A Look Back at Buyers Club Music
Written by Josh Aitman on 31st December 2018
After three successful years, Buyers Club Music closed its doors on New Year’s Eve after the venue’s final dance with promoters Archive & Cherry Mango. In honour of a venue that brought us so much joy, we look back at some of the best Buyers Club Music moments, as chosen by the staff that worked behind the scenes and behind the bar.
Formerly the Flying Picket, a renowned gig space famed for hosting the likes of Paul McCartney and The Happy Mondays, the off-Hardman Street space was reinvented in 2015 as a multi-purpose venue; combining a plush wine bar and restaurant downstairs with an intimate events space upstairs.
Over the last 3 years, the upstairs space dubbed “Buyers Club Music”, has seen a wealth of Liverpool promoters contribute to the venue’s programme, bringing a huge array of local and international artists through the doors. The space has become a refuge for music of all varieties; from the likes of Abandon Silence, Familiar Circles & Resident Advisor inviting club names such as Dan Shake, Ross From Friends and KiNK respectively, to promoters the likes of Harvest Sun & Deep Cuts nurturing the continued growth of Liverpool’s famous live music scene.
The club’s most recent transformation saw Anti Social Jazz Club and Archive re-design the space into a new listening experience entitled ‘Aerie Music.’ With a focus on high quality audio, the DJ booth was brought into the middle of the room, the sound system repositioned and an intimate social space created. Transforming the venue allowed for the smallest of gigs and some of the most exciting moments in the club. From much lauded Swiss DJ Sassy J to NTS resident Zakia launching the first ‘Loft-Style Party’, the space excelled in bringing fantastic musicians and selectors through its doors in the time it was open.
With news of this closure, Melodic Distraction has reached out to the staff, event programmers and owners of the space to share their favourite memories of the venue and help see it out in style. As chosen by the people who made Buyers Club Music possible, take a look back at some of the highlights from the last 3 years.
Sam Tawil (Buyers Club Co-Owner // Bold Street Coffee)
My favourite memory upstairs at Buyers is when we booked DJ Bone. It’s been a long-time ambition of mine to book him after seeing him many times and being a fan of his music and DJing for years. He’s a true Detroit legend and I admire his DIY and totally underground attitude as well as his incredible skills on the decks. He pulled an amazing set out of the bag that night and it was great to see people who I’d told about him love it so much. People were asking me what kind of music it was because they were loving it and I could proudly tell them it was techno!
It was something they thought they didn’t like. He created a special atmosphere that night. Brilliant memories.
George Griffin (Buyers Club Bartender // Archive Liverpool)
I started working upstairs at Buyers Club fifty-one weeks before its closure on New Years Eve. That period of time – let’s call it a year – saw a big change in terms of the musical output provided upstairs. Club nights became less frequent, with focus swinging towards live music, ultimately culminating in the jazz concept – Aerie.
In the two years it was open before I began working there, Buyers Club was, for me, the place to be on a Thursday, Friday or Saturday night. The thrill of walking down the alleyway, guided only by a length of festoons and a gleaming ‘BC’ logo overhead, the bare brick walls encompassing the smoke filled dancefloor, the booming sound… the list goes on. I attended many dance-athons here before my tenure as official bar prop began. We, as Archive, threw a party upstairs, a night which certainly sealed the deal for me with regards to my love for the place.
Decades old, the four brick walls upstairs have more stories to tell than I’ll ever be able to conjure. Before its re-birth as Buyers Club, the venue was formerly known as The Flying Picket, hosting greats such as Paul McCartney and the Happy Mondays to name but a few. That room’s legacy will become a part of Liverpool’s already rich music history, that I can assure you.
I wasn’t particularly into live music – bands and the like – before I started working upstairs, but my time there has allowed me to appreciate non-dance music in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise been able to. If you’re reading this and like me have only ever been into DJs, just go to a gig, give it a whirl, they’re actually really good.
