Warming up for the weekend

Don't wait until Friday to have a good time, says Alister Morgan
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clubland has been built on the notion that the unwashed masses will ritually tart themselves up over the weekend, attend clubs in droves and meander home in the small hours of the morning. We have all experienced the weekend ritual at one time or another: the same faces gather at the pub, or at one unlucky person's flat. You leave in a rush an hour later than planned, queue for half an hour outside your chosen venue in too few clothes before negotiating the gauntlet of surly bouncers.

But now increased competition has forced club promoters to redefine their approach. The struggle for your money has now moved beyond the safe haven of weekends and spilled over into midweek.

The increasing number of clubs on weekday nights, including Pleased (above right) at the Velvet Underground, testifies to the fact that there's a market out there waiting to be tapped. Every Wednesday night the "Pleased Wimmin" (transvestites Jon, Darren and Peter) hold court in the centre of the capital attracting an enormous mixed gay crowd with their unique style and uplifting House music. From 9pm onwards the punters are queueing in droves.

Lisa is 20 and has been waiting impatiently for around two hours. Along with her friends she waits for people to leave so they can gain entry. "This is the third time I've tried to get in and I'm gonna get in tonight," she says confidently. "I have to work tomorrow but I've heard so many things about Pleased that I had to come down. I'll catch up on sleep tomorrow night." Ronnie is also queuing: "I've got to work tomorrow as a waiter. I've just driven for two and a half hours from the Cotswolds to get here."

More intimidating than any bouncer, Jon and Peter patrol the door themselves, selecting a chosen few. Jon explains their philosophy: "You get too many wankers at the weekend. We don't want any office boys here." One woman has come all the way from Newcastle but is discreetly refused entry. "I'm sorry but you've got to draw the line somewhere, it's not a bloody troll convention," Jon exclaims loudly. "Who is on your guest-list tonight Jon?" Andy the bouncer enquires. "Just Boy George," he replies casually.

AWOL offers a contrasting night for the hardcore clubber. The first Thursday of every month at the Ministry of Sound sees an intriguing blend of Jungle in the main room and Garage House in the bar. It's filled to its 1,200 capacity. "Mickey Finn [one of the AWOL crew and a well-known Jungle DJ] is the man," Curt, 24, explains. "He plays the hardest tunes." AWOL appeals to urban clubbers who are here because the music isn't "mainstream". Unlike Pleased it does not attract too many posers; they dress to impress but more importantly they dress to sweat and dance. Mickey Finn knows his audience. "The fact that it's a Thursday night makes no difference to the people who come here. It's about the music," he insists.

Jay runs the event with Daz and Chris and is confident about the promotion. "All the AWOL DJs are here because they get a response from the crowd which is like nowhere else and mostly industry-based," he says. "They never miss a gig. It's like a night off for all the people who are busy at the weekend."

The Next Big Thing has been running on Thursdays at the Hanover Grand for about six weeks and attracts a more sophisticated and mature crowd. "We can't wait until the weekend," Will insists. Sarah agrees: "Work is only 5 per cent of your life, the other 95 per cent is about going out and having a good time." For the time being Prisoner Cell Block H and a mug of Horlicks will have to wait.

Velvet Underground, WC1 (0171-439 4655) Ministry of Sound, SE1 (0171- 378 6528) Hanover Grand, W1 (0171-499 7977)