This article originally appeared on thump, in 2016
It could be said that 2016 is categorically not the year of the sesh. That in fact, the sesh existed long before this year. That in fact, the sesh—the eking out of lifeblood over half-smoked rollies and lines of ketamine in dimly-lit lounges—is a long and fabled tradition that stretches back as far as partying itself. That as soon as there was a party, there was an after-party, and as soon as there was an after-party, there was a smoggy, grotty unending crack on. That after the very first neanderthal ritual or primitive ceremony, one bare-footed primate grunted to another something about "heading back to my cave for afters."
Yet, while it might be true that the idea of a three-day bender is nothing new, "the sesh"—as in the nominal lionisation of the binge—absolutely is. There is no trend, no meme which has better captured the clubbing community's imagination this year. 2016 has undoubtedly been the year of the sesh.
Before we go any further, let's ingratiate anyone unfamiliar with what exactly "the sesh" is. Put simply, the sesh (trans: the session) is an internet joke which documents the mindless excess of post-party drug and booze binges. Typically "the sesh" is a term used to describe the point a night out stops being a party and becomes an endurance test.
Established in August of 2015, the starting point of the meme is generally accepted to have been the "Humans of the Sesh," which began by parodying the popular "Humans of New York" account—adapting sentimental stories about people's lives into tales of drug-fueled benders. The page was created by two friends in Ireland, who didn't want to give me their real names in case their employers figured out who they were. They were, however, happy to give nicknames—Brown Sauce and Grand Feen. "The sesh has been with us since we were young lads sneakin' out the back of our houses to smoke dirty hash joints, to when we took our first pills," Brown Sauce told me. "The sesh ages with you."
The content—the videos, the memes, the pictures—typical of the sesh takes many forms. Some are simple turns of phrase, like "blood, ket and tears," while others take the form of videos of bemused k-holing crusaders caught on snapchat the wrong side of 11AM. It's a kingdom of 3 in 1 packs of Amber Leaf, thick cut lines, bleary-eyed bus journeys home in daylight, cracked tinnies and soupy, thick, inescapable comedowns. To all intents and purposes, the world of "the sesh" is not a pretty place, nor is it a happy one, but for many of us, it is a familiar one.
Grand Feen recognises that, quite accidentally their meme has created a community—a subculture even. "People have always been sessioning but the internet, and I suppose our page, has given the people who would always have been separated from each other, crowded into small houses around the city, a place to gather in a way," he told me.
It's this grim relatability that's afforded the sesh so much success. Not everyone will identify with it; some people leave nightclubs at the right time and forgo the unnecessary ATM withdrawals, and subsequent days of regret. Yet for those who do know the sesh, those who self-identify as "sesh gremlins"—memes which capture their culture are not only funny, but can border on harrowing. Anyone who's ever had to take public transport home after a long one round somebody's flat will likely find this post particularly close to the bone, for example. You only need to look at the overwhelming adoration poured upon the two sesh gremlins, whose message in a bottle was discovered by a 13-year-old boy in Hampshire to get a feel for how much of a chord it's struck.
Yet this newfound devotion to the sesh represents more than a meme. As a trend it signals a type of partying that is entirely removed from music, communality, and in some respects even fun. Seshing isn't about transgression, or transcendence any more than it is attached to a certain sound, or a particular city. In fact, the sesh is basically club culture with all the "culture" bit sucked out. Mindless hedonism, simply for the sake of it—no substance, just substances.
This absence of meaning is crucial to understanding why it has proven so prevalent this year. If 2016 will be remembered for one thing—in a broader, global sense—it will be the failing of ideologies. The year that liberal ideals like equality and compassion were proved all too often to be little more than that, ideals—fridge magnet slogans with next to no currency in the real world. From the scapegoat politics and lies that paved the way for the Brexit vote, to the wave of hate Trump rode into the White House, this year was one where previously infallible-seeming sentiments collapsed. As such, it's morbidly fitting that the year's most prevalent trend was one which renounced all the grand ideals of "club culture" and simply celebrated self-annihilation. 2016 wasn't the year we got angry, it was the year we gave up. As such, the sesh, the meme-ification of nihilism, was the perfect response.
That's not to give the sesh an unfair hard time. To its credit, the Humans of the Sesh page manages to do the party-bravado, stamina schtick of lad culture without the misogyny, or reliance on patriotism that so often clouds "banter" accounts. It's also a very unpretentious egalitarian movement. The sesh welcomes one and all inside its fusty living room at 6 in the morning, provided you've got a blue bag of tins and spare Rizla going.
It's still a little disconcerting though. If we acknowledge the sesh as the most unanimous thread of our club culture, then what are we confessing to? If we're being cynical, we could say that the rise of the sesh proves we don't really give a shit who's DJing tonight. We don't really care about community, or fostering creative spaces. That actually all we care about is crushing up pills and turning our nostrils blue, staring into the middle distance until its Sunday afternoon and we can sleep through til work starts on Monday. The self-destructive elements of the meme are something its creators are conscious of. Both of them are reticent to identify as "sesh gremlins"—only "once in a full moon" claims Brown Sauce—and Grand Feen stressed a desire to make fans of the sesh aware that "taking pills every single weekend is going to fuck with your head."
This social conscience is noble, but it's likely to fall on deaf ears—you can't really blame the sesh gremlins, can you? The meme articulates the desperate release of a generation who have watched on as their nightclubs have been closed, and their economic futures damned. There's very little to celebrate when your chances of owning your own home are about as slim as the chances of ever paying off your student debt, and when your country has just switched the dial from "austerity" to "full medieval Toryism"—when the international mood seems to be one of self-interest and prejudice, nostalgia and protectionism. The sesh is punk for the politically adrift, hedonism for joyless.
So they sesh, they sesh and sesh and sesh. They crowd around squat, wooden coffee tables—pushing lighters and empty fag packets over the sticky rings of last weekend's tinnies to clear a flat surface. They bang on about the same shit they always do, every single time; his boyfriend, your job, her dad's midlife crisis—patting the same people on the back for the same one good thing they did six months ago. And every weekend, while they silently sail through cold cities in the backs of Ubers or the top decks of buses, they tell themselves that once they've slept this one off, they'll get back on track. They'll have a few weekends off, they'll get their shit together. Then Monday turns into 5PM on a Friday, the first taste of beer passes their lips and they're back at square one.
Which maybe is why "the sesh" has proven such a popular trend this year. Yes, it's a bit corny—nobody really wants to hear your drug stories—but it's given us a chance to laugh at the collective self-flagellation we're part of every weekend.
That said, the joy of the sesh can only last so long. At some point young people are going to demand more than funneling powder into their nostrils and submitting grainy clips of whities to the "Oot Yer Nut at T" Twitter account. At some point young people are going to demand more from club culture than an infinite stretch of branded warehouse parties, "big tunes," Patrick Topping's taste in T-shirts, shit memes and legendary stories about people shitting themselves while on dodgy ket. At some point the comedown is going to be too bad, the sky outside too grey, and the culture too empty.
Until then, back to yours?