I was fortunate enough to be invited on board with the Aerie project by ASJC’s Lee. Not only was I now responsible for the bar, but interior design as well! Aerie saw an overhaul upstairs, decks were repositioned, tables re-emerged and plants outgrew their modest pots. Aerie is a concept that focuses on jazz-leaning sounds encompassed in a wider bracket of musical genres. Its time as Aerie saw some great live shows, The Remy Jude Ensemble being the top pick. We even managed to blag a couple of 4am club nights along the way as well, with Sassy J and Zakia leading the way, no lock-ins though…I promise.
Anyway, if I ever poured you a drink, chatted with you, gave you the wrong change, asked you for ID, danced to your music, let you stay for one more tune, and any other interaction we may have had – thanks for stopping by, I hope Buyers Club’s venue means to you just a fraction of what it has meant to me over the past three years.
Vanessa Ferguson (Buyers Club Bartender // Huma)
Working at Buyers Club since it opened has given me the pleasure of seeing the space transform 2, 3 even 4 times a week. Before the space even opened, Sam walked me round the building site through the downstairs bar, restaurant and into the dusty club, it was undeniably exciting to think what Buyers Club Music could have happening in the massive stripped back loft. It was going to be inclusive to all events and that’s what I found so endearing about the venue. Promotors that came through could do whatever they wanted with the space and we have held so many incredible nights since 2015.
The first moment that the venue truly felt like a club space to me was when Dan Shake came for Upstairs With. Working downstairs all the team were so ready to finish breakdown and get up there and enjoy the space after a few weeks of hard graft and long hours opening the bar. There’s very few bars that are lucky enough to have a space directly above that guests and staff can head up to finish their night with drinks and dance so this was certainly taken advantage of.
That being said, my favourite moment of Buyers Club Music was the first night that Huma put on with Anu. Huma was just a bunch of friends trying to put on an event that showcased a passion for music and dancing. Not being a promoter, the thought of putting on an event in front of people you really respect and love can be a daunting experience. But it clicked for me that night that if you have a love for something and put the time and effort into bringing it forward, especially with the help of some great friends, it doesn’t have to be intimidating and the feeling that you’ve got even a few people smiling and dancing together is amazing.
Lee Fleming (Aerie Programmer // ASJC)
It was a pleasure to invite like-minded music lovers to Liverpool under the Aerie concept, inspired by Charlie Parker’s ‘Birds Nest’ and the New York jazz loft in 1957. The collaboration between Anti Social Jazz Club and Buyers Club saw a diverse Aerie music programme unfold over several months as part of the temporary pop up.
Alongside Liverpool-based promoters Archive and Humble Abode the loft-like space welcomed the likes of Zakia, Sassy J, Contours, Rebecca Vasmant, Werkha and Al Dobson Jr. who brought their record collections to the city. My favourite moment was an unplanned back to back between Zakia, Danny Fitzgerald and myself at the first Aerie Loft Party.
Aiden Brady (Buyers Club Bartender)
Working upstairs in Buyers Club (my time was pre-Aerie) was defined by constant moments of excitement and surprise. The breadth of variety in bookings meant on any given weekend the room was playing host to nights ranging from soft jazz to hardcore punk or even yoga. The relative distance between the nights in the diary were most apparent and somewhat hilarious when both a gig and a club night were being hosted on the same evening, with a quick turnaround between the two.
Often, this meant a meeting of two very different crowds, who would not come into contact or have much awareness of one another. One such night saw a group of guys try to get in early for a club night, but instead unknowingly walked into a room full of straight edge punks, with head-banging and mosh pits galore. Their reaction was priceless. In fairness, despite being initially flabbergasted by scenes completely alien to them, they decided to hang about until the end. This was one of many small glimpses into the islands that coexisting music scenes can be sometimes.
