Will Self: PsychoGeography

It's all gone Pete Tong
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The Independent Online

The first thing I see, on entering the clashing, thrumming, booming portal of Pacha, is an elderly man in a wheelchair being bodily lugged up into the bar. His expression is grumpy: a halo of white hair surmounts his rubicund face, as a quartet of disco-Hispanics heave and hoick. This is hardly what I expected from the Ibiza club scene - but then, it's not at all clear what formed those expectations. Clubbing, truth to tell, has never been my strong suit.

True, I did partake of MDMA in the Wag Club as early as 1985, but so far was the drug from "loving me up" that I decided "ecstasy" was a terrible misnomer. You might as well call a narcotic that engendered mild pique "rage". I sat out the late 1980s and early 1990s in a field outside Oxford, listening to the squeal and rev of illegal car-racing on the Blackbird Leys estate. Any raving I did was confined to the printed page.

But that was 20-odd years ago, and here I am now, together with Marc Quinn, the sculptor, our wives and friends, plunging into the chemical sweat and frantic boogie of this, Ibiza's oldest and most venerable danceteria. Our whole stay on this fig-tree'd jewel of the Balearics has been leading up to Pacha. True, what we've mostly indulged ourselves in is sitting around the pool - but we've certainly talked about clubbing, and one evening Marc and I drove into San Antonio, the fungal crotch of the five-million-Brit-visitors-per-year, who come to crunch disco biscuits by night and munch full English breakfasts by day.

It looked pretty benign; no sign of the Scouse barons who've been shooting it out for control of the biggest captive drug market in the world. But then the clubs are behind closed doors, and most of them are on the other side of the island, near the airport. DC10, Amnesia, Space - vast boom boxes, pullulating with youthful lust and abandonment, while overhead glissades another easy jet. The DJs up on their podiums are like the high priests of some despotism nouveau, whipping up their deranged devotees, driving them on towards a profound Eleusinian mystery: why, given that House music sounds so fucking dreadful, do so many people lose themselves in it?

Yes, we've been waiting for this. Waiting in a bar along the dusty, concrete roadway. Waiting and drinking until it's late enough for us to go to the club - because no one would be seen dead in the place before 2am. Ibiza is all arsy-versy: some clubs - such as Space - only open when the sun is well up, and then run through to the evening. I like the sound of this gaff, which I'm told is a world entire: different habitats, woods, waterfalls, a river running through it. Like Xanadu, or a Center Parcs on acid. However, our old Ibizan connections tell us that Space is out of the question - far too jejune.

Yes, there are old Ibizan hands, Zimmer Hippies who inch their way between here and Goa; Fortnum & Mason tea-heads who belong to doubly high society. The international fashion crowd has fluttered about here for years - like moths with haute-couture wings. We've encountered these denizens on a succession of vast patios, chatting through the chirruping night.

At each gathering there will be an indistinct face which was snipped out of the London scene a decade ago, and which now appears, pasted down on to the Ibizan present. Ah, Ibiza! With your orange mega-pueblos and your convoys of Renault Clios full of superannuated hipsters en route to parties thrown by Ralph Lauren catalogue photographers! What could be finer? This is the anti-Tuscany, with not an aesthete toting a River Cafe Cook Book in sight. I'm loving it!

Everything has been arranged for us this evening by the island's fixer, Serena. We're on the guest list, there's a table for us in the VIP section. We cleave our way into the Moorish interior of Pacha. Two leggy sirens sporting Mohicans gyrate up on daises, searchlights finger the synthetic breasts of a thousand narcissists. The music crashes around the sea cave of the club, wave upon wave of it. We breast the throng and gain the balcony above the dance floor, where Russian gangsters hobnob like nabobs.

It's all going swimmingly: the masses are coming up on their soma and even I essay a two-step. But then it all goes Pete Tong: our table has been double-booked. There stands the other Mark Quinn, an Irish building contractor, who pumps our Marc Quinn's hand with unforced amity, and yet refuses to give up his spot. Suddenly, we're a bunch of middle-aged saddos, the knicker elastic of our youth snapping back in our faces. We retreat in disarray as two decades melt away, and with no ecstasy in sight, I settle yet again for mild pique.

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