The day the bleep bloops died
September 19, 2016 12:14 PM   Subscribe

Fabric night club was founded in 1999. (An oral history for the 10th anniversary, a VICE article for the 15th.) For those outside the UK, Fabric might be better known for its long-running mix series. (A few best-ofs from Red Bull Music Academy, Thump, Blisspop, The Quietus, and Fabric’s staff.)
After two drug-related deaths, the club closed temporarily in August. On September 7, the Islington Council permanently revoked Fabric’s license. Eulogies and concerns about the policing of club culture (and one threatened MBE melting) have rolled in: Resident Advisor, NPR, The New York Times, The Guardian (drugs), The Guardian (club culture), Billboard, Fader.

Pitchfork has an interview with Scuba, who is both the last DJ to play the club and the curator of the most recent mix. (Fortunately, the mix series won’t be ending.)
The club is appealing the ruling, and a campaign to save Fabric has already raised more than £128,000 in donations.
posted by Going To Maine (26 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Well, there's another cool thing i'll never get to do because of assholes.
posted by emptythought at 12:42 PM on September 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

Completely unsurprising to this UK-based punk, who has spent at least a decade watching every iconic venue in the country being turned into luxury condos, one by one. Guess the powers that be have discovered that the kids these days are actually generally into music with beats instead of guitars.
posted by Dysk at 12:50 PM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Damn, so sad!

It was going to be part of my 'lets see how things have changed in 15 years' stop-over in London. I have a sweet story from Fabric, and I am waiting for some automated tests to finish, so story time it is.

In 2002 I made a literal last minute decision, standing at the check-in line at the airport after a visit to my sister, to stay in London and see how long and how far I could make it with 100 pounds and basic English.

It took me a day to find the lusophone underground in a hostel in Kensal Green, where Portuguese nationals were more than happy to sell their IDs to recently arrived Brazilians. I got an education on how to live at the very edge of the law in the UK, specially how to get a job and a bank account.

With 5 pounds left I got a job in the kitchen of a fancy sushi restaurant in Notting Hill. There I met the Mexican underground, which had its epicenter around Earl's court.

I ended up hot bunking in a studio with 6 other Mexican dudes and a girl. Seven dudes hot bunking on 2 mattresses on the floor, while the girl got the one tiny 'bedroom'.

We were all in the service industry, from dishwashers to pub chefs. We did not like the wealthy Mexican kids who, as was in fashion at the time, would go to 'work' in London for a year, getting money from home and partying all the time. In my flat we were always working, always saving money and sending it back home.

Mario and me talked a lot. He had won a radio contest in Mexico to see U2 in concert in London and meet Bono. He did not care for U2, but he had been trying to make it to the USA for years, and this sounded like the next best thing. He did not make it to the concert, he ditched the radio contest people and walked around central London talking to anyone with a Latin American accent he could find. That is how he ended up at the house.

He tells me that he thinks he is gay, but is not sure. He talks about how although he does not believe in the church, inside him he stills feels like a sinner, and may never feel better. He never felt like he belonged in Mexico, he was hated and harassed by the police, the church, his family, his bosses. In London at least he was invisible.

Mario got me a job as a bar-back at a place in Kings Cross. We worked hard and fast, and in a couple of months we were promoted to bartenders, and we got enough shifts in other bars that I quit my sushi job and Mario quit his cleaning job. We met a ton of other people in the industry, and as is always the case when living underground, we ended up owing and being owed many favors.

Some British dudes needed help dealing with some Peruvian people, we helped move things along, and they offered free back-door access to Fabric (and to parties at I place I think was called Egg).

Here I need to explain that we lived in a cultural bubble. All Mexican, all undocumented, all homesick. We would either be working, sleeping, or getting stupid drunk with other Latinos in the same situation. We knew nothing of London's (or the UK's) culture, except where to score weed, where to find cheap hot spicy food, and how to keep out of the police's radar. To be honest, we were scared of everything. Fabric and Egg just sounded too scary.

But one day we are bored after our shift ends at 1 a.m. On the way home we meet up with a few other Mexican friends, who just scored what may or may not be proper MDMA. We remember Fabric, and decide to go check it out and try the pills.

