Ladies and gentlemen, it is with regret that at the age of 30 I finally concede that my clubbing days are numbered, if not already over. But not necessarily because I consider myself too old to party amongst teeny boppers or any less fit for purpose than I was in my late teens and early twenties. Having been eligible to attend nightclubs legally since 2003, I would say that those formative years, specifically between 2004 and 2006, will be difficult to top. Of course, everyone at some point in their life will become disillusioned by certain pastimes that they indulged in at the age of innocence, but the mid-noughties was coincidently the peak era of the nightclub experience before its demise thereafter.
The demise cannot be attributed to any one single problem. The Licensing Act 2003 made possible the potential opening of nightclubs for up to 24 hours and came into full effect in November 2005, though the majority of nightclub owners did not take advantage until 2007. Before then, a night out in a nightclub was more of an occasion. Although the new longer opening hours potentially prolongs the enjoyment of drinking, dancing and socialising in general, the original closing time of 2am meant that clubbers were more likely to make the most of their time in a nightclub by entering sooner rather than later. Insofar as clubbers can now afford to enter and leave a nightclub in their own time, they are more acutely divided into groups of level of enthusiasm, what I call ”the short-winded” and ”the insatiable”. But during the era of shorter opening hours, the vast majority of Talk and Mayhem nightclub attendees in Southend-on-Sea would wind up leaving together. We would queue up at the cloak room to collect our belongings at the end of the night and it was still early enough for us to continue socialising for a while outside before heading home. Since then, a nightclub’s gross attendance is spread more thinly across the evening and thus seldom reaches its full capacity for sociability. And around the same time, as a consequence of the Health Act 2006, the smoking ban was introduced to enclosed public places on the 1st July 2007. Although this may have encouraged those who initially did not appreciate having to breathe in second-hand smoke, it is counterproductive insofar as smokers are displaced in segregated smoking areas. The clubbing experience may seem less of an occasion to smokers as they regularly straddle the zones of music and non-music, which brings me to my next point.
The current standard of music is uninspiring. To quote dialogue from a music video, ”you can’t have a revolution if the music isn’t right”. The nightclub dance music genre between 2004 and 2006 was predominantly Funky House, and although the most notable songs were to varying degrees derivative of music from yesteryear, in mood they were overwhelmingly positive. One example that stands out is Michael Gray’s The Weekend with its exclamation ”I can’t wait for the weekend to begin”. This song and the like epitomised the purpose of the existence of a nightclub i.e. a place to ‘let your hair down’ at the end of a working week. The quasi-effeminate sound did not alienate the more genteel clubber as much as might do the edgier Speed-Garage-inspired one of current predominant-dance-music. For the want of a jubilant atmosphere, because mid-2010s dance music is generally somewhat minimal, serious and of melodramatic subject matters evident in releases such as Storm Queen’s Look Right Through, a song about being ignored, it necessarily falls short of the inspiration of Funky House. In the decrease of production of upbeat dance music, what will remain of the soundtrack of our night lives will blur the lines between the spirit of the high street nightclub and that of the alternative-music superclub like Fabric in London. If it is not clear which sound I champion above all else, I advise you to listen specifically to disc one of Ministry of Sound’s Decade: 2000 – 2009 compilation album released in 2014. I also recommend disc one of the similarly retrospective Hed Kandi Classics II (2011) and Hed Kandi: The Mix 2006, the latter of which I consider the last compilation released during the era that epitomises the sound perfectly.
In conclusion, I must add that the 24 hour license and the smoking ban that necessarily divided the two eras of my nightclub experience were introduced in and around the time of the great recession of 2008. Therefore, the saddened atmosphere may also be attributed to poor attendance levels inasmuch as a greater number of revellers–than generations past–may be reluctant to pay an entrance fee and for beverages that are cheaper to buy in off-licences and public houses, not to mention there is the cost of fuel, public transport and taxi fares to travel to and from a nightclub. But if any of those would-be revellers like me are disillusioned by the dance music that has been peddled throughout the mid-2010s, they are not missing out on much anyhow. If legislation, the spirit of music and economic-empowerment are complimentary, until either one improves, sadly myself and fellow ageing revellers alike will remain at the point of no return.