It took me a while but I’m getting back to seeing nightclubs from the inside. But this doesn’t mean that it’s entertaining. Short story long: I appreciate the works of the Dutch research group “Surveillance in urban nightscapes” of Irina van Aalst a lot (in other words: I’m a fan). They conducted fieldwork in Rotterdam, among other cities, and I was looking forward to getting a short glimpse on Rotterdam’s nightlife while visiting the city for two days.
So, I do some online research in advance and find something that is pretty uncommon for most German nightclubs: You can buy a ticket to a regular club night in advance. Hmmm, does this mean that the bouncer has to let you in? Forgot to ask. Next time. I decide for a nightclub that is also recommended by two locals who I’m talking to. I start the night by strolling the streets in and at the fringes of the city centre to take a look at the nightlife from the outside. I notice several things: All bouncers wear suits and coats, even the ones in front of an underground techno nightclub. The revellers (especially in the inner city) are quite young and I witness several times how bouncers send people off because of young age. Many nightclubs have their codes of conduct hanging outside right next to the entrance. I hardly see nightclubs or bars with more than two bouncers (exception: Annabel). The city centre seems to provide more mainstream places while the area behind the main station seems to be a bit more alternative+hipster. CCTV. Is. All. Over. The. Place.
I arrive at my destination, a nightclub with two different parties. There is only one queue, so I line up behind the last person. It’s a slow stop-and-go because the queue at the cloakroom is so long and the bouncer only lets new people in as soon as some people have left the cloakroom. The queue in front of me consists of perhaps 30 persons, more than half of them female, different styles, different ethnic backgrounds, nice. Until the bouncer asks if anybody is there for the DJ I wanted to see, I wave, he waves back and tells me to go through the second entrance, which is empty. This would have been the moment to rethink my decision, but… I don’t. I pay the entrance fee, go to the cloakroom and wait in line. There is a second line but I don’t understand what’s it good for. Too many lines…! Somebody behind me taps my shoulder, I turn around and a woman shyly smiles at me and says something in Dutch. I apologize for not speaking Dutch and she tells me in English that she loves my dress and asks where I bought it. I tell her the brand and the name of the dress and she leaves happily. I leave my stuff at the cloakroom, show my stamp to the bouncer who is standing at the entrance to the floor, he moves half a step to the side and I enter. It is a single dancefloor room for perhaps 300 people max and it’s almost half full. I cross the dancefloor to get to a place where I don’t have anybody standing in my back and where I can scan and observe the others. Bouncer habits, I can’t (and don’t want to) get rid of them. The crowd is quite old (midthirties +), pre-dominantely white, at least 70% males, most people dressed in casual chic. They look like people on an after-work party to me which could also be explained by the fact that the club also includes a restaurant that closes around 10pm. I’m about to text a friend when a pretty drunk guy (prig-type) comes very close and says something in Dutch to me. I step one step back and tell him, that I don’t understand, he tells me in English that he made an extraordinarily funny joke which he can’t repeat in English. He starts asking me questions, where I come from, what I’m doing in Rotterdam, how long I’ll be staying, how I like the city. I answer in short sentences since I’m totally not interested in talking to such a drunk guy and want to cast him off. He asks me what I like about Rotterdam’s architecture, I answer: “It’s diverse, it has also ugly buildings and…” and he interrupts me bluntly: “Yeah, because you bombed Rotterdam and destroyed the whole city and we didn’t have enough money to rebuild it nicely at that time!” Whew. I got insulted a lot while going out in the last 10 years, bitch, slut, cunt, your ass is too fat, you’re too skinny (obviously, tastes differ), you walk like a horse, you’re too masculine, you’re ugly – been there. But “You bombed my city”? Congrats. That’s new. Off the list. Getting rid of a guy with a comment on architecture? – Second first time for you, unknown stranger. He leaves and I navigate myself to the bar where I realize that you can’t pay cash but have to buy chips outside and then pay with the chips (ah. the other line). Well… lame. I go to the middle of the dancefloor, the music is mostly funk music, not exactly my cup of tea yet but it’s dancable. Still, hardly anybody is dancing. Another overly drunk guy appears in front of me and tries to dance with me. Turns out he’s the friend of drunk guy #1 who passes by, insults me in English and then says something in Dutch to drunk guy #2 before he moves on. Drunk guy #2 desperatly tries to dance with me, ignoring the fact that I shake my head several times. I look around, I don’t like the atmosphere in the club, but can’t exactly tell why. Drunk #2 spills his drink over the dancefloor and … I start thinking about leaving and going to another nightclub because the party sucks. I decide to stay and to switch roles from private me to sociologist me to find out what makes a bad party a bad party. To have fun while having as little fun as possible.
I start with drunk #2 and count how long it will take him to give up on me while I ignore him. 2,5 fully played tracks, so about 8 minutes. Respect. Then I spend the next 2 hours dancing and not having fun. So here’s the recipe for a lame party: A chips system at the bar. >70% straight white guys that cling so much to their beers that it’s simply impossible for them to dance. White thirty-somethings that dance to hip hop tracks the way they think cool black people would dance to hip hop tracks. Drunk guys that frequently pass by very closely or ‘accidently’ bump into you as a means to start a conversation. Guys pointing their fingers at you and obviously talking about you. An in-house photographer who walks around with his huge camera to take pictures of guests who pose very artificially (okay, it’s doubtable if there is a non-artificial way of posing) and even worse – taking pictures of me. I notice a change in the clientele, some of the supposed-to-be after-work people have left and a flush of new guests arrive. Hipper clothes. ‘Scene’-people. A second photographer (come. on!). Seems like the DJ I originally wanted to see will play soon and indeed, he starts his set 10 minutes later. I like his music and stay for almost another hour but the atmosphere hasn’t changed fundamentally. So, I leave, take my stuff from the cloakroom, the bouncer smiles at me and wishes me a nice evening. I smile back and go to sleep.
I find the photos of the party a week later on facebook. Well, they look like I was at a hell of a party without noticing. Sorry.