We go there, call our contact, and we get in through the back door. We get all the free alcohol we want behind the bar, and we are having a great time. Most of us have done some serious drugs before, and are willing to take the risk with mystery pills, but Mario has a virgin mind, barely even drinks, and really really wants a pill. We give Mario, honest to God, a baby aspirin, tell him to hold it under his tongue.

Next day we have the mother of all hangovers, but Mario is super happy. He tells us how he felt so happy on 'E', how he danced and danced, and started feeling all the love in the air. And he met some French dude on the floor, and they made out, and it did NOT feel like a sin, it felt RIGHT and GOOD.

I came back to Mexico soon after to look after my mother and lost touch.

In late 2004 Mario finds me in MySpace or Friendster or whatever people used at the time . Mexico City just legalized same sex marriage, and he is getting married to the same guy he met at Fabric. In 2005 they went back to London and have been together since (what will happen to them after brexit? no idea).

So the plan was to do a 15 year reunion in 2017, and go drop some baby aspirin at fabric, if they let old people in.
posted by Doroteo Arango II at 1:30 PM on September 19, 2016 [246 favorites]

I will always think fondly of Fabric for rejecting this mix by Justice and thereby bringing it to my attention. To this day, I haven't found 45 continuous minutes of music so pleasurable.
posted by witchen at 1:57 PM on September 19, 2016

Step 1: Buy flat near iconic nightspot for exorbitant money
Step 2: get annoyed that "lively vibrant neighbourhoods" produce noise
Step 3: Complain to Council
Step 4: Profit ???!!!????!!!
posted by threetwentytwo at 2:00 PM on September 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Doroteo Arango II, that's a wonderful story, thanks for sharing!

Mine is a dull one - my family was in London for a week one summer in the early Aughts (2004?), and I wanted to go to a proper club. My younger brother and our even younger cousin reveled in going to a bar and getting served beer, but I wanted to dance to a proper DJ. Looking through a local list of events and clubs, I saw Fabric and decided I would go. I think I walked there, paid my entrance, and wandered around the crowded rooms.

Being a southern California kid, I didn't like wearing long pants, so I was the only one there wearing shorts. Some outgoing youth thought I was weird, so we chatted a bit and he said we should try to get into the VIP room. He did his best to chat his way in, but I wasn't a convincing cohort, and he found some other friends or something, so I spent the night trying to dance in the increasingly crowded main room, where many people had a smoke in one hand and a drink in the other, which made it even harder to dance. Mostly, I kind of swayed with the crowd.

I definitely walked back to our cheap hotel, because I remember getting a bit lost and quite sore in my feet and legs. I don't remember who was DJing, and I can't specifically recommend the night to anyone else. But I realize it was just a random week-night, and walking across London was on me. But this brings me to my question: was the club particularly known as an outstanding club, or did it's rise to fame come more from the great series of mixes?
posted by filthy light thief at 2:21 PM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

But this brings me to my question: was the club particularly known as an outstanding club, or did it's rise to fame come more from the great series of mixes?

As someone who has always found the irritation/enjoyment tradeoff of being in a club to be pretty severe, fabric to me is and always will be the mixes. It’s bedroom music. That said, going by the oral histories, it seems like fabric survived because of… both. It was a good club with good mixes. The two things feed each other.
posted by Going To Maine at 3:06 PM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ugh dude are you serious? I wanted to check out the bass floor at Fabric. In fact, this was one of the only things I wanted to see in London.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:12 PM on September 19, 2016

Ugh dude are you serious? I wanted to check out the bass floor at Fabric. In fact, this was one of the only things I wanted to see in London.

I don’t really keep up with proper club culture, just my headphones; I almost definitely wouldn’t go to a club unless, you know, there was some DJ I knew spinning on the decks. (Clubs are TOO LOUD, and I generally lack the courage to fight on a dance floor. Besides, now I’m an old man ooh my achey bones.) But that’s me. I totally accept that much of the music I listen to wouldn’t exist without the massive edifice of club culture to support it. (In the intro to his DJ-Kicks mix, Juan MacLean wrote about the time James Murphy pounded on his hotel room door to demand to know why MacLean was listening to club music alone in his hotel room. I felt for him, especially since I knew that no one else in my sphere would be interested in hearing the mix ever.) (Also, to quote The Black Madonna, I’m sick to my stomach. As an American in Kentucky the Fabric mixes were my window to the world. This is inconceivable. I’m there with her.)
posted by Going To Maine at 3:42 PM on September 19, 2016 [3 favorites]

Mario and me talked a lot. He had won a radio contest in Mexico to see U2 in concert in London and meet Bono. He did not care for U2, but he had been trying to make it to the USA for years, and this sounded like the next best thing. He did not make it to the concert, he ditched the radio contest people and walked around central London talking to anyone with a Latin American accent he could find. That is how he ended up at the house.

