The Word Rabbit

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This article was written on 09 Sep 2016, and is filled under Uncategorised.

Fabric, drugs and club culture

Fabric the nightclub is closing. Over in Bermondsey, ground used by Millwall FC for various reasons, some of it relating to the local community, has been made subject to a compulsory purchase order and plans are to replace it with luxury flats. Guess which the Guardian’s G2 supplement chose to lead with? You already know the answer, of course. It was the Fabric story, which is much closer to where the Guardian writers want to situate themselves than some shitty football club in south London. And why is that? Because club culture and the smirking, trendy Guardian readers need each other like a smack addict need heroin.

That club culture is powered by recreational pharmaceuticals. At some kind of party near my friend’s house, held in no more auspicious a venue than a field, the music started at 10pm and then went on until… yes, 10am the following morning.If you can dance for twelve hours straight listening to music that would make an adult’s brain bleed, you’re not high on life, you’re high on something that came in tablet form and temporarily rewired your brain chemistry so that all in the garden seemed rosy. The chances of it seeming rosy far into the following day are not high and the chances of it looking even vaguely bearable on Monday are effectively zero.

Take the drugs away, and club culture looks like what it is, which is going somewhere dark with lots of people you don’t know and music you might not ordinarily choose to listen to. An article in, yes, G2 by a critic so middle class he shits polenta said that clubs were about a sense of oneness, of creativity and possibility. They’re not. That, my sweet, is in the drugs. If you take something that gives you a general sense of wellbeing and listen to music that tends towards the euphoric, that’s what you’re going to feel. In fact, it’s much like me taking anti-depressants and not feeling depressed any more. Never mind the fact that if I didn’t take anti-depressants I’d be dead and if people who go to clubs didn’t take their drugs, there would pretty much be zero consequences. Drugs are supposed to be incidental when they aren’t. They’re at its heart.

Even those tribal initiation ceremonies by tribes that we’re all supposed to admire and find noble, but where you end up dying of something that could be cured by a short dose of antibiotics, and where they take hallucinogens, yes, the visions and all the other faux-profound bollocks are caused by drugs. Take them away and it’s just a man in a skirt with a badger on his head playing the didgeridoo for five hours and shouting nonsense. These experiences are not aided by drugs, they are entirely powered by them. Only if you’re on drugs can you ever possibly hope to make sense of them, a term I use loosely, because asking a person who is mashed off their tits on something to explain shoelaces with any degree of coherence is asking a bit much.

And like my granddad’s generation, for whom the war, from the safe distance of many years, was all a big adventure harked back to it. the clubbers look upon their chosen club as some kind of Eden. Well, newsflash, people. It isn’t. My granddad went ashore on D-Day and saw people being blown limb from limb and unending human misery, but chose to focus on the comradeship. By the same process of rose-tinted retrospect, clubbers don’t see the people whose first tablet was their last, or see the person taken off in an ambulance who’d shat themselves because they had a shaky control over their muscles. They also don’t see the people whose brain chemistry has been disastrously and utterly fucked for the rest of their lives, because they don’t want to. Clubbing is great and there are no down sides. Until there are, of course.

People defending Fabric say that it is, in some way, ‘important.’ No, it really isn’t. Things like homes and jobs are important. Communal spaces like libraries and leisure centres are important. Schools and hospitals are important. A nightclub, where twentysomethings take drugs isn’t because, almost by definition, it caters to a small section of the population whose heads are so far up their hedonistic arseholes that they think their spleen is the horizon. Anyone who thinks differently is dissembling, is seeing the place for something other than it was. It existed so that the owners could make money and, additionally, kept people who make and supply the drugs in work.

While I’ve never taken anything stronger than Sertraline, I’m not entirely anti-drugs. Grown adults should be able to get off their heads on whatever they want, knowing that it hasn’t been adulterated with heaven only knows what. And they should also know that nobody has been through hell to smuggle it into the country, which is far from what happens now. Regulate it, have it made in legally regulated factories and, more importantly, tax the arse off its consumption, using the tax revenue raised to support mental health services, because that’s where some of the users are going to end up, either sooner or later.

My problem with all this is that people lie to themselves. They lie that club culture is powered by drugs and they lie about that sense of universal oneness and self-deception isn’t healthy. The oneness is illusory, is something that you cling to but which cannot sustain you precisely because it is an illusion. Just look at the lyrics of Pulp’s ‘Sorted For Es And Wizz,’ which, although it’s about the risible rave culture of the nineties, strikes at the heart of the idiocy with deadly accuracy:

Oh is this the way they say the future’s meant to feel?
Or just 20,000 people standing in a field.
And I don’t quite understand just what this feeling is.
But that’s okay ’cause we’re all sorted out for E’s and wizz.
And tell me when the spaceship lands ’cause all this has just got to mean something.

The answer is that it doesn’t mean anything. That’s the hideous truth to this. You might have felt all intense when you were in Fabric, when that thing you took was whacking through your veins with every beat of your heart, as though you were an avatar of blazing truth, but, in truth, you weren’t. You had just taken something that made you feel like you were for a few hours. Were you to write G2, this is the thing you would never be able to say. You’d never be able to say that clubs were places where people took drugs and that, like all places, they had a natural lifespan and ended up giving way to other places, because that would get in the way of your earnest posturing. Fabric was and now it isn’t. Like 99.99% of the population, my life is no poorer for its passing.

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