We Listened to House Music for 66 Hours Straight
Funny how music comes in and out of fashion, isn't it? Five years ago, house music was pretty much the sole preserve of guys in linen shirts who went to clubs that were only advertised on radio stations no one listened to. If you bothered to listen to electronic music at all, it was probably that horrible brand of electro that dated faster than the French guy who made it dated underage girls. However, it’s now 2012 and proper house has become the most exciting sound out there. All my friends are crashing on Tuesday after taking MDMA in South London rather than on Monday after taking cocaine in East London. Your girl's locked to Drakeford in the bath. The guy from Foals is putting out 12-inches. Not even Steve Aoki plays electro any more.
Nonetheless, views surrounding house music remain polarised. There are those who dismiss it as repetitive, brainless drivel, and then there are others who venerate it as a technologically refined version of our ancestors' tribal drumming, a euphoric Kurzweilian melding of man and machine. They're normally the guys who can't get through Christmas Day without a pinger, though, so it's maybe best to not take every word of theirs as gospel.
We realised last Friday that house's cultural staying power would all come down to how quickly it gets old. How much house does it take to make you gouge your ears out? Neither of us had anything on last weekend, so we decided to find out. We agreed to start as soon as we left the office, at 5PM on Friday, and finish at 11AM the following Monday. That’s 66 hours of house, or 506,880 drum beats, relentlessly kicking away at our eardrums.
We went to as many house nights as possible over the weekend, threw our own house party and used headphones while in transit, in the shower or sleeping. As part of our highly scientific research process, we attempted to record our emotional wellbeing on a "vibes" scale of -10 to 10, every six hours, for the duration of the weekend.
DAY ONE: FRIDAY NIGHT / SATURDAY MORNING
Hour 1, 5PM: These are not looks of concentration, friends, they’re an expression of the complete submission to the inexorable, clinical rhythm that was to be our reality for the entirety of the next three days. Fun fact: Relentless house music makes even scrolling through Reddit seem like you're in a badly researched 90s youth movie about hacking (everyone knows all hackers listen to nosebleed techno).
Hour 3, 8PM: But by the time we were on our way to the first venue, house hadn't gotten repetitive at all. In fact, we were extremely excited to rip off those headphones and let the beat swallow us whole at the Essex Mecca that is 93 Feet East. On the tube, Matt also discovered that he wouldn't have to listen to a single word anyone said to him, as I'm sure you can see in this picture of him acting like an Australian. Fuck real people anyway, we were doing all the communicating we needed with Kyle Hall.
Hour 4, 9PM: We got to the club and were both already pretty high on the vibes scale. We knew we weren't on the same level as this guy, who was smiling so much you could see his wisdom teeth, but the prospect of getting there and being accepted by the Seersucker shorts and Wayfarers types in the queue got us even happier and more excited.
Around this time, we also met legendary Scandinavian house producer Santos Klauss, which was cool. He said he'd turned up with his snow plough because he heard the event was gonna be a roadblock.
Hour 8, 1AM: I'm not sure how much trust you can put in that timestamp, because time itself was already becoming meaningless to us. But at some point past midnight, this raving mantis crept her way over to us, jabbing her hands out with the aggression that only someone all riled up on excessive 4x4 could muster. She's probably still out there somewhere – lensless glasses abandoned, wandering the backstreets of Brick Lane with a six-hour Roger Sanchez mix on loop, soundtracking her descent into madness.
It was at this point that, with approx 58 hours to go and anxiety beginning to creep in, we began to worry: Was this what was to become of us, too? Because to be honest neither of us were down for letting the old guy from The Offspring tattoo us.
Hour 9, 2AM: After being offered a shot glass full of MDMA (do you do that after the lime and tequila, or before? Always forget) and having our photo taken with a few idiotically fucked-up revellers, we left 93 Feet East and headed to Vagabondz at Fire in Vauxhall to see Deadboy, Dark Sky, MJ Cole and Loefah.
Don't even bother saying shit like, "that's not house" in the comments, because if you insist on being a whiny nerd, we'll have no choice but to change the name to "66 Hours of EDM", and that just cheapens the experience for everyone. Save it for the Resident Advisor forum, you insufferable genre puritans.
Hour 11, 4AM: I don't know if you can tell from this totally chilled out photo, but as soon as we arrived at Vagabondz, we instantly became the fucked up, shirtless idiots we’d been laughing and pointing our cameras at earlier in the night. The relentlessly optimistic vibes emanating from the house had begun to alter our chemistry; we were in the early stages of a cynicism transfusion, but at this point, we didn't care: we were through the looking glass. The music was much better and we had forgotten all about our terrifying encounter with mantis-woman. We couldn't remember a time when we weren't moving our limbs and hoped that day would never come again.
