3.7 million over-45s go raving every week; columnist Mark Beaumont says let them have club culture, it's time for dancing to go digital
You’ve seen him on documentaries about the ‘90s – the Rave Shaman. Shaved head like a planetarium of sweat, neon battle make-up sprayed across both cheeks, mouth full of whistles, baggy vest exposing a torso malnourished from a strict MDMA-only diet, pupils bigger than a Tory leadership candidate making a mistake. With elastic fingers he summoned forth the Spirit Of The Dance, and proceeded to prod it relentlessly in the face, lift it high above his head and fling it around the warehouse like a massive inflatable Mitzu (do they still have those?).
Where’s that guy today? He’s got to be dead, right? He looked about 48 then, and clearly on a fast track to early onset Alzheimers. Well no, he was 24 and he’s still out there, in some godforsaken disused Blockbuster warehouse on the outskirts of Kettering, making cardboard boxes that will only ever hold good vibes and sizing up fish for a meal he’ll never have the appetite to eat. He’s one of the 3.7 million over-45s who still go raving every week. They’re called EverGroovers, which fittingly sounds like a brand of incontinence pants.
Now I’m not about to believe that the copious intake of Ecstasy over the course of several decades is the secret to eternal youth, especially when I’ve put so many years of faithful service into the red wine method. But I’m flabbergasted these people have the energy. When a friend of mine texted me the other day suggesting we go clubbing, I was knackered just thumbing out a ‘piss right off’.
In the ‘90s I went indie clubbing three or four nights a week, in the ‘00s I ran similar clubs to keep my hand in; these days the only clubs I’d entertain either give me somewhere relatively quiet to drink near Soho, allow me to accrue air miles while watching bad rom-coms en route to LA or send me monthly crates of red wine/virgin’s blood to keep me immortal. Hell, there are some WhatsApp groups I find too lit. Research has pinpointed 37 as the age when it’s deemed ‘unacceptable’ to be hanging around in clubs full of 18-year-olds – over that you’d better be the club owner, a notorious drug baron in a booth surrounded by thugs or Boris Johnson back on the prowl.
“Mainstream nightclubs were always a hellish experience. A place where the confident and slinky thrived and the awkward and knobbly hoped that the seven-hour happy hour on jugs of woo-woo would work its mystical magic”
I suspect that the regular bombardment of MDMA on their genital bloodflow has rendered many of these EverGroovers naturally child-less, and the rest got so horny in ’92 that their kids are all grown-up, teetotal climate change activists by now. So no wonder the former still have the energy to hammer out some shapes of a Friday night and the latter are playing catch-up like Tiger Woods turning up late to Love Island. Hence the illegal rave has become the teddy boy Butlins bop of the age, but with less surviving inner cheek.
Well, someone’s got to keep the end up. Almost half of the UK’s nightclubs have closed in recent years, with other researchers who clearly couldn’t get the lucrative Brexit propaganda jobs putting the slump down to millennials preferring games and activity nights, house parties, gym sessions, vegan food festivals, Netflix shag nights in and, at a push, one of those bars that cranks up the Ed Sheeran to ‘nosebleed’ dead on 6pm on a Friday.
It’s an understandable generational shift. Most mainstream nightclubs were always a hellish experience. A place where the confident and slinky thrived and the awkward and knobbly hoped that the seven-hour happy hour on jugs of woo-woo would work its mystical magic. Now that all those dating apps have negated the need to spend 20 quid getting into a sweatbox full of pricks where you can’t talk to anyone over the pounding beats and drinks cost a kidney, they’re all but redundant as a place to meet your seriously hammered soulmate. Plus, nobody will ever again have to do the forlorn jive of humiliation back to their mates when they’re knocked back by the object of their most beer-goggled dreams.
In fact, the only reason to go clubbing in 2019 is for the joyous communal act of dancing, and even that’s fraught with disappointment. Now that streaming has apparently killed off all subcultures and turned us all into unfiltered, pop-worshipping musical sponges, niche and genre nights have shrunk into the mid-week margins, almost part of the nostalgia circuit for an era before it was assumed that everyone automatically adored Robyn. So any night in pretty much any catch-all club today, you can guarantee you’ll find a good two-thirds of the music shit and spend most of your expensive evening rowing with the DJ over his ridiculous ‘no Foals’ policy.
With their hypertension and pending divorces, the middle-aged ravers need the exercise and opportunities that clubbing offers far more than you do. So let Shaman Steve have his tired old euphoric club culture. There’s a brand new concept on the way that will revolutionise the next generation of millennial club-going, and I’m copyrighting it right here. Club Internet: you queue at the huge revolving rainbow wheel, are required to accept a cookie at the door (I’m thinking triple chocolate chip) and, in return, gain totally free entry to the internet you can get drunk in with your mates. It all works on micro-payments – if you want the club to be the wing-man ‘matching’ you with whoever you’ve got your eye on, tap your card at the registration desk. If you want to try to ‘stream’ the DJ’s playlist in a direction of your choosing, just tap that card. Fancy taking part in the cosplay fantasy RPG battles in the garden, or crawling through the tent full of perverts and heroin addicts marked ‘dark net’ near the bogs? Tap away, friend. Promoters with money, slide into my DMs.