Similarly, this paragraph seems to have strayed from a Roberto Bolaño novel and taken up residence in this thread.
posted by mannequito at 3:59 PM on September 19, 2016 [9 favorites]

filthy light thief, to answer your question, fabric was regarded as one of the premier clubs in the world, and was rated #1 or #2 in the world in polls of clubbers for a five-year stretch in the late '00s. It was particularly known for the floor in Room 1, which had the subwoofer transducers embedded into it, meaning the bass would be transmitted directly into your body through your feet (rather than through the air). It was a bit gimmicky, but the club had a lot else going for it, including 4 rooms of music and generally stellar booking. I also remember reading an article later on where the sound technicians talked about having iPads that they could use to adjust the mix from the dance floor, which is pretty cool tech - and really the only way to adjust the sound properly.

I only made it to fabric once, in late 2007, as I was first starting to go out. I had always assumed that I'd return some day, but that looks unlikely at this point. I remember shortly after I left London in 2008, Turnmills - another club in Islington, around the corner from fabric - closed to be turned into condos. It was the first venue in London to receive a 24-hour license, which meant that they could stay open (and serve alcohol) for a full weekend, which they did to great effect. In a sense, this seems like the end of a major chapter of London nightlife history, presaged by Turnmills' demise.
posted by Amplify at 4:53 PM on September 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

For more on expiring London clubs, this article is giving me a trip down memory lane: "What happened to the great London nightclubs?"
posted by Amplify at 4:57 PM on September 19, 2016

:( :( :(

In honor I will be listening to Ricardo Villalobos's amazing mix for Fabric (#36) later tonight.
posted by en forme de poire at 7:42 PM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

So, I am the least cool person ever, but my bleeding edge friend was putting me up on a visit to London in 1999 before I actually moved there (2003-2014) and he happened to have done the AV projections/lighting design, so there we were, in the VIP section on opening night. It was mostly empty, but hey. I was there...
posted by mollymillions at 8:58 PM on September 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

I remember how cross we all were when the CJA criminalised the outdoor/free party scene and drove everyone indoors, into the waiting arms of the club entrepreneurs ready to charge for the privilege of simply dancing to repetitive beats. The superclubs were emblematic of The Problem. Then they became part of The Solution. Now they are a different kind of Problem, apparently.
posted by meehawl at 9:14 PM on September 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

I mainly remember the staircase of Fabric, when you could still smoke inside. It was a great night out.
London has a failure of zoning laws meaning as property prices increase, any and every commercial enterprise has huge profit to be made from becoming flats, driving rents and prices up, making any meal/night/coffee out increasingly expensive, and making areas deathly boring as the only available venues are chains. London pubs are closing rapidly as so much more profit can be made from selling up than remianing a pub.
It's a recipe for a ghost town.
posted by eyeofthetiger at 11:31 PM on September 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

Doroteo Arango II: Wow, just wow. Goosebumps and tears.

In my experience (which isn't extensive but enthusiastic and hasn't actually included any of the top level clubs anywhere in the world), a good night at a club is better than a great night nearly anywhere else. It sounds like Mario had a Great Night at a Majestic Club, which is possibly one of the best things I can imagine.

I'm sorry you won't get your reunion. I'm sorry I won't even get to be there once. (Like with Twilo or Sound Factory or so many other legendary places I find out about and never get to.)

Are there ANY truly legendary clubs left these days?
posted by hippybear at 1:42 AM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Good memories here too, especially the time where I was coming back to France through London, with one night to spend, and I just put my bag in a coin locker, went to Fabric, danced and danced, then spaced out, then slept somewhere in the club for the last two hours until morning and the time to get breakfast and catch my eurostar.
So yeah Going To Maine, it's club music and bedroom music, and you could do both at the club!
posted by anzen-dai-ichi at 2:37 AM on September 20, 2016

Meanwhile, in Dalston, bankers' condos are going up along the main road. The marketing billboards don't even try to pander to the buyers' aspiration to play at being “hip” or “arty”, but go for the full Patrick Bateman/Christian Grey yuppie power-fantasy. I imagine the hipster bars and venues like Café Oto can't be long for this world.

