Launching an event series is hard. Launching an event series during COVID-19 is even harder. The maze of challenges and obstacles has been enough to turn a lot of people away from the scene, but one of the most positive things emerging from the pandemic is a host of new promoters that are determined to make the good people of the UK to dance again. BCKYRD is one of them.
BCKYRD was launched between two lockdowns in October 2020 as a series of sold-out seated events called ‘Sit Before You Stand’, with the aim of transitioning into standing (or “full-cap”) parties in a post-Covid environment. Now that freedom day has come and past, the team have come out of the gates hot with a plan for some huge parties across some of the top London venues including Studio 9294, Oval Space and Orange Yard. Given that some of the names on these lineups include Roi Perez, Egyptian Lover and Ryan Elliott, we are firmly in ‘shut up and take my money!’ territory at 909.
Ahead of the first party on the 20th August, we spoke to Ludwig Danet, one of the founders of the BCKYRD party series, to get his thoughts on how the pandemic has impacted the nightlife sector in London, his influences and how he managed to get such monster lineups for the parties going into the rest of 2021.
Talk to me about the past 18 months. How have you found it? How have you adapted to the new realities of sit-down parties and what have been the biggest challenges over this period?
The past 18 months, for our industry (and everyone else), have been defined by previously unexplored levels of doubt and frustration. The constantly changing restrictions and the effect they have had on our livelihood almost drove us insane, and made us reconsider our decision to work in events multiple times. We managed to do a total of 4 seated events over this entire period and for almost all of them we had to make last minute changes to the line-up, date and venue.
Although tough, the moments during which we were able to make something happen were just incredible and reminded us why we were doing this. Also seeing the general understanding & support of the industry toward this type of event was really encouraging and pushed us forward. People were so excited to stand up and dance at the “Sit Before You Stand” events that we wanted to continue the adventure for the simple purpose of seeing it happen.
Why did you decide to launch BCKYRD in the middle of a lockdown?
It was really the consequence of bad timing as we left our previous employer MJMK (Unleash & Boneca), 2 months before Covid hit. We managed to do one event before the pandemic with our other party (Perplex) which was a huge success – however we couldn’t do seated events for this concept as it focuses on immersive production. Therefore we decided to launch BCKYRD coming out of lockdown number 1. The goal being purely to get people together for a drink and listen to good music.
With no real visibility as per when people could be standing and dancing again, we made the bet to launch a series of seated events, mostly to keep us busy over that period. But it was also a way to maintain relationships with the artists and our crowd, with the ultimate goal of taking it further down the line. It ended up lasting over 1.5 years so we are really glad we made that decision.
Can you explain the practicalities of how organising parties during COVID has been, and whether there are any practices that you have learnt and will continue doing into life after COVID?
First of all we quickly realised that it was impossible to look at international artists for these events, as the travel restrictions that were constantly changing made it too big of a risk. This initial factor pushed us to look deeper into the local DJ ecosystem which allowed us to discover amazing talents that were right under our nose. This is definitely something we will keep doing extensively in the future.
It was also quite difficult to find venues that could accommodate a seated setup whilst being flexible with dates. As we had to adapt our programming to the ‘lockdown-free’ dates and to all of the other ever changing restrictions surrounding the hospitality sector (outdoor/indoor, food vs no food etc.), it was very important to work with reliable and understanding people.
Overall, the main practice that we discovered throughout this process (and comprises a big role in our planning), is to constantly be very much aware of the evolution of macro factors such as changes in regulations at an international and national level. When starting to plan an event going forward, we will always look into this as a first step/priority.
Is there a song or artist or concept that defines what you think BCKYRD is all about?
We have always been very impressed by the Concrete club in Paris, and the overall impact it had on the electronic music scene in France. What we most liked about it and would like to achieve with BCKRD is that each night was more or less focused on a specific music genre but the line ups weren’t narrow at all.
They were taking risks with the programming while being creative and smart. Over time they simply became a destination for good dance music in the capital, with a lot of people going there without knowing 50% of the artists on the line-ups. It’s this level of trust and credibility that we want to achieve with BCKYRD over time.<
Describe in one word what it will feel like when that first party goes ahead?
What was your process in choosing all of the different venues, which range from Oval Space to Orange Yard and beyond? Did you curate the lineups with each specific venue in mind?
We based our choices on personal experiences in these venues, as promoters but most importantly clubbers. We believe that each venue does fits well with specific genres & artists, so using different venues across London allows us to target a wider span of music.
The next series of BCKYRD parties has a hugely impressive roster of artists, from Roi Perez to Egyptian Lover. Do you think there’s anything that connects all of these artists together (beyond all being good)?
Not really to be honest, it’s mostly based on a wide range of personal favourites that we always wanted to bring to London and see play in specific venue with specific DJs.
Did you specifically choose certain artists to play live sets (Chris Korda and Egyptian Lover)? Do you think that a live set brings anything specifically different to a club night compared to just DJs?
There is nothing we enjoy more than a well constructed DJ set, however we want to promote any type of electronic music performance at our events.
What are your plans for 2022 and beyond? Do you see these parties expanding beyond London and even the UK?
We already have a lot of planned shows for 2022, with one more event for Dec 2021 in a special Canning Town venue which will be announced soon. We are definitely looking into the larger UK scene (Manchester, Brighton, Liverpool) and will hopefully start moving outside of London in 2023.
The ultimate long-term goal for BCKYRD is to launch a large-scale festival under the same name.
Picture yourself at peak time at the first BCKYRD party, it’s the end of lockdown, everyone’s up for it and life is good again. For some reason you are in charge of the booth for a moment and you need to pick a song to get the crowd doing. What song do you reach for?
Vitess – Energy
You can see the full list of BCKYRD events here.