‘Cosmo’ brings the spirit of New York’s legendary Loft to Dublin
Inspired by New York club the Loft’s template of audiophilia with an open-music policy, DJ Colleen Murphy is on a seven-hour mission this weekend
Colleen ‘Cosmo‘ Murphy: “I walked through the door and into a whole different world”
“These parties were never about a specific type of music,” says DJ and broadcaster Colleen Murphy about New York’s legendary “Loft” parties. Hosted by David Mancuso, who died last year aged 72, the seminal events have acquired cult status for anyone interested in dance music or its history.
“The Loft was someone’s home,” says Murphy. “I started going to the parties in 1991 and I was blown away. There was a bed in the corner, a cat running around, a giant disco ball, these huge speakers and a big vegetarian spread that was laid on at five in the morning. I was really in awe, and then all this music that I’d never heard before, and certainly not in that kind of a way; on that kind of a system. It sounded completely different to me. I started going all the time, learning about the music, and dancing.”
Colleen “Cosmo” Murphy is discussing the period ahead of her seven-hour set at Downtown Connection in Dublin this Saturday, the first Irish club night to replicate Mancuso’s template of audiophile excellence and eclectic, open-music policy. “This isn’t a Loft party,” she is quick to clarify, “but it’s inspired by the Lucky Cloud parties that we’ve been running, and which [Downtown Connections organiser] Paul Fogarty has attended as well.”
For the past quarter-century, Murphy has been a DJ, broadcaster, label owner, remixer and curator, a path that in many ways follows directly from her experiences attending the Loft as a regular punter in the early 1990s. Twenty-five years after her original visit, one might characterise her initial experience with the place as something like love at first sight.
“A friend brought me. I think entry was, like, $9.99,” she says, perhaps laughing at the slender fee and its somewhat specific denomination. “This friend was a member and you could sign up non-members so long as you were responsible for their behaviour. I walked through the door and into a whole different world. The party began at midnight and you entered this amazing place; the music was incredible, the people, the sound, the food, the lighting.”
Though sometimes termed “The Godfather of Disco”, Mancuso rejected the term, and Murphy is clear that his influence was deeper, and more eclectic than that.
“It was all types of music. I was already a radio DJ at that time, producing and hosting shows with the likes of Nirvana, talking to alternative bands and hip-hop groups. I liked dance music and certainly had a history with funk and early hip-hop, but I really didn’t know about paradise garage-style house music”.
Started in the late 1970s, the Loft’s invitation-only arrangements were a precursor to similar policies adopted by Studio 54 and Paradise Garage, while Mancuso’s rare and unceasing obsession with audio quality was an early ancestor to the acoustically engineered clubs of today.
This Dublin tribute hopes to recreate many of the same staples, replete with balloons, food spread and, in particular, the audio obsessiveness for which the Loft parties were famed. Mancuso, and later hosts such as Murphy, went to extraordinary lengths for the perfect sound, whether using needles manufactured by Japanese sword manufacturer Koetsu, or the famously incredible – and incredibly expensive – Klipschorn speakers, a full set of which can retail for tens of thousands of dollars. The speakers, food and balloons will be making their appearance in Dublin, if not the samurai DJ needles.
For Murphy, learning about this level of audiophilia was a revelation. “I’d studied sound,” she says, “but that was in relation to radio journalism, not hi-fi and playback. You have to remember, David was living in the Loft, he didn’t have to set everything up each week. So if I was musically hosting there – we don’t say DJing – if I was playing records with him, it was more about how you handle the stuff, rather than physically putting it all together. I was much more of a music person, less inclined to be asking technical questions. I didn’t know this stuff. It was only when we started doing the compilations, and the parties in London, that it really started to take hold of me.”
She took this fascination with sound quality with her when she moved to London, and started putting on her own events, causing her to install similar equipment in her home. From there came her own audio-centric event, Classic Album Sunday.
“I started in 2010, which was a similar concept – listen to a classic album on an incredible system, beginning to end, phones off. It was my own concept, but definitely inspired by the Loft. The first album we did was Abbey Road, in 2010. People had been listened to a record on my [Klipschorn] system at home and saying “oh my god, I’m hearing things I’ve never heard before. That was seven years ago, and now we have satellites all over the world. Hopefully we’ll start one in Dublin soon.”
As for this week’s Dublin trip, Murphy is excited. “I’m looking forward to seeing how the soulful side of stuff goes down. I never know what to expect; it’s always about the moment. We haven’t done one in Dublin yet, but it’s going to be a really high-end sound system, so I’m looking forward to a real proper party. This is not a DJ set in a commercial club, it’s a soulful vibe where people can really experience music and dancing in a way they haven’t before.”
– Downtown Connection takes place in Teachers’, Parnell Square, Dublin, on Saturday, May 20th, from 6pm. For more, see facebook.com/DTCLoftparty