“If you a scared ************ go to church,” Ice Cube once rapped.
Standing outside St John-at-Hackney church, freezing my nuts off in March, these words casually slip into my mind. How fitting Mr. Cube. How fitting…
I’m waiting to witness Mister Saturday Night DJs Eamon Harkin and Justin Carter mix records in a medieval church that was originally built in 1792. The pair have played many large scale open-air parties in Brooklyn before, but an 18th century place of worship in London is a slightly different proposition.
The classic architecture of the building is fairly unassuming from the outside, and walking into the holy house you can see why it has a growing reputation as a live music venue which hosts the odd late-night rave and now an early-evening Mister Saturday Night party.
Clusters of balloons are suspended halfway up the lofty ceilings, while the imposing organ is hauntingly illuminated with moody blue lighting. It feels like we’ve just gate-crashed a massive school disco (for post-pubescent over-18s), pockets of friendly faces congregating sporadically, but not yet covering the wooden dancefloor in its entirety.
Running from 5pm to 11pm, it seems extra reckless to be out so early – for many, this was the precursor to other nocturnal activities. And as I weave through the early crowd, I seize the opportunity to photobomb a group of pouting ladies. In case you didn’t know, girls, no photos allowed on the dancefloor.
Justin’s on first, summoning dancers to the floor with some soulful jazzy big band covers, before mixing in Joe’s expertly layered scat sounds of ‘Thinkin About’. Up close the six-point Funktion One custom rig delivers pristine punch and clarity, but from the balcony above there aren’t yet enough bodies to dampen the inevitable boom. Churches, after all, are generally huge echo chambers.
Eamon’s turn. He cranks it up a bit and lets loose some four-to-the-floor, filling in with some acid house. I recognise an Innervisions treatment of Dele Sosimi, then hear the cry of “Jingoooooooo, jingo bah” but can’t make out what version it is. The two DJs enter eclectic mode, and next is an hour of 90s garage-house featuring ‘Sweep Magic’ by Soundstream. (I hadn’t discovered the ridiculous bass in this track until now).
Meanwhile, a Voodoo Rays pizza van and limited portaloos outside ensure this party doesn’t feel too far off a mini festival. Inside the two bars either side of the font mean you’re more likely to be baptised in alcohol than holy water, but for the most part people are civilised, smiling and dancing. It is a huge space, but Justin and Eamon manage to fill it.
Perhaps it’s the ‘no photos’ rule, or maybe the fact we’re partying in a church, but people are decidedly more willing to get down than at other parties, creating a floor more likely to breed a love train than wallflowers. More hysteria, less wisteria. And there is a noticeably balanced gender proportion – evidence that MSN creates not only a liberally feel-good vibe, but also an inclusive one where everyone feels safe and united on the dancefloor.
As the evening draws to a close, ‘Welcome to our world of merry music’ by Mass Production reverberates around the church joyously, the lyrics of which spell out Mister Saturday’s mantra. It’s nice to have an event you can rely on for having dedicated dancers and, no doubt, this is what makes MSN parties so appealing. Long may Eamon and Justin continue to spread their gospel.
The next Mister Sunday party is HERE.