in the Category: music
In response to Antwerp’s unprotected nightlife scene, allowing real estate developers to push out once vibrant hotspots, Mathijs Maes’ and Lars Gobbens’ Sweaty Palms concept provides a much-needed refuge for free expression. With support from multi-functional coworking space, Onder Stroom, Mathijs and Lars’ vision of throwing parties focused on music discovery could come to life. As a unique spot in Antwerp’s creative scene, the non-traditional space allowed Sweaty Palms to organically grow.
Currently throwing regular parties in Antwerp and, soon, Ghent while running shows on Kiosk Radio and We Are Various, Sweaty Palms is re-energising nightlife in Antwerp and beyond. Emphasising high quality DJ’s / music collectors, the parties provide a platform for discovering deep underground tracks and experiencing new sonic realms. Working with highly engaged talent, Sweaty Palms is a community of passionate music fans who want to share their universe with you.
Interview by Jacob McPherson
Photos by Sweaty Palms
What caused you to start your party in a coworking space, rather than a nightclub?
Mathijs: To be clear, Onder Stroom is way more than just a coworking space. It’s a creative hub with some offices, a carpentry workshop, an exhibition space for art and a bar/club/concert hall.
Lars: Onder Stroom allows us to do a lot more than just host parties. Tim Vandewalle and Jasper Moonen are open to experimentation and are always willing to help us where needed. Live shows, expositions, daytime events, lectures, food... are all feasible in Onder Stroom and are definitely things we would like to try out in the future.
Onder Stroom allows us to do a lot more than just host parties
Lars: The first time we went to a party in Onder Stroom we were absolutely blown away by the atmosphere. Such a cosy and weird place would be a perfect fit for our concept.
Mathijs: We had been looking for the right location for a couple months before we first heard about the birth of Onder Stroom. When I first visited the space, it immediately felt like a perfect match with our Sweaty Palms idea. By now it would be very difficult for me to host a Sweaty Palms party at another place in Antwerp without the Onder Stroom crew and their bar staff.
Aside from Sweaty Palms, are there any other parties/places focused on experimental music in Antwerp?
Mathijs: We can’t complain about fun parties in Antwerp. Some of our favourites include Abondance, Soulful Sessions, Vice City, Contrair, Lucid, Spek, Scandals, Klub Dramatik. When thinking of particular venues, it’s a bit more challenging because top places like Het Bos, De Studio, and Pekfabrik only throw parties once a month.
Was it risky to start Sweaty Palms? How did you know it would attract new audiences?
Mathijs: Since we’re both working full time jobs it wasn’t too big of a risk to start a small scale party. The biggest risk for me was about keeping the quality as high as possible. I’ve been active in the Antwerp nightlife community for a while now so it’s not like we had to start from scratch with this project. It actually felt liberating for me to throw a party at a smaller capacity venue than Bar Helder because of the creative and financial freedom without having to attract 400+ visitors to reach break-even.
Lars: I have been involved in the Kurabu parties in Mechelen for quite some time, organizing regular nights with 4 other friends. We already had great events with DJ’s like Daniel Wang, Nosedrip, and Jamie Tiller, so I felt confident starting this project with Mathijs.
Did the city of Antwerp provide support, and if not how would the city benefit from improved nightlife protection – as seen in Berlin and Amsterdam?
Mathijs: We’ve never been in contact with the city to be honest. I know Onder Stroom gets some kind of funding by the local authorities but they can’t use these to host nightlife events. I think the most important message I’d like to pass on to the authorities is: don’t force clubs/bars to close in order to sell more luxury apartments.
You have a presence on Kiosk Radio and We Are Various, how did you get involved with them?
Mathijs: I’ve been doing a show on Kiosk Radio before starting Sweaty Palms so it felt only right to curate a Sweaty Palms show over there. Fred Nasen from We Are Various was actually the very first DJ to ever play a Sweaty Palms night so he asked us if we’d be interested to visit the studio once in a while.
The Holger parties in Brussels run by Sixsixsixties and Captain Starlight were a big inspiration for me
Are there any parties you looked to for inspiration?
Lars: The Holger parties in Brussels run by Sixsixsixties and Captain Starlight were a big inspiration for me. The music, the unique venues, the artwork, the atmosphere,... Everything about the way those events were curated made for some very unique nights I still remember to this day. Unfortunately, they stopped a couple of years ago, but I hope we can reach the same level in Antwerp in the years to come.
Mathijs: Most of my favourite clubbing experience happened abroad so far: Bassiani in Tbilisi, Concrete (RIP) in Paris, Trouw (RIP) and De School in Amsterdam, and Robert Johnson in Frankfurt, to name a few.
How do you make sure there’s always a good vibe for the DJ’s and crowd?
Mathijs: We always make sure to make the artists’ experience as personal as possible. For example, we went record shopping with Lauren Hansom at Chelsea Records, and took Suzanne Kraft to Table Dance, a restaurant run by a good friend. If they feel welcome with us, it will only benefit their excitement to play at the party.
Do you have any favourite moments from Sweaty Palms to date?
Lars: When De Ambassade played their hit 'Geen Genade' the crowd went absolutely nuts. This made me reflect on what we have achieved in such a short period of time. I won’t forget this night any time soon.
Mathijs: Yes, that De Ambassade show was something special! Another favourite moment I’ll remember is the cheering of the crowd when we started the music again after the police stopped the party for a while. It’s too bad they returned half an hour later once again to put it to an end.
When De Ambassade played their hit 'Geen Genade' the crowd went absolutely nuts
What’s on the horizon for the party, where will it go in the future?
Lars: We hope to offer more than just a night with DJ’s and are thinking about other experiences we could provide on our events..
Mathijs: Next up is our Ghent debut at Amigo Amigo with the guys from Kiosk Radio. On the 14th of March we’re back at Onder Stroom with a special guest from France. After that we’ll be celebrating our 1 year anniversary somewhere around May. We’ve got many ideas yet to make that one way more than just a night out. Stay tuned!
How will Sweaty Palms in Ghent be different?
Mathijs: Let’s see after our first party! For our first night at Amigo we’ve invited Mickey, Jim Becker and Boochie from Kiosk Radio to join us behind the decks. I don’t think many people realise how big of an impact Kiosk Radio is having on the Belgium music scene at the moment so it only felt right to have them play at our very first Sweaty Palms night in Ghent. We’ll have them play a 4hour set so I’m pretty hyped to hear where they’ll end up. Everyone gets carte blanche with us!
Sweaty Palms invites Kiosk Soundsystem
17 Jan - Amigo, Ghent
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