My friends at The Dartmouth Arms, and Disappearing Dining Club, are holding a soiree this Saturday evening – June 12th – to celebrate Record Store Day – you can book and find more details here. The DJ line-up of Neil Thornton, Russell Penn, and Nancy Noise brought back memories of those Musica Noche parties that used to take place – prior to pandemic pandemonium – at Curtain Road`s Horse & Groom. Since Saturday looks like it`s going to be a reunion of sorts – with me gutted that I’m not gonna be there – a quick conference call was in order for a catch up.
The Record Store Day Party looks like it`s going to be a bit of a reunion?
Nancy: Yes, so looking forward to seeing the boys and playing again together, it really has been a while. The Musica Noche parties are treasured memories from a really fun time.
Neil: The Record Store Day party is indeed going to be fun; I am super excited to have both Nancy and Russell joining us. It feels like things are slowly but surely getting there after such a difficult period for everyone.
Can you tell me when and how you all first met?
Nancy: I know Russell from back when there were parties on at Hollywood`s, in Romford. He was a resident there. I would sometimes play there as a guest.
Russell: This was in the early `90s. The night was called Culture Shock, and it had become a really big Friday night, with some of the biggest crowds – of 1000+ every week. Darren Emerson and Simon Hanson had just moved on from their residency there and I was bought in to look after the ‘Annexe’ Room upstairs – playing a heavier sound to the ‘space cadets’. Nancy was booked to play the main room and we were introduced in the club’s famous circular DJ booth by Chris Hall, who was the boss at the time.
Nancy: It`s not surprising that things were happening out that way, as the Essex contingent were a big part of the early Ibiza, Amnesia, crowd.
Neil: Russ and I have known each other for quite a while – through the Essex acid house connection. I remember Russ from way back, from those rather hazy but great nights in Hollywood’s. We have lots of mutual friends. We were all going to those great parties in central London, like Strut, Puscha, Sign of the Times, Lost, things at The Blue Note.
Russell: Mine and Neil’s paths crossed many times but it wasn’t until I went to events at The Horse & Groom – where Neil was the programmer – that we became really good friends.
Neil: I must have bumped into Nancy on a 100 dance-floors, but but we all really connected during very special times at the Red Gallery – when Phil Mison was doing Balearicos.
Boys, did you ever hear Nancy play at The Future?
Russell: Unfortunately not for me. I use to live in the Medway Towns at the time, so a mix of age and accessibility made big London nights out something that needed military planning. I mean… I’m pretty sure my dad would do pretty much anything for me, but asking him to pop 30 miles up the A2 to pick me up at 4AM was taking the mick somewhat! If it was a year or so later, then I would have been pelting to London in my Toyota Starlet.
Neil: Alas no, but did hear Nancy play at Ophelia at the Gardening Club.
Can you remember the first time that any of you DJed together?
Nancy: We all played at the very first Musica Noche party at The Horse & Groom. I remember it was a nice sunny day, so the front of the pub was open, and there was a real buzz in the air. Everyone was excited, and loads of friends were out for it. The boys played, Phil (Mison) and I had the downstairs, and Daniele Baldelli was upstairs. It was a party to remember, real good vibes all round. “Ariiiibas!” aplenty.
Neil: It was a “Bank Holiday Special”, over two floors, with a really great mix of revellers, including lots of young, fresh, hot Italians coming to hear Baldelli, alongside all of Nancy’s crew. We started 4 in the afternoon, and finished at 4AM the next morning.
Russell: It was monstrous 12 hour all day / night session!
Can you tell me more about the Musica Noche Parties?
Russell: Música Noche came about after a series of meetings at The Horse & Groom. Adrian Spurdon and myself had been doing a few nights together in pub basements and we really wanted to do something new. We both love a wide range of music and wanted to put on a night that ignored any general classification of genre and style. I met with Neil, armed with a set of graphic design concepts and a “lust-list” of DJ guests that we would aim to book. Neil was coming from the same open-minded perspective with the pub’s programming at the time and it seemed the perfect fit. There seemed to be a general feel of resurgence in the air for people of our age and “experience”, putting on parties. Phil Mison was doing some lovely things in a disused open air carpark down the road at RED Gallery – just behind the old Foundry on Old Street. There was definitely a sweet spot where the two parties worked beautifully in tandem, as Phil had the lovely outdoor vibes till 11PM and we had the late license.
Neil: We threw a series of great parties – generally one every month – with some of our favourite DJs – Nancy obviously, Phil Mison, Daniele Baldelli, Leo Mas, Moonboots, Coyote, Ruf Dug, Cladestino, Al Mackenzie, Richard Sen, Craig Bratley, Scott Fraiser, Tim Paris. We probably made about £30 each (laughs), but it was never about making money. Russ did some fantastic artwork for the parties, and it was such a great time. With Phil doing Balearicos around the corner, some Fridays there would be an acid house conga from the Red Gallery to Curtain Road.
Russell: I remember one particular night we had the Coyote boys as our guests and we decided we were going to put them on at 11. Time came and the place was almost empty – as we often had a transitional period where the pub stopped being a pub and switched into club mode – the after-work drinkers getting fed up with the increasing music volume and leaving – it was always a really unsettling feeling. However, 5 minutes later we were absolutely packed!
