The Black Lips at a Fluffer Records pit part. Photograph: Carla Salvatore
Cult following: The Black Lips at a Fluffer Records pit party. Photograph: Carla Salvatore

Fluffer Records started out as a pub conversation but is slowly developing a bit of a cult following in East London.

This independent label promotes local rock and roll, and helped the likes of Virgin Kids get signed with US label Burger Records.

But for those in the know, Fluffer is the architect of the chaotic ‘pit parties’ held in secret locations, where bands play in the centre of the room with the crowd surrounding them 360 degrees.

In May, Hackney Wick venue Shapes hosted the biggest pit party to date. Ten bands played a one-day festival, with The Black Lips jetting in from Atlanta to headline.

With the stage in the centre, the PA system consisted of four speakers running around its perimeter. Support came from East London-based Japanese expats Bo Ningen, a beguilingly facetious Spanish group The Parrots, and Heck, a stage-diving, thrash-metal four-piece from Nottingham.

The drinks were expensive, the music was loud and cathartic. And the audience got into the mood with moshing, punching inflatable fruit, attempted stage invasions and giant panda costumes.

The Black Lips have a reputation for energetic and raucous shows, with stage invasions and drunken nudity not uncommon. Pulling off a gig like this required diplomacy, as both band and venue were concerned things could get out of hand. But on this occasion their set was a relatively civil, albeit sweaty, affair.

Heck at Shapes. Photograph: Carla Salvatore
Dancing to Heck at Shapes. Photograph: Carla Salvatore

Last month I spoke to label boss Al Brown after Fluffer’s DJ set at Field Day. I was curious to find out if the carnivalesque atmosphere of their pit parties was intentional.

“The fans are part of the performance,” he confirmed. “Because, let’s face it, the more energy you get off the fans and the more people watching, the better the bands tend to play. It’s all part of the same puzzle and both feed off each other.”

New River Studios, in Manor House, held the most recent Fluffer pit party of the summer, on 18 June.

With Chichester’s Traams headlining the bill, it was a more modest affair, though equally as rewarding. You could stand behind the drummer and watch the sweat roll off his back as he kept time to energetic garage rock.

As the sun began to set in Victoria Park and PJ Harvey took to the stage, Al Brown would not be drawn into revealing details of future parties, though it seems likely that something will be offing soon.

“If people carry on coming, then we’ll keep putting [the parties] on,” he confirmed. Perhaps by next year, Fluffer will have a Field Day stage of its own.

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