“It was all about bringing multiple strands together…” How 3345 at Vicar Street sought to shake up Dublin clubland

The Dublin dance scene at the turn of the Millennium was in a period of transition – the introduction of the Intoxicating Liquor Act 2000, which paved the way for bars to open later, coupled with a lack of legislation governing the actual status of a nightclub, led to some venues struggling or even closing.

At the same time though, this was the height of the Celtic Tiger – a period in which would-be entrepreneurs were encouraged to take a punt and launch concepts that offered something new to the capital’s artistic scene.

One such endeavour was 3345, a monthly all-dayer that took place in the then recently-opened Vicar Street venue, promising a blend of DJs, live acts, movies, art, fashion and food, over the course of a Sunday afternoon and evening.

The brainchild of Donal Scannell, Susan Scannell and Adriana Verges, with a little help from a number of familiar faces on Dublin’s music scene, the first 3345 took place on 30 January 2000, featuring Orbital’s Paul Hartnoll, the Disconauts, Tonie Walsh, Hugh Scully, a Solid Records showcase, and a myriad of short films and presentations.

Reviewing that inaugural event, Kate Butler wrote on Muse.ie that “3345 managed to put together the kind of show that we have been appallingly deprived of in Ireland up till now.

“Primarily intended to manipulate a venue to cater for hearing excellent music and watching visuals and films of clubbing cultural significance, this gig has the potential to become a melting pot of ideas for the future of clubbing.”

Vicar Street was a ‘major catalyst’ in creating 3345

While it only would run for just over a year, other 3345 events welcomed such luminaries as Laurent Garnier, Carl Craig, Agent X, Dj Sideral, Fish Go Deep, and a plethora of top artists, not to mention a 3345 event in Barcelona; the city that inspired Scannell et al to ‘give it a go’ in the first place.

909originals caught up with Donal Scannell to chat about how the concept came together, and whether events such as this could have a future in a post-COVID clubbing environment.

Hi Donal, thanks for talking to us. 3345 was a breath of fresh air when it launched; as the Irish Independent put it at the time, it was ‘nothing short of a revolution in clubbing, at least in a Dublin context’. Had Ireland had anything like that before – an ‘event’ to celebrate the influence of dance music on popular culture?

There are no such things as firsts. Everything that anyone does is an evolution of what others have done before. That’s how society progresses.

The work of Horny Organ Tribe at Ormond Multimedia Centre, Gag and Powderbubble, Homelands, Influx, The Globe and Ri-Rá, dSide Magazine, GCN, d1 Records, No Disco, U2’s global success – there were so many inspiring things going on in Ireland that all would have informed and influenced and make you believe that you could dream something crazy up and carry it off with no money in the bank.

We went in to 3345 with big ideas and no money and it happened in a very short amount of time.

The idea for 3345 came from visiting Barcelona, and developing a friendship with DJ Sideral – tell us the story behind that?

It all started when Jim Carroll went to Barcelona and came back raving about the place. Myself and Donal Dineen had wanted to go on a road trip to the USA but didn’t have enough money, so we decided we’d go to Spain instead because, like America, they also spoke Spanish and had deserts.

The plan was to go to Barcelona and then take a road trip from there. This would have been around ’96, and there were no direct flights from Dublin.

On the second night in Barcelona, we met Sideral and his crew and spent the next fortnight clubbing with them and not leaving Barcelona. Coming from where Dublin was at then was like landing on another planet.

That trip became the first of many trips there which inevitably led to attending Sonar, which was a huge influence – the way so many elements were brought together, not just dancing. Seeing what Sonar had become in such a short space of time was a real head-turner.

Also, Vicar St the venue was a major catalyst. Seeing Giles Peterson DJ there was what made me realise that it was an amazing venue for more to happen in. They were massively supportive as well, Bren from Aikens, Hugh the Manager, Jake from Security – they all played a huge part.

Years of going to Glastonbury was also a huge factor, which has to be mentioned too. So much stems from that. And traveling the world, in general, is always an inspiration. So was the attitude of other club promoters. Influx were a huge help to 3345, they helped book some of the biggest acts we had, which was very gracious of Johnny Moy and Paul Davis.

3345 was envisaged as a multi-media experience, as well as a monthly club night

You had been involved in Dublin clubbing for a few years at that time, most recently with the Quadraphonic crew. Were things getting a bit stale in the scene, prompting you to try something new?

The relationship at the core of Quadraphonic went a bit stale and one of the breaking points was disagreements over direction and how we’d do something like our version of Sonar, which we had started planning. So we wound that down at the end of ’99 and I started 3345 the next month.

Quadraphonic was a great time though and we achieved a lot in just three years – everything we did with Bass Odyssey was very exciting and of course the Stereophonic spin-off, which I loved. I learned so much from working as part of Quadraphonic that still stands to me today.

What was the modus operandi when you started 3345, and how did that evolve over time?

It was all about bringing multiple strands together and expanding on what the culture meant beyond just dancing. Dance music culture, which was youth culture at the time, was at the centre but all other areas of interest from food to fashion to film were also brought in.

It was never envisaged as just one thing and a great team came together to put the different strands together – the Vicar St events which were co-produced with Adriana Verges and Susan Scannell, we had the monthly magazine edited by Barry ‘Redsetta’ O’Donoghue with design and photos by Gaz Jones, the website produced by Sebastian Clayton and James Cooke, and what was effectively a TV show as well which we made a pilot with TG4 for.

The ethos evolved in a sense that it strengthened and would only have gotten better had it continued.

This was also a time, lest we forget, that changes to licensing laws meat that lots of clubs were struggling, with a few closures. Was 3345 in any way a reaction to that?

Our response was to open earlier and get people in earlier – we ran from noon to 2am.

The lineup for the inaugural 3345, in January 2000

3345 only ran for a year or so – why did you pull the plug?

It was massively unsustainable! It cost so much to put on and we never sold enough tickets to cover those massive costs. For it to function, it had to be as big as it was. I can’t imagine it being smaller or less extravagant.

Some fatal errors were made. The biggest one was deciding that 3345 should only happen on Sundays. The logic being that we didn’t want to compete with what was already there on Saturdays.

Moving it to Saturdays would also have felt like a cop-out. I’ve learned a lot since and have zero regrets because each day you do informs the next.

I know a lot more now about how business works and of course had I known then what I know now about fundraising, scaling and product development then it could have been different.

As we emerge out of COVID, the clubbing scene is likely to take some time to get back to normality – could events in the 3345 mould help with that process, do you think?

It’s going to take a while to redefine what’s going to happen next and I think outdoor events will be the smarter thing in the short-term, but who knows?

Or, to put it another way, are you tempted to bring it back?

Not at all! That was a moment in time that I don’t see myself revisiting.

What was your all-time 3345 highlight?

The biggest highlight was putting 3345 on in Barcelona – that was Paul Hartnoll from Orbital, Sideral and Tony Bass DJing with David Gray playing live and we had an exhibition too. David’s previous gig was the sold-out Point Depot and he came to Barcelona to play a tiny theatre for us.

That whole trip was great fun – Uaneen Fitzsimons (RIP) came over for the gig and we all went to see The Cure play a basketball arena the night before. We sold all of our tickets in Barcelona and got loads of great press, so the pressure was off once show day came.

Thanks again Donal. Vicar Street image taken from the Vicar Street Facebook page. You can browse an archived version of the 3345 website by clicking here.

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