Indie clubs ruined my life
A couple of weeks ago I was in Basel, in Switzerland, writing a travel feature about things you can see and do in the city. My friend and I went to a record shop. We met a bloke who told us about an indie club at a venue called Kaserne. Six hours later we stumbled into Basel's former army barracks and - lo and behold - the nice Swiss man was right. We spent the rest of the night getting fiendishly drunk and dancing to Ladyhawke and The Smiths.
In the course of writing a different story for London Lite - about the best indie nights around the world - it dawned on me just how much of my life I've wasted in exotic cities drunkenly stumbling around to the same songs I could have listened to in my house.
It's time to confess to an addiction: indie clubbing around the world. I blame Norfolk. Where I grew up, people had no taste. Clubs - such as they were - were grisly affairs were trainers were banned and not even everyman indie bands like Oasis would get a spin. Locals actually believed that if someone put a Chemical Brothers record on at Chicago Rock Café, the sky would fall in. It's hard to believe now, but indie clubs were thin on the ground in the mid 90s.
When I went to university in Leeds I fell in love with Star and The Cockpit - these cheap and cheerful places offered tantalising new thrills and a window into a world where you could actually dance to the songs off the Evening Session. With other people. When I moved to Birmingham, it was Ramshackle and Snobs that kept me happy on a weekly basis.
The next realisation was that, even when you're away on holiday, you can still enjoy indie clubbing. My worldwide quest for indie disco thrills has come at a price though. An ex-girlfriend yelled at me on the streets of Toronto as I attempted to thread our way through the city's red light district in search of the Phoenix. It was January, minus 3 degrees, and she was in heels. I was being an idiot.
In Paris, me and another ex should have spent the night cooing at each other and playing footsie under the table in a brasserie by the Eiffel Tower. Instead, I dragged her to the Bastille district and didn't stop still we'd found Nouveau Casino, slipped inside, and requested Cassius. I got dumped soon after.
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Barcelona is a great place for indie nights. Mond was my favourite - walking through the door and hearing The Dismemberment Plan boom from the speakers sent a tingle of excitement down my spine. The Magic Stick in Detroit, Vega in Copenhagen, The Funhouse in Sao Paulo: these are just a handful of indie clubs that I've enjoyed memorably boozy nights out at.
Perhaps I should spend more time enjoying some local culture and local music rather than embarking on a desperate search for a scuzzy dive bar with a DJ who has the same records I have. But then again, in Paris you can hear The Teenagers, in Sao Paulo they love CSS. Local variations spice things up.
In the course of researching the story I mentioned, people fell over themselves to tell me about amazing nights they'd had at indie clubs abroad: Razzmatazz and The Sidecar in Barcelona, Magnet in Berlin, Vera in Groningen, Trash and Mondo in New York, The Viper Room in LA, Melkweg in Amsterdam, Popscene in San Francisco, La Cigalle in Paris. It made me think that there must be something special about these boozy evenings we have at indie clubs abroad. This is our Faliraki, our Ibiza. Sort of.
But does this obsession make us heathens? Is it the cultural equivalent of jetting off to Lanzarote for two weeks and slinging Asda carriers full of tea bags and beans in the suitcase because we "Don't like foreign food"? Or is it more to do with the collective experience - the idea that, even if you can't always speak to someone abroad as well as you'd like, you can still drunkenly dance along to Hot Chip with them?
Clearly I've taken things too far. But I don't plan to stop until I've discovered a few more great indie nights around the world. But now it's your turn - tell us about great indie nights abroad that have inspired you. And if anyone's got the same syndrome as me, perhaps we can start a support group...