With all of SEKOIA’s recent activities in Utrecht and Amsterdam, we’ve shamefully turned a blind eye to Rotterdam in recent years. Unfairly we might say, since Rotterdam is one of the most interesting cities in the Netherlands when it comes to club culture. That stops today, because we had a talk with Frankie Dros. He’s one half of Nino & Frankie, a duo of DJ’s and club promoters who’ve been active for five years and counting. After the success of Blijdorp Festival, he has now turned his attention to a new club concept called Contra in a new venue (Las Palmas). Reason for us to get updated on the status of club life in Rotterdam.
There’s been a lot going on in Rotterdam lately, especially in clubs like Toffler, Perron and to some extent Bar. Why did you choose Las Palmas as the venue for Contra? Isn’t that a seafood restaurant?
Well, the seafood restaurant that goes by the same name is actually located right next to the club. The venue where we’re hosting the party hasn’t been used for that purpose in quite some time. It used to be a club a while back, but then there was a period when Rotterdam’s club culture got stuck in a rut, so Las Palmas closed like many other clubs did in that period.
Now for the last few years there’s been an upswing with the clubs you mentioned. In the meantime, Las Palmas has mainly been used for art exhibitions. Recently we contacted the owner and luckily we had a personal connection and he liked our ideas. He was willing to give us a chance. That put us in a fortunate position, since hosting a party in a new location in Rotterdam has almost the same marketing value as booking a couple of great headliners.
Is that a trend in Rotterdam? Hosting parties in unexplored locations?
Lately, the city of Rotterdam is discovering the value of a vibrant nightlife, so they have been doing a lot to facilitate initiatives like ours. However, there’s always the same problems that every municipality has: they have to take into considerations affairs like zoning plans, sound disturbances and nuisances in general. For the last few years though, the tendency has shifted from a ‘no, because…’ to a ‘yes, provided that…’ mentality. They’d rather explore possibilities than see only issues with a certain plan.
Is that why you chose the name Contra? To show that you oppose the policies of your municipality?
The name Contra is chosen because we try to offer people things that haven’t been done in Rotterdam before. We want to do things that aren’t standard, because we want people to have a special night they will always remember. Now that we’re growing, the possibilities expand as well. We started out in Toffler, where we tried out certain themes for a party, but Toffler – even though it’s a great club – is limited in its possibilities. Later, we moved to Perron, where we had room to experiment more with certain crazy elements like a slip-and-slide into the club, a mechanical bull, a thousand plants or even jacuzzis. Still, we felt that those elements were not distinguishing enough.
Recently we organized Preach, which was a party in a church to celebrate our fifth anniversary. We’re looking to continue that concept, but for that we are going to need a bigger church. Furthermore you already mentioned Blijdorp Festival, a festival next to the big zoo of Rotterdam.
With this next step with Contra we try to take it to a whole new level. The location in itself is already very distinguishing, since we’re the first to host parties over there since a long time. Also, since it has a history of artisticness, we can try to explore a new field of experiment to carry over to the clubbing experience.
Nino & Frankie started out as a DJ duo, but now you’re also growing as party promoters. Where do you see your main focus in the future?
Presently, this party promoting is a full time job. The two of us work in our office daily, so when I get home I’d much rather watch a movie and relax. We still make music and find much joy in doing so, but our time is very scarce. We’re thinking about taking a small break from organizing events and focussing on music for a while. The thing for me is, I’m still trying to learn to shift quickly between the artistic and the business side of things. If I’m busy making music and someone calls me to make a deal on a sound system, it’s very hard for me to get back into my artistic flow. I look up to artists like A-Trak and Diplo – even though that’s not my kind of music – because they seem to have all their ducks in a row when it comes to the artistic side of things and the business side. Maybe that’s the future of music: the hybrid creative businessman.
The line up for Contra next friday is very diverse, from the deep and slow Lake People to the more techno oriented Dekmantel Soundsystem. How do you keep those styles from clashing?
When we book an event, we always try to look at two things: what we like personally and what would work in Rotterdam. We’re not too concerned about matching styles, because we like to put people together that you wouldn’t expect in the same place, just to see what happens and how they adapt to one another. Of course, we look at the running order. We’re not going to let Lake People close off the party, that would be lethal. But we do like to frame all DJ sets by stopping the music when one set ends and starting the other one after a few moments. This gives every DJ set the attention they deserve and it provides a nice contrast throughout the night, keeping things interesting for quite some hours.
What more can we expect this saturday?
We’re having Magic Tools come over to install a very cool, huge, artsy lighting installation above the crowd. Furthermore, Jeisson (SEKOIA’s graphic designer, red.) is going to do a cult movie project and we have a led screen positioned in front of the DJ. Plus, there’s a lighting plan that’s designed by the original light technician of the old Las Palmas, which should be pretty cool. So expect a lot of light art. This is the old ‘Contra’ raised to a whole other level!
If this sparks your interest, there are still some tickets available here. Full lineup and information can be found by visiting this Facebook-event.