“Plastics is closing?” We’ve heard this before: in 2010, when licensing what what threatened to force Plastic People to shut up shop. But now it’s real. Time’s been called by owner, founder, Ade Fakile. Charlotte’s said we’re moving on. While we regain our balance and accept the news, memories (and music) live on. As Fatima has sung: “It’s the red light…”
I heard word from the Wach last Monday, the verdict announced via email, “Just got in touch with Ade, it’s the last ever session at Plastic tomorrow.” Now half a world away in South Africa, I’d have to accept being a “Plastic expat” (easy Gavin!) and miss the Last Dance(s).
They’d been whispers, worries, that this would come to be. Of course the day would sometime come when we’d no longer be able to dance, get down, free ourselves on the American walnut floor. Enveloped in Ade’s “active darkness”. Listening in the acoustically treated room. The warmth. That soundsystem (or rather the soundsystems, components tweaked on the regular).
Online, tribute photos and write-ups are mounting. A familiar face at Plastics, Sanjiv Ahluwalia has set up a site: plasticpeopleforevernevermore. With it, an open call to gather memorable notes from Plastic attendees over the club’s 20 years (and two locations). Likely to continue hosting tributes long after many (pseudo-news) sites have moved on to the next story to contribute email: firstname.lastname@example.org
so much ❤️ for @plastic_people. beautiful music, sound, people + darkness made it the only club that felt like home 2 me as both DJ + raver
— Josey Rebelle (@JoseyRebelle) January 2, 2015
The many messages of gratitude, remembrance, are heartfelt. Plastic People furnished us with much more than 4 walls and a dancefloor. It’s been a family space. Numerous relationships,friendships, marriages (for real) began at 147-149 Curtain Road (and presumably the Oxford St premises beforehand). Musical collaborations of course. The conception of Eglo Records a personal favourite.
Wow. No more nights at Plastic. The reality strikes. Truly, I can’t understate the venue’s importance. A familiar cycle over the river. Speedily navigating through Shoreditch madness (broken glass everywhere…). And on to Curtain Road. Lock bike outside. Joyful greetings to/from who’s working the door. Along the corridor, down the stairs. In.
Really, where else to be welcomed at the door with smiles and gladness? Security tight (enough), polite and gracious (special shout to stalwarts Barry and Winston). We’re in this together, why be rude, aggressive? Bar folk (over the years) including exceptionally skilled vocalists Fatima and Tranqill, plus on a peculiar night a few doors down the road: Plastic People’s Big Night Out where I swear Miquita Oliver (from the telly) was serving drinks.
My early visits to Plastics came when away from university, 2002-03. Charmed by the Ali Augur designed flyers a friend managed to get hold of, we’d manoeuvre on the dark dancefloor not yet aware of its specialness. Later learning of CDR and a chance to hear songs in the making, Plastics swiftly became a home away from home, a sanctuary, to listen and dance in (often tucked in a corner typing notes on the tracks on my phone, easy Dayo!). Concerns of any cliquishness were put to bed through the shared moments, the sweat, the smiles.
Offering shelter from what IG Culture might call “Nowadays Pressure”, the house that Ade built has influential and some. Direct naming spans a (not great) Four Tet track to music promoters in Johannesburg. Plastics’s impact guarantees a legacy, in the same breath (or beyond) with 1990s-rave hot spots Blue Note Hoxton or Hacienda.
In addition to the list of nights Plastics has shaped that I’ve been able to enjoy: Balance, CDR, Co-Op, FWD, Theo Parrish All Night Long, Floating Points &, Nonsense, Warm’s Innervisions, Thriller… the NYE sessions and tributes or send-offs, the fundraisers in solidarity with people facing after-effects of natural disasters (including Hurricane Katrina and in the Philippines) typify the giving nature woven into the club’s fabric.
Extra Plastic People moments that come to mind:
1. ‘Love Me Like This’ – Schooled by Uncle G on the original boogie track, Sam (Floating Points), took on the melody to conjure two versions of what became his breakthrough release. The Nonsense Dub always pleases dancefloors, developing as it unfolds. When it (first?) dropped at a Saturday Nonsense session (if I recall), madness! Reloaded more than once. Crowd roaring. Madness!
Notes from a CDR special (with students from Trinity College) in December ’08: “Wonderful opening and continuation in floatingpoints’ ‘Love Me Like This’. A great shout for the CDR artist of the year, Sam’s songs have consistently wowed the crowd. ‘Love Me…’ did just that, inducing much dance and talk about it’s excellence. The track surfaced a couple of weeks ago as a one & half-minute cosmic ditty, wisely Sam followed the calls of his peers to extend it. This 6-min dub version is serious. Warm, fun and kicking, it needs to be released. “Love Meeeeeee Like This”.”
2. Black Pocket album launch, 2007. It became a running joke about the time between the album of brothers Darren dBridge and Steve Spacek and the actually releasing of the LP. The party at Plastics was massive though. Pre-smoking ban we were crammed in. As the mic was passed around, it was Fatima who dazzled the most rather than the run of London MCs/vocalists including Spacek. Confidently showing the room her lush vocals it was quite an arrival. How she’s continued to blossom since.
3. A CDR special, I forget quite when. Regular contributors to Open CDR were invited to play songs of influence. Soundspecies brothers Henry and Olly floored me with their choices. Respectively selecting Galaxy 2 Galaxy’s Journey to the Dragons and a Thomas Mapfumo joint. Mr Beatnick also wowing with Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians” (or was it “Six Mallets”?).
Enough for now (I could go on…).
In London, can, will somewhere emerge to offer the quality of sound and passion for good music? A void in a city portrayed as being so advanced. Up Kingsland Road, Brilliant Corners presents an excellent audiophile set-up and is charmingly programmed, however (mostly) sit down and Sushi isn’t the same as stretching your legs in a caged-in basement. Further toward Stoke Newington, Dalston Superstore also has merits but not the breadth of good music. Is the Dance Tunnel a viable alternative? Where are the black-owned/managed venues? Will Floating Points, Four Tet or other DJ/producers invest in building an alternative venue? Do petitions such as this make a difference?
On a Tuesday night in Observatory, Cape Town, I got to say my goodbyes and have a last dance from afar. Selecting vinyl I’ve heard at Plastic People or somehow connect to the place, proved suitably cathartic; isolating Harvey Mason-drums, sharing LAY’s Portrait 01 (a 2014 highlight!), jacking to Dego & Kaidi grooves (“Don’t remain the same…”). Eternal thanks to Ade, Charlotte, Bernard, everyone who contributed to creating and shaping a music-focused venue that has shown us the way.