Last week, it was announced that longstanding Soho venue Madame Jojo’s had shut its doors for good following a violent incident involving door staff. The week before, Islington venue the Buffalo Bar was also given its notice. A week before came news that Liverpool's Kazimier is threatened by redevelopment. It's something happening across the country, and the natural response is always to worry about the impact on live music: fewer small venues = fewer small gigs = fewer places for small bands to play. That's what campaigns like NME's search for Britain's Best Small Venue with Jack Daniel's is all about: shining a light on these spaces. But it's not just live music that's taking a beating from the shutting down of these places.
Behind many a sad venue closure lies the loss of something glorious: the indie disco. Without Madame Jojo’s, what happens to the club night White Heat? Without Buffalo Bar, The Horrors' psych night Cave Club is without a home. When the Astoria was demolished, we lost indie staple Push. And it's not just London. Leeds stalwart venue The Cockpit is no more, meaning its raft of brilliant indie nights are out of a home too. In Manchester, much-loved Saturday night destination Smile at The Star & Garter faces a dead end after more than 20 years because the venue is threatened with closure due to railway developments. Elsewhere, the Charlotte in Leicester, Cardiff Barfly and so many more have seen their resident club listings fall by the wayside when the venues have shut their doors. Sure, these events can move, but unlike a gig, you're not just going to a club night for a band. You're going for every aspect – the location, the people, the dancefloor, the fact that a spirit and mixer is still two quid or because the toilet attendant gives you a free lolly if she's feeling nice. If you try and uproot everything you've built and stick it down somewhere else, it just isn't the same.
Where a band with enough willpower and chutzpah can pretty much put a show on anywhere – I've seen brilliant gigs in people's kitchens; out the back of a van; in the middle of the street – a club night by its very nature needs a bit more stability than that. An indie disco in a kitchen is just a house party. An indie disco in the back of a van is a road trip gone wrong. An indie disco in the middle of the street will probably get you arrested. A good club night needs a regular home, and when it finds the right one, it can be a wondrous thing.
During the indie boom of the mid-2000s, there were brilliant indie nights every day of the week. Nights where you'd meet the same people week in, week out, where friendships were forged, relationships initiated and, if nothing else, you could just go and lose your shit to 'Reptilia' and make everything seem a bit better for a while. There are still venues and promoters putting nights on and trying to keep the dream alive, but it takes time for a place to build up the tribal, community feel that's at the heart of a good night. It takes time for somewhere to become your Thursday night dancefloor institution.
As we lose more and more venues to the rubble pile, we're not just losing fantastic gig spaces, we're losing fantastic spaces where the pure fun of music can be celebrated in all its hedonistic, unifying, boozy glory. If you've ever had that moment of total joy when the DJ presses play on your favourite song and everyone in the place erupts, then you'll know that the good old-fashioned indie disco is an institution worth celebrating. It's not just venues that we're losing: it's the culture of everything they've built up inside them.