There’s got to be few things scarier in music than trying to set up a club night. Booking the venue, sourcing the artists, promoting the show, selling the tickets, there are a lot of moving parts- and a lot that can go wrong. So any discussion of a Vaporwave live scene has to start from that position: doing this stuff isn’t easy. And if things go wrong it can lead to a lot of embarrassment and expense.
So when I first heard about the plan for Groove Horizons, I didn’t know what to expect. The idea of a Vaporwave club night- or more specifically a Future Funk club night sounded like a great idea. The lineup was certainly stellar, boasting Mr.Wax, Android Apartment, Tokyo Wanderer, Mélonade, Jelly Bon Bon, Strawberry Station, ev.exi and Conscious Thoughts. But what would it be like in practice? The main worry is that it becomes essentially a fan meet up- members of a niche interest group pouring all their energy into one single, but ephemeral event. Could the Vaporwave community pull off something like that? Possibly. Would it seed the roots of a future Vaporwave live scene? Probably not. Club nights would be reserved for the true believers- like an anime convention setting up in a hotel, running riot, and then closing up shop until next year.
This to me is the real victory of Groove Horizons. Not that there was a room full of people I knew, the real faces of avatars I met online. But that I saw the seeds of something which might be able to develop and evolve. For sure, it’s great to meet people from the internet, the social aspect of the Vaporwave scene is one of its best elements. Especially if it involves collaborating together on a project, like Private Suite Magazine or Groove Horizons itself. But what was even better was seeing people walk through the door who were complete strangers. Couples who arrived and just danced together, or friend groups who came and did their own thing. Those who had seen the posters dotted round London, and regulars who come to the same venue every weekend. Attendees who didn’t know anyone at the start of the night making friends as it went on.
As Mélonade, one of the artists performing at Groove Horizons, who doubled as a show organiser, put it to me at the event, it’s a mixed feeling of excitement and nervousness. But if you want to grow and develop a scene into a live era- you have to start somewhere.
Getting your mates together is cool. Getting London club goes into a room with Conscious Thoughts DJing over a pulsing anime slideshow: that’s a real achievement. That’s something you can build on.
I wanted to get Strawberry Station’s take on this. One of the artists who organised the event alongside the aforementioned Mélonade, Strawberry had a big hand in the logistics and promotion of Groove Horizons.
“People came from all over the place, friends of friends, people who had seen the flyers, we even had two guys come over from Germany. I’ve honestly never been to a party quite like it in my life before.
There were a few points where I stood on the sidelines and just took it all in. I was thinking about the anime video which we had playing on the wall as the performers DJ’d. I’d spent days and days putting that video together. Cutting together clips of 80s, 90s, modern anime, characters dancing and having a good time. And as I was looking over the crowd I was seeing people mirror what was on the screen, dancing, enjoying themselves, just so happy. That was one of my proudest moments.”
I asked Strawberry whether he was ever anxious about how the night would go. It’s a big commitment setting up a club night. You’ve got to put yourself and your vision out there. - not for the faint of heart surely?
“For sure, there was definitely a point where the nerves kicked in as we got closer and closer to the night. We got the buzz rolling but we were definitely worried about who was going to turn up at the actual event. But then the posters started going up over London, and then obviously on the night itself it just clicked, the doors opened and the place was full.
Honestly, I need to give a big shout out to Alexander Hall. He was integral to getting the night set up and organised. He’s done a lot of events around London before- he actually knew the venue owners because of this. I mean, most of us have never put on anything like this before. And then on the night itself, he was helping out everywhere, setting the lights up, the DJ booth, he even worked security. Without the combination of him and Mélonade’s drive, we couldn’t have done it. Definitely the unsung hero of the night.”
One of the traits of the evening I enjoyed most wasn’t just the extremely energetic DJ sets, but the structure around them. There was almost a miniature press pool- with myself and Music’s The Hang Up in attendance chatting and documenting proceedings. But there was also extensive merchandise on offer, with the help of My Pet Flamingo, much of it rare and exclusive.
Seeing all of this genre furniture in the same room is impressive. As much as I like how accessible the night was, there’s something pleasing about seeing a magazine you write for- a magazine that didn’t even exist 2 years ago sitting pride of place on a bustling merch table.
“I really want to give a shout out to those two guys who came from Germany to see the show. And especially to Tokyo Wanderer who stepped in when Tanuki couldn’t perform due to an unfortunate illness. Yessel who did the artwork for the show posters. Also, Music’s The Hang Up who came all the way to the UK from Australia to attend. He was my roomie for the duration of the show, and I was showing him all around London, getting fish and chips, showing them the British way of life. We honestly had a great time.
A guy like him, jumping on a plane from Australia on his way to the states, that dude’s seen Future Funk on three different continents in a month. It’s wild, but it shows how much passion there is in this scene.”
Coming right on the heels of Vaporwave’s 10th anniversary, and mere weeks before the American Vaporwave festival 100% ElectroniCON is due to kick off in New York, Groove Horizon was a resounding success. A success which I hope can be built on and developed as the months and years go by. Turning Vaporwave into something which can bring fans, friends and strangers together not just online, but in person too.
Words and photos by Sam L. Barker. Sam is a freelance writer and marketer living in Cambridge, UK. He writes about music, technology and memory. Follow him on Twitter and read the Far Side Virtual archive.
This piece will also be published in Private Suite issue 8.