If you knew, you knew. For a couple of years at the tail end of the last decade, afterparties in Dublin were all about Secret Society, a private-members club in a secret location that keep the vibe going until dawn.
The coming of the COVID-19 pandemic saw the conclusion of Secret Society in its first iteration, but it continued to go from strength to strength during lockdown, with a storming series of livestreams, from both Irish and global names, earning the brand international recognition.
It was inevitable that when things got back to normal, Secret Society would return… and so this has come to pass, with founder Keith Comerford announcing last week that Secret Society would be calling Opium Dublin its new home from February 2023.
The opening night, on Friday 4 February, will feature a DJ set from Brazilian maestro Wehbba, along with Tracy Cass and Air Jackson. More details can be found here.
909originals caught up with him.
Hi Keith, thanks for chatting to us. Secret Society really came into its own with the warehouse parties in 2018/19. How did those come about?
To be honest, I didn’t really take it seriously at the very start, because we had been doing the mansion parties since 2013, and they had been a huge success.
When that finished in 2018, I was trying my best to take something to the next level and keep the head busy. When we first went to visit the warehouse, it was basically upside down. To look at it, it was really a case of ‘it’s going to take a lot of work to get things going’. But we worked on it, and at the end of it, we took a step back and we were like, ‘man, this place looks pretty fucking sick’.
There were lots of people telling me ‘you can’t do this’ or ‘you can’t do that’ when it came to unlicensed events, so it was a bit of a challenge for me, because I wanted to ‘do this’ and ‘do that’.
The name was important as well, Secret Society – I don’t think it would have taken off the way it did without that name.
It was a members’ club of course, and you were very adamant that it had to be kept under wraps – telling people not to share the location on their phones, and keep it a secret. Which isn’t easy these days…
I remember on the first night we opened, somebody shared the location and you had some people rocking up in taxis. I let them in, but I said ‘right, there’s going to be consequences for this’, so I cancelled the next event. I said to myself, if people can’t stick to the rules, I’m not going to put myself at risk. But when we had another event, everybody got on board, and that was that.
The people that went to Secret Society were brilliant, they were there for the music and the music only. When you were within those four walls, everyone was partying together, rocking it all night long. It kind of progressed to this sort of family atmosphere, you know? Everyone knew each other.
We used to run buses to Secret Society, and we had our security team vetting the people getting onto the buses. So it wasn’t a case that they got onto the bus, arrived at Secret Society and then got refused – they made sure that the crowd getting on the bus were good for the venue. It was the perfect crowd – everyone was up for it from the get-go. It just got better and better.
As it progressed, Al Keegan was literally my lieutenant – God rest his soul. He was my partner in crime when it came to picking the music, picking the lineups. With Al now gone, I feel like there’s something missing. You know – he would be the first person I would call, to pick his brain about something, and he would always tell it like it is.
Did the pandemic lead to the end of Secret Society, or had it wrapped up before then?
Secret Society ended about four or five weeks before lockdown – the owner of the warehouse wanted to turn it into something else. And then COVID hit. We were sort of backed into a corner then – how could we keep the brand going when all the venues are closed?
We set up the livestreaming, and I learned a lot from it, but at the same time, there’s no comparison with doing live events. After a while, my head was in it, but my heart wasn’t really, and it was a case of wanting things to hurry up so I could get back to doing events again.
Bringing the story up to date, you have just announced that Secret Society will be starting in Opium in February. What sort of nights you are planning?
Originally, we had a different venue lined up that fell through, and then Colly from Funktion-One gave me the number for Ronan at Opium. I went over to him to talk about doing a few Fridays, and he turned around and suggested that we take over the weekends completely. We came back with a proposition for him, and now we’re starting there on 4 February.
We’re not just going to be basing it on big names. I feel the way that the industry has gone in the last while, it’s like social media is putting a dampener on things. Once someone has a big following, people don’t tend to look anywhere else. That’s a bit of a pet hate of mine.
But the fact that our brand has such awareness out there, I’m thinking we should research the acts who are quality but don’t have that marketing ability – those that feel like they’re being left on the shelf. Let’s talk about them and get them out there.
A lot of the artists are feeling the pressure of having to be social media wizards, more so than actually being artists. Without naming any names, a lot of DJs are skipping the queue. There are artists out there that are breaking their balls on a daily basis to make quality music, and they’re not getting picked for lineups because they don’t have the required social media following.
That’s the way the world is going, unfortunately, but for my brand, I’d like to bring it back to basics, and sell the idea of a quality night that is more about the music.
We have an investor on board that is hopefully going to take it to the next level. The brand is really going places, and I’ve been lucky enough to get great advice from the likes of Carl Cox, Alon Shulman and others. They are real mentors.
So, it’s exciting to see where the brand is going to go for us. It’s not like we’re in this to become millionaires or anything like that, it’s more a case of bringing something to Dublin that we need badly. We’ve got the talent, it’s out there. But we don’t have the venues.
Are you going to be focusing predominantly on homegrown talent, or international names?
Homegrown, with the occasional international guest, maybe once every three or four weeks.
We also have the use of the rooftop in Opium – we can’t put any music up there because of the residents in the area, but we’re planning to have silent raves instead. We’re bringing in headsets, looking to create an experience. In the last Secret Society we had the cinema as the ‘experience’ part of the night, and the next one is going to have a silent disco/rave on the rooftop.
As well as Opium, we’re going to be looking at larger scale events, maybe towards the end of 2023 and in 2024. We’re also looking at bringing Secret Society overseas as a brand – we’ve got a big global reach, so we’re going to be maximising on that.
What future do you see for the Secret Society brand?
Secret Society is really my baby now – I want it to be a well-respected brand, and bring something to the industry. I was been lucky enough to party in the 90s, in the likes of the Temple Theatre, The Pod – I even got in to UFO in Columbia Mills when I was 15.
That was when you could go out on a Friday night or Saturday night and nine times out of ten, you didn’t know who the DJ was, or it didn’t matter. You knew you were going to get an absolute banger of a night. Also, a place would be busy week-in, week-out, it wasn’t a case that they were busy one week because a ‘big name’ was playing, and then quiet the next.
At the core of the concept of Secret Society is the ‘portal’ – when you close one door, another one opens. So when you walk through the door of Secret Society, you’re entering a different realm. You could be going through crazy sh*t in your life, you could be in the middle of a break-up.
But at Secret Society, you can leave that all behind and just be there for the love of the music. You’re there with your family, and you’re forgetting all your problems.
For more information on Secret Society, as well as upcoming gigs, log on to www.facebook.com/SecretSocietyStudio.