Annie Mac recently recorded a short BBC documentary, Who Killed The Night, in which she investigates why UK clubbing is haemorrhaging venues and clubbers. During the show Annie considers a number of possible explanations as to why almost 50% of UK clubs have closed since 2005, leaving us with just 1753 in 2017. As you’d expect the usual arguments are raised – property developers, local counsel meddling etc. However it was a simple phrase that ‘Sink The Pink’ promoter Amy Redmond used that struck home for us – ‘Punk-Spirit’.
Whilst considering this short film we also stumbled across the unreleased 1994 track, Daft Punk – Drive [Preview Here]. Truth be told we hadn’t previously encountered this unreleased demo, shame on us, but the timing seemed apt when you consider that Daft Punk’s debut album ‘Homework’ embodied and embraced this almost mythical punk-spirit. But what is ‘punk-spirit’, and why is it so important?
If you look at the history of dance music and dance music cultures greatest moments you’ll find that the majority of them were counter culture and anti-establishment in tone. Hence why many clubbers, promoters and djs, to this day, instinctively blame counsellors and property developers for the recent spate of club closures. However when you look at the origins of Disco, Hip-Hop, House Music, Techno, Rave, Jungle, Grime etc, none of them came from the establishment, they were illegal DIY parties that sprang up in and around a community of like minded and often repressed individuals. These parties were raw, organic and most definitely not branded. Yet, as with anything successful they ended up getting neatly packaged and ultimately sterilised. And its this sterilisation process or lack of punk-spirit that in our opinion is the biggest issue facing UK clubbing culture.
Nightclubs in the UK are no longer counter culture as perhaps they were prior to the 00’s. They have largely become generic square boxes. Boxes that import genres, DJ’s and culture from other cities, in order to generate revenue and sell drinks. How do we know this, because we promoted nights for 7 years in Brighton. Yes there is a demand to see certain names, and selected promoters and clubs are genuinely passionate about the music they’re bringing to their city. But when that passion becomes an all consuming brand, or the party or venue you are running becomes beholden to the success of those imported lineups, then any community that may have existed quickly becomes of secondary importance to the next big booking. It is at this point where whatever DIY punk-spirit may have initially existed gets replaced by the fundamentals of populous culture – turnover, profit, popularity, success.
You can’t argue the facts, nightclubs in the UK are most certainly on the decline. To some this decline is an indication that club culture or dance music is being collusively forced out of our cities by governmental forces. Whether this is true or not is open to much debate. However to fixate on this aspect of the issue is to miss the point. More importantly we need to ask ourselves why do we have dance music and club culture in the first place? Because right now it would appear our reasoning is distorted by our need to fill a venue four nights a week, drink champagne, throw cake in peoples faces and get a record deal! Dance culture is counter culture, DIY, punk, a cry to be heard and accepted. The loss of a few clubs will never kill this fundamental need, and in fact might just be the spark required to reinvigorate that vital ingredient – ‘Punk-Spirit’.
Lets us know your thoughts about the state of the UK Clubbing scene. Have we totally missed the point or are we onto something?