Thursday 19 September 2019

Donal Lynch: 'Murder on the dancefloor: How drugs, festivals and Tinder killed club culture'

Rihanna at Lillie's in 2006. Picture: VIPIRELAND.COM
Rihanna at Lillie's in 2006. Picture: VIPIRELAND.COM
Donal Lynch

Donal Lynch

The imminent closure of Lillie's Bordello is, perhaps, inevitable in the overall context of the death of the Irish nightclub. Over the last decade, the capital's once-vibrant club scene has given way to a nightlife which is divided into pubs - sacrosanct social spaces that legislators mess with at their peril - and illegal after-parties which mop up what's left of that timeless need to "go on".

Lillie's was always its own thing - painfully mainstream, crawling with celebrity detritus - but even the cooler venues of the boom, the likes of The Kitchen and the Pod, now lie either dormant or have been turned into expensive cocktail bars. Hangar, Redz, Tripod and Crawdaddy are all gone, too.

Gay clubs, traditional havens for outcasts and great music, are now generally nomadic one-off pop-ups; in Dublin, only The George still stands as a full-time venue. Discos have been turned into coffee shops, and an entire generation comes of age without knowing the crush of the queue, and the echo in your ear in the morning.

Ross O'Carroll-Kelly summed up the feeling of mourning when he tweeted: "Club 92 is following Kielys and Renords [sic] into oblivion, and I don't know what to tell my children any more."

It's perhaps easy to blame the housing crisis and creeping gentrification of Dublin on the demise of the disco, but it's just part of a broader trend which has seen clubs slowly going extinct across much of the western world.

In Britain, for the past few years, big names seem to close every month. Over the last decade, the number of clubs in the Netherlands has fallen by nearly half. Even Berlin - where the nightclubs are seen as high culture - has seen some of its most iconic venues close their doors in recent years.

When I lived in Manhattan a decade ago, it already felt like the city's fabled club life had withered; the velvet ropes, dress codes and hefty bills that had become part of clubbing there having long since banished the cool kids. Even Brooklyn had become a graveyard for clubs; the converted warehouses and lofts that housed them had been mostly turned into luxury condos.

Issues about venues and spaces are undoubtedly part of the trend, but perhaps there are other reasons for the death of the club. The bacchanalian dance temples of the 1990s were fuelled by ecstasy, a drug that's now a bit out of fashion among the young, its use steadily falling over the last decade.

Along with the demise of the nightclub, the other big music trend of the last few years has been the rise of outdoor music festivals - there were 275 in Britain last year, up from 80 in 2008. Young people now seem happier to splurge and stay up for three days once a year than go out every weekend. Festival organisers benefit from the massive economies of scale, which enables them to book the biggest DJs.

And, of course, there is the effect of dating apps on an entire generation. "There's a club if you'd like to go," Morrissey sang in How Soon Is Now. "You could meet somebody who really loves you. So you go and you stand on your own. And you leave on your own. And you go home and cry and you want to die." Except now you can go home to swipe right on Tinder, and the whole point of going out seems more distant than ever.

Sunday Independent

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