In Praise of Pop-Upsby Rob Scher / Images by Adam Kent Wiest / 23.09.2011
The dancefloor is a fraction smaller than Fiction’s, equally packed. I need air. I need a drink. Escaping is the problem. I feel like Pacman navigating through the mess of bodies, smoke and lasers – all framed by a dark backdrop of refuse bags lining the walls. The DJ seems at home, and so he should, this is his actual home, but for all intents and purposes I’m in a dingy club.
‘Sexyclub’, this particular event, is an attempt to move beyond the realm of your standard house party. It’s a ‘pop-up club’ and tonight a little house in Obs plays host. Whilst to some the difference may be lost, a pop-up club disregards many of the parameters established by what would be considered a ‘house party’. A bedroom covered from floor to ceiling with bin liners, hosting a lineup of DJ’s blasting their sets through slightly distorted speakers to a hungry crowd, attests to this.
I hate clubs. Paying money to stand in a room full of strangers, wasting your precious youth waiting for a drink at the bar. Apart from future loser-complex attempts at ‘hooking up’, most fork out the entrance fee each week just for a chance to enjoy good music in the company of friends. Enter the pop-up club.
I wander upstairs, seeking respite in the previously safe enclave of the attic. Wishful thinking. This is more what I would expect from a house party: an orgy of euphoria and substances. Jumbled limbs, wine, joints, low hanging roof beams and a rather loud cross-dressed man fill the space. I realise I know this particular ‘tranny’. Tonight she’s adopted the persona Malaysia (see melayzjaa).
“Hey y’all!” She flourishes as she sways.
Melayzaa’s wielding an odd ‘fish-shaped’ bottle of wine that has a fairly large dent in it, evident by my friends heightened eccentricity.
“I been, beenbeen drunk.” She exclaims taking a swig from the fish.
Call it what you will, no club would allow this much abandon. It’s the illicit combo of public and private space that defines and drives the jol.
It’s not that the notion of a pop-up club is revolutionary. This is not a Darwinian rant on the evolution of ‘the party’. This is more an idea towards reclaiming the economic space where clubs dictate a party must take place. More than being a stepping stone to ‘going out’, this should be the ‘out’. And a number of enterprises like Sexyclub and We Like BASS are picking up on the opportunity and specialising in pop-up club events.
No longer in the safe, semi-derelict confines of Obs, attempting a pop-up in the quiet burbs of Rondebosch could prove challenging. It’s my friend Em’s place. She’s in Joburg and mildly concerned. I phone her prior to the party:
“Oh hell. They better unscrew the handle to my bedroom.”
Her concerns are real. The tiny house that has previously only played host to a couple of friends, a set of ipod speakers and some punch, is being turned into a club. We Like BASS are running the project, which hopes to grow into something larger than a glorified series of house parties. Having already hosted a previous event at the Michaelis Art School, this party is their second attempt at a pop-up. Two dancefloors, live visuals, a fucking jumping castle and a lineup of DJs that would be welcome at any club, are sure to keep the party going for as long as there’s booze and the cops don’t show to shut it down before it’s apex.
The party picks up slowly. Maybe it’s the cold, or the commute to the burbs, but people are just trickling in. Only after ten does the crowd start arriving. This is the party – and they’re not here for a pre-party, this is the main event. It’s a diverse crowd, drawing on a large network, creating a veritable ‘stew’ of youths unlike any you’d find on any given Friday in Long Street’s finest. This idea of removing ‘the scene’ from going out is what appeals most about these parties.
The reality of throwing a party with ‘club sound’ in the suburbs means that the arrival of the po-po is inevitable. This is possibly the greatest barrier to the success of the pop-up club concept and one that needs to be creatively maneuvered around. But the vibe is festive, Famous Face high fives one of the cops on their way through the party. It seems they are previously acquainted. Whether it’s this friendly gesture, or the lack of identifiable contraband, or offers of whisky bribes from Haroon the organiser, the cops leave and the party continues.
The Exorsistahs are on, playing a set of classic R‘nB and 90s hip hop to an unyielding dancefloor. The party is reaching its climax. Someone gets overzealous with the smoke machine and the room becomes a dense fog. The po-po return once again and drive the bulk of the party out. It’s a premature end to a party that could have gone on longer. I take a last jump on the castle before exiting. I feel like a kid again, albeit slightly drunker. In fact the whole idea of pop-up clubs is fun. It’s not about trying to be edgy, but rather avoiding that completely. As I get older, I relish the opportunities to bounce on a jumping castle wearing a leopard print onesie as much as possible. Everyone should throw a pop-up club.
*All images © Adam Kent Wiest.