Hackney Wick looked like an oasis of affordable fun, with its post-industrial warehouses hosting raves, but now they are being shut down as well, ostensibly because of evil drugs, though presumably there's a subtext of “well, somebody might want to build some luxury flats here, and if nightlife gets in the way, Hackney Council is just leaving money on the table”.

Not sure where to next; atomised bedroom communities outside the M25, with synchronised Oculus Rift headphone raves on Facebook? Perhaps Bristol, before it goes techbro? Or maybe skip that and find somewhere sufficiently grim and stabby, and this time desperately avoid “improving” it (no nice organic cafés, or schools that don't look like borstals, or pubs that sell anything other than cheap lager), in the hope that the Foxtons of this world don't notice it.
posted by acb at 4:10 AM on September 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

Are there ANY truly legendary clubs left these days?

That's a good question! The thing about truly legendary clubs is that once they pass into legend (i.e. people hear about them) they are generally pretty much over. It is a rare club that can remain fresh, full of life and atmosphere, once the word gets out. I think the secret to that is a lot of emotional work! Keeping it small and friendly, rather than exploiting the clientele.
posted by asok at 6:07 AM on September 20, 2016 [1 favorite]

Are there ANY truly legendary clubs left these days?

Meanwhile, over in Berlin...
posted by acb at 8:42 AM on September 20, 2016 [3 favorites]

What is a legendary club? I've been to Fabric, quite a few times, and it was very similar to every other dance club in an old morgue I've been to (quite a few! Seems to be a common repurpose of such spaces). While I'm sorry the young people have one fewer choice of where to go now to dance, Fabric wasn't anything special in and of itself. Young people will still dance and take drugs they shouldn't, and everyone else will still be trying to chase the feeling of when they were young and taking drugs they probably shouldn't, just somewhere else.

It is a great space though, and I hope it is used wisely! Pretty sure it will end up as crappy 'luxury' flats though, unfortunately.
posted by goo at 4:49 PM on September 21, 2016 [2 favorites]

Are there ANY truly legendary clubs left these days?

I would argue two things here

1. In most big cities, yes, but it's usually not some place that's been cool for 20 years. There are exceptions, but the places that are legendary and still legendary in a sense, are often fairly small spots with tons of history, not big Epic Clubs.

2. A lot of legendary things are events. These move around. Really cool popular spots close, events move. Sometimes it's the organizer or a local DJ good at bringing in talent from out of town to different events they put on.

Some places are good at regularly putting on legendary events, some people are good at it. A lot of times they move around or are transient.

Very few places would be legendary any big night of the week, and i honestly feel like that concept has kind of gone away in and of itself... But especially for reasons mentioned above of "once a ton of people have heard of it somethings got to give".

I do, in general, think the era of the Super Expensive Mega Club is dying out for a laundry list of reasons though.
posted by emptythought at 8:57 PM on September 21, 2016 [1 favorite]

Yeah, that's probably true. And I have known for a while that even the best club is really only THE BEST CLUB for like one or two nights a month and the rest of the time it's just sort of a scene you end up at with a lackluster crowd and DJs who are just there to get their paycheck.

I guess it is about the events, and knowing which events or which event producers are the ones worth following is... an interesting conundrum.
posted by hippybear at 12:12 AM on September 22, 2016

Along similar lines, another article on gentrification in London came out on Saturday. Reading it, I discovered that all the pubs people from the first place I worked in London (in Notting Hill) have now closed down; it's implied that this is due to lack of custom, because the oligarchical investors who bought up the area don't actually do anything quite as gauche as living there, let alone going to a public house like some common member of the gentry.

Piece by piece, London is becoming a necropolis of wealth.
posted by acb at 9:58 AM on September 27, 2016

Kevin Lozano at Pitchfork: “Fabric Appeal Hearing Scheduled for November”
posted by Going To Maine at 9:31 AM on October 4, 2016

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