Functions is our interview series profiling parties from across the world. This week: London's Fiasco!
Putting great music, extravagant production and good old fashioned fun at the heart of everything it does, Fiasco!'s reputation as one of the capital's hottest queer parties is anything but scandalous. Founded by DJ/promoter Reece Spooner, this raucous celebration of Black and queer talent first started life as a monthly knees-up at Dalston Superstore in 2018 — quickly growing into a London-wide phenomenon with its buoyant blend of deliciously silly pop, notorious dancefloor favourites, sensual R&B movers and roaring up-tempo bangers. "That's what you'll always experience at Fiasco!," says Spooner. "The tempo will increase until it's fast and furious."
Built on a desire to create a queer party that is both accessible but uncompromising in its approach to music and production, Fiasco! invites in an assorted crowd of queer party regulars, curious souls and lovers of everything on the business end of 130 BPM. "I'd say the people who attend Fiasco! are a lot like me," says Spooner. It makes a lot of sense, considering everything that is Fiasco! is Spooner — who alongside promoter is the party's booker, resident DJ, social media manager, artist liaison and general mastermind.
The name Fiasco!, came to Spooner in a dream, after being asked by DJ/producer and Superstore owner Dan Beaumont to kick off a residency at the iconic Kingsland High Street queer venue. Wanting to evoke the extravagance and camp of '90s/'00s gossip magazines, Fiasco!'s party flyers are assembled into spurious magazine covers — with Spooner asking each artist to submit "funny pictures of themselves" to be photoshopped along with salacious headlines like shuts down plastic surgery rumours or banged up abroad. "I've had a couple of DJs come up to me and say they really want me to book them so I will cuss them out on social media," laughs Spooner. The DJs in question? Fiasco! has seen in the likes of DJ Swisha, Amaliah, Club Fitness, Breaka, Niks, Heléna Star, OK Williams, Michelle Minetti and more.
Having now moved away from its original home of Dalston Superstore, Fiasco! has now taken over Venue MOT, Pickle Factory and - most recently - hosted a room at The Cause for the return of its Tribes party. While back in July, it was difficult to avoid the riotous videos from Fiasco!'s stage takeover at Body Movements festival. Having launched a Fiasco! label late last year, with Spooner's debut EP 'ClubPop, Vol.1' and aspirations of taking the party to the rest of the UK and beyond — it's looking like a real scandal is on the horizon for 2023.
We caught up with Fiasco! Editor-in-Chief Reece Spooner for a tell-all exposé on creating London's new favourite party brand, tops off in the booth and sets so good they make you cry.
What is the mission statement of Fiasco!?
The party started originally as a vehicle for my DJing, I was still new to it at the time. I'd been with Origins for ages, but this was the first time I'd thrown a party on my own. And then, I knew when I started that I wanted to uplift and showcase Black and queer DJs/performers, obviously operating out of Dalston Superstore was a great place to do that. But for the party itself, I wanted it to be somewhere that was fun, somewhere that was irreverent, somewhere that you can play bangers, somewhere where you can play songs people know — you can play anything, do anything and people can lose themselves. I wanted it to be where you can see loads of things; dancers, lights etc. But also where people can really enjoy the music as well.
Do you think there was a gap in the market for Fiasco!
Yeah, I think so. I feel like in general, a lot of parties take themselves too seriously and that's the opposite of what we're trying to do. I want to take the chinstroker-iness out of dance music. When it started, It was basically just a bunch of Black dudes in a room, chatting shit over a mic and making loads of fun dance music to play on the block. I'm always trying to take it back to that. I think music-wise, people at Fiasco! are going to hear lots of music they know, lots of music they maybe haven't heard yet, some heavy stuff — so I think the fact it's not too intimidating as a space is the reason it's had lots of success. Also I've booked lots of DJs that know how to play to a room, I don't want to book someone and they play the most obscure set ever. It's about creating a fun environment... if it's fun and it's obscure then great. I think also for a queer party, we've got a lot of musical integrity. Even though we're geared towards fun and naughtiness – we really stick to our music statement, you're going to hear amazing stuff.
