Mention the words 'Space', 'Bar Rumba' and 'Wednesday night' to any serious connoisseur of quality house and you can guarantee their eyes will light up instantly, no doubt filled with countless, hazy memories of a golden age. The laboured love of two London DJs - unsung hero Kenny Hawkes and Luke 'The Freaks' Solomon - Space gave London's true school house community a weekly base when it needed one most.
At a time when you couldn't get down to a decent underground groove most weekends and clubs were filled with commercial, glam-house pish, Space filled the gaping hole.
"We felt a little isolated before Space," remembers Luke Solomon. "Me and Kenny played this music on pirate radios, but there wasn't anywhere else for us to play it in London. It had lost its way. We used to do these parties called Jelly parties, so we knew there was a group who were into what we were doing. There just wasn't anywhere to go dance it off every week."
After a steady start, Space soon became just that place.
Like a naughty secret, the hedonistic basement of Soho's Bar Rumba would be filled with like-minded musos, DJs, clubbers and producers each Wednesday - all hungry for their fix of deep grooves.
Grained with the eclectic tastes of Luke and Kenny, their early guests included NYC's Kenny Carpenter, 2020's Ralph Lawson, François K and Chicago names like Ron Trent, Chez Damier and, of course, Derrick Carter, who became a rolling resident in all but name and went on to set up Classic Records with Solomon.
But while Space became synonymous with the deepest underground house and the smooth-to-touch Chicago vibes of labels like Prescription records, its musical remit was a vast, boundless galaxy. Live shows from A Man Called Adam brought languorous, Balearic grooves, the occasions when Luke took warm-up duties saw him draw from the most left of musical fields, while hypnotic Detroit sounds like Jeff Mills' 'Protection' were also classic Space records.
Even techno DJs like Carl Cox, Dave Angel, Derrick May and Andrew Weatherall would come down and flex different DJ muscles for hours at a stretch.
"We just booked the people that inspired us and played the music we liked," remembers Luke. "That whole concept of DJing whatever you want is so dispersed that it doesn't really exist anymore. There were times when we played disco or soul, others when we played techno."
"Just don't play the same sound for two or three hours, and don't play commercial shit," surmises Kenny on their policy.
Authentic, honest and unpretentious, Space became that rare, magical thing - a club that touched and inspired just about everyone that passed through its doors.
Tom Middleton named his 'Summer In Space' track after the club, while fabric boss Keith Reilly has said that fabric was set up to replicate the musical authenticity and family vibe of Space… just for 2000 people at the weekend, rather than 200 on a weekday.
In that respect, Space's work was done by 2002.
"I think it had kind of run its course," admits Luke. "It was diluted because there was so much that came off the back of it. Old Street started to become the new centre of town, Soho got too expensive and wasn't a particularly nice place to go out. There were now other options, we weren't the only one."
For seven great years, though, Space truly was the place.
Bar Rumba, London
|Derrick Carter getting on the MIC while DJ Heather tried not to get distracted by laughter, Carl Cox playing for five hours or the night one of the most famous voices in house - Joe Smooth - and tribal legend Oscar G both played unannounced.|
Shaun Escoffery 'Space Rider'
Copyright Thrust Publishing Ltd. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.djmag.com as the source.