In January 2020 I walked past a poster for The Subways announcing a tour and immediately flashed back to seeing them at the Northampton Roadhouse circa 2004 – my first ever gig. I thought about all the gigs I used go to and the indie nights that started in my very underage school years (Revolver in Corby every Saturday at Club 2000) and continued throughout uni. Then I moved down to London and haven’t been to one since.
When I say indie night, I mean: proper, full on, fiver in, Red Stripe by the gallon, northern lads singing about pulling and dancing, snog-someone-at-the-end-of-the-night-and-get-a-kebab-on-the-way-home nights. A Jarman brother blasting out of the sound system.
So, in January 2020, I tweeted to ask people: would they come if I put on exactly that? It went a bit mad – thousands of people said they were in. I took a leap of faith, booked east London’s Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, called it Indie Amnesty (after the hashtag of brilliant indie anecdotes that went viral a few years ago) and wrote the event description: “Pretend it’s anywhere between 1990 and 2010 for one night only with cheap entry, Britpop / Indie DJs and drunken snogging in a basement bar. Forget the state of the nation in the year of our lord 2020, Labour is still in power and groups of working class Northern kids are still making music that rattles your bones from the inside out.’”
It sold out within a week. Simple! April 11th 2020 would be a legendary date in the diary.
Except, of course, it wasn’t. The level of excitement with a two month build-up was bad enough – imagine how it felt when, amid the pandemic, that became 16 months. By the time last Friday (August 6) came around, after a lot of stress and me screaming at everyone that they needed a negative test to gain entry, I was finally about to host my first night in a club atmosphere since a bouncer politely asked me to get down off a table in notorious east London dive The Dolphin at 4am on a cold Saturday in March last year.
A working men’s club with a huge red-lightbulbed heart on the wall, gold tinsel behind the DJ booth, wood-panelled walls and a freestanding pole (obviously) on the dancefloor: it was the perfect way not only to make everyone feel like it was the ‘90s / early ‘00s again, but also a bit like we were all in the video for ‘Common People’. Ideal. Here’s what I learnt we’d all missed from a proper night out in the last year and a half.
People still turn up three hours late
At 10.30pm I was dancing like a maniac to some Arctics album tracks and having a great time, but I realised it still wasn’t full. Everyone gets to a club night three hours after it starts. It’s not a proper night if you’re completely full by 9pm, unless it’s some sort of Christian Rock event, the Tory Conference, or one of those early raves for people that have kids now and for some reason want to put themselves through more torture. Luckily, by 11pm the place was banging.
The smoking area still rocks
No less than six people texted me the next day to tell me how much fun they had in the smoking area. Sometimes I wish I smoked just so I could partake in it.* The drama! The flirting! The break-ups and make-ups! The new pals you make! It’s a dating app in real life – y’know, like it should be. My friend got two women’s numbers there at different points of the night. I think I’ve seen him smoke precisely one (1) cigarette before, ever.
*I don’t smoke – it’s disgusting – but, like, can we invent a cheese sandwich area or something instead? “We met ‘cause I asked him for a bite of his toastie” has a certain ring to it.
I have really missed flirting
Good God have we all needed this: slightly tipsy exchanges at the side of the dancefloor with someone you think might be attractive. Being able to buy a drink for someone you only just met. Asking someone a question that isn’t, ‘How was your lockdown?’, and then ruining it all because you got too drunk and said something weird. All the good stuff.
And dancing like no-one’s watching
If the videos of people dancing like complete idiots on the stage / pole / dancefloor are anything to go by, everyone missed throwing themselves around a room they don’t live in and giving absolutely zero care about what anyone thinks about it.
DJS still don’t play the songs you ask for
We’ve all had to be our own DJs for the last 16 months. I got the guy who ran the aforementioned Revolver to do a set, as well as another pal whose work as a DJ went out the window last March. He described the sense of community as akin to something “people go to church for”. There is a certain religious aspect to seeing a DJ up there on the decks. Just as with God, you can make requests! Except you can be almost certain they’ll nod and say, ‘I’ll see if I have it’, and then go back to their job and definitely not play it! You forget that of course they have it because the internet exists now but they’re using CDs! You don’t understand DJing. Good clean fun.
Nobody like Jägerbombs
I hate the things. Absolutely hate them. Then you realise nobody likes them. They just exist in that space where if you’re drunk enough to think one is a good idea, you’re already too drunk. I beg of you, do not let them back into my life. I know they made an appearance on Friday and I’m worried they’ll be back. I miss them, but in the way that you miss that ex you know was a nightmare post-11pm.
There’s only one answer when it comes to the last song
You take bets on what it’ll be. You have an argument about what it should be. You grab your best mate and screech along to it as the dreaded house lights come back on and you’re deciding where the nearest McDonalds is. You forget what it was the next day anyway. Probably Oasis.