Ah, the smoking area: the social apex of modern clubbing, a place where you can relax and talk to other good looking people who, through reasons real or chemical, are extremely happy to be out at the same place you are tonight, and would you like another bump, mate? Or a place where you can sit by yourself, listening to music through headphones, looking like a dick.
While we're on the topic of looking like a dick, an unexpected trend that emerged during our research was that the amount of clothing Matt wore was inversely proportional to the hours of house he listened to. That's how he ended up looking like a Balearic pirate. When we asked him to put on some clothes, all he could say was "Bass is my clothes, come run your fingers against the cloth of sub-woof." Thankfully this girl was in the mood to follow his advice to the letter.
Hour 12, 5AM: Something we learnt after following house halfway around the clock, was that prolonged exposure to it does a fantastic job of attacking the medulla oblonGuetta (sorry), shutting down the entire central nervous system. Francey had to have a little sit-down while he contemplated the fact that his legs might never work again.
Hour 13, 6AM: Thankfully, venue security was on hand to snap him out of it and haul him to his feet. The man was a miracle worker, like Jesus in Miami coke baron aviators.
Hour 18, 11AM: Eventually we noticed that the people we could see from the smoking area had woken up for brunch and local pubs were starting to fill, so we called it a night and headed home. "The Whistle Song" is not a song you put on your "sleep playlist" next to Harold Budd and “Cucurrucucu Paloma” (seriously, the next time you're awake at 6AM because you contrived to turn your heart into the Large Hadron Collider, try that last one out). Neither of us was looking forward to trying to sleep with headphones on either, and at this point we were pretty low on the vibes scale.
DAY TWO: SATURDAY NIGHT / SUNDAY MORNING
Hour 24, 5PM: We both awoke with migraines that were beat-matching the music from the speakers like a bicep set, so needless to say, we couldn't wait to get the headphones off and soundtrack our neighbours' Saturday afternoons with the type of house you only ever hear in German car commercials and coming out of the foyers of brothels.
We each quickly developed our own coping mechanisms to find some semblance of sanity in the haze of 4x4 grooves. Matt took his shirt off and started cooking...
While Francey took some co-codamol and bought a crate. Different strokes.
Hour 27, 6PM: I guess we were excited to go out – again – but the headaches were really bringing down the vibes. We needed more alcohol, so we invented the "glow-jito". We started gargling it and felt as house as shit.
Hour 29, 10PM: To achieve our desired GCSE levels of scientific thoroughness, it was decided that this experiment probably needed an outsider’s perspective, someone who could be completely objective. It's all very well taking the word of those who've experienced it first-hand, but if we always did that, we'd all end up believing those fundamentalist Christian nutjobs on American TV who claim to have witnessed the afterlife.
What we needed here was an observant, unbiased expert who could tell the difference between actual house and a Fatboy Slim single. With that in mind, we called in Clive Martin of "Big Night Out" fame to perform some incredibly hard sobriety tests on us as we neared the halfway point.
"I approached the house of house with intrigued trepidation and a bag full of Stella. Was this going to be a disappointment? Was I going to walk in on a couple of guys playing Fifa and nodding their heads to “The Rockafeller Skank”? Or was I going to be privy to some kind of groundbreaking psychological research? Could this be EDM’s Stanford Prison Experiment, or just a half-arsed excuse to do a load of pills and get drinks on expenses?
“Entering the base camp, it was clear something was a little bit off. The atmosphere didn’t seem oppressive or traumatic, like I'd feared. Instead, it felt heightened and intense. Everyone was wide-eyed, eager to make friends and hear about each other’s lives as the soundsystem thudded away in the background. Was this the music, or had they been indulging in house music’s favourite side dish already? I wondered if perhaps they’d reached the state of drug-free euphoria that the high-on-life guys at Creamfields talk about achieving.
“I ran some tests, and all in all they seemed OK (apart from some shaky alphabet expertise). But this was only day two. This was a pit stop; the panto interval. I consoled myself with the knowledge that it could only go downhill from here."
Hour 30, 11PM: By the time we'd hit the tube, we were soaring up the vibes chart. After meeting some friends for a few more glow-jitos, we took the tube to Holic at Cafe 1001. Someone had brought along some bubble mixture and a giant... bubble blower thing, and we set about transforming the Central Line into some kind of psytrance wonderland, which made everyone else on their way back to Hainault feel pretty bad about their lives.
Hour 32, 1AM: Almost immediately upon entrance, mantis syndrome had consumed us. We had become house. There was no life without house. Some people choose life, we chose something else; we chose house. Every time the DJ changed his tune slightly, we felt like new people. New, fucked up mantis people.
