For all we talk about nightclubs being communal spaces, the experience of losing yourself in a club, I mean really losing yourself, is probably the most intimate and inward looking you're ever going to get. The same goes for taking ecstasy. Yes there's all the 'I love you man's, but ultimately the lived experiences goes on inside your head.
And in your head, in that sealed vessel, the significance attached to proceedings knows no bounds. Every kick drum becomes a taut pang, symbiotic with your heartbeat. The cold, rushing tingle as you come up feels like a set of a fingers gingerly rolling down your back. The music builds, you sense a melody ebbing back and forth like a tide teasing the shoreline, before it crashes down. The bass drops into place. You raise one hand into the air and purse your eyes tightly closed. Despite the world, you are climbing to heaven.
Except, you're not. You're stood in a badly painted building that smells like sweat and energy drinks, the collar of your t shirt has gone all weird and stretched, and you're pulling a face that resembles a flaccid husband trying to convince his wife he is climaxing. This is the reality, or rather illusion, of going out. It's present every time you take photos on a big night and then look at them the next day. What felt like a paradise, a technicolour embrace of sound and sensation, is revealed in the cold light of day to have been a bunch of bug-eyed twenty-somethings shuffling around under a few LED lights the club owner picked up from Maplins. It's basically the dissonance between what you felt, and what you looked like.
This dissonance, this distance, has never been better articulated than when Mark pretended to take a pinger in Peep Show. With the final series of the show starting this evening, I recently went on a Youtube trawl of old clips, soaking up some of the series finer moments. As a sitcom, it has always had the power to bring the real talk in inventive and harrowing ways. The ecstasy scene, included below, is a shining example of this. Watch, and count the ways your entire love of dance music and club culture is made to look completely ludicrous.
Yes, in the scene, Mark does look stupid as well—shouts out "I think I might be getting the famous munchies" for one of the funniest lines in that entire series—but the real butt of the joke is everyone else. One pill deep and suddenly describing middle of the road techno as genius, suddenly establishing connections with everyone else, suddenly feeling like you are trapped inside a giant aero.
Of course, going out and taking drugs and enjoying a nightclub doesn't make you a moron. But it does make you do moronic things. Moronic things you don't think are moronic at the time. In fact these moronic things often feel like the most important, powerful, significant, breathtaking things you will ever do, ever feel, and ever think. The best part of all of this is you'll never really know. It's not like next time you go out and get fucked you're suddenly going to think, "oh I really must remember that Peep Show clip and make sure I don't say anything stupid." No, you'll do it all over again and it will feel just as good as last time.
Only the next day, when you are trying to remember the name of whoever it was you cornered on the way to the toilets, telling them about your short stories or your girlfriend or your childhood, you may suddenly realise the uncomfortable truth. That the technicolour embrace, was in fact, the grip of the moron.