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XXX: A new haven for the underground scene

The city’s latest alternative venue redefines the parameters of a Hong Kong nightclub, writes Andrea Yu

XXX brings the Berlin basement party to Hong Kong 

XXX is the antithesis of Hong Kong nightlife. There are no elaborate lighting fixtures. No stylised wall décor. No table service, nor are there pyrotechnic bottles of champagne. And while there’s a home for these club essentials elsewhere in the city, XXX’s comparatively no-frills approach has made it the new gathering place for the city’s best underground parties.

The man behind XXX is DJ Enso, a name already familiar to many clubbers as the co-host of party nights like Pimpin’ aint Easy and Hype Nasty, the latter of which won Time Out’s Best Club Night award in 2009 and 2010. After years of DJing in Hong Kong venues − ranging from glitzy members’ clubs to a Russian restaurant − when it came to opening a place of his own, Enso had a clear vision.

“There are some good spots in Hong Kong, but I’ve always felt that there’s really something lacking in what spaces we have to choose from,” he says. “There’s a lot of venues, but I’d say 95 percent of them are going for the same aesthetic. People don’t pay attention and try to carve out a new niche.”

XXX does just this. The former underground storage area for a bank, accessible only through a nondescript metal door on a Sheung Wan side street, is not your typical Hong Kong club. The 1,600sqft basement space – with its barren white walls (save for a few trademark Xs), video projections, industrial concrete floor and a staircase that leads to nothing – lends itself to what Enso says is ‘something gritty, something like a Berlin basement feeling’.

It feels much like an underground club in Europe or, according to one visitor, ‘an art party in New York City’. Even the toilets, located a couple of doors down the street and requiring a pass code for entry (it’s 4321, for future reference), add to the kitsch and character of XXX.

While the venue has played host to a variety of private parties since its opening in May, Enso is quick to point out that it’s not just a nightclub space, but is equally a gallery to showcase art and photography. He hopes to make it a place for new interactions and for an audio-visual experience.

“Having a gallery and working with artists on installations – that’s been a dream of mine since I was a teenager,” Enso says. He purposely left XXX’s walls a neutral white to allow photographs and art to be displayed. Its walls are currently empty, but Enso says that won’t be for long as he is in talks with artists, galleries and educational institutions about showcasing
their work.

Its neutrality makes the space malleable. “XXX is abstract, which allows it to be used in different ways,” Enso says. Wendy Wenn, a local house DJ who recently played XXX as part of the underground house series Small & Tall, agrees. “Depending on the kind of music you put into it, the space transforms into something different. That’s what I like about XXX,” she says.

Reflecting styles as varied as drum ‘n’ bass, house, oldies, electro, techno and Jamaican dancehall, Hong Kong’s underground crews, promoters and parties had previously lacked an appropriate venue to play host to their disparate sounds. XXX can now become that venue.

Fai of Heavy Hong Kong, who has taken his D’n’B nights from unsuspecting spaces like Sammy’s Kitchen to Ivan the Kozak, recently hosted a Heavy private party in the space. He’s got more Heavy events planned at XXX this summer and has high hopes for the venue. “XXX is rearranging Hong Kong nightlife,” he says. “The place is raw and the owner is a DJ who cares about the bigger picture.”

XXX promises to be to our city’s nightlife what Hidden Agenda is to our music – an underground venue dedicated to supporting elements of the scene that are in danger of falling through the cracks. It is a place for burgeoning and independent party-makers to congregate, for those who don’t feel they fit in with the‘models and bottles’ vibe found elsewhere in the city. But with the recent troubles facing Hidden Agenda, we hope that XXX can thrive and escape the dreaded bureaucratic nightmares that burden Hong Kong’s alternative spaces.

XXX Gallery, Unit 2A, Kin Luen Factory Bldg, 89-91 Larch Street, Tai Kok Tsui, Kowloon. xxxgallery.hk

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