Clubbing in London is a soul-destroying ordeal
Where dreams go to die
There are really only two types of people in Britain: those who grew up in London, and those who didn’t.
Ours is a country pockmarked with flat dormitory towns and if you’re from one of these places – most of us are – the dream of your snobby teenage ego is graduating from Friday nights spent half-dancing to the same rap songs and staring into the haggard faces of everyone you went to school with to hitting up a big proper London club instead.
London’s storied nightclubs are, on the face of it, everything anyone could ever want. Wherever you go and no matter how lonely your tastes once seemed, beautiful people will be taking drugs you’ve only read about in the Sunday papers and the music will be exactly what you asked for.
Yet, as is the case everywhere else, nobody in the capital ever has a really good time in a club. Why? Because a night out in London means paying over the odds to surrender your night to a sad, comatose march into tomorrow morning.
The guileless curation of the Snapchat story will convince you otherwise, but in reality you’ll pine after your dignity as you dress up to neck warm Red Stripe on a bus to stand cold for forty minutes in a queue to pay twenty quid to pay five quid for a smaller, warmer Red Stripe to nurse on a dancefloor too busy for any real movement.
Nothing quite underlines the bland hollowness of doing anything in London like the realisation the giddy weekend counterpoint to a week of commuting is another, much more inconvenient and depressing commute.
Forget your familiar pre-drinks routine, forget piling into a taxi and asking the driver to turn up Magic FM, forget bunking the bus as some Smirnoff Ice drinker tries to get everyone to sing along to the Fresh Prince theme tune. Now you’re going to have to game the unloved night bus: spasmodic, almost pointlessly slow and full of the people you’ve been a nob to all night.
Things don’t improve once you reach the club. Organised blind a month in advance, “big” nights out are an irredeemable quagmire of empty posturing in a zone six warehouse, all the while pretending to know who the DJ is. Half your friends will be turned grim and ashen-faced as they desperately try to get their money’s worth, the rest won’t have been able to buy a £35 ticket on the third release.
The punishing narrowness of everything stamps out the autonomy we grew up yearning after, and strangles at birth the precious spontaneity which could salvage a decent night from anywhere. The squad is set in stone – there’s no changing your mind. You won’t decide when you’re going home – the arcane bus timetable or the half-hour wait for Uber to spare you the misery of the 2.5x surge will.
While London might seem to offer everything, the bafflingly diverse nightlife on offer ghettoises clubs and bluntly pigeonholes your night. The choice, essentially, is which kind of dickhead you want to be surrounded with: coked-up lower league footballers, Red Stripe poshos shadowboxing with their daddy issues, septum piercing house bores or Russians whose dads’ oil money elbowed them into Harrow.
Anyone but you will be having fun. You’ll grin emptily in the direction of the club photographer before waiting another forty minutes for a night-bus. Then it’s another twenty minute walk to bed and a big thank you for a waste of fifty quid and ten hours. London is a purgatory of back-and-forth drudgery, and no club is capable of being a destination.
You’ll only ever be passing through, like at a service station but with fewer Time Crisis 2 machines, worse conversation and a less exciting selection of drinks. The expense and claustrophobia of it all will beat you into solipsism, despite being surrounded by your mates.
So why pretend this is anything but an expensive, depressing waste of everyone’s time anymore? There is another, infinitely better, way, and it’s called the pub. Walk there, sit down, talk to your friends all night and wear whatever the hell you feel like. Get served a cold pint at the bar without having to scream in someone’s ear. Eat something that’s neither cheesy chips nor in a paper bag on a bus. Your local is a pub, club, living room and restaurant in one room – why bother going anywhere else?