Philanthrobeats: A Force For Good
Last month Channel 4 screened a pretty hokey documentary called How Clubbing Changed the World which detailed how dance music culture grew out of dilapidated warehouse parties to become a major part of our modern day culture. While we can thank it for providing us with some great records to go with some fun times and a booming market in glowsticks, what tangible good has it given the world? The medium that has good vibes at its heart and which connects people together under its umbrella has rarely shown its truly altruistic side; but now two friends are redressing this inequity by harking back to the days when the ethos of clubbing was less about turning a profit, with the music itself as the message.
The realisation of this idea came from two friends, Marco Calzone and Owen Fenn, who wanted to put on a fundraiser for the Glasgow University Amnesty Society last December. It was held at Stereo right in the middle of the traditional exam season. “We didn't really expect much for an all Glasgow line-up on a fairly competitive Thursday night so we were surprised to see a really busy dancefloor,” says Marco. "Seeing the reaction and the enthusiasm that it attracted made us wonder why this wasn’t a regular thing. If so many want to be a part of this, why isn't someone trying to harness it?” The duo set about doing it themselves. With their friends and connections across the clubbing and charity communities they put together Philanthrobeats.
The first official night was in April this year at Chambre69 (where their nights are still held) and, having already established strong links with Amnesty International, they decided to work with them once more. “We were gob-smacked when we counted the money at the end of the night and realised we had made £730 for the charity,” says Marco. “We carried on with this success into June's second event where we raised slightly more for the Manchester-based charity Once Upon a Smile which helps people affected by terminal illnesses.” At the heart of this project is the belief that people care about these subjects and will proactively choose them if presented with the option. “You buy Fair Trade food, you wear ethically produced clothes, you know that even your mundane choices can have an effect, and naturally you want the effect to be a positive one. At root that is what our nights are about. You don't have to switch that part of yourself off to have a good time. You don't have to stop caring about the wider world when you're in a club.”
While the duo cite Live Aid as the primary large scale example of the ‘charity meets music’ format, their own nights have a better defined, idiosyncratic identity which has helped in attracting some of Glasgow’s most ear-catching DJs. “The music itself is really important to us and to the night's success. We are lucky to be doing this in a city such as Glasgow with all kinds of musical talent seeping from every part of the city and we agree that a huge part of our success so far has been down to the brilliance of the musicians playing at the night.” The list of those who have played would be the envy of some of the city’s most prestigious nights with Mount Heart Attack, Mia Dora, Chungo-Bungo, Boom Monk Ben, Floyd and NoFace all having featured along with the Philanthrobeats residents of Tarantism and Denney & FortyWinks. A lot of emphasis is placed on the night being able to stand up for itself as a respected clubbing fixture in people’s calendars without needing to rely on the good intentions of the crowd to draw them in. “We want to make sure that people think of it as a quality night as well as a charity event, so they choose to add our events into their weekend of dancing as if it were any other club night with great music.”
There’s little surprise that their enthusiasm for how that aim is achieved extends beyond simply cultivating the music side of things and there is a strong visual identity to the nights. “We spend a lot of time planning the aesthetic as we strongly believe that the atmosphere of a clubnight can be totally changed through a small amount of smart decoration or lighting. So far we have had everything from homemade banners made from recycled coffee sacks to complicated visual projects from two of our artists, Produ[k]t and Optik." Last time they decided to 'videomap' a projection onto the front of Chambre69's amazing Funktion1 soundsystem; all these things are an attempt to make the overall night better by offering a more immersive experience.
So far those who have joined the cause on the dancefloor have been in the mood to enjoy themselves, possibly even more than usual. “We don't know whether the charitable nature of the events brings out the best in people or not, but we have been really lucky with the crowds that we have had. A whole club dance floor full of smiling faces and cheering voices really helps us and if the DJs enjoy what we are doing the whole experience is made even more positive. At our first night the reaction that Mount Heart Attack got after their final song was unbelievable. The crowd kept on cheering until they played not one but two more tunes before eventually being ushered away from the decks. We have had phenomenal support from our other friends as well; Boom Monk Ben, who played at our second event, really touched us when he said he was comfortable enough with the crowd that he felt he could play whatever he wanted and he even compared the atmosphere to that of the late Thursday’s Art School vibe, a compliment that we took very kindly!”
The plan for the future is to grow the event even more with some more iconic names keen to be part of the project. 13 September will see Glasgow club heavyweights Optimo (Espacio) at the controls at Chambre69 bringing their unique party vibe to raise money for Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors without Borders), a charity dedicated to providing medical help to countries affected by disease, hunger or war. Additionally, Philanthrobeats will have the privilege of hosting a day event as part of the Glasgow University Freshers Fayre on 11 September which will involve a number of workshops, talks and music performance all focused on what they do and offer as an organisation. “We want to get more into that kind of stuff as time goes on. We recognise that art and music have a place outside the walls of a nightclub and therefore want to use it as the amazing tools they are: universal languages that bring disparate people together. A short while back we threw around the idea of offering free music workshops to, say, disadvantaged kids. This idea has gradually developed into doing workshops for all kinds of art and creative practices by working with other charities, musicians and artists. We hope to bring their talents to good use by helping those who may not get a chance to play with decks, paint or cameras very often. Doing fundraiser club nights is one thing but we'd like to get these workshops on their feet soon and start helping people in more ways than one.”
The final piece in the Philanthrobeats jigsaw, and another natural extension of their work, is the possibility of releasing some of their own residents' EPs. “We know so many people who make amazing music, and it makes sense to collate some of this material and put it out there for people to hear. This wouldn't be a record-label, as such, but more of a vessel to spread quality music to the people that come to our nights, or just want something nice to listen to."