The idea of a school becoming a club is an appealing one, and this school was an elegant school. The kind of space that we learn in as children becoming a place to learn about music and each other as grown ups. The way we learn as adults is often so much more brittle as our cynicism creeps, we need to be drawn into things for them to stick. We need to remember the connection between play and learning, how the two feed each other and how keeping up with this keeps us supple. This is what keeps us young.
I often think that if a club is being run well, if the fountain of ideas and the energy is well sourced, and if it flows with some gusto, then one human year is the equivalent of about five years in club years. Think dog years but for clubs. Club years. When I go and play I think about what the club I’m playing in is: what is it for its regulars and its city and its past and future and so on. Then I try to balance that against the push onwards with what we do. Its a similar balance to the one a DJ has with the dancers, of leaning into what they would like to hear and levelling that against what you would like to play. In this sense, in club years, De School lived to about 30.
The first time I met Luc Mastenbroek he introduced himself as someone who had been a regular at Trouw. It was a modest introduction, he was always humble about his past and his present. There was no hint to his explanation of why he was doing a crucial job in an exciting new space. We met the first time I played De School, March 16th 2016. As we talked it quickly became clear that he was a wise hire. He spoke like a student. We muddled between books, films and music. After that we began to send books and recommendations to one another. I don’t think I sometimes quite fulfilled my side of the balance on that front but it was a pleasure to have someone who felt such an easy companion. He represented the club to me and the perfect mirroring of a building that was to be fluid with ever changing ideas, a modular club in a sense as the spaces were versatile and the intentions expansive. The details around the club and the graphic design encapsulated that (as well as looking like it was all mapped onto the squared paper of maths lessons past). The project seemed a logical whole from the get go.
After playing a couple of times that year Luc asked me if I would like to play one of the Het Weekenders and we discussed Shanti Celeste and Objekt joining me. I honestly can’t remember a great deal from that first one but from there our conversations slipped on to the point where he invited me to help programme a full weekender the following year (2017). We talked about the space being altered and I invited Aura Lydon and Marlyn Kist de Ruijter to build installations in the upstairs dancefloor. I decided that I would make and hang large ink paintings throughout the spaces and that musically we needed artists to both have a comfort zone and also be asked to do things they didn’t so often try (if ever). It was crucial that there were different kinds of music and that people who were not so adventurous in their club tastes were led to places that they wouldn’t normally go.
It felt chaotic and ultimately very special, aided by a snow storm through the weekend. Beatrice Dillon was meant to play all night with Ben UFO in De Aula on the Sunday night but she didn’t make it due to the weather. Tammo Hesselink stepped in to replace her to great effect. Shanti Celeste arrived minutes before she had to start. I still remember her playing LFO - Loop a few tracks in and the club erupting in a way it rarely does with that record (and it always should). Hetmuzieklokaal was hung with forms that summoned mythological handmade landscapes. There was a silver sphere in the middle of the room. This was all Aura and Marlyn's work. In De Aula the ambient space became a puddle of bodies in what felt like a darkened assembly. We felt snowed into the experience, trapped in something good. After it all Luc graciously let me do it again the following year.
By this time I felt the club had begun to reach its perfectly realized form. The team had established itself within a year and the wheels seemed to be turning very smoothly. I don’t know when precisely but Elisa had come on board alongside Luc working on the programming. The club felt like it was walking a very special line between the more abstract edges of things and the fun centres of dance music's energy. There were people through the doors and the nights felt excellently managed.
The following summer I was there after a day at Dekmantel and for the first time I saw Parris play. That set was one of the best I had heard that year and it was the beginning of a friendship that has born records and a label. The building has always felt like it has provided a saturation of both experience and colour. Upstairs a 1970s dusty orange, a letting in of light, shape and connection. Downstairs an inky shuttering. A place to drift in and out of intensity, usually lapping at edges of the crowd. The room first screamed underground carpark, later its low ceiling somehow added a warmth that cocooned down there.
The lesson from the first weekender - Luc’s generosity - meant the second one had to encapsulate everything I wanted in a club. I wanted Anita Sarko’s DJ sets to provide an inspiration for it. A DJ from the Mudd Club in New York her sets were seemingly the opposite of what a DJ tends to do these days. Her choices would be wild contracts, swerving between 1920s and 30s jazz, avant garde classical music, chopped up with post punk. How can we enlarge that approach for this weekend was my thought. An initial idea was to remove the timetable and display it only on 50 tee shirts we gave away to the first 50 people in. Find someone somewhere if you need to know. Try and foster connections. Looking through the emails leading up it there are ideas that didn’t make it…
[Claire would love to hang a small exhibition in the entrance way. We'll figure out the format later in the month. Let me know if there is a budget please.
I'd like to highlight some poets/poems. I had the idea of just printing poems out on A4 or maybe A3 if they're long and putting them around the place like timetables so people have to go and inspect them. Some of the poets I'm thinking about...
Cathy Park Hong
I'll obviously just pick a few poets, not gonna go mad!]
…and I can’t remember why now except that I just had too much going on to finish it all. The exhibition did happen - we were hanging Claire’s photo’s until the doors opened - sadly the poetry did not. I think Peach’s RnB set and Josey Rebelle’s Sunday evening set remain two of my favourite clubbing experiences ever, and I still get goosebumps thinking about the dance floor upstairs deliriously dancing to Duke Ellington records I played as a tribute to Anita Sarko. It was the thing I had dreamt, and I felt so incredibly fortunate to have Luc, Elisa and everyone else at the club making it all happen. It was a dream of creating a here and now that made me curious and thrilled to be alive.
