The Twisted Pepper and venue nostalgia
The imminent closure of Dublin’s Twisted Pepper reminds you that people often don’t appreciate a space until it’s gone
Another one bites the dust. The announcement that the Twisted Pepper is to close at the weekend brought on a rush of nostalgic chatter from fans of the space on Dublin’s Middle Abbey Street. Open since 2008, the Twisted Pepper has been provided many superb nights out for fans of live gigs and club nights. It was also one of those rare Dublin venues where every possible inch of space was used day and night. The gaff used to house the Elastic Witch record shop, the original 3FE cafe, The Loft book store and the Revolver Project vintage shop, while the Boxcutter barbershop, Vice coffeeshop and Spudbox food stall, all of which currently operate there, will continue after the venue is revamped, renamed and reopened in a few weeks’ time. There’s a lesson in that in how to sweat a venue (and we’re not talking about the sweaty basement either).
Personally, I’ve fond memories of the Twisted Pepper for a plethora of reasons. It was Banter’s spiritual home, it was a Carl Craig set in the basement which rekindled my affection for loud club music and it was where On the Record put on events with The Field, Walls, Mount Kimbie, Hard Working Class Heroes and many others. I was even kicked out of the venue by one of the bouncers while the OTR Christmas bash was in full swing, but we won’t say any more about that.
But that was the past. I’m far more fascinated to see what comes next for the space and what this will mean for the city. The city’s entertainment ecosystem is always changing – I really hope someone is keeping track of or mapping the coming and going of venues – and the space at 54 Middle Abbey Street metamorphosing from the Twisted Pepper to something else is part of that process. There are, of course, a lot of questions posed by the loss of a brilliant venue, much loved club and heavyweight sound system, but these questions relate as much to changes in Dublin clubland at present and the return of the big room as anything else (good points by Kenny Hanlon here on this very topic, by the way).
Yet just as Twisted Pepper owner Trevor O’Shea and his gang of desperados originally came along to shake things up with Bodytonic and its slew of club nights, venues, bars and enterprises, another Trevor O’Shea will be along in due course to do something similar. Look, I know that the thought of multiple Trevor O’Sheas is a frightening one for the universe at large and especially anyone who knows the lad in question. Yet this is how change happens. There will always be some young gun coming along determined to make their mark. It’s what happened with O’Shea and co – this Rabble interview is a good primer on those early days when they’d cruise in from Meath in their car to take on the city – and it’s a template which has served many crews and collectives well. When you’re a would-be promoter and club runner and you don’t have access to the already established spaces, you can either moan and whinge and grumble or you can go away and start your own. And the thought of what’s to come from self-starters who go off and dream up new shit is far, far, far more exciting than bemoaning what used to be.
We’re great ones for mourning what’s no longer around rather than concentrating on what we actually have at our disposal right now. If I’d an euro for every time I hear someone go on about spaces and venues we no longer have, I’d be able to actually buy a venue of my own. We prefer to remember what’s gone and not coming back rather than support and enjoy what we have at our disposal. Indeed, if those nostalgia freaks had spent even half their time actually going to those venues in the first place, the venues might still be open.
While there’s no denying that venues like The Funnel, McGonagles, Kennedy’s, Eamon Doran’s, Crawdaddy and dozens more provided many nights of fun and games (though anyone who fondly remembers The Asylum was not actually there), everything carried on OK without them when they disappeared from the landscape. It’s the same deal with shops – you’d have thought the world was going to hell in a handcart when Road Records pulled down the shutters for the last time – and yet everyone got on with things. Human beings are great for adapting to new realities, but terrible aul’ eejits for nostalgia. Nothing lasts forever. Stuff comes, stuff hangs around for a while, stuff goes.
So farewell then, the Twisted Pepper. We will remember you whenever we hear Shabazz Palaces or THEEsatisfaction or Laurel Halo or Colin Stetson or Girl Band or Action Bronson or any of the plethora of acts we saw there since 2008. You join the long roll-call of venues we’ve known and loved. But – and no disrespect meant here – we’re far keener to check out what comes next at 54 Middle Abbey Street. And what will inevitably come after that too.