The phrase “a Shanghai institution” gets thrown about quite often in the fake journalism racket, but it would be hard to describe the matt&flo parties in any other way. For the last seven years, the Swiss party impresario duo has been bouncing around all over Shanghai, hosting their events and steadily gaining massive crowds -- often numbering in the 1000s.
It’s a pretty simple formula: party music on the system from a few long-time Shanghai DJs, new venue every time, no entry fee, and no capital letters on “matt&flo”.
This Saturday, matt&flo is at The House of Roosevelt for what is most likely their last party.
SmartShanghai talked to flo about the end of an era.
Flo: Yes, it's true that it's possibly the last matt&flo party. We simply don't know what will happen and if we will have the possibility to go on with the parties. Over the last few years, Matt has been based in various cities in Asia (Shanghai, Seoul, Singapore and Tokyo), but as I've been living in Shanghai continuously over the last 8 years, we could still manage to have our party series going.
Now that I'm about to move to Singapore and neither Matt nor myself will reside in Shanghai, it could become quite tough to have the parties organized. But then again, "never say never"! Who knows what the future will bring.
Flo: Matt and I are friends and we've met sometime in spring 2004, here in Shanghai. A few months later we thought it would be fun to have a BBQ party on a Sunday afternoon and we started planning. Matt's expertise is in F&B and I claimed that I know something about Marketing so we thought we could complement each other quite well for such a party idea. Back then we never thought that a BBQ party could evolve into a regular party series and survive for almost 7 years now.
Flo: Hmmm... there isn't much of a fancy concept behind, actually. We always try to organize a party at a different location, which is new or somehow unusual for the guests.
Important for us is that it should be as easy going as possible; meaning there isn't any cover charge at the door and there isn't any guest list or stuff like that.
Matt and I never really planned it out too far into the future; it all came together quite naturally and we never had to force ourselves to organize the next upcoming party.
Flo: The first matt&flo party was on August 1, 2004 at Cotton's previous location on Yueyang Lu (where Abbey Road is now).
It was actually a BBQ party starting on a sunny Sunday afternoon, lasting until about midnight. Instead of the anticipated 50 guests, there were more than 150 guests who joined the outdoor party. Many of them commented positively about the party and this gave us the motivation to repeat the party again one month later. That was the start.
The atmosphere was very relaxing and sometimes I think that this vibe is still among us when we have another party.
Flo: A matt&flo party nowadays starts around 10pm, but usually gets busy from 11pm onwards. The guest profile is somehow quite diverse and can't be categorized that easily; age-wise we usually attract guests between 25 and 50 years old. ...and of course we are always glad to have Jon Benn among our guests!
Sure, there are usually lots of foreigners, but I think we always have a good mix of local and foreign guests; and most importantly, the atmosphere is always relaxed and quite casual.
The DJs who play for us are masters on the decks and understand the matt&flo party crowd very well.
For the party on Saturday we are glad that our friends DJ Paninaro (GER), DJ Mick Martinez (PHI) and DJ Levi (USA) will be with us and celebrate a possibly last party with us. I hereby also would like to thank DJ Benzie and DJ Paul London. They played for us many times in the earlier days and without them the parties might not be what they are today. Benzie is now back in Switzerland and Paul is currently traveling around the world.
Flo: This isn't easy to answer. Many of the parties have been very different from one another (e.g. "Winter Chill", a fur & wig outdoor party on a chilly January night in 2004) and therefore difficult to compare. Having said that, the parties at MoCA have been very memorable, as well as the ones at Barbarossa. I will surely also remember the one at Lost Heaven on the Bund; there even the weather and temperature were absolutely perfect for a great summer party.
And many people commented very positively about the Halloween party last October; it was indeed a great night with loads of people and amazing costumes, dancing all night long!
Flo: Luckily (touching wood) we haven't had a single party which was a disaster; but I think it's fair to admit that we've had a couple of parties which weren't as successful as they could have been. The common reason for this is that the bar team wasn't up to speed and slowed down the service at the bar. And as we all don't like to wait for drinks at the bar, this wasn't ideal. However, we've learned from these experiences and hoped that we could avoid any such situation in future.
Flo: This is a very difficult question. There are many places that I keep very positively in memory, but I couldn't select just one favorite.
Obviously the old location of Cotton's (now the home of Abbey Road) will always be in good memory. Matt and I have had our first three parties there and this is where everything started. Later on we've had two very successful parties at MoCA inside of People's Square/Park and I somehow remember this place as it brought the parties to another level.
From an infrastructure point of view I've very much liked Lost Heaven on the Bund, which provides a great outdoor deck and lots of space indoors. But again, there are so many other great venues, which we've visited and cooperated with and I will remember them all.
The least favorite place is probably O'Malley's where we've had our Halloween party last year. The party as such was amazing and I think all guests had a fantastic time, but unfortunately the management there didn't get our concept and finally tried to take advantage of our party idea. But then again, it needs such kind of experiences once in a while so that we can learn and grow. What doesn't kill us just makes us stronger... [laughs].
Flo: I think the most obvious change is just the number of nightlife possibilities. Before I came to Shanghai, a small part of Julu Lu used to be the hotspot of the city's nightlife. When I arrived in Shanghai in early 2003, Maoming Nan Lu used to be the place to be in Shanghai, but still, there weren't that many other good places around.
The opening of Zapata's in spring 2004 somehow showed to many people that there was "a (night) life after Maoming Nan Lu" and from then onwards the nightlife scene just mushroomed, I feel.
Flo: There are a few places which I'll miss, for sure; but I'll probably miss the diversity of Shanghai the most. An opening party here, a wine dinner there and a Champagne brunch on the weekend... Shanghai's fast-paced entertainment and F&B industry is somehow unique, I believe.
Of all the places that have shut down, I do miss venues such as Face Bar in Ruijin Park or the whole bar strip along Maoming Nan Lu. The times back then were good fun!
Flo: Matt is currently still living in Tokyo, but considering the nature of his business in the hotel industry, I'm sure he'll move to another city soon again. I'll be relocating to Singapore at the end of this month and start a new chapter of my life.
I will surely miss Shanghai and all the great people and friends here, but I do look forward to the change now. I've had an amazing time here over the last 8 years, but it's time to move now…
...and I'm sure we're gonna be back in Shanghai once in a while, whether it will be for business or for fun.
matt&flo take a victory lap on the Bund this Saturday at The House of Roosevelt. Party starts at 10pm and as always, no cover charge.