Once upon a time, I used to go to nightclubs. By which I mean establishments with a ‘disc jockey’, as I believe they’re known, who mixes different musical items together in a seamless progression of beats, soaring vocals and, because a lot of this happened in the 1990s, incredibly crappy synths.
Once upon a time, I could wear a t-shirt, cargo pants with an abundance of convenient pockets, and suede sneakers, and be considered adequately dressed to enter a licensed premises. And once upon a time, despite the licensed nature of said premises, it was clear that the vast majority of other patrons were instead choosing to obtain their intoxicants from helpful private contractors.
Nowadays, largely empty weekends spread out before me, and I wonder whether I might be able to go out somewhere to listen to a bit of music and have what used to be called a ‘boogie’. Sure, in my case, that means my body jerking spasmodically at intervals which bear only the faintest resemblance to the beat. Still, I’m having fun, even if my flailing limbs pose an injury risk to others.
The problem is, I’ve no idea where to go. I made a rare visit to a proper young-people nightclub a few years ago, but I didn’t really know or relate to any of the music, with the dubstep beats or whatever they’re called.
Yes, I know that sentence makes me sound middle-aged – which was another problem. Being 20 years older than most patrons made me feel both ancient and creepy, and that was far from relaxing. Plus, the whole thing started well after my bedtime.
What we need is a nightclub suitable for people a few years either side of 40, where we can all gyrate badly together, pretend that ‘Sing It Back’ by Moloko is still the height of dancefloor cool, and expressly forbid the music of Flo Rida.
This nightclub for the aged should be absolutely pumping by 9pm, and wind up by about 12.30 or 1 so people can get home and relieve their babysitters. It should have fancy cocktails made with huge sticks because we still think that’s the coolest thing imaginable, as well as a range of overpriced bottles of water for nostalgia purposes.
What’s more, there should be absolutely no drugs besides our prescription pain medication. Because honestly, we’re too old, and it’s undignified. We’ll be drooling of our own accord before long, I promise you.
The lighting should be extremely dim and flattering to increasingly wizened faces, and there should be a range of soundproof seating areas where people can have a decent conversation without any interruptions from that doof-doof-doof stuff we were dancing to at the beginning of the night, when we had energy. Plus we’ll need a fully-equipped First Aid station with a defibrillator, as well as a few physios for when we sprain a muscle on the dancefloor.
Back in the day, one would never dream of arriving at a nightclub before midnight. Nobody was there, and it suggested you didn’t have a long list of earlier engagements. Whereas nowadays, let’s not kid ourselves – it’s a minor miracle if people of my age are out past one. While many have protested against the impact of Sydney’s lockout laws which kick in at 1.30, the embarrassing truth is that I’ve never been in a situation where I wanted to get into a venue after the lockout began.
In fact, rather than reliving our brief 1990s heyday, people of my generation might be better served by returning to the original days of the nightclub, back in the 1920s. The kind of establishment where there are little round tables with candles on them, and people dress up properly.
I’m not afraid to say that donning a sharpish suit and heading downtown for a night of hot jazz and proper, Arthur Murray-style dance steps sounds magnificent. I’d be more than happy to foxtrot or cha cha if the band plays slowly enough and I can copy somebody’s steps. Plus, there would be martinis, and that’s never a bad thing.
It’s entirely possible that I’m ignorant of lots of exciting, underground jazz clubs out there, but I can’t think of a single place anywhere in Australia where you can go and dance to live music like this. I don’t mean wobbling to the tired strains of a covers band murdering Madonna’s ‘Holiday’; I mean old-fashioned dancing to a jazz band, whether a traditional combo or, better still, a full-on Duke Ellington-style big band. You can go and hear recitals of jazz, sure, in a fancy concert hall, but a lot of that music was originally meant to be danced to, late at night.
Maybe in Paris or New York City there are still places like that. Definitely Havana still has nightclubs where you can go and listen to salsa bands playing into the night – I went there once upon a time, and it was a lot of fun, even though I was easily the worst dancer in the place and everyone else was either a tourist or sufficiently high up in the government to have fistfuls of dollars to blow on overpriced mojitos. No doubt in Vegas there are still a few establishments offering late night jazz as a way of luring people into the casinos. But if there ever were venues like this in Australia, I fear they’re long gone.
There’s another problem, of course – who to go out with. Most of my friends have long since made it clear that having kids means no, nearly all of the time, often with an incredulous look as they realise that I live in a vastly different, childless universe of social possibilities. I think to myself oh, surely your partner can take the brunt of sleepless kids for an hour or two occasionally, but then realise that the real issue is that kids have left them in a state of perma-exhaustion, and that going out late means even fewer hours of sleep before they’re dragged from their beds to entertain toddlers. Fair enough.
So I’m too old to frequent the DJ-powered nightclubs of today, and old-style jazz-filled nightclubs don’t exist outside Mad Men. But least we still have pubs. The live music may be some miserable bloke whose dreams of a spectacular performing career have diminished to a life spent blasting out yet another version of ‘Khe Sanh’ to people who are too busy talking to listen, and the only dancing on offer may be involuntary wobbling as you stagger from your table to the bathroom, but at least pubs are full of people going out and having a good time, even as we grow older. In our pubs, the glass can be half full, and that’s not a bad thing. And when I get home, I have the option of listening to a little bit of jazz before I go to sleep at a somewhat sensible hour.
But if anyone starts a nightclub for old people, I’ll be there as soon as you can say ‘age-appropriate footwear’. At least until I have kids of my own.