In terms of my relationship with the space itself, spending hour upon hour in the venue with Griff while it was closed during the lead up to our first Club Havana was stand-out. We spent that time decorating and un-decorating the room with assorted furnishings acquired over the space of two to three months. I imagine it must be every music head’s fantasy to get inside their favourite venue with the time and freedom to mould it anew. Between the time spent upstairs both out of hours and while working, we had a wealth of time on our hands to dissect and reimagine the different aspects of the space. That I think, was perhaps more enjoyable than even the party itself. As they say, it’s about the journey, right?
Remy Jude (Buyers Club Bartender // Performer)
Aerie is undoubtedly the sharpest aesthetic that 24 Hardman Street has bolstered; and yet, when I first came into contact with the space, circa Spring 2016, the floor was clean enough that Gymbird had been conducting yoga classes. After a certain number of 4am techno nights, the space becomes less-multifunctional, more streamlined, shall we say. The shutters were snapped shut and gigs prevailed. Melancholic-Indie rockers Palace were a personal favourite, the jangly, yet mellow tones of their seminal album So Long Forever captivated a room. Shame played on their first UK tour, with rampant vigour. 250 kids queued from 12pm to watch Billy Joe Armstrong’s son strut his stuff. I’m pretty sure every local musician on the circuit has played there, I first realised the immense talent of Jalen N’Gonda upstairs in Buyers Club. Beyond Average rolled through to Getintothis with their Nuptse jackets and big personas, this was, and still is, a hive of Scouse activity.
The shutters re-opened for New Year’s Eve but now Aerie’s time is up. I for one am emotional. I doubt I am the only one, Buyers Club has been a route into the city for many. It’s been a safe space, with a co-operative’s ethos, and friendships have been garnered, maintained and developed; blooming with the near constant cycle of nights placed over the last few years. The people couldn’t stop this one from happening, and we had to reconcile the bluntness of this departure with the party BC/Aerie deserved. This night was for the workers, the dancers, the bouncers, the bands, the djs, the orchestras, the musical theaters, the yogis, the big bands, and the list goes on.
I would offer some sort of memorandum to upstairs at Buyers, but what do you get the venue that’s had everything?
Andrew Hill (Buyers Club Co-Owner // Abandon Silence)
“Liverpool is a village” is a phrase that I’ve heard in a million different contexts, but it’s something that you don’t truly notice until you leave. The frustrating reality is that people outside of the city just pay little attention to anything that happens here – not just in culture and music but beyond that too.
With that in mind I would say that the biggest, but not the best, memory of Buyers would have been receiving the invitation to host Resident Advisor as part of their Alternate Cuts series which brought that international spotlight on the club for a feature documentary and live stream of KiNK’s live show. That was a huge, respected, internationally renowned event and was, in my opinion, the best the club ever looked in terms of production.
As mentioned, RA coming to town was the biggest moment, but to cheat a little I would have to say that the entire first 18 months that I was there – day in, day out – was my proudest time and my personal highlight. Everything was new to me and we went through so many ups and so many downs but we also had a proper family unit of staff and directors in place.
In general, Liverpool has such a great culture and music scene but it is so limiting. There simply aren’t enough punters or promoters to go around. When we were the ‘hot new venue’ and offering free rent we received 5/6 shows a week and were able to pick and choose between strong gig nights (notorious for terrible bar take but more ‘credibility’) and the more ‘local’ club nights (huge bar take, high chance of disorder and clash of crowd with downstairs). But towards the end of my time in charge of the inbox we were down to 1 or 2 a week and were operating on an open door policy. Competition means that it becomes a race to the bottom, and quality loses out – over time we had to ask for hire fees for fair costs like sound engineer and equipment, and as soon as we did that, promoters moved elsewhere despite our venue becoming stronger over time.
The decision to close Buyers Club Music was not a financial one, but in a sense it almost feels like it was. I will always have the best memories of that incredible 18 months, but times change and other venues appear. Go to Sound, 24 Kitchen Street, Meraki, IWF, Jacaranda and all the rest, support your local venue…they won’t always be there!
For now, make sure you head down to Buyers Club’s beautiful bar, where DJs play every Friday and Saturday. You can catch the Melodic Distraction Residents every other Friday on the 1s and 2s.