What do you think sets Fiasco apart from other parties? What's your USP?
I think the production, I'm always trying to make it go back the DJs and music. If I have the budget I'll hire dancers or I'll dress a club, I'll have people on the mic. I think that a lot of parties who do that sometimes use it as a way to cover up the energy of the acts they've booked — or it's cheesy. Whereas I think we hit the right balance, it compliments the music.
How did you come up with the name?
It came to me in a dream!
Yeah, I'd just lost my job and Dan Beaumont called me out of the blue and said, "Do you want to do a party?" and I obviously said: "Yes." Then I had a dream and my brain was like "Fiasco! Fiasco!", I called him up and told him and he thought it was sick. Then just ran with it.
Can you tell us a little bit about the first party that you did?
First party was Easter 2018, Dan had asked me initially if I wanted a residency, I jumped at the chance — but it was Easter weekend, a proper challenge for any promoter. So I feel like it was a cheeky stitch-up on his part [laughs]. But the club was sold out by one, it was great. I'd booked really cool local talent; Josh Caffé, Jaye Ward, Jeanie Crystal — who now works with Faboo TV and she's Eliza Rose's movement director. So it was people that I knew, people that were close to me — so that made it less stressful. I think as the party has grown, you're working with people you don't know that well and then other factors come to play. But yeah, I think I was stressed at first because no one was buying tickets before hand, but it's superstore... everyone buys on the door! I was like "wow I've literally flopped." Then I was DJing and I blinked and it was full.
Do you think a lot of your learning how to build Fiasco! has been around learning how to manoeuvre Superstore?
Yeah, for sure. You have to know when people come, when people are going to be upstairs vs when they are going to be downstairs — make sure the dancers are on at the right time. I think taking that knowledge with me is super useful as I take Fiasco! to different places and try different things.
Could you describe Fiasco! in five or less words?
Sensual, scandalous, sensational, fun and naughty.
Do you have an anecdote that you really think sums up Fiasco! as a party?
Erm, the first party at Pickle Factory was actually really funny. Amaliah and I had been playing at Body Movements during the day, I asked Club Fitness to join us. But we'd all been at the festival and we were all just shattered, Amaliah could barely stand up [laughs]. So I said, "Shall we just go b2b2b all night?" And that would give me some time to do some more social media stuff as well. I was a bit like, "ah to be honest I don't think the girls are going to last that long — Amaliah lasted till four, [Club Fitness] till five and I did the last hour. I guess the music got faster and faster as the party went on.
Do you have a favourite moment?
I guess, getting Swisha over from New York was really great. He's a producer that I've respected for a really long time, and I think all the moves that I had to do to make that happen make me really proud. I was working with a venue I hadn't worked with before and I had to book all his transport, but it was really late... that's just how things are. We had three weeks to pull the party together, I did the best I could in those three weeks — I did it because there was no way I was going to be able to get him again. That was a really good moment and a taste for what I'm hoping for 2023 — getting the right people in, mixing together queer crowds and a little more heavy music lovers.
What would you say a typical Fiasco! attendee is like?
I think a Fiasco! attendee is like me. Someone who is really open-minded, someone who has a really good sense of humour, someone who likes all kinds of music and, maybe has a lot of different friends. If there's straight people at my party, they aren't lads, they are the people who have lots of queer friends. Same with the queer people at my party, they aren't necessarily the queer people who are uncomfortable mixing with anyone who isn't in their circle, etc. I saw that at MOT a lot, everyone just seemed to be on a really great vibe and it was really open. In terms of what they wear, you can go from the most crazy latex/PVC get-up to skater gear — everyone is well dressed though, that's for sure.
Where did you get the inspiration for the art style?
I guess once I had the name I wanted it to have a really strong visual style. I was thinking '90s, gossip magazines, scandals. There's some fun stuff you can do on social media, but honestly it all just came to me after that one dream. But I'm shit at graphic design, so I have to give a big shout out to Alex Beausire, who really helped me in the beginning in developing it into a visual identity.
How do you approach the logistics of throwing a party?
