Clubbed to death

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to this event. The thought of attending a ‘musical’ event like this would be enough to send most people running for cover, and most of my friends, when asked if they would like to go with me, gave varied answers, ranging from, ‘You’re having a laugh, aren’t you?’, ‘Sorry, staying in and washing my hair,’ and ‘Jesus, that lot look like a Salvation Army shop version of the Village People’ to the Incredible Ponce’s ‘A tacky club full of poofs and a band playing 80s music? Lemme at ’em!’ Unfortunately the only enthusiastic taker couldn’t come in the end. The invitation was from an ex student, and one of the band members is his cousin. I hadn’t seen this student for a while and was keen to catch up, so I decided to go on my own and find him and his wife when I got there. I had lost his mobile number, but he was sure to be there and it couldn’t be that hard to find him.

It turned out to be lucky that I hadn’t dragged anyone else along. For starters the neighbourhood was just weird. It was an open-avenued hive of Ministry buildings, tax offices and the headquarters of the National Lottery. To make it even more soul-destroying there were very few bars and an excess of banks. Young people wandered about aimlessly or kissed each other at bus stops beside fascist architecture and high-gated gardens. Parked in front of these mansions or pulling up at traffic lights were slick cars, their owners well-heeled middle-aged couples. The only immigrant face was in the one bar I could find where I gulped a quick coffee before heading off to find the venue.

The venue also gave me bad vibes. Maybe it was the fact that it was called ‘Cats’ in the same font as its musical namesake. Maybe it was the towering stacks of beef in suits who ushered me in. Maybe it was the concert venue itself, a cavernous somehow aggressively heterosexual space lurid with Heineken advertising and staffed by unsmiling barmen. The punters were rowdy and came across as a little arrogant. They moved in couples or same sex groups, confirmed pack animals, never alone in case they get picked off or singled out. Safety in numbers. I would have bet money I was the only woman there on her own. I got over being bothered by that situation a long time ago. I did a lap of the hall looking for my friend but couldn’t see him, so settled unobtrusively by the bar and ordered a drink. I’d stay and watch a few numbers, find him later. Maybe he wasn’t here yet; as usual I’d been British and got there on time, to a concert hall that was half-empty.

Things weren’t looking good for the Airglamboys. Maybe they would just be great and the surroundings and everything else would be forgotten. But eventually out they came with the dramatic entrance and stage presence of four new members to a school Christian Union meeting. I had been expecting a little pomp and campery, but in its place I got beer guts and a feather boa. There was a glittery plastic top hat that looked as though it had been picked up in a 1 euro shop. They failed to quell the enthusiasm of the rowdy crowd, even when they had the advantage of a microphone. In the end they gave up trying to introduce themselves and just played.

The first track was ‘Gimme, gimme gimme a man after midnight.’ As soon as they played the opening bars a fortyish woman near me wearing a Holly Hobbie gingham dress and snub-toed sandals started hopping round a lap of the central bar like a wound-up toy. She hopped on both feet, kanagaroo-fashion until she ran out of steam about halfway through the number. I could almost see the key turning down at her ankles. Her hair flopped up and down like bunny ears. So this is how it’s going to be, then. I am in a room surrounded by over-excited, sweaty forty-somethings. The second track was ‘Video killed the radio star’, the introduction sung in a suitably nasal tone but without any actual words, just ‘nah-nah-nee-nah- nah- nah nineteen-sixty-twooooo….noo-na-nyeah-nye-nye-na-naaaaa-‘ which was quite irritating. Hot on its heels came Spandau Ballet’s ‘True’ with the repeated line ‘You are destructible……’ then came Gloria Gaynor’s ‘I will survive’, by which time the singer was just making up the lyrics in Spanglish as she went along.

I sipped my drink and look around me. The punters apparently were loving it. Spaniards love this track because it means they can all sing along and punch the air with their fists while shouting ‘Hey! Hey! Hey!’ and then sing along again, like a football chant to the final ‘Laaa la la la laaaaaa….’ and so on. They weren’t playing so badly, although the saxaphone was slightly off key, as was the keyboard. The choice of music perplexed me a little. It was hardly Glam Rock, was it? Just the generic 80s stuff. Give the public what the public wants, I suppose. I observed the public as though I had a nasty smell under my nose. Are these my peers, then? Is this my future? I was overwhelmed by the sheer waves of naffness. No wonder I spend at least some of my social time hanging around with people a decade younger. What hope have we got if we are ageist ourselves? No, it wasn’t the age, it was the type pf people. I had come here thinking it might be a good way to meet new people, maybe even (shock horror) meet folk my own age, maybe even straight ones. But looking around, there really wasn’t anyone I wanted to talk to. I couldn’t see my ex student either, though I would have liked to talk to him.

The final insult was Donna Summer’s ‘Hot Stuff’ to which they missed the cue in. My peers were starting to get horny and drunk. It was at this point I started nervously looking around for the nearest exit. I can be radical when it comes to cut-off-points, and that was it. No, I didn’t want to stay and look for my friend. The thought of finding him and staying after all for the rest of the concert induced suicidal thoughts. Instead I now wanted to get away from there as fast as possible, without him seeing me. I already knew the email I was going to send him -‘such a shame, I was there but I couldn’t find you!’ I could see in my head a vivid image of my sofa and a neatly rolled spliff calling me home. You have to understand that these songs are my old friends, they are very dear to me, and nobody wants to stick around to watch that being done to them. Staying would only be condoning the slaughter. In this case, the 80s were definitely not better the second time round. This was a crass and culturally hollow version of my youthful years, like a political party picking a really good indie song as their theme tune. The kids with the asymetrical hairdos at least shared some of the rebellion, wackiness and furious energy of that decade. Not like this lot.

