- The Detroit DJ pays tribute to a cherished nightclub.
- I first went to see Theo Parrish at Plastic People sometime in 2008. I don't remember much about the night except it was dark, the atmosphere was heavy and Parrish played at least three different Peven Everett tunes in quick succession. The Detroit DJ held a long-running residency at the East London venue, earning a small but hardcore following. As residencies go it was pretty low-key, but that basement and its soundsystem routinely brought out the best in Parrish, even when the club wasn't rammed. "His core supporters, 15 of them, would be there at 10 PM come rain or shine," Plastic People founder Ade Fakile told the Guardian. Parrish's approach—long, winding sets that displayed his scholarly knowledge of house, disco, soul, jazz, dub, Afrobeat and techno—inspired local DJs like Josey Rebelle and Floating Points. Dan Snaith said seeing people "losing their minds to the same weird repetitive loop over and over" during a Parrish set inspired his Caribou song "Bowls." Thanks To Plastic captures Parrish's final set at the club before it closed at the start of 2015.
The recording starts in the night's early stages. We hear Parrish playing Hanna's "Prayin'," and the ambient mic picks up a man laughing, then a woman cheering. What follows is four hours of Parrish in full flow. The first of three discs is mostly house and disco, reaching a high point as Danny Krivit's re-edit of "Let's Lovedance Tonight" comes through the speakers. (At one point you can hear people singing along to the instrumental melody.) A couple of tracks later, on Logg's "(You've Got) That Something," you can hear Parrish starting to get busy on the EQs.
The second disc is vintage Parrish. Volcov's excellent edit of "Destination" by The Warriors is followed soon after by the Fela Kuti and Afrika 70 classic "Zombie," a tune that gets one of the night's biggest cheers. We then embark on a run of roots reggae, freaky jazz and uplifting soul, emerging on the other side with the sweaty funk of James Brown's "Body Heat." It's in this section we're reminded of just how incredible a DJ Parrish is at his best. He's a true connoisseur who plays expertly with energy levels across long sets.
In the final stretch of the night, Parrish plays two consecutive Sade tunes, blending into "Give It Up" from the applause at the end of the live instrumental version of "Keep Hanging On." On "Give It Up," the record skips a little. Earlier, there's a slightly bungled transition out of Pleasure's "Take A Chance." These blemishes, rather than detracting from the experience, bring it to life. In this final stretch he also airs Donald Byrd's "Lansana's Priestess," a track he's been jamming for at least 20 years (he also sampled it). The way Parrish plays it, "Lansana's Priestess" has the power of a slamming house tune.
Does Parrish's DJing style translate well outside the club? Not always. Some of the visceral impact of his filtering is bound to be lost outside a live setting, so the listening experience is closer to hearing the set from the bar at Plastic People, away from the heat of the dance floor. It's not certain if Parrish had any inkling at the time that this would be his last set at Plastic People, but Thanks To Plastic captures the spirit of his residency, with a musical freedom that provided joy and inspiration during his tenure at that special basement on Curtain Road.
01. Thanks To Plastic Part One
02. Thanks To Plastic Part Two
03. Thanks To Plastic Part Three