fact that a globally recognised club can turn over nearly 3,000 people purely on the weight of dubstep-associated artists who we've supported throughout the site's tenure.'
Elsewhere, Liverpool-bred blogging collective Cosmic Boogie, run by Stu Robinson and Dan Spinney, brought its disco-house brand south this summer. They've been holding memorable showcases at The Queen of Hoxton, notably with a live DJ score from Optimo's JD Twitch on the venue's rooftop in September followed by an extended set from the Glaswegian talent in the rave basement later on. The next party will boast Greg Wilson, a real DJ's DJ and a former resident at the Haçienda. You certainly won't find the latest faddy producer here.
At worst, electronic music blogs can represent much of what is wrong with modern music and its consumption: disposable, trend-driven and bereft of originality and wit. But now that blogs such as Feel My Bicep and Sonic Router have proved that it's possible to make a successful transition from cyberspace to hosting parties for a hard-to-please audience - a room full of London clubbers - perhaps we can expect a few more bright nights to emerge from the ocean of sameness in which most blogs wallow.
The next Feel My Bicep is at Plastic People on Wednesday December 7. The next Cosmic Boogie is at the Queen of Hoxton on March 23 2012.