Dancing Without A Ceiling
Over recent years Cornish clubbers have seen the demise of venue after venue across the region - a trend mirrored across the UK. At the same time there has been an explosion in the number of outdoor events on the social calendar. Many of these showcase the best in DJ and electronic music circles, begging the question “Are festivals the new clubs?”
Barely a week goes by without it emerging that another venue is closing here in the South West. Over recent years my hometown of Penzance has lost popular late night haunts including Bosun’s, the Barn, Demelza’s and the Zero Lounge. Sound,the sole remaining nightclub, is due to close next year to make way for a hotel chain to move in. Penzance is by no means unique in this trend, The closure of mega-club L2 last year saw Truro without a late dance venue, and even student centre Falmouth has failed to keep venues like Vanilla and Mango’s.
So what is behind this decline? Undoubtedly social trends have a part to play. The relaxation of the licensing laws has made the late-night venue redundant for the drinkers. Bars can now stay open to 2am or later, meaning there’s no need to go on to a club to carry on drinking.
Another conclusion that could be drawn is that dance music is dying. Yet a glimpse at the influence of EDM in the charts would dispel this, and a look and listen to the DJ profile pages right here will also prove that dance music has never been in better health. Which begs the question, where have the clubbers gone?
“Gone are the days of 1000 capacity clubs in small towns having queues around the corner. So where have all the people gone? Nowhere. Quite literally they have stayed at home .Why would you leave the comfort of your sofa to step out into the rain and spend good money when you’ve already paid for 100’s of T.V. channels and super fast broadband?”
Penzance DJ and producer Daytoner adds; “The smoking ban in the mid naughties seemed to lead to the first cull of venues & clubs, suddenly the comparative freedom of dancing in a field seemed a better choice and they thrived. You could see that even locally, the clubs that used to be packed were empty when rumours of outdoor raves were running. City centres seem to have hit by a further blow, property prices & the gentrification of areas leading to noise complaints from the new 'professional' residents and forcing closures.”
“I used to go out to clubs loads in the early to mid nineties and loved it. The atmosphere was always great but that was mainly because of the people there and the music on offer. Now dance music has become a lot more mainstream, it's available everywhere and a lot more people are into it, which includes people who aren't really there for the music but just out to drink and try and get laid. This is why festivals are better, you have the choice, it separates the groups, so you have those who are just there for there for the music and those who just want to get trashed and chat etc. Both are great in their own way but don't tend to mix. If you're in a club they will cross over.”
Former club manager and promoter Matt Roberts has seen the shift towards the outdoors and gone with it, providing mobile bar solutions and also promoting small festivals himself. “The truth is it’s never been easier to have a party in a field. There’s no need to have an ’ Illegal rave ‘ any more . At relatively short notice and for a very reasonable fee one can inform the authorities of a plan to hold an event for up to 499 beautiful party people. More than enough for a good time in my opinion.
With a land owner's permission , some kind of temporary structure, a generator , some flashing lights , and of course a fire pit you’ve got yourself the beginnings of a party. And they don’t have to be ramshackle affairs either . Parties and festivals are evolving .”
So, with the festival scene growing in both number and appeal, does that mean the end of the night club as we know it?
Daytoner reports “There's now talk of a Govt task force for Nightlife (really, imagine that committee) but perhaps some of the festival boom could be balanced to keep urban entertainment alive as a further blow could mean the party's over in the cities and then the whole of the UK's music business will suffer.”
Matt, on the other hand, sees the limiting factor to be far more organic: “Temporary events in fields will never replace town centre clubs,. It's just not practical. There’s the weather for one thing , and , erm ...yeah the weather mostly!”
Unfortunately, as with most things, economic factors are likely to dictate the future. Many clubs reside in buildings that are attractive to developers, in areas that are becoming increasingly residential. While this trend continues the growth of the festival scene shows no sign of slowing. See you soon in a field near you!
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