'80s dance music lives on at Necto's Plastic Passion
Anyone who has fond memories of 1980s dance music of all varieties will probably feel right at home at Plastic Passion. The long-running retro dance party, now hosted by Necto nightclub in its subterranean Red Room, draws a diverse crowd of 30- and 40-somethings each month.
Josh Burge, 37, of Ann Arbor, is the founder and main DJ for Plastic Passion, although guest DJs are frequent. He began Plastic Passion in February 2006 at the now-defunct Oz nightclub in downtown Ann Arbor, was eventually deployed to Iraq with the National Guard, and restarted Plastic Passion as a monthly party in June 2009 when he returned.
He’s helped out by the PP Crew, a close group of his friends. “We’ve turned into a great team that puts on these thematic parties that aren’t your typical retro nights. That’s what we strive to be is more than just someplace that plays ‘80s music. We play the best of the ‘80s, or something obscure yet enjoyable,” he said.
The music offered by Plastic Passion jumps from genre to genre and includes ‘80s alt-pop mainstays like New Order, Depeche Mode, The Cure, The Smiths and Gene Loves Jezebel. Industrial bands like Front 242, Skinny Puppy and Nitzer Ebb are also represented, as are goth groups such as Sisters of Mercy and Bauhaus. Even punk is on the playlist, thanks to The Cramps and Fugazi. Chicago acid house turns up now and again.
The next Plastic Passion, on Feb. 11, will focus on early rave tunes.
“We’re kind of all over the place I like to mix it up,” agreed Burge. “I’m so passionate about this music—I don’t stick to just one genre.”
Sara Jackson, 38, who said she has only missed two Plastic Passions in the past five years, clearly feels right at home at the event. “I grew up with the music,” she said. “Ann Arbor needed a night like this.”
Locals Rachel Cross, 37, and Stever Griffes, 32, help with fliers and promotion for the Plastic Passion crew. “It’s a total escape,” said Cross, who remembers coming to club for teen night in the 1980s when it was the Nectarine Ballroom. “I have totally fond memories—I feel like this is home for me.”
Griffes agreed, adding that Plastic Passion caters to a crowd that’s a little more mature than the 18-30 set. “It’s a night people in their 30s and 40s can come out and dance to this music. That’s why I love it,” he said. “It’s a night when people can go out and listen to the kind of music they like and not deal with the kind of BS (that comes with a younger crowd).”
Tonya Harding (“just like the skater,” she laughs), 42, from Toledo, has been making the trek to Ann Arbor monthly since 2009.
“What drives me here is the mix of people, the feel of the music, the scene and the time period that you can’t get anywhere else,” she said. “Plastic Passion has done a good job of capturing the tone. That’s pretty rare. It’s like a private party, the same people come month after month. I’ve created a lot of friendships here. We just have a lot in common.”
Tanya Lozano, 38, Ann Arbor, has been a Plastic Passion regular for two years. The music keeps her coming back, she said.
“It’s casual, comfortable and I always feel welcome. I’ve met a lot of people. It’s loud enough to be good but not so loud you can’t have a conversation. It’s nice to be in a group where you don’t feel like the odd one out.
“There’s not a lot of these nights where you can mingle and not feel uncomfortable. I can’t find the words to say how happy I am that something like this exists,” she added.
The name Plastic Passion refers to vinyl records and the personal relationships music fans often formed with the discs. “It was a very social experience,” Burge recalled,” being able to go over to our friends’ house and listen to records and make mixtapes for girls you were into or whatever.” Another reference, he added, is that “Plastic Passion” is also the name of a song by Brit pop band The Cure.
Despite Burge’s devotion to vinyl, he doesn’t spin it at Plastic Passion—like most DJs nowadays, music files are carried on his laptop. And, he said, Plastic Passion is more than just playing the hits.
“I like for Plastic Passion to be an educational experience as well as an entertaining one,” he explained. “So many great tracks (from the 1980s) are waiting to be rediscovered. It’s not just me rehashing my youth—I’m going back in time and finding tracks I missed the first time around. I discover music I didn’t know existed. That’s what I really find fulfilling.”
Necto is at 516 E. Liberty St. The Red Room has its own entrance. The next Plastic Passion will be Saturday, Feb. 11, from 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Cover: $5-$8. Info: www.necto.com; www.facebook.com/plasticpassion; www.plasticpassion.net