Sunday nights have always been that little bit special. Any club that runs on the Sabbath attracts the dedicated hedonist, and, without the commercial constraints of the weekend proper, the DJ is freed from the shackles of genre. Optimo (Esapacio) residents Jonnie Wilkes and Twitch take full advantage of their Sunday slot, twisting together a mess of music that takes in anything from The Slits to electro classics via undiscovered proto-disco gems.
For Twitch, Optimo is a necessity, the antidote to the mainstream glut of cash-cow clubbing by numbers. ‘We started the club out of boredom, cynicism and despair with the club scene,’ he says, ‘and out of a hatred of belonging to any scene to begin with.’
This ideology is more than a pose, encompassing an anti-DJ stance that has sampler Lady Miss Roland given equal billing with the human residents, leading to an emphasis on semi-live re-edits and technical tinkering. ‘The crowd at Optimo is a crazy mix of people,’ Wilkes explains, ‘so making a track that uses say, a Dead Kennedys’ guitar part, strange drum programming, and a big disco bassline means you’ve old punks, electro freaks and disco dancers all going off.’
That ‘crazy mix’ is something of an understatement, but Optimo’s success is down to a community spirit most clubs only aspire to, with a thriving internet message board and a not-so-secret society of badge-wearing regulars splaying the club across the week. ‘That is the essence of Optimo,’ Twitch confirms, ‘and the day that falls away we will shut up shop. The fact that this community exists beyond the night is probably more important than the physical space itself. Without going into some cod-sociological thesis, community is often missing from our world and the human soul needs it.’
On the night The Face pays a visit, Optimo is typically atypical. Twitch is off spreading the message in New York, and stand-in Guy De Board brings a retro-techno edge to the proceedings. The crowd, weaned on expecting the unexpected, cram the dancefloor regardless.
Optimo (Espacio) is a club that cocks a snook at conventional clubbing and defines itself through defying definition, so can it be summed up in three words? ‘Yes,’ says Twitch, ‘Passion, passion and passion.’
This review was first published in The Face in August, 2001.