Nightclubs are dying out faster than the Labour Party’s hopes of winning an election. Nearly half of them have closed in the past decade, and with the younger generation more interested in listening to music on their iPhones than in a crowded club, it looks like they’re in terminal decline.
And who can blame millennials for shunning clubbing? I never admitted this at the time, 20 years ago, when every weekend I went clubbing in Liverpool and Leeds in my late teens and early twenties, but I hated nightclubs.
It would have been so uncool to say, at 9pm on a Friday as our student house prepared to decant to the Warehouse in Leeds: “Do you know what? I’d rather stay in and watch Friends from the comfort of our sofa than stand for an hour in a queue in a short dress on a freezing West Yorkshire night before being thrust into a hot, sweaty room pullulating with spotty youths and students off their faces on E and 20p-a-shot vodka, unable to have a conversation because the music is too loud?” That is what it was like, and yet rather than admit how much I hated it, because it would be like denying I was young, I went along with it, drinking just to get through it.
Before I went to university, I set up a listings magazine in Liverpool. It was called L:Scene and it covered the city’s music, art galleries and clubs. We started at the same time as Cream, the famous “superclub”, and as the magazine’s 19-year-old editor I went there a bit. I didn’t hate house music, far from it, I just would have rather listened to it somewhere a little less crowded, hot and heavy.
The whole experience was a series of long queues: outside in the dingy street, at the bar where it took 25 minutes to get served, or in the line for the toilets, where the management had turned off the water supply because they wanted anyone who was dehydrated from taking ecstasy to return to the queue at the bar to buy their expensive water. Nice.
When I got a job after university, I stopped going clubbing. At last, I could use the excuse of adulthood, with its accompanying aura of feeling a bit tired from work, to not go out. No longer did I have to pretend to enjoy it. There were house parties and garden parties, there was still drink and music, but this time it was decent wine or cocktails and at least you could escape to the kitchen. The last time I went to a club, about five years ago, was an accident, in the sense that I’d gone out for dinner with friends and we’d had a lot to drink, but to be honest I can’t remember much about it, which is just as well.
Richard Young: Nightclubbing with the stars
The closure of nightclubs – there are 1,733 today compared to 3,144 in 2005 – just shows what I must have known two decades ago, which is that they are simply not cool. Perhaps a basement in Shoreditch where the music is more languid and the dancing less frenetic, is hip enough for today’s youth, but they are right to turn away from the traditional unholy heat-sweat-noise combination.
The whole point about clubs is that you have to be drunk or on drugs to have a good time, as I know few people who would get through a whole night at one sober. Is the falling alcohol consumption among this generation the result of finding your average town centre club unutterably naff, or are fewer kids going to clubs because they’re not drinking?
It is often said that the young, hooked to their iPhones, listening to music on Spotify or messaging their friends on Facebook, are insular and do not know how to interact. But they are, in fact, the great communicators, and you cannot communicate in a nightclub. Their access to music is unparalleled, their tastes more eclectic, why would they want to spend a load of money listening to the same DJ, week after week?
The industry body, the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers, blames suffocating planning laws and taxes, but I think it is more fundamental. There has been a cultural shift in which young people have turned off the nightclub music, switched on the lights and noticed how rubbish it is.Reuse content