We did another collaboration at the end of 2019, in which I wanted Coby Sey to perform live upstairs after a DJ set from Dee Diggs. For that I wrote the following text outlining our feelings:
You have to destroy something that is familiar, that you care for, in order for something new to be created. Dance music is essentially an ephemeral medium. It is disposable. Every night disappears into day and is smudged into the mulch of memory. The individual parts: dancing, being with friends, djing, serve a base hedonism and opportunity to cope with life but beyond that are meaningless on their own. However, if you can marshal each part well, and the crowd bring a worthwhile attitude a certain night can amount to something in its own tiny way. The feeling that I’ve carried from the last two December weekenders have been about as positive as I’ve ever managed.
Last year’s left a lingering glow that meant something *_had*_ to change in order for this thing to carry on. So this year no Weekender.
Instead an attempt to squeeze something special out of the last Saturday night of the decade. We’ll use both floors once again. Upstairs a long set from Dee Diggs, someone I’ve been excited about all year. As seemingly every DJ and their dog has decided to play faster and faster it’s been so lovely to see someone standing tall and holding it down for a HOUSE sound in short supply. There will be a little interlude before we host Coby Sey. These nights need a performance element and I’m very excited to see something so intimate so late into the night.
Hopefully before 5am Objekt and myself will begin a set to take you well into your Sunday. Downstairs is very simple: Jasmín for the first half and Courtesy for the second. It’s been great giving people time to stretch out musically and so that remains. Aura and Marlyn will be installing new work and there will be a zine curated by Kasia Zacharko and Claire Cichy given out to those who leave after 6am.
This decade has been one of opposites, of perpetual negotiation and renegotiation, of having to accept that nothing can really hold dear and that conclusions have to be fought very hard for and sometimes, given up on to save our energy for something bigger. We have to keep using the pain in life to push on. A few months ago Claire issued me and Kasia with the vital reminder that “we can’t be happy all the time”. This is the title of the zine and serves as our motto for the night. Its power in remembering the importance of our unhappiness in our pursuit of joy is something to take with us into the new decade.
Hope you can join us.
Love, Call Super.
Reading this back my pessimism and concerns about how we continue are in full flow. That sense of something having to break to begin again with ideas afresh is paramount to a healthy creative progression. The pandemic was obviously not what I imagined. It took months for it to sink in.
Leading into it there were the beginnings of issues faced at the venue that friends discussed bringing to the team. In conversations with me they wondered what, if anything, was being done to address them. I had no idea, and I am certainly not the person to tell the story of what came next, but I can outline my own sense of personal failure and sense of hopeless cowardice at times when I wish I had known how to be stronger or more supportive to all involved.
Whenever we are a part of something successful, there runs the chance of our being blinded to failings. There was a moment in that summer of 2020, as individual grievances coalesced into something bigger that those failings suddenly became very apparent to the team. I remember being on the phone with Luc, sat on a train platform and just staring at the train tracks, completely lost for words, feeling as pathetic as I have ever felt in my life. Here was someone who was facing little support from the owners and who, I felt, was being hung out to dry having given pretty much everything to doing the job he was employed to do as well as he could. I feebly agreed that the steps they were taking were the right ones and that I agreed with others that he should step down. Worried that there were things that people may raise that weren’t good once the space was made possible - there had seemed to be a pattern here - I didn’t know how to say whose responsibility it should have been. Ultimately I just felt like a shit friend and confused as to how things had gotten so bad in certain instances. I will never know every detail of the failings at the club but we had to believe the victims. Browbeaten by the persistent sniping at myself on social media for not attacking them more openly despite saying publicly and privately that I felt a new security, HR and booking team should take over, I ended up not listening to the podcast for a few weeks until after it went out.
Looking back, that recording serves as a lesson in some crucial steps every club should work through to have a security team they can trust and a framework for resolving complaints. Luc had essentially said whatever we did wrong I will take responsibility for so we can try to pass on this club to a new team with as little baggage as we can possibly manage. That wasn’t enough for those who saw themselves as siding with the victims and for whom shutting it down was the only justice befitting the situation. When the owner(s) pulled the rug from the process and fired the club staff Luc lost his chance to see this accountability through. With hindsight his courage in that process remains with me. With that decision to fire and shutter the only thing that would be left was the pain of it all, an abandoned club and a sense of victory, possibly even schadenfreude amongst those who had taken up their complaints with the place. It was a desperately sad end.
Then an encore. Eighteen months on whispers of a new team being hired proved true. Personally I hoped they would succeed simply because something new is good for the sake of being something new. New opportunities for new people with this wonderful space no longer sitting wasted. It was great to see the new team begin with ideas that were not rooted in what had been before. Then five months into this new beginning I received an offer to return. The way the new team went on to fold the things which had contributed to the club before into the new ideas they had was obviously heartwarming. For those of us who had put what we could into the place with our efforts before things went awry, this felt like a chance to reconnect and sign off in a more peaceful way. At the same time sadness lingered. We got that chance. Luc didn't.
Coming back again in December for the final Het Weekender I was taken back to the energy in the Het Muzieklokaal of the first weekender we programmed, again Job Jobse was playing and settling in next to him towards the end of his set this time I looked around and thought what to do. It was a full circle moment. I felt like tying together moments I could recall from every set I played on the two floors in that building. It is rare in life to get this kind of opportunity to tie threads together like that and I feel deeply grateful to Sezin and Veronique for letting me have that opportunity. By the time the club closed they had done a great deal on a raft of issues and problems that were inherent in the job they took on. What had collapsed was rebuilt anew. On the closing weekend it felt like in this late flowering lay the seeds of their futures, and I dearly hope those seeds find fertile ground.