Head-banging and splashing Vodka-Redbull on my new Uniqlo corduroy trousers just outside the smoking room at Rex Club, I ask a random a simple question: Who’s mixing? It’s a promotional night for the Get The Curse label, spearheaded by the one and only Clement Meyer — I know who’s at the decks: Clement Meyer, Marc Houle, and Tomas More. But it seems like a good way to break the ice.
It’s Saturday, the night of open-minded socializing, of connecting with others.
The young girl I’m talking to throws me that typically Parisian look that says: I don’t know you, make me care, you have 2 seconds. I tell her I’m writing an article about the motivations of clubbers, about electronic music and “the scene.” There are worse pick-up lines.
Her hook-nose wobbles as she emits a strangled, confused laugh. Her eyes dart side to side, alarmed, scoping out the exits, the bouncers maybe. Turns out she doesn’t know who’s playing, and doesn’t care. She’s just here to, I quote, Git wasted, woohoo.
The guy with goggles, obviously more of a techno-soldier, gives me a blank stare, but the fact that he’s chewing air tells me he’s not even hearing the same music I am. I walk around. It’s hot, smells like a locker room. I ask a short-haired babe with bigger biceps than me fellating a lollipop. Who’s mixing? She laughs, says something in German, but the gist of the message is she doesn’t know. This is frustrating. She should know: she’s German.
I talk to a lot of people.
I don’t know, is he famous? I’m just here with my friends.
I don’t even like techno. Have you seen the babes in here? Oh, wow. Excuse me.
That’s Kalkebrenner, man! Do you have any drugs? (It’s not Kalkebrenner.)
I just want to dance! I don’t care who’s in the box as long as they deliver. Is that water, can I have some?
Nightclubs are little powerhouses of status validation. You know the right people, wear the right clothes, speak the right dialect or have your name on the right list, you’re in. As you breeze through those double doors, smiling genially and (this makes all the difference) shaking the hand of the doorman (the physiognomiste, who “reads faces”), you have already achieved something. According to an underpaid bouncer’s three-second sociological survey, you are someone.
Bourdieu’s precept of status symbols comes into play here: social class, social circles, wealth; gender, ethnicity, accent; taste in food, art and fashion. This is the criteria that makes or breaks your Saturday club night. Power-play is inherent in all social interaction, but there are few places it can be as decisive and palpable as in a nightclub. Does this sound familiar: waiting in line to a club, you watch someone get turned away at the door… Instead of walking away with a flourish, they lose their cool and become so enraged at this affront to their hard-won status that they decide to fight bouncers who were hired because they master Krav Maga. Yelling ensues. A choke-hold. Goodnight.
However this is Rex, a temple dedicated to electronic music, not status. Right? It’s not the VIP room or the Showcase. Their sound system is state-of-the-art, signed D&B Audiotechnik: 60 co-axial bass-reflex loudspeakers, 2 passive 2-way speakers, 6 J-subwoofer cabinets, and 19 digital amplifiers. That’s a lot of money. The Rex is underground, it’s cool. Coming here is almost activism. And yet, as I move through the crowd, asking around, no one knows who’s mixing. And no one seems to care.
At the current moment, in the Fall of 2012 in the City of Lights, Rex feels like a cool place to be. Not like those other places. It’s different. It’s special. For now at least. Right?
Much like a publisher or film producer selling mainstream BS to the masses in order to fund unprofitable independent projects, a nightclub is fuelled by bottles, drinks and cover charges allowing bookers to push new and exciting, and therefore risky, DJ acts. The market is people looking to escape from the humdrum of nine-to-fives to hit the town and party like its 1969. Most don’t really care who the DJ is, and that’s perfectly fine.
Clubs are most definitely hosts of a cultural movement, but they have to break even, just like everyone else. Clubs are service providers.
They confer status.
They are meat-markets where you can find the love of your life.
They are havens of intoxication where it’s socially acceptable to get so inebriated you can forget you even exist.
They are cheap gyms hosting six-hour sessions of high-intensity interval training.
It has to be more than that. Oh yes.
They are gatekeepers of taste for a specific slice of the music scene.
In the smoking room around 4AM, it feels like I’m trapped in a burning building. The madness of it all becomes a little more obvious at this dark hour of the night: eyes are bleary and the magic is wearing off. I came here to listen to good music, right?
It’s cramped. The staff members are ominously large, often aggressive and pathologically condescending. I was humiliated at the door. At the bar: 10€ for watered down soft drinks with a dash of liquor. I can’t engage in conversation without straining my voice box. And as I’ve learned over the years, there is no sex in the champagne room.
What am I doing here?
The girl standing next to me is cute, asking for a light. I can tell she’s only a little tipsy, has that air of nonchalance which says, I am not looking for anything right now, but you never know. I hand her my lighter and ask, who’s mixing?
Seriously? That’s Clement, she says. He’s amazing, I come to all his shows. Then it’s Tomas More, dark and groovy. This is the best club in the city, don’t you think? It’s not too commercial, you know? Like this music, it’s not mainstream. It really is something special.
I nod softly, listening, because it’s true. And even if most of the people here will have forgotten how special it was by tomorrow, some, like this girl standing next to me, will remember. I should try and get her number. For research.
Suddenly the music cuts, the DJ apologizes, that’s it for tonight. Apparently a drunken clubber has knocked over one of the turntables. He was dancing in the DJ booth because he knows the right person. Now he has become public enemy number one because he killed the party.
I guess status isn’t everything.