Hour 34, 3AM: Despite Cafe 1001 usually being a place for hipster tourists to buy £10 burgers that fall apart as soon as you pick them up, Holic yielded the highest recording on the vibes scale for both of us. It seemed that our serotonin levels had peaked halfway through the ordeal. We were trapped in a moment, poised with perfect balance on a vibe-wire stretched high and taut between a past we couldn't return to and a future we knew we had to reach.
Hour 40, 9AM: To combat the mind-melting effects that 40 hours of house music can have on your noggin, it's important to keep the brain active by reading some well-written, engaging and entertaining literature. Failing that, just get a hot blonde to read you Chris Evans' autobiography. Nothing sends me off to the land of nod quite like hearing about that time Gazza and Noel Gallagher threw Jimmy Five Bellies’ dog off a railway bridge.
We were really proud of ourselves by this point. Despite some wobbly moments this morning, so far the weekend had been amazing. Things could only get better on day three, right?
DAY THREE: SUNDAY / MONDAY MORNING
Hour 44, 1PM: Shit, maybe not. When Matt woke up suffering from his 400,000th high hat to the cranium, it was clear that his once-sharp mind had now deserted him. Our headaches were getting exponentially worse and we were in the relegation zone in the vibes table. We needed to get Matt drunk and into a club as soon as possible, so we headed to Kubicle at Basing House, which takes place every Sunday at 2PM. This means it is populated exclusively by bar staff and people who've just been dumped, but our priority was to get Matt's eyes pointing in the same direction again.
Hour 46, 3PM: If you’ve never invaded a DJ booth at 3PM on a Sunday afternoon, then you haven't lived. You also probably don’t really understand what house means to the seething, tragic, desperate masses of people who make the pilgrimage to Kubicle every week. It was extremely difficult to avoid the old clichés about the clubbing experience being a religious one, though that may just have been because our brains were so harnessed to the 4x4 thud by now that independent thoughts were strictly off-limits to us.
Hour 54, 11PM: While the rest of Britain composted their brains with X Factor catch-ups and Sunday roast lethargy, we were submerged in facepaint and unnecessary sunglasses. For Francey, a young man from ye olde parochial Belfast, the experience of raving on a Sunday night felt so exclusive that he started to believe he was in the Illuminati.
Hour 60, 5AM: Matt was looking better. He didn't speak a word after hour 55, so we couldn't tell if he was sleep-dancing or just really drunk, but it definitely made everyone else in the room feel better that we couldn't see his eyes any more.
Hour 61, 6AM: Our last event was at a place called Aquarium. All anyone needs to know about Aquarium is that it stays open until 11AM and has a swimming pool. It is almost exclusively populated by hen parties and people who just got out of Pentonville. The music was Rihanna-remix-orientated, it was seedy, the pool was closed and vibes were plummeting.
Despite that, there were a surprising number of people in attendance – people for whom shivering in a cold swimming pool in a club in Shoreditch at 6AM on a Monday morning is apparently a completely normal thing. We thought we were going HAM, but these people were going PORK.
Hour 62, 7AM: The night was called “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop”. But, at least in this guy's case, it should have been called “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, Really Fucking Should Stop”.
Hour 64, 9AM: It was time for us to stop.
DAY FOUR: MONDAY
Hour 68, 1PM: We ended up sleeping through our alarms – electronic bleeps and beats were normality for us by this point, a poxy bit of beeping wasn't going to stir us – so had inadvertently carried on our house marathon into its 68th hour. By the time we finally woke up, me with Paul Johnson in my ear asking me where his fucking balloon was, we were both at an all-time low. House had fucked up our brains worse than Pendulum fucked up DnB.
Hour 69, 2PM: We both took half-hour "recovery showers" and attempted to reassembled our brains. But we didn't stop listening to house. Fuck it, we'd gone beyond and we weren't gonna stop. Walter Jones was playing in the bathroom and we both felt like we'd arrived the guilty side of some sordid, weekend-long tryst. We both felt like we'd fucked each other's girlfriends.
Hour 70, 3PM: It was time to begin the working week.
We concluded that house music gets exponentially better the more you listen to it, while also becoming more and more addictive. You begin to worship the DJ and crave the slight changes in the music, which may explain the mania that afflicts the house scene every time a new subgenre of it emerges. Oh, and you also get really fucking bad headaches.
Over the course of the following two days, we had to wean ourselves off of the sound that had co-opted our heartbeats, moving first to minimal techno (the methadone of house addiction), and then gradually – down through early Hatcha mixes and Shed – to silence. Sweet, blissful, John Cage, Harold Pinter, silence. At its heights, this was one of the best weekends of our lives. At its lows, it felt like we'd been trepanned by David Morales.
If you've drunk or drugged yourself to the point where you can no longer process human emotions, here's our weekend summed up in numerical data on that "vibe chart" we talked about.
HOUSE IS A FEELING Y'ALL
More nights out: