Wednesday, 7 October 2009
SIX MONTHS BEHIND BARS
I pieced this little rant together around a year ago for a free local dance magazine.
A change had finally occurred. After many tiresome years of spending what little money I had on vinyl, churning out mix CD after mix CD on my beloved 1210’s and bending many a promoters’ ear with tales of how I seriously was the next big thing, I had finally made the transition. I was no longer just another fervent punter in the crowd. I had taken a step back from the dancefloor and crossed the seemingly impenetrable boundary. I was finally on the other side of the…………………………… Bar.
Okay, let’s straighten things out somewhat. The lofty ambitions I once held as an overly enthusiastic teenager to have 2000 people eating from the palm of my hand as I teased my latest production offering through the speakers and onto a packed out dance floor may not quite have been reached, but for most young twenty somethings’ associated with the electronic music scene, you would imagine that a few hours spent pottering behind the bar in your favoured techno spot would be the ideal part-time job.
I analyzed the pros and cons in my head as I slouched against the rattling window on the late night bus darting towards the city centre for my very first shift many moons ago, and, at least in theory, it did appear to me like a dream job for my current situation. I would still get to go to the nights that more often that not I would be paying homage to anyway, the same DJ’s would still be playing and I would make just enough money to prevent the landlord from turfing me and my 1210’s out onto the streets of Headingley for at least another week. And because I am, just as so many others boldly proclaim to be, in it ‘for the music’, then the fact that I would not find myself a gurning mess on the dancefloor come 6am and instead remain (relatively) sober wouldn’t make the blindest bit of difference. Would it?
Now, I may be getting old and cynical (most definitely the latter) and could be accused by some of techno snobbery, but why is it most promoters and DJ’s do not have the first idea when it comes to promotions or music? The vast majority of DJ’s play the same churned out rubbish and top ten Beatport tunes week in and week out. I swear if I hear that fucking Crookers remix of Day and Night one more time I will take out that rusty pair of scissors from the first aid kit and cut my earlobes off. It does not make you a superstar DJ simply by mixing the same predictable tracks in the same predictable order EVERY SINGLE FUCKING WEEK. Nor does it mean you can suddenly act like one. Please give your head a gentle shake and remove yourself from your one man ego crusade. You are not a superstar DJ simply because you can cycle through the effects on a DJM 800 one by one every 4 bars, despite your bleach blonde hair and ripped jean wearing mates telling you otherwise. Despite these misdemeanours, these aforementioned promoters then wonder why their night has less life in it than a graveyard for the fifth week in a row when they are knocking out the ‘filthiest dirtiest sexiest electro’ on a Wednesday night, at three times the volume you would expect on a Saturday at 4am in the morning. Wearing a pair of white pumps and a Jesus loves you belt does not automatically qualify you as the best new promoter since Dave Beer. Please do us all a favour and fuck off back to Bar Risa.
One of the downsides of working in a techno club is that invariably the midweek voids are filled by the dreaded student nights (I did once visit a club in Barcelona that played minimal techno seven nights a week, but then Leeds, despite its many appealing qualities, is not quite Barcelona). When I was an 18 year old I was as guilty as the next soap dodging first year of going out several times midweek and consuming my own bodyweight in cheap alcopops, but now that I am a few years older and supposedly on the way to becoming a sensible and mature adult, a sense of dismay overcomes me as soon as a Monday night rolls around again. Students in general annoy me; I too am a student yet I’m sure I don’t try and con drinks everytime that I go out, but then again, I don’t have a pair of boobs I can stuff into a top two sizes too small for me. Don’t flutter your eyelids at me in your posh Southern accent and pretend you fancy me. ‘oh pleasssssee can I have a free vodka and coke… pleasssssse’. Please. Fuck. Off.
The booming sounds reverberating from the bouncer’s lips as they clear the last few bedraggled souls from the club on a Thursday night can’t come round fast enough and as the weekend descends upon us once more I openly embrace a return to half decent electronic sounds and hiked up drinks prices. Apart from a few overly keen techno enthusiasts who appear at the bar the moment the doors open, the first couple of hours on a weekend are usually quiet and offer the chance to actually pay attention to a warm up set. This is something that in my many years of clubbing I haven’t done enough of; Pre-midnight was usually spent jostling for space in Wetherspoons type places, pouring cheap pints down my neck to avoid spending a small fortune on £4 bottles of beer later in the night. Like clockwork the club begins to gradually fill, and without the intoxicants needed to keep both the awareness of time and reality at bay I often experience a sense of detachment from the events taking place on the other side of the dance floor. It can sometimes feel as though I am stuck in an interactive video game that I have completed numerous times before, as I go through the same protocol of actions that I replayed only the previous Saturday. Club opens. Stock bar. Club fills up. Serve drinks. Mop up sick. Beerboys go home. Pilled up guy decides you are his new best friend. Club empties. Sweep floor. Repeat to Fade. Game Over.
My initial hypothesis that working on a Saturday night would guarantee that a Sunday morning would be less painful has also been proved incorrect. As 6am dawns and the club closes up, crawling into bed and catching up on much needed sleep is always the last thing on my mind. Having witnessed what seems like the whole world dance the night away in front of you for the previous eight hours, it is collectively determined that the party has simply been postponed rather than missed out on altogether - queue the search of four of five sleep deprived workers for an after party venue to visit clutching 8 tins of red stripe, taken on the premise of returning it next shift EVERY SINGLE WEEK. This is quickly followed by the dreaded walk of shame and the shameful realisation that half a week’s wages have disappeared less than five hours after finishing work.
This kind of lifestyle definitely isn’t for everyone; I do feel pity for the poor souls I work with who have no more than a passing interest in dance music and wonder why they would subject themselves to this form of torture every single weekend. If the sounds emanating from the club sound system were anything other than wholesome electronic music then there would be no way you would find me performing this role. With such awkward and long hours, a constant exposure to incessantly loud and repetitive music and all the excesses and forms of escapism that go hand in hand with the scene, it does feel as though I live in a little bubble world, a million miles away from the humdrum existence that the 9-5 job would provide. Still, for the time being at least, it certainly beats sitting in on an uncomfortable chair in an air conditioned office, drinking lukewarm machine coffee and debating which member of Big Brother should be cast aside next. Even if my eardrums don’t quite agree.