To be honest, our DJ guest list is what I’m most proud of with the Musica Noche parties. We enjoyed nights of so many different flavours with all the folks Neil has mentioned, but I`ll also add Khidja, Apiento, Jaye Ward, Nathan Gregory Wilkins, Very Polish Cutouts, Coyote, Craig Bratley, Logan Fisher, Leo Zero, Mark E, Ray Mang and Sean Johnston – joint with Alfresco Festival, Love Vinyl, Kirsty Pemberton and an amazing live performance from our good friends Vactrol Park, with their incredible self built analogue synth set-up.
Nancy: The first time Phil asked me to play at Balearicos, Russell had turned up to say, “Hi”. We had already re-connected on Facebook, but I hadn’t seen him in forever so it was a lovely surprise. Then when he was thinking of starting these parties he called me to explain what they wanted to do and wanted to know would I be up for playing. I loved the sound of it so it went from there. It was a special time in London then – Balearicos had a real vibe going on – so it was perfect that the Musica Noche parties were happening on the same night, later, nearby.
The Musica Noche party I did with Leo was another one to remember for me. You could feel the excitement early that day – I think it was a bank holiday again. The Leeds lot had made their way down for it, also some of Leo’s Italian friends and followers turned up – who all mixed with the regular crew and made for a real off the scale party with wicked vibes. The Love Vinyl guys played upstairs at that one too. I also loved the party I did with Apiento. It was a bit different, as it was in another venue, very lovely, really swish, the Edition Hotel. The party was in a beautiful basement space with excellent sound and the best cocktails. Great party … Good times.
Neil: The Edition Hotel was designed by Ian Schrager.
Nancy: The boys Russ, Neil, and Adrian always put a lot of effort in to make the parties go off well, and as well as doing our bit with the music the parties were about the people. I met so many nice peeps during this time. Good people make parties. At Musica Noche they always brought their A game, and my friends also brought tambourines (laughs)!
(Dynamite diagram by Stuart Langley, with adjustments by Russell Penn)
Can you remember any tunes that sent folks especially wild?
Neil: Three from me…
It’s A Fine Line / Woman
Rubber Room / Dark Desire (Rubber Room Rerub)
Talamanca System / Balanzat
Russell: Three big ones from me….
Plus Instruments / Love Is Enough (Richard Sen Remix)
DAF / Brothers (Gabi Mix)
Lightbluemover featuring Black Light Smoke / Children Of A Lesser Dog
Nancy, can you remember any tunes that sent the Musica Noche crowd crazy?
One track that I played loads around that time, and at the Musica Noche parties, was Kongas` Anikana-O. For me it’s such a perfect track – big percussion, whistles, carnival party vibes!!!
Are there any stories about the parties that you can share? Neil mentioned something about a birthday cake?
Russell: Ah, Nancy’s legendary cake story.
Neil: The cake story needs to owned by Nancy.
Nancy: I was playing Balearicos at Red Market, covering for Phil. He was away, so it was myself and Jamie Tiller that night, and it just happened to be my birthday. Lots of people came out and it was extra especially nice for me, seeing the occasion. It was buzzing in there. At the end of the night the guys at RED gave me a beautiful cake from a patisserie. That quickly got demolished by all the friends and peeps about…then to The Horse & Groom we went, for Musica Noche. We were all dancing away, John Stokes was playing that night, and then there was some kind of kerfuffle. I saw another cake being carried by Neil with a bottle of bubbly, A Love Bizarre by Sheila E was playing, and then and everyone was singing “Happy Birthday” again! Gush! My friends – Lisa Lee and Lisa Marsh – had got a cake made, and it had these maracas made out of icing! Smiley faces, etc.! It was so lovely. No one was up for cake right at that moment (laughs), and I wasn’t going home anytime soon, so some friends took the cake back with them. The funny part of the story is that the cake took over a week to get back to me – it got passed from friend to friend to friend. So that week on Facebook it was the cake on tour. There were photos of it in all different places, even with some police officers on Blackheath (laughs) .. you can imagine the banter that week was really funny. I was eventually reunited with my cake but it was minus one shaker, and to be honest, inedible by then, sob, sob (laughs). You probably had to be there but was a real laugh that week for all of us.
How about the upcoming Record Store Day party? Where and when is this happening? Do people need to book? Will dancing be allowed?
The Record Store Day party is taking place on Saturday, June 12th, at The Dartmouth Arms in NW5 – the venue owned by Stuart Langley – of Disappearing Dinning Club – who I work with. We`re both super excited to have Nancy playing, and of course Russ – who has played before at the venue and done some great mixes for the Save Your Local campaign. Alas, no dancing yet, but last time we did an RSD party – before lockdown in 2019 – Moonboots and Phil Mison played and it was great vibes. We have worked hard at getting an excellent balance of sound at the venue within all three sections of the pub. We really do advise folks to book. The food is great too so come and make a whole day and night of it.
To warm you up, there`s a great mix here from Russell….