Paradiso Noord, Tolhuistuin
Amsterdam’s Progress Bar has entered its third season. Run as a collaboration between Viral Radio, Paradiso and Sonic Acts Festival, the night bills itself as “the only political party you can dance to”. As well as music, the night plays host to interviews with performers and talks with other radical voices.
In this, it draws (and improves) on Glenn O’Brien’s legendary New York public access television show TV Party (whose manifesto described itself as a “Television show that’s a cocktail party but which is also a political party”). Like TV Party, Progress Bar’s organisers are keenly aware of music’s role in building an active and engaged queer community that challenges mainstream attitudes: a vital salve to what has become an overwhelmingly straight clubbing culture. And it’s clearly onto something. S03E01 was busy, with a full house for both the talks and the club night.
The night was used to launch Sonic Acts’ book The Noise of Being, a collection of essays exploring “what it means to be human”. This also provided the theme for the talks, with speakers including designer The Rodina, philosopher Nina Power, and Daniel van der Velden of Metahaven (all of whom contributed to the book), as well as Tennessee-based rapper Bbymutha.
Sandwiched between Power and van der Velden, Bbymutha’s uninhibited and incredibly personal description of her life and work provided a brilliant counterpoint to the other more tech-oriented and somewhat depressing takes on what it means to be human in our present historical moment.
It was also a great bit of curation, offering a good reason to stick around until the rapper’s 1am set, which proved just as honest and direct (unsurprising if you’ve followed her output). In the interim, the audience for the ensuing club night were treated to an incredibly diverse mix of performances, which were often confrontational, abstract, sometimes difficult to dance to, but always interesting.
This was perhaps most apparent with Bonaventure, who preceded Bbymutha. The Swiss-Congolese producer, who is a citizen of NON Worldwide, debuted a sonically spacious, sample-laden live set, paced in such a way as to force the audience to pay attention throughout, especially to the politically-charged spoken-word samples. The few thoroughly danceable moments were always quickly withdrawn. It wasn’t easy to get into. But it was captivating: a discordant collage totally in keeping with the night’s overall bent.
On that note, there really isn’t enough space to capture the sheer concentrated variety contained within the night, which also included Eaves from New York, Hanz, a North Carolina-based Georgian, Amsterdam’s own Lyzza, originally from Brazil, and ended on a decidedly upbeat note with New York’s LSDXOXO.
It not an overstatement to say that this format, characterised by a borderless melange of different voices, experiences and performances, is one that needs replicating across the clubbing scene.