It’s late March and I’m easing down the steps to PLEASURE(S), the third underground show thrown by The Enemy. Midnight has yet to strike, and the party is still sparse. Young Zaire is DJing, one or two people are dancing for themselves, a few small groups are clustered near the walls, chatting, drinking, and smoking. I crouch with my back pressed against the cement wall and begin to pull out my camera gear. I can feel the room stiffen just a bit. Folks have come here to have a good time, they weren’t planning on being photographed.
But as the night progresses, that changes. I begin chatting with people, approaching them slowly with my camera raised and gaging their reaction. A breaking competition starts up, and people are making videos with their phones and cheering on the breakers. The atmosphere loosens and the pitch rises as the night rolls on. Now folks are flagging me down and mugging for the camera. Bottles of malt liquor are passed around the increasingly crowded room. Various performers take the stage, billed on the digital flyer as “Special Fucking Guests,” and the crowd pushes in close.
By the time I head out to meet a few friends, it’s nearing two and the party’s still going strong with a second breaking battle. I walk out into the cold night air, pushing through a small crowd chatting and smoking outside the doors. I continue down the sidewalk. “It was nice to meet you! Have a good night!” a few voices call after me.
A month later, I sit down to talk with The Enemy about the PLEASURE(S) parties.
FULL: I was very struck by how comfortable the vibe was at the party. There were a lot of different kinds of folks doing their own thing, and it was clear that they felt okay doing their own thing. How have you gotten to that point with your community? What do you do to build that environment?
THEENEMY: Going out, you observe all the things you don’t like about other events, and you just try to do the opposite. We always want to do something different and step outside the comfort zone and mix a few different things together. It works out.
FULL: What are some important things for you in terms of how the night’s going to feel?
TE: I guess being different in that context is just trying to be as organic as possible. We try to have a DJ or play the music ourselves, and the music we play is the same music we’re turning up to in the studio, listening to all the time. And the bands that we get, the choices aren’t put together quickly. We want to make sure that all the bands we have are people we one hundred thousand percent fuck with. That’s really important. With the actual look of the room, we’re trying to change it up make it into a show with more visual stimuli and lights. We always try to personalize that to The Enemy’s ethos.
FULL: Before this had you attended other underground shows?
TE: We’re all going to shows all the time.
FULL: There’s a lot of conversation around safe spaces right now. What does a safe space mean for you in the context of the PLEASURE(S) shows?
TE: We want to make sure the space is as welcoming as possible. It’s funny because it’s through violence that some spaces become the most welcoming. You won’t really feel what a safe space is until you’re elbowed in the face by someone at a show, and then they pick you up. That’s breaking barriers right there. It’s not a superficial space. If you’re fucking up and you’re being a racist [or sexist, or homophobic] dickhead, you’re going to get your face smashed at a show.
FULL: You’ve got accountability?
TE: Yeah, through the virtue of the people that are attracted to the shows you have accountability. It’s really important to have a safe space. We want everyone to feel welcome, especially women and people of colour, and we work to make sure that everybody can have a good time.
FULL: When you talk about getting elbowed in the face and then picked up, do you see that as someone makes a mistake and then showing you care, so that’s what’s creating a safe space?
TE: That’s a little more extreme, but it happens. Hardcore [punk] spaces are extreme. The hardcore scene in Winnipeg self-identifies as a community. There are a lot of bands. And when you go into a space, especially when you go into a mosh pit, there is no safety. You’ve given up your physical safety. It’s just a pure expression of id in relation to the music, so it’s kind of like whatever happens happens. But then you still have that side of it where people will be as nice as possible in that space, and I think it's because they know you’re stepping out of your comfort zone. Especially if you’re someone who doesn’t normally go to shows like that, people will make an effort to not be shitty to you. It’s funny because they’ll be super shitty to the people who go to shows all the time, but then that becomes a bonding moment.
I’ve found it super welcoming to be at hardcore shows. And I have to be grateful to that, because I see it as a white dominated space going in. But I think members of that community are very self-aware, so they see that as well. People of colour enter the space through curiosity or they’re into the music and they just haven’t been to shows yet. The community will be empathetic to that. We're happy to transfer that feeling to the PLEASURE(S) shows. We want people to experience that.
FULL: Something that made me feel safe at the PLEASURE(S) show was just how many people were different from each other and were still cool to share space. Sometimes you go to a show and there’s a very dominating attitude or mode of behaviour, and you feel like you have to fit yourself into that to stay in the space.
TE: That’s the basis for PLEASURE(S). It’s how many different things can we mix as possible so there is no dominant presence? The view people might have looking at the site right now is that it’s a focus on music, hip-hop or whatever, but we’re doing a lot of work in the background right now, and that’s not the direction we’re pushing. We want to make sure The Enemy’s a mosaic of our many different interests and fucked up ideas, because that’s an expression of ourselves. The show is an expression of ourselves where there is no one dominant area, it’s just like, these are the pieces that we like. And I’m glad that was really displayed through the audience, because there were 40-year-old dudes that we didn’t know just there dancing and having a good time, and there were young breakers, people who are into rap, people who are into hardcore — it was really wonderful.
FULL: What do you want people to know or understand about the PLEASURE(S) shows?
TE: They have to come out and see it for themselves. It’s just a completely different show from anything else that’s being put on in Winnipeg right now. We know that as a fact. There’s nothing else like our shows, and we’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback on that.
Since Union Sound Hall’s closed down, things are being funnelled through just a handful of venues that have their own ideas about what should be played there. That cuts Winnipeg off a lot from attracting more artists. We just want to express as much difference as possible.
FULL: What do you mean when you say cut off?
TE: Union did a wonderful job of attracting artists that are super important in other spaces and that people really like here that wouldn’t be in Winnipeg any other way. Like the Danny Brown show in 2014 or Flatbush Zombies, I don’t see them playing anywhere else. Maybe at The Pyramid. Having more options for venues increases competition and increases the number of people going out and trying to find the best artists they can to play shows here.
We’re taking a lot of risk in putting on the shows. And there’s a huge reward because people have a great time, and that’s the best feeling. I would encourage people to take more risks and step outside their comfort zone. Don’t believe that you have to do a certain thing because you see other people doing it. Try to just do your own cool thing with your friends.
The Enemy has thrown three PLEASURE(S) shows since last November, and the next one is June 16th at the Triple Tiger. You can check their Instagram feed and website to keep up with events and read articles. They’re also open to working with photographers, writers, artists and designers on the site, so if you’d like to participate in the community, get in touch.