“Nothing ever lasts forever, nothing ever really ends.” It’s a helpful mantra, but it can be hard not to feel the pain of saying goodbye. Today is the last day of NII, a subculture hub — and, more than that, a home — for most of the Russian DJs in your playlists. Moscow’s most boisterous club, where the new wave of Russian electronica has been nurtured since 2014, is moving out of their longtime venue. NII are throwing a two-day marathon party to bid farewell to the the iconic location, caught up in a net of tram rails and highways near the Winzavod art centre, which became a shelter and a shrine for Moscow’s young musicians, artists, and all those turned off by the capital’s sleek pomposity.
In 2016, hundreds of people attended a fundraising party to support NII when it was facing closure. Now the team behind the club has promised to keep that spirit of togetherness alive once they find a new home. With this in mind, we asked five friends of NII to pay tribute to a club they hold dear — an ode, if not quite an obituary.
“NII is the people that make it, and those people aren’t going anywhere”
“I live in Nalchik in the North Caucasus. The city — and region — hosts very few events that cater to me and my friends, so we have to create them for ourselves. NII has many shared values with our own project Ored Recordings.
If NII were like any other night club, I doubt you’d ever find me there. I’m not your typical clubber and not the biggest techno-head. I remember writing an announcement for an Ored Recordings night there, and Ildar asking me to remove the word “club”. It’s closer to a cultural centre in its programming.
We at Ored Recordings owe some of our success to NII and the marvelous evenings we’ve put on together. NII hosted us in Moscow at a time when no-one really knew about us. What made a lasting impression on me was seeing a crowd of ethnic Circassians, ravers, and heavy metal fans, all dancing together. It was truly inspiring, to say the least.”
“It was one of the first John’s Kingdom nights at NII, it was summer, and it was magical. Everyone was playing their own music and it was something else. It was kind of unbelievable to think it was all home-grown. People are used to cool local artists now, but back then it felt really special. I won’t say I’ll miss it. NII is the people that make it, and those people aren’t going anywhere. What does it mean to say something is more than a club night? Dancing, music, community? How about women in tracksuits jumping through fire hoops — that was the norm here.”
“For me it brings about a nostalgic feeling, as I spent most of my time there surrounded by close friends. There were times when we would help out at the bar — those night were the most fun.”
“It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how NII influenced the scene, but I can say that every recognisable artist has played here at least once. Buttechno, Hmot, Burago, Low 808, Vtgnike, phalf — these are just some of the artists that I associate with NII. One of the first nights that comes to mind was called A Meeting of Introverts, organised by Vtgnike — the name sums up pretty much everything you need to know about NII.
Bringing together young artists from across Russia is not an easy feat: the distances are lengthy and the prices are staggering. NII helped us organise an Oblast showcase of regional artists more than once. I also remember they brought over Siberian label Echotourist for a night.
Besides NII’s incredible atmosphere, Moscow will is losing a creative space — the kind of place where you can listen to academic music one night, and catch an exhibition before a DJ Deeon set the next evening. That’s what made NII so special.”
“In the past I would frequent different club nights, but I stopped going to anything else after NII came on the scene. NII filled what was once an uninspiring slab of concrete with unforgettable music and people. It’s probably one of the kindest and coziest places in Moscow; as a friend once told me, it’s the only place where he hasn’t got kicked out by security for falling asleep on the floor. At first it was about the music: then came the educational programme, the lectures, the exhibitions, they even opened a kitchen. In principle, anyone could walk in with an idea in mind and the guys behind NII would bring it to fruition. Or you could just drop by for a beer and a game of füssball.”