I think when I was at Superstore I'd have the date already, so I'd book DJs first and I'd usually book upstairs first and then downstairs, I'd have someone in mind to play with me but I'd wait until later. I think when it's at other venues, I sort of approach everyone and just ask what they have available in Q1 for example and they'll give me a date, and I'm sort of like "oh, that's not a lot of time" [laughs]. Then I go and just get availabilities of whoever I'm thinking about. I am usually thinking about line-ups like 90% of the time, so I'll approach people I've met or someone who's made an album I've heard or an EP. It's more just getting people available on the same day. I guess once you have the venue and the date out, you can really just work on booking, — then it's artwork time, I need to ask everyone to send me a funny picture of themselves to put into the flyers [laughs]. That's my favourite bit! I do get quite a lot of on-the-door tickets, which isn't good for my nerves — but, I appreciate people coming. But it's music first, promo later.
Has the process changed a lot since you moved from Superstore?
Yeah. I have to budget more and I have to say no to things, which I find really hard. If someone's fee is too high I just have to say no, because the margins are so slim and if I go over I have to pay for it — it's not coming out of Superstore's pocket. That's good! I have a lot more control and I have really good relationships with the people that I work with — but you have to be a bit more reserved, I can't just tell everyone "yeah you can come down and dance!" It still maintains some of the fluidity of how I used to work at Superstore though, a lot of it is last minute — I don't have anyone backing me financially so cashflow is sometimes a problem. I do a lot. Swisha was even like: "I don't understand how you're doing all this on your own," and I'm out here doing all the socials and the promo, then DJing. I would like to take on some help I think this year, but it's a one man show right now.
Have you got any advice for people who want to start their own party in London?
I would say, go for somewhere where the financial risk is low — especially if you're on your own, if you're in a group I guess there's safety in numbers. Then also, make relationships with the DJs you want to book — it'll make it easier for you to not get sucked in by agents and that. But London is really difficult right now, it is really hard — I wouldn't do it lightly. If you can get a good community though, it's the best thing in the world. Do your homework and make sure you make money, don't lose money on your first event — it's so demoralising.
What is something you've learned since starting Fiasco!
I guess, getting a feel for how much things cost outside Superstore. Also, working with queer performers who may not feel comfortable in public is something that you should consider. I think making sure photographers, dancers, need to able to get home safely and arrive safely — and everyone's needs should be considered when briefing the staff at the venue. You only learn these things when you step out of a queer venue.
What do you think brings people to Fiasco! over and over? and what do you hope people are thinking in the taxi home?
I hope they want to see what stupidness I'll be playing on the decks, and what I've managed to get all my friends to do when we're going b2b. Then in the taxi home I want them to think, wow that was fun, when is the next one? Reece had his top off again [laughs].
Have you got a favourite set that you played at Fiasco!?
Yeah, I played before Swisha at MOT and it was so funny, because he had to fade me out so I'd obviously gone a bit too hard [laughs]. I got to play a lot of my new music which was really special, loads of techno and bad boombox edits — fun stuff. Then I did a b2b with Bailey Ibbs, we play really well together. I also did a b2b with Amaliah, and I actually think it's the best I'd ever played — I was on the train to Nottingham going to Wigflex festival crying because it was so good.
Do you think there's scope for Fiasco! to move further afield? maybe festivals/wider UK?
I definitely was thinking that this year, I want to do Fiasco! Manchester, London, Nottingham, Brighton — then, I don't know, maybe even Berlin or Paris. Slowly slowly, but hopefully. I've been looking into it, it's crazy because I've been mostly playing in London — but I guess when I move outside of London I can make some good relationships with venues/promoters outside.
What's coming up next for Fiasco!?
So, we did a room at The Cause which was the last Fiasco! of 2022. Then Fiasco! becoming a label, I self-released my debut EP in October and there's a remix EP coming this year with some friends and family who've played at the party. I want to do a heavy release schedule this year. Then also, fun gigs around for me too. I'm playing with DJ Assault at Jazz Cafe which is going to be wicked, I actually wanted him for Fiasco! and I kept emailing him and just never heard back. [laughs]
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Megan Townsend is Mixmag's Deputy Editor, follow her on Twitter