Journey to the Nightclub of my Soul

There are, according to Dante, nine circles of hell. In no particular order these are Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greedy, Dopey, Sleepy, Sporty, Baby and Ginger. But should the day ever arrive in which the dark lord of the underworld decides that it’s time for an extension, he could do worse than to have ‘nightclubs’ as the official tenth circle.

There are, according to Dante, nine circles of hell.  In no particular order these are Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greedy, Dopey, Sleepy, Sporty, Baby and Ginger.  But should the day ever arrive in which the dark lord of the underworld decides that it’s time for an extension, he could do worse than to have ‘nightclubs’ as the official tenth circle.

Granted, there’s plenty of competition.  Like a list of hopeful nobodies up for the award of ‘best supporting actor’, the field is awash with ‘worthy’ nominees.  At the time the Master of Darkness put the last coat of paint on his nine circles there were so many fields of misery yet to be invented, much less perfected.  Stock broking had not been thought of, road rage was still in its infancy and was a totally different beast – probably a camel.  Reality show contestants whose thirst for fame rivals that of a peddler for a porter of stout were still thousands of years off.  Everything has changed.  It used to be said that idle hands are the devil’s handmaiden until facebook took over the job.

Mobile phones, email spam and chartered accountancy – worthy nominees, all of them.  However, there is no invention, indeed, no creation quite as dispiriting as the nightclub.  Yet for reasons that will forever remain a mystery to me, nightclubs were places to which we once wanted to go.  Upon reflection, it demonstrates an acute lack of imagination on my part.

Many societies have a rite of passage that is intended to test youngsters and usher them into adulthood.  Ritual scarring and tattoos are common to some civilisations, whilst others prefer a spell in the National Service.  We, however, have nightclubs.  Just as Perth is said to be the world’s most isolated capital city, the winner of the ‘nightclub’ division would surely be ‘The Dava’ in Mount Martha.  On a darkened seaside road it lurked, cut off from everything other than housing estates.  This meant that the only way to get there was by car, necessitating either a taxi fare that could easily be mistaken for a house deposit or that one of your group be saddled with the ultimate indignity that is the mantle of ‘designated driver’.  For whilst nightclubs are, without exception, loud, crowded and hideous, the only possible way to make the experience worse is by way of sobriety.  And because we were still on our p-plates, it meant that whoever was our designated driver faced the very real prospect of having to cough up four dollars for a Fanta.  But before you have the opportunity to splurge on fizzy drink, there is the small matter of gaining entry.

Getting in was always a challenge.  Not because we were under age (we weren’t) or because we were causing trouble (we were unfailingly polite) but because entry to these places was strictly regulated by very large men using an unknown, unpredictable and invisible criteria.  I’ve no idea what the rules were, but they were largely based on an assessment of your footwear.  This was particularly true of nightclubs on the Mornington Peninsula, where quality footwear was an attribute prized above all others.  At that time there was nothing quite as shameful as limping away from door with the words ‘not with those shoes’ ringing in your ears.

It is true of all nightclubs that the ritual of being assessed at the door creates the illusion of exclusivity.  Being granted access always felt like an achievement at least on par with completing year 12.  Ideally, it too would have come with a certificate instead of an ink stamp, the outline of which would haunt the back of your wrist with the persistence of a bad tattoo.

Once inside, you rubbed shoulders, elbows and pretty much every other part of your anatomy with your fellow occupants whether you wanted to or not, such was the demand for space.  As I remember it, every night at the Dava was identical, with the same band forever on stage.  It was as though they were being held hostage in basement and allowed out on a nightly basis to perform.  That band was Andrew Hosking and Coupe De Ville and they played cover songs like a veritable human jukebox. Much like Dorian Grey, there must have been a portrait of ‘the Coupe’ resting somewhere in an attic, slowly surrendering to old age whilst the band remained immune.  Night after night, they churned out songs from hell’s own FM playlist to successive generations of eighteen year olds who – having gained entry – had no idea of what to do next.  Much like the Wiggles for intoxicated teens, they would have watched from the stage as one generation of fan was replaced by the next.  Until, presumably, there were no more.

I have long since stopped going to nightclubs.  As a result, I never wonder whether my footwear is to a suitable standard.  I believe the Dava no longer caters to restless teens and now firmly pitches its wares to the family market.  Perhaps it too grew up.  As to the whereabouts of Andrew Hosking and Coupe De Ville, I couldn’t say.  My only hope that someone remembered to release them from the basement.  I’ll admit that I’d love to know whether they’ve had to adapt to maintain a sense of musical currency – spitting out the latest by Bieber and Gaga and the like – or whether they remain as they were, as frozen in time as an overpriced daiquiri you purchased by accident and barely had enough money to pay for.  But wherever they are you can rest assured, ‘the Coupe’ remain forever onstage in the nightclub of my soul.

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