A week later, another Saturday night, and I find myself in another club. Full of rebellion, wackiness (if a little contrived) and furious energy (though the provenance of that energy is also questionable). This time I was dragged along by the Ponce and TioPepe who was visiting for the weekend from Seville. We went to El Ohm on Gran Via. I have been many times, many, many times to gay clubs, and I told them at the start of the night ‘Look,. boys, I’m just coming for a couple of drinks and then you lot go off to a club, I just don’t fancy going, but you all go….’ and yet here I was, on the dance floor in a sea of buffed muscles and bulging packets. It was the drugs that made me do it, Mother, it was the drugs. There were good pills, a rarity in Spain as far as I can see. For a few hours I vaccillated between Planet Ibiza, and my first rave which was in a house in the countryside in Cambridge. I was loved up, man, I was full of love for my fellow clubbers; I was almost gurning. I felt beautiful. Goddamit, I was beautiful, we were all gorgeous. TioPepe and the Ponce and I hugged, held hands, gave each other little massages and grinned at each other, creating waves of positive energy. But it didn’t seem as though the rest of the club reciprocated. Ah, unrequited love, always such a shame and such a waste of time. You see, for there to be a real rush everyone needs to be on pills, and they obviously weren’t. I looked around at the heaving dancefloor and the most prevalent drug was the testosterone fugging the air like a mist. That and the coke. Bright shining eyes and serious jaws, dancing determinedly as though they were at a Madrid’s Got Talent casting. Shifting eyes left and right, round and round, hunting out cock and nothing else. Gimme more, gimme gimme more, more…. It tickled my fancy that most of these clubbers would go on to a sauna, an afters, God knows where, with an insatiable appetite for sleaze, snorting more lines, smoking a hundred more cigarettes and probably rounding it off with a Viagra to keep that hard on going another seventeen hours. I suppose we were greedy too, after all, altered states are normally about greed, but we wanted more love, more spiritual connection. Here and now it seems they just want everything faster:charged batteries and more sexuality for this St Vitus dance that goes on for ever. There was a happiness missing somehow. But then you’re in a gay club in the heart of Madrid on a Saturday night, it’s not supposed to be happy exactly. How many people are having the time of their lives in a meat market?

The problem with clubs is that I used to love them and now I don’t. In fact, I can barely see why I liked them so much way back then. I listened to myself in the confines of my skull, lucidly twatted, and I sounded old, even to myself. ‘I can’t hear what anyone says, the air is full of smoke and shit, I’m sick of stumbling on broken glass, I don’t like the music, the atmosphere isn’t even any good, I’m going to feel like crap tomorrow and waste a whole day and I don’t really like the people…’ Yes, you are officially your mother now. This and plumping up the sofa cushions, you know you do it, you catch yourself at it… so just deal with it. I went to the toilet and in the cubicle the bowl was swimming with watery cack, the walls were dirty and slick with condensation, there was no paper, and some pig girl had peed all over the seat. Outside a line of loud brittle girls cackled at each other. One of them had a fan which she was wielding like a weapon. Alpha fag hags, God help me. Back on the dancefloor the Ponce and I eyed two impossibly stacked thugs who had stepped out of the pages of a Tom of Finland cartoon book. One of them was enormous, ridiculously tall and plumped up, he had virtually no neck or shoulders, just a humped slope from his earlobes to his elbows. His genitals were struggling to get out of his trousers like a couple of wriggling puppies sealed in a sack. His hair was closely cropped, emphasising his attractive but Neanderthal features. His companion was a slightly smaller version of the same. Same tight t-shirt, different colour. Same musculature, just a little less of it. The Ponce watched them dance, sleepy-eyed and smiling.

‘I would really love to see those two at it in the toilets of Los Gamos.’ he said wistfully. Los Gamos is the bar next door to my house where the toilets are small, cramped and cleanliness is not their most arresting feature. I could see his point. I’d probably pay money to see that as well, and I didn’t even fancy them. There was just something impressive about all that beef.

I left before the boys. It was around 5 a.m. and there was no way I could stand another couple of hours in there staggering around for no good reason I could think of. The pills were wearing off anyway, reality seeping in through the outskirts of perception. I walked back through a busy city centre, down along Calle Preciados to Sol and then up and over to Anton Martin. As I walked through Sol I looked left and up, smiling at the antiquated and wonderful TioPepe sign and the tagline ‘Sol embotellado de Andalucia’. Hence TioPepe’s nickname, because whatever else he is, he is always a dose of ‘Bottled sunshine from Andalucia’. I had been happy to see him. Ours is a close and long-standing friendship forged in the winding white streets of Ibiza town and on the dancefloors of Europe. I had a feeling I wouldn’t be gracing that many more dancefloors with him though. I’m sure he’ll drag me along to a few more before we’re done. But to be honest I’m all clubbed out. Clubbed to death, you could say.

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