Dancing in a dark room with strangers is too important to suck.
Photo by Jamie Taete, graphic work by Sam Taylor
Clubs, they’re the light at the end of that five-day-long tunnel of shit. They are the reminder that life is only 80 percent bad. The temporary respite from reality that they provide – those few hours lived in a cavernous netherworld with people we’ve never met and music we’ve never heard – make all the stress and angst tolerable. And in an age where most pubs are as unwelcoming and expensive as any Surrey country club, they’re more important than ever. They are our temples, youth clubs, Masonic halls and bowling greens all in one.
But as with nearly everything, if we’re not careful, it’ll all go to shit – just look at Ibiza. These days, in Britain, many nights are overpriced, oversized and over-subscribed. Your garden-variety part-time promoter seems to be more interested in being Donald Trump than Tony Wilson and the spirit of philanthropy has given way to profiteering. Those scumbags who would once have been renting boxrooms in Walthamstow to foreign students as “Dalston warehouse living” have realised that young people are as interested in paying for clubbing as they are for food. And now they’re trying to turn your night out into their retirement fund.
So, before Corsica Studios is forced to become a branch of EAT with a Funktion-One soundsystem, I thought I’d come up with something of a manifesto to save 2014 from this bleak world of Randian club culture.
Fuck Your Warehouses
Remember when warehouse parties were a fun idea? At some point they still had a novelty to them. These were events that were ostensibly legal, yet retained that outlaw spirit that marked so many of the original, illegal warehouse parties that most of us were too young to experience (unless you’re into shit hippy music, that is). They were expansive, impressive and overall fairly different. You’d get to see big DJs in big rooms without the risk of standing next to anyone in a shocking pink Lyle & Scott polo.
Fast forward a few years, though, and every cowboy promoter with a one-word club night (“Dinge!”, “Smash!, “Combust!”) seems to have conspired with the unscrupulous landlords of post-industrial east London, west Bristol and north Manchester to put on an endless slew of forgettable “warehouse parties” clogging up our Facebook events calendars.
The line-ups invariably consist of student circuit DJs and alimony riddled legends who can’t wait to get out before the ceiling collapses. The crowd, meanwhile, is usually just an endless surge of people who don’t really know what they’re doing, but are happy to waste a lot of money and serotonin doing it. They’ve become the worst kind of clubbing experiences. Cold, damp hellpits with cagefighters working the door, smoking areas you have to queue for and stressed first-shift bar staff who won’t let you open your own £4.50 can of Red Stripe.
Photo by Josh Jasper
Stop Staring at the DJ
A problem with DJ idolatry is that people stop dancing when their favourite selectors take to the booth. Instead, they become slack-jawed BPM stalkers trying to read the serial numbers in DJ Harvey’s box of magic. It’s a total antithesis of everything that clubbing should be about and it needs to die a quick and brutal death.
Reclaim the floor. Turn your backs on the DJ, face each other and dance, because the person playing the tunes is just that: a person playing tunes. They aren’t Slash at Colorado Red Rocks Amphitheatre, or Yo-Yo Ma at the Sydney Opera House. You're in a club and you’re there to dance, not to stand there quietly appreciating some Logic shut-in's crossfader skills.
Tear Off the Wristbands
Have you ever been to a GOOD event that involved the use of a plastic wristband? Not GOOD as in: “I took six pills and vaguely remember seeing some of Boddika,” but good as in: "This place is my church, let's come here every week until the end of my life.” I’d say that unless you’re easily pleased or live in the middle of nowhere and will take what you can get, you probably haven’t.
Alright, the paper ones are fair game, essentially just stamps to prove that you didn’t sneak in the back door. But the plastic ones, they’re like something out of Logan’s Run; artery-clamping fun-cuffs that reek of privatised fun, like the London Olympics but with bouncers in the toilets checking your feet are pointing the right way inside the cubicle. They look shit and they add a worryingly totalitarian feel to going out. Stop with the wristbands, it’s a nightclub, not fucking Live 8.
Don't Rely On the Legends
Of course, the legends are legends for a reason. Invariably they’re people who have paid their dues, mastered their craft and will add a sense of occasion to a run-of-the-mill club night. But maybe their appearances should remain occasional, rather than nightly, because at the moment Resident Advisor’s London events section looks like an advert for some kind of weird “Legends of House” reunion tour.
Yes, there are plenty of great young DJs out there pulling in the crowds, but the fact remains that it’s the household names who’ll take the ticket prices into the stratosphere. Because of this, the club scene is starting to seem like one big heritage festival. We’re all at risk of giving clubs over to those people who won’t see a show unless it’s featured on the Ticketmaster homepage.
