Q+A with Dave Salisbury, founder of Massive Arms Promotions about his niche party events in and around London.
Over the next month alone, Britain’s boozy capital will be bombarded by a multitude of wild warehouse raves, cheesy karaoke nights, and live gigs. It will also be home to thousands of bed-bound millennials re-watching episodes of The Office, scaring themselves shitless with Charlie Brooker’s twisted prophecies, and ranting on Twitter about the season finale of Jane the Virgin.
We are a generation intoxicated by popular culture; be it television, music, film, or fashion. And with the help of the internet, we’re the first generation to be able to share our niche obsessions with millions of people across the globe at the click of a button. You love that scene in Friends, where Monica dances in a fat suit while eating a doughnut? Turns out fifty other people from fifty other countries do too. Want to tell everyone you’ve got your 24-year-old fiancée hooked on Gilmore Girls? Twitter will welcome him with open arms.
So, I believe it’s completely reasonable that we want to take our quirky TV obsessions to the outside world, to dance to their soundtracks with a vodka and coke in hand, and share Instagram stories ourselves wearing a cardboard cut-out of David Attenborough’s face.
Dave Salisbury of Massive Arms Promotions, believes so too. We spoke to the pop culture wizard about turning TV and movie fantasies into reality, and all the perks and quirks in between. Massive Arms'
next event is Disney Karaoke
at the Brixton Ritzy, London, 5th May
GL: First of all, tell us a bit about the events that Massive Arms Promotions put on across London.
We mainly hold events that are based on TV shows/Films, which have a taste for outstanding soundtracks.
This includes: Alan Partridge, The Mighty Boosh, The Office, Spaced, Flight of The Conchords, Wes Anderson and Buffy The Vampire Slayer. We have DJs playing songs included and referenced from that show/film, as well as some kind of live act/entertainment. To tie it all together, we dress the venue with references to that show.
GL: What inspired you to take elements of popular culture and turn them into club experiences?
I don’t think there was really a big idea behind it, it was just music I liked listening to and TV I really loved and somehow creating a microcosm of that world into a wee venue.
Obviously, I’m borrowing from the REAL artists, but it definitely enables you to be a lot more creative than carrying a USB stick full of 90s Hip Hop Bangers around with you, playing the same set every time.
GL: Walk us through the creative process of one of your events, from inception to promotion.
Luckily for me, most shows I base nights on are approaching big anniversaries (mainly 20 years), which helps with promotion and gets me off to a good start. Then I’ll watch the show (tiring I know…Buffy is LONG) and jot down anything visual that I can maybe replicate, whilst writing down any musical references, that aren’t included on the soundtrack.
I’ll then make a massive playlist (I DJ too) and note down any entertainment sections I could include on the night (most obviously a tribute band, less obviously an Alan Partridge air-bass competition).
After that, it’s booking the acts, promoting the night (important!), sourcing/making props, getting the bar making special drinks (the aforementioned LadyBoys etc) and making a tasty fancy dress costume (usually for less than fiver).
It’s very important to immerse yourself in the theme, as there are SUPERFANS everywhere and they WILL test your knowledge.
GL: I remember, as a student, decade-themed music nights were very popular. Do you still see the same interest now?
Decade themed nights will always be popular, cos they’re sure-fire winners. The DJ doesn’t really need to take any risks, as they won’t really be preaching to the converted. They won’t be dropping some new ‘hot wax’ (I’m old) at peak dancing times (again, I’m old).
I do see decade themed nights slightly dropping in popularity though, as we aren’t really being defined by a certain sound anymore.
GL: Why do you feel these niche party scenes have become so popular, particularly in London?
DS: I think there have always been ‘niche’ nights, but maybe they’ve been deemed as too hipster/alternative and maybe there’s a gap between that and the big, maybe more generic nights.
I remember going to the same indie disco once a month and having a ball, but unless I pulled or threw up (more likely) would I consider it memorable? Probably not…
In terms of London, there’s always an insatiable hunger for something different. You’ve just gotta be careful not to disappear too far up your……hole.
GL: How does social media fit into all this? Do you think niche parties have gained in popularity as a result of the digital generation?
Social media definitely helps, as you can find your own little corner of the world to concentrate on and not just be shouting out to the masses. What is important though, is to find your own voice/look, otherwise you’re trying to sell something very particular in a generic fashion, which means you lose the personality that the smaller events require.
Social media also gives you the chance to not just simply bombard people with the same message, but to maybe think in a slightly more out of the box fashion, that such a unique event requires.
Coming from a graphic design background, I’m very happy that great poster design is seen by more people than ever, rather than being stuck on a wall, becoming sad and lonely.
GL: The great thing about London is the possibility of going out and ending up somewhere totally unknown, and unexpectedly amazing. Do you think niche nights could take away the spontaneity of going out?
I don’t think the spontaneity will disappear, as people could potentially walk into one of our nights randomly too. What I do think is that people may be slightly more organised than they used to be, and maybe that’s down to the cost of living. If you walk around randomly in London, it could be great, but after a few duds, it could cost a pretty packet, and all you’ve done is queue up all night.
Our nights are probably cheaper than most and a lot of entertainment is packed in, so why not add a bit of structure to the spontaneity??
GL: Tell us about a favourite night you've put on so far?
: We did have an Ab Fab boozy brunch, just as the film came out, which was VERY good, but involved me doing aerobics at 9am, so I’m not sure that was enjoyable…so I’ll plump for our Mighty Boosh night from earlier this year.
The tribute band were SUPERB, and it was only a 120 venue, so it’s highly unlikely anyone would have heard those Boosh songs in such an intimate fashion, even when the actual Boosh were touring it.
Also, everyone made an effort fancy dress wise - lots of Moons, Hitchers, Tony Harrisons etc - and it was truly special to be able to revel in such a surreal atmosphere of DJing Rick Wakeman, 10CC, Kiss, Rick James and Gary Numan, amongst some of the Boosh’s hits, which the crowd sang along to word for word.
GL: Are you looking to expand your events to other UK cities?
Not right now, as it’s mainly me who does it on my own, and events can be pretty tough, especially if you want a nice weekend lie down, BUT a few people have asked in Ireland and Scotland amongst other places, so if I wrote out all my plans and let someone do it for me, then why not?
Check out Massive Arm's upcoming events here.
Photo's courtesy of Massive Arms.