Returning to the club scene which previously defined me, I’m confronted with the realization that my “not too long ago” was a very long ago indeed. Has it evolved? Or have I simply moved on?
I used to thrive on the bright, flashing lights. I used to thrive on the music reverberating through my body. I used to thrive on the affection between friends and strangers. But alas, times have changed. Or have they? Am I now inert toward the romantic power of Saturday nights, or am I just playing hard to get?
I am hoping to have an answer by the time I have finished writing this.
Before I start, a bit of context about me: I am a 30-year-old primary school teacher who loves his job. My “glory days” of partying were somewhere between 2007-2010 and my experiences will relate mostly to the Wollongong [Australia] nightlife scene in this period. I am also acutely aware that back in 2007 someone probably took a look at my friends and me and felt the same sense of impending loss I’m experiencing now, as well as an urge to voice the change of the times. That younger me would have agreed to this person’s face before undercutting their message upon their exit.
Why all this nostalgia? I recently dipped my toe back into the nightlife after a self-imposed exile. Whilst the ’Gong used to contain a series of similar nightclubs, it has recently morphed into a series of trendy sit-down bars, dressing the same as its big brother, Sydney. Looking cool, I have discovered, is evidently in.
Being the washed-up partier I now am, I enjoyed the (overpriced) drinks and conversation with close friends while some generic house music played in the background. Had Wollongong changed that much? I thought so, until I went to get money out from an ATM and a shirtless man was trying to catch a pigeon – with his shirt. I sighed with relief as the surroundings suddenly felt more familiar again.
The night was fated to wind up at the place that was essentially the place in 2007. I was a mixture of nervous and scared, as it had been at least three years since I last stepped foot inside this place and even then, the aura and vibe had well and truly gone.
At what point did it become socially acceptable to wear a singlet and a hat to a club?
We approached the doors, no lineup to get in, which led to my surprise when $20 was subtracted from my person. Back in the day, $20 would have gotten me entry to Mark Dynamix (where did he end up?) and a few drinks (The Ministry of Inflation?). Oh well, for this price, I am sure that these DJs must be decent. Upon entering, the warm-up act dropped Mylo’s “Drop the Pressure” (an absolute beast of a tune from the glory days) but this only gave me a false sense of security; what followed for the next few hours was a mishmash of the most horrendously generic, random early-2000s songs. I know that at heart, dance music can be very generic.
The songs I enjoyed back in the day (and still do now) could easily be classed as such. They did, however, hold some sort of narrative structure. They espoused the merits of a medical surgeon whose operating theatre was the dance floor (see: “Dr. Beat”), they offered an easy how-to-dance step-by-step guide to follow the routine of a fish (see: “The Salmon Dance”), or on some baser level, asked all among the sweating thumping masses one introspective, nihilistic question: “Why?” (see: Supermode’s “Tell me why“); or to the vicious knowing wail of Calvin Harris’ “I’m Not Alone” (Deadmau5 remix), after Calvin flatly admitted (as we all had at our lowest), “I can’t do this anymore,” we were then challenged with, “Can you stay up for the weekend / Until next year?” – personal challenges to be met and overcome. To quote a cohort who wingmanned me through these nights: “Have another?”
Dealing with it later was the name of the stamp on collective wrists.
This largess of meaning was in marked opposition to the dope beats sampled last week. As John Course as my witness, I tell no lie when I say that every time the beat was dropped, it sounded exactly the same. I don’t know whether this is a testament to the tenets of current electronic music or the DJs’ devotion to the same beat, but it was less than inspiring. In between these generic beats were sections of songs such as Wheatus’ “Teenage Dirtbag” and Blink 182’s “All the Small Things.”
The amount of friendships and love from the right tune at the right time – back then – was ridiculous; people connecting with people purely for a dance and love of a song. There was no sense of this now – just loud music and everyone in it for themselves, or a chance to impress the opposite sex on the off chance that they may fornicate later.
And the dress sense of some of the younger chaps these days confused me. At what point did it become socially acceptable to wear a singlet and a hat to a club? I am by no means the pinnacle of fashion, but if you turned up to a club in a singlet back in 2007, you would not have entered. Hot tip for all those singlet-in-the-club lovers: you fucking stink. Dancing eventually produces body odor so it is expected that it will occur, but be warned: if you wear a singlet, no amount of cologne can cover you up. Also, the effects of UV rays upon you inside the club are so minimal that it is my belief that you can survive without a hat. Although, to be fair, I haven’t read the research on this.
The people inside the venue seemed happy enough, and there was a distinct lack of fighting. Fair play to all those there that night, because getting drunk and fighting others is really shit. However, there was still that lingering sense in the air that if you accidentally bumped the wrong person, you might end up with a plastic cup to the face (Wollongong: home of the glassing-no-more).
As I come to my conclusion, I am not sure whether I have answered my question. I highlighted to my wife that to get a better sample, maybe I need to spend the next few weekends taking drugs amongst some of Wollongong’s nightlife (after all, it is the school holidays). She seemed rather unenthused, and with this in mind, I would now argue that it is me who has changed. But with a bit more of that “can-do” spirit and some MDMA, I could force myself back into today’s scene, older and wiser, with a tall tale or two for the up-and-comers. But I do I want to?
“Well,” as Blink 182 taught us, “I guess this is growing up.”