Back in the day there was a clear divide between pubs and clubs. Pubs were friendly, helpful places where friends could converse and share humorous witticisms over a pint of pleasant ale, a good pub quiz and a sumptuous roast dinner. This was in direct contrast to clubs which were vile cesspools full of eye-bleeding music and a general atmosphere of personal indifference that made me want to sit in a corner and question what exactly it was that separated those drunken, inane, lust-fuelled morons present from a cattle market of humanity and dignity.
After a sustained period of unabated bigotry towards clubbing and all matters concerning it I eventually discovered that maybe I was being a little black and white about the whole issue.
I think now that the enjoyment of heading into a dark, deafening environment is dependent on three factors. First, you have to be good enough friends with those around you so that half-heard bits of conversation and random hands gestures are fully comprehended and understood. Second, the music has to be something that makes you want to shake your derriere like you just don’t care. Last, and most debatably least, the supply line to whatever drugstore of choice, be it bar or dealer, must be readily available at all times.
The first and third factors are pretty self-evident. The kind of people you see out clubbing on their own are the 38 year-old ‘they don’t look right’ kind of individuals who are often found catching women who have suddenly collapsed on the dancefloor. No one else goes to a club on their own because if they do they become confronted with the fact that their wasting their time in a loud, obnoxious environment, pissing cash down a self-indulgent drain, suddenly snap, and cut themselves or something.
And if your consciousness doesn’t have to skewed to some extent in order to enjoy a blaring, insufferable environment where you attempt to sing and dance as you defecate what little cash you don’t have down a blackhole of hangover and debt then you might be Jesus.
The second factor is what I’ve found most important though. The quality of mates you’re with is important, sure, but if you’re all standing there staring vaguely into space, unable to communicate properly because of the crushing sound of music which in turn is crushing your soul because of its dire mediocrity and lack of any booty-shaking properties then the night is going to be shit, sans question.
It took me a few months at University before I realised that this second factor wasn’t entirely insurmountable. For a long while my only experience of music at clubs was either repetitive cheese or godawful contemporary pop. I do have a massive problem with both these kinds of music per se, not least because even when these songs are played full volume with the bass whacked up to ∞ I just can’t dance to them. If I try then I just end up repulsing myself. My limbs don’t move right, I can’t find any semblance of rhythm and I resort to vaguely swaying from side to side in a self-conscious manner, awkwardly smiling whilst some prick next to me belts out ‘Living On A Prayer’ for the umpteenth time in his life, no doubt thinking that he’s such an ironic, go-happy kind of guy.
After a few abortive attempts at ‘livin’-it-large’, ‘cloobin’ and other ridiculous northern terms, I became a bitter and cantankerous man, sneering at those who went off to sweat a lonely existence at the local club instead of enjoying a decent pint and good company. Then, one fateful night (I say fateful, in all honesty I’m sure Fate had better things to be doing with Its time) a friend seized me by the hand, hurled me into a taxi and took me to a drum ‘n’ bass night.
Things changed for me that night. I took the usual precautionary pre-club steps of necking as many whiskey and cokes as possible, bracing myself for the expected onslaught of awkwardness and depression. I’d heard drum ‘n’ bass before and it sounded ridiculous. But in a club the whole meaning behind it became clear. I found it utterly compulsive. I couldn’t help dancing, throwing my body around like a jumper in a tumbledryer I experienced my first moment of pure joy in a club. I realised what the fuss was all about, I understood why dancing was fun. It was a life-changing moment.
Now I don’t for a minute mean to suggest that drum ‘n’ bass is better than cheese. Drum ‘n’ bass outside of a club environment just sounds like noise. Which is what it is really. It’s a deep-rooted, tribal sound. The kind of music that connects with the ancestral part of my genetic code that remembers what it was like to lick frogs and stomp around a campfire, begging and pleading with the sun to rise again the next morning and for the little imps with sharp teeth to kindly bugger off. Dancing to it made me feel alive in a way that cheese and pop never could. I’m sure some people have a similar experience at cheese nights though. Horses for courses and all that. At least I hope they do… the alternative is just too fucking depressing.
Anyhoo, after realising my love for some things club, I ventured out more often and discovered that actually there are some damn good club nights out there and they aren’t the evil maggot-factories I once thought they were.
But nothing could prepare me for the sheer joy and exhilaration of Itchy Feet. For those of you who aren’t down with the kids, Itchy Feet is a club night that originated in Leeds and is all about the old school (the use of that phrase puts me decidedly out of touch with the kids). They play all the old stuff: swing, jazz, rhythm and blues, rock and roll, ska, the exact kind of music that in a similar but entirely different way to drum ‘n’ bass, creates a sensation of compulsive dancing.
It’s brilliant. Most decent stuff from the 50s and 60s has a raw rhythm to it that seems so obvious to dance to. When you click your fingers in time you don’t feel like a prick, you can copy as many dance moves from Pulp Fiction as you like and know you’re doing the right thing, and best of all you can dance like your dad and feel like the coolest jiving motherfucker in the room.
At one point I wanted to leave the dancefloor so that I could dump my coat and have a cigarette. It took me about 45 minutes to find a song that I could resist dancing to. As I was leaving ‘Back in the USSR’ come on. Then ‘Great Balls of Fire’. Then ‘Liar, Liar’. Then ‘Satisfaction’. Then ‘You Really Got Me’. Then ‘Some awesome swing number that I didn't recognise’ and so forth. I physically could not tear myself away and ended up only having one cigarette the entire time I was there. Not even the funeral of my lung-cancer riddled best friend’s father kept me away from nicotine for so long. And I wasn’t the only one. Even people queuing at the bar were shaking their hips and nodding their heads in time to the music. It was infectious.
Unfortunately there were some drawbacks. On a personal level my body is so unused to exercise that when I exert myself more than, say, lifting a pen, I break out in a thick layer of sweat that drenches my entire body, meaning I look like a surviving member of the Titanic who’s just washed up and I tend to shower those around me in a fashion not unlike a human sprinkler. In fact, so sweaty and with such gusto was I throwing myself into the music that the next day I had to work hard to reassure some friends that I wasn’t pilled up to my eyeballs. I wasn’t, honest, I just loved the music so much.
Another slight drawback is that despite my own clearly defined sense of rhythm and dance moves, when you’re dancing next to incredibly talented people from Footlights and couples who can do that whole swing your partner round and twist your arms about your head without getting jumbled up in a confused and painful knot type thing, you have occasional moments of cripplingly low self-esteem. ‘Oh God I look like an arse!’ I said to myself. But my advice is to plough on through, as long as you’re enjoying yourself and carving a big enough niche in the dancefloor you can live in your own little dream world.
Lastly, because it’s such a great night, everyone and their wife, extended in-laws, cousins and friends from the country club came along. Those who had been to the first night bemoaned the fact that there were so many more people there this time. But I wasn’t there on the first night so I’d be a bit of a hypocrite if I criticised others for turning up. You night ruining cocksuckers.
And so I have come to realise over an extended period that clubs can be bloody brilliant. All it takes is the right combinations of mates, tunes and drugs and you have a night that is distinct from a pub night and about ten times more euphoric. ‘Well done Richard’, I hear you cry, ‘you’ve caught up with the last 20 years of clubbing culture’. Whatever, most club nights are still shit but Itchy Feet is a gem. I strongly urge none of you apart from those that have already been to go to Itchy Feet next time it’s on. A more compulsive, exhilarating and joyous club night thou shalt not find.
Apart from Big Cheese at Potterow on Saturday night. That’s mega!!!111!1!!1