Over 40% of London's live music venues have closed in the last 10 years and gig prices have rocketed. Pit parties could offer an affordable alternative. Daniel Fahey seeks out the solution.
I am an aging capital city who has had a wonderful life. Maybe I’m just getting old, but I feel like my best days are behind me. I used to host bug-eyed all-nighters and break unsigned bands, but changing priorities mean my live music venues are closing and emerging scenes are being priced out. Have I become boring? Help!
London, from London
We get it: you’re greying; you want the Merc over the MG, the cab sav over the cider, but all flash and no brash is exhaustingly unexciting. Stop the cultural death sweep: when you only build houses, you only talk houses, and that makes people want to spear their eardrums with biro shards.
But there’s at least one solution buried among your fringes: pit parties. Put on by Fluffer Records, an independent label based in Whitechapel, these four-bands-for-a-tenner gigs quite literally rip down barriers. With no stage, bands gut it out like gladiators on the floor, the crowd crowing at the edges.
Their fourth pit party, which dressed down a back chamber of a Manor House warehouse, embodied the boundless do-it-yourself appeal of punk: undisclosed venues; duvet soundproofing; spray painted sheet-signs; limited edition cassette releases; heavy-duty imported lager.
Welsh trio Pizza Tramp, hailing from the first smack stop past Newport, only arrived as a twosome but thundered in like a tank regiment. Their absent singer Rasputin “collapsed or something” (drummer Danny Banger’s words), leaving vocals to guitarist Dai Young.
“Bit of a shambles,” was the stand-in screamer’s take as they sawed out a sharp stream of 90-second sucker punches. He also confessed to not knowing the words to Bono’s A Wanker, but power-pounded his strings like he wanted to lose his fingers anyway.
The 02 Arena wouldn’t welcome them. And it wouldn’t know what to do with the psychedelic noise-mongers, Weirds, whose longhaired, short-tempered guitarist, Zachary Thomas, scavenged the swarm bemoaning a lack of circle pits.
Okay London, perhaps you’re a bit too long in the dentures for hallucinatory, low-freq hymns like Crocodile, whose bruising basslines boomed beneath a dense mist of Dartmoor-esque dry ice, but you should be incubating creative freedom.
Bands don’t come readymade to sell out Brixton Academy; grime MCs don’t simply shut down Wireless. Your cultural bark and radical bite swells up from the Red Stripe cesspits and the lo-fi art nights. You need to stop sinking these stepping-stones.
Think the moshers for Immingham’s Sewer Rats arrived on impulse? Nah: they courted the trio and then caught them live.
That’s why, when a circle pit collapsed during the scruffy blues scuzz of Money Maker, singer Luke Morris stood upon their mortal worn-out bodies, his straggled mane catching the light like a religious icon, as those underfoot beamed in ecstasy.
You’re not boring London, but give it a rest with the show homes and dinner parties.
Fluffer Records held their final ‘Fluff’ pit party on 10 December 2016. Fluffer Records are still selling records and merchandise, head to flufferrecords.com for more details.