There’s always going to be a place for the heroes, but no one wants to live in a world where a dye-jobbed Joy O is still banging out “Ellipsis” to his own kids' mates 25 years from now.
Don't Have Fights
Keep your petty uni beefs out of our clubs. You can’t fight, so don’t fight. A pretty little home counties face isn’t designed to kiss its teeth. All that’s gonna happen is that you’ll get thrown out and a girl will cry. But, if you really, really insist on it, there’s a place called The Happy Man, in Manor House, where somebody will be more than willing to indulge you and your fucking snapback.
Get Better Residents
I think that a lot of punters and promoters alike need to realise that most of the great clubs, the ones that we mythologise and pretend we were at, became what they were because they had great resident DJs. They set a kind of tone and aesthetic and defined their night. David Mancuso didn’t start life as a superstar; he was a resident, a worker. Same with Larry Levan. The Hacienda wouldn’t have been The Hacienda without Mike Pickering, who nobody had really heard of before he came along with his Mr Fingers edits and Joe Bloggs jumpers and changed the face of UK clubbing forever.
If you’re just flying people in for a stuffed envelope and a Nando’s voucher, you’re not going to develop that crucial state of familiarity and consistency that all the great club nights have. If you run a club like that, you might as well just be working Live Nation, booking celebrities and leaving once the door money’s in your pocket.
Promoters need to learn to have a bit more vision than just “What’s MJ Cole up to on the 27th?” and try to create some kind of lasting impression on the scene, because that’s how you’ll end up in the history books. And however little you reckon you care about that now, you're gonna need something to mark these years by when you're sat in a hospice bed and the only thing you can remember is the two-chord piano intro to "An Instrumental Need" by Ralphi Rosario.
We Need to Build a Proper Vibe
Unless you’re into gabber or jump-up DnB, where your “journey” is basically a potholed A-road from “buzzing tits off” to “an absolute zero of despair”, you’ll understand that great clubs are supposed to take you on a trip.
In recent years, this has become increasingly difficult. The main factor in this is, alas, the unavoidable introduction of the smoking area. A move that has done a lot for people’s chances of getting laid, but very little for DJs who dreams of locking you into a set and steadily raising you up on a gilded plinth of your own synthetic euphoria.
Because of this, a lot of DJs are starting at full pelt, playing shorter sets and basically spending their time desperately trying to keep people in the room. Some have mastered this, but what about someone like Theo Parrish, whose selection philosophy is slightly more developed than “big beats loud and fast”? And what about the warm-up DJs? They’re now so ignored they could easily be playing personal slurs aimed at each member of the audience and no one would notice. Clubs have become more like indie nights, where everyone comes to see the live acts then fucks off for a cigarette when the DJs start. Which is of course the total antithesis of what we should be aiming for.
So: Stop fucking smoking. It’ll kill you, you know.
Photo by Jamie Taete
Whatever Happened to Chemical "Oneness"?
I can’t help but feel that most big electronic nights are starting to feel like the opening scene to The Warriors, a gathering of different tribes in one room, brought together in an uneasy union. It’s not fashion or geography that separates them, it’s drugs.
Be it the tingly fantasy world of MDMA, the dog-fuck-dog cocaine universe, the sink estate of mind that is ketamine, or whatever legal high killing field has been created that week, everyone seems to be lost in their own drug cul-de-sac. Because of that, that sense of a unifying feeling – that “one nation, one drug, one beat” cliché that old ravers bang on about – has basically been lost.
I fear we may have gone too far to ever return, but that’s a shame; as anyone who’s ever had their buzz broken by a flailing K-fiend on the stairs at a techno night will attest to.
Stop Treating Us Like Scum
Thank god, not many clubs I go to on a regular basis have installed retina scans or finger-print technology yet, but having been to all sorts of weird and wonderful nights around the country in a professional capacity, I can tell you – They Are Coming. Yes, soon, getting into anywhere bigger than a Yates's Wine Bar is basically going to be like boarding Air Force One.
This is problematic for a number of reasons. Firstly because it’s something that should be in an episode of Farscape and not a British nightclub. Secondly, because it creates massive queues. And thirdly, because it’s fucking disgusting. Just imagine getting refused entrance to a club because you just got caught screwing in a toilet at another place down the road. What about when police start telling clubs that they can’t let in anyone who's got a previous drugs rap? It'll be a right laugh.
Stop Going to Clubs
So, basically, reading back what I’ve written, I think what I’m saying is: in 2014, fuck clubs and start throwing illegal raves again.
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