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The Best Time to Get to the Club: A Scientific Analysis

To avoid both long lines and dead parties, follow the advice of THUMP's editors.

Every Friday as you emerge from the drudgery of the workplace into the night of possibility outside, you're faced with an overwhelming deluge of pressing questions like: Where are you going to find a clean public bathroom at 4 AM? What sort of grease-covered post-club snack will you regret least in the morning? Does that dude leaning against the bar look familiar because he's a DJ—or because you saw him once on Tinder?

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But before you even consider any of those common nightlife conundrums, there is a single, important question that must be answered: what time should you get to the club?

Properly timing your arrival is an elusive endeavor. Arrive too early and you'll be stuck with aching feet by the time the headliner rolls around. Arrive too late and you're stuck with massive lines or worse—a club that's turned into a ghost town crawling with ketamine zombies.

Discerning the most ideal time to roll up to the party will forever remain a dark art rather than exact science, but we decided to mull it over anyway. Read on for impassioned arguments made by THUMP's editors around the world about when that golden hour strikes. Together, with any luck, we can all avoid dead clubs and droopy eyelids.

10PM

Hold on. 10PM? Surely that's too early? Surely, if I arrive at 10PM I will look like the sort of nerd who wears a seatbelt for the whole flight? The sort of person who doesn't drink milk because they've read something about it having cancerous properties on the internet. Well, yes, maybe you will, but you know what else you'll look like? The sort of person who loves music so much they simply can't bear to miss a single second of any DJ set available to them. You'll also enjoy a good two hours of complete easy access to the bar, first dibs on the cloakroom, clean toilets, relaxed bouncers at the start of their shift, and a dance floor so empty you'll have the room to do triple pirouettes and kick steps you snazzy bastard. Trust me. Forget drinking before. It's me and you, an empty club, and the night of our lives.—Angus Harrison

11PM

I've been balancing various more-than-full-time music writing jobs with going out for about six years now. At a certain point, you just get sick of going to work in morning and feeling like shit, or sleeping through all the sunlight hours on Saturdays and Sundays and wondering why you're so depressed. Maybe you just get old—or maybe, as I like to think of it, you learn through experience that spending all your free time hanging out with inebriated people while screaming over loud music and pretending you actually hear what your conversation partner is saying isn't going to spiritually fill you up.

You need to save time and energy for other things in life—like doing laundry, and seeing non-scene friends, and whatever late-capitalist urban pastimes you like to spend your expendable income on (juice-drinking? brunching? pilates?). The 11:00 PM arrival time is perfect for that. You arrive early enough to have a few drinks, catch the headliner (usually), and then cab it home early enough so that you can wake up before noon feeling relatively refreshed.— Emilie Friedlander

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11:30PM

The late DJ Rashad was right when he declared on an early track that being in the club before 11PM was, well, kinda early. There's surely few circles of hell lower than having to navigate the discomfort of being alone in a nearly empty room with a DJ and their bored significant other, but the early part of the night is still the sweet spot if only because it provides you with options. At some of the more DIY minded venues in New York, the evening's early show will still be ongoing at 11:30PM, leaving you a prime half an hour to catch the latest buzzy act in blackened punk or bedroom pop or alt-country or whatever, before you spend the next four plus hours bouncing to a barely modulating kick drum.

If your club of choice opens their doors at 10PM, 11:30PM will be prime time to catch the best local support on the bill, which in New York can mean excitement far exceeding the headliner, even if the crowd's more sparse. And then, if you're having a hard time dealing with the austere environs of the megaclub, you can always head to a different show, or even to bed! We won't judge! Man cannot live on techno alone.—Colin Joyce

12AM

The 10PM-12AM period is for the folks who want to say they came to a party, but won't really give to the nightlife. Getting there at 12AM means you can support the (usually local) opener and the ramp-up. For DJs who constantly open, we call the 10PM to 1AM set the "security slot"—if you can get security bobbing their head in an empty room then you're doing it right. Midnight in New York City is a great time, it's when the room slowly starts to fill and transition into a proper party.

Drinks start flowing, people loosen up, bodies absorb the sound and a thumping kick drum starts to feel less foreign. It always takes those few brave souls to get the floor really going but by 1 it's in full swing. I also love checking out openers. A good one is patient, they thrive on an ability to embrace a different vibe or tempo and there's a lot more freedom to move around musically. Don't say "oh man, I missed your set" again and again. Who knows, you may like the opener more than the main attraction.—Joel Fowler

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12:30AM

The last bus in Mexico City runs at midnight. So to deal with this fact, I head out before public transportation closes, and then by time I'm done, usually around 10AM, I don't have to worry about my return because it's running again. If parties started at midnight, I'd show up from the first minute and keep dancing until sunrise. As it is, I'd love to support opening acts, but they don't always get you moving anyway.—Valeria Anzaldo

2:30AM

Los Angeles exists in an unfortunate timewarp. If you get to the club a 11PM, you'll be the only person in the room. If you get to the club at midnight, you'll be part of the apocalyptically large bombardment of arrivals and spend more time waiting in line than on the dancefloor. Show up at 1AM, and you've only got about half an hour before the place stops serving booze or shuts down entirely. This is all moot because most clubs in Los Angeles suck anyway, so you should skip them entirely and just go to the afters, which should be steadily progressing from creepy to crawly around 2:30 AM.

Please consider the following method instead of the traditional rigmarole: get daydrunk at an afternoon party (preferably rooftop and poolside), sleep/eat/blaze your way through the evening, then rouse yourself at midnight, pre-game (what we like to call re-game), and hit the afterparty, where you will undoubtedly be the life of the whole affair thanks to your freshness and vigor.—Jemayel Khawaja

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3AM

3AM is the witching hour—the magic time when the dancefloor is ceded to the true vibers. Think about it this way: drunk people are pussies and get tired easily, so you can count on them to stumble out of the club by 2AM. The horn dogs who are out just to get laid will have paired up and jumped into cabs by this time too. With all the reasonable (and/or wasted) people trickling out the door—to get some sleep, to get up for work tomorrow—the club transforms into a playground for the freaks and the heads, with plenty of room to put your head down and fucking dance.

The 3AM crowd are my people because, like me, they just can't tear themselves away from the music, even if every strain of common sense tells us it's smart to go home. I've noticed that the energy in a room can completely change around this freaky hour, bending into a weirder, trippier wavelength especially as the DJ plows deeper and deeper into their set. Of course, staying till the end of the party means risking the (quite likely) possibility that you'll be left alone, jacking your exhausted limbs next to gurning drug addicts or sober music nerds. But hey, the last dance is always the hardest.—Michelle Lhooq

3:30AM

Berlin clubs open their doors at midnight and go on until late morning or longer and whenever I'm out for the night on my own, I tend to get to the club as soon as it opens. Yes mate, even the warm-up DJ needs some approval and also you can very easily experience the whole venue without drunken idiots or chatty pill-pals. That said, if you're planning on going out with friends, you'll want to arrive just before the headliner plays (usually around 4AM in Berlin). If you take your friends to the club earlier, they'll complain about an empty club. If you take your friends to the club later, they'll complain about the long queue or all the messy people inside, who are already off their tits. Or maybe you should just dump them and go the party whenever you want.—Vincent Bittner