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These Underground Party Organisers Want To Bring Back Good Vibes And Great Music To Singapore's Scene

Hands up if you find the local clubbing scene too commercial, mundane, pretentious or devoid of taste. Then find your way to these three independent pop-up parties whose masterminds aim to bring back fun, personal style and a no-rules approach to a good night out. Keng Yang Shuen reports.

Slashers

Zhiyi Cao

Started by: Artist Zhiyi Cao (above), 23, and rising DJ/music producer Guo Leibing (he was unable to make our shoot), 24.

Why hit up one of its nights: It’s like attending an arty cool girl’s home party, but in a club setting — with everyone welcome and a lighthearted and anything-goes mood. For one, the promo “poster” for its first instalment shared on social media (@y4kslashers) was intentionally designed to recall that of a ratchet circuit party in the early ’00s — badly Photoshopped images of the night’s DJs (the organisers and their pals) included. Held in January at D’Underground Bar & Club, an expansive yet low-key space in the bowels of International Building on Orchard Road, the set list was a mishmash of Manyao (Mandopop meets ’00s techno), Ugandan club music, spiritual trance, Youtube remixes and, for good measure, Kylie Minogue. The irreverent playlist is a far cry from the venue’s usual club bangers and the party itself an oddity within its routine, and that’s exactly what Guo and Cao want.

Says the latter: “I think our first party was a good attempt at bridging the niche art crowd and the usual D’Underground audience. That’s not to say that these two groups have to exist as a dichotomy, but they most likely wouldn’t have met any other way. And that’s what Slashers is about: creating access points in otherwise impossible contexts.” The convivial community spirit extends to the DJ line-up. When quizzed on how they decide on who to helm the decks, Guo replies bluntly: “We don’t (curate). If your sh*t is good, hit us up and we’ll put you on.”

The next party: Look out for their second edition later this month with the music geared more towards trance; location — and look of the promo poster — TBA.

 

Demo

Started by: A seven-member collective comprising (clockwise from left) Christian Julian and Gabe Tan, who jointly conceptualise the programming, as well as play the street-style equivalent of nightlife photographers; Francis Fariz, who works on Demo’s social media; Ryan Evans Teo — he deals with the business side of things; Ernest Seah (he calls himself the “logistics handler” of the group); DJ Jomari Kendrick Balagtas; and Tiara Amelia, who handles the PR and marketing for all of Demo’s nights.

Why hit up one of its nights: For a liberating dose of trap, house and throbbing hip-hop by up-and-coming names like Abhi The Nomad, Smooky Margielaa and YBN Cordae — as well as a snapshot of Singapore’s fashion-obsessed youth and club kid culture. The Demo crowd believes in dressing to the nines and, this being the era of Hype, sees its members attired in the latest streetwear drops, vintage from the ’90s, or custom-made pieces — as Tan did for this shoot. (His hand-painted denim look is the work of local scenester Moh Ee Jin.)

The ultimate aim though is to “build a community of music lovers that come together to vibe and have a good time”, according to Tan. “Good vibes are paramount. It’s an intangible feeling when you’re really feeling the music, and you look around and see everyone else having the same passion and enjoyment as you.” It’s clearly a winning formula. Though only six months old, Demo has already hosted American rapper Kyle’s after-party together with Canvas club — the main venue for all of Demo’s parties — and staged an overseas edition in Jakarta last year.

The next party: Put aside the first Friday of every month for a Demo experience, which is also set to hit Manila, Taipei, Tokyo and Melbourne this year.

 

Through The Back Door (TTBD)

Started by: Graphic designer and digital marketer Erin Khan (pictured above), 24, who fronts the series with Tim Walker (not the lensman, but a private equity consultant based here); Vanan M, who is also entertainment director at Beach Road club Cato; and Fyan Hakimi, a security officer by day.

Why hit up one of its nights: If you’ve ever been to the underground club Ved Siden Af in Copenhagen, you’ll know that the music — not the scene — is the priority, so much so that its bouncers tape patrons’ phone cameras in order to ensure privacy (or selfies, for that matter). With TTBD, its founders aim to infuse that same music-first ethos. Says Khan: “It’s not about a flashy spectacle, the way you dress up or a fancy bar. It’s about good music and a place where you shouldn’t worry about being judged.”

It might explain its motley crew of a crowd that Khan points out spans everyone from art school kids to dentists to corporate types. TTBD also serves as a platform to support local talents and, in particular, female DJs such as Khan herself, who face sexism in the process of landing gigs. “One of the best shortcuts to counter that (sexism) is to throw your own party where you can be in charge of the narrative,” she says. On the playlist? Deep house and techno with each edition (every one is 100 per cent self-funded by the founders, and thus only takes place every three to four months) hosted at a different location. And relax, your phone camera is safe.

The next party: Following its last bash at Al Capone’s bar at Far East Shopping Centre (where this shoot took place) in December, expect one this month (the location will be revealed a few hours prior).

This story first appeared in Female’s March 2019 issue.

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