Inside a Fluffer Records ‘Pit Party’ – an extreme take on gig-going

The bands play on a 360 degree stage. Fans stand against crash barriers erected on each side. The result is complete pandemonium.

Gigs are amazing. Except when they’re not. Because sometimes gigs are really, really, really boring. You might blame cans of beer that cost a tenner. Or venues that shut up shop at 10.30 because someone a few doors down has threatened to write to the local council if a curfew has been broken. But in essence, the idea of a gig – a band and a crowd and a fuckload of noise – is an amazing idea. It’s just the variables that help or hinder sometimes.

One of the things that helps make a gig great is connection. Consider the long tradition of bands setting up on the floor and not the stage. If you’re Lightning Bolt, you want to make the point that there shouldn’t be a division between fan and artist. If you’re Metallica, who toured ‘in-the-round’ late last year – which is basically the same premise as that of the Rhode Island noise duo really, just badged with a label that big rock bands are fond of – you might want to try do something different to justify charging £100 a ticket. But really, whenever bands set up on the floor, or in the middle of the room, they do it because it’s really, really, really fucking exciting.

Which brings us to Pit Parties.

Hosted by underground collective Fluffer Records, there have been Pit Parties thrown in London for a while now, normally at the newish-on-the-scene Hackney Arts Centre, which is basically Epic in Dalston and Efes next door but in one, mashed together. Epic used to be the old Savoy Theatre. Efes is the place you always end up in talking to a member of the Klaxons at 4am whenever you venture into Dalston. Past parties have hosted the likes of Black Lips, Spring King, Japandroids, The Wytches and the late, even-in-death-forever-great HECK. If you head down Stoke Newington on the night one is being held, you’ll smell the excitement even before the kebab meat.

Tonight it’s the turn of Girls In Synthesis – kinda like Slowdive gone glam rock – and Husky Loops – to stake their claim for Pit Party immortality. Oh, and headliners Pulled Apart By Horses too, the band you always forget is pretty much the best rock band on the planet, until you’re actually stood watching them, the skin on your face being flailed by the Leeds band’s pulverising grunge indie. And here’s where Pit Parties come into their own. The bands play on a 360 degree stage. Fans stand against crash barriers erected on each side. The result is complete pandemonium. You know the famous photograph of Muhammad Ali knocking out Cleveland Williams in 1966 – the one taken from above, William’s spread eagled at Ali’s feet on the canvas? Were you to shoot the show tonight in a similar style, it might look a bit like that, only Muhammad Ali would be Pulled Apart By Horses, and the crowd would be Cleveland William’s and there’d be no photo because some maniac would have jumped in the air and eaten the camera, possessed with pure manic delirium.

“We’d noticed the infamous Fluffer party shows sprawled over the web over the past few years,” says a sweaty James Brown, guitarist in Pulled Apart By Horses. “They’ve got a real reputation for fun. They always get solid bands and sort killer line-ups. Stuff we admire and listen to. It was an absolute honour to play our own, and a total blast!”

Gigs are amazing. Except when they’re not. But Pit Parties are always astonishing.