Your (indie) disco needs you

Strictly Come Leaving: editor of Loud And Quiet magazine, Stuart Stubbs reflects upon the similarities and intrinsic differences between the club night and live music scenes in São Paulo and London.

One week before this issue of Loud And Quiet (Issue 24, Vol 3) was published, I took a trip to São Paulo; Brazil’s financial, fatty heart that should have stopped beating long ago considering the staggering amount of poverty clogging the arteries that connect the airport and business epicentre. On arrival I was told that in a perfect world you’d live in Rio in the day and São Paulo at night, the former having the carnival beach culture that has forever greened other coastal cities, the latter offering a dangerously exciting nightlife, equal parts sleaze and glamour.

In daylight hours São Paulo is sound-tracked by beeping horns and the continual buzz of banker’s helicopters; at night the students fill the clubs and dance. They dance when the bands are playing; they dance before they’ve started; they dance once they’ve finished. Or at least they did at Studio SP, where Brazil’s answer to Vampire Weekend, Holger, pied-piped the night way. Of course, São Paulo is a cultural light-year or two from London and most western cities and towns (their clubs, for example, don’t even open until midnight, at the absolute earliest), but I had to question why this could never happen back home. Unless I’m mistaken, it used to.

Londoner’s have always been particularly stuffy about moving when a live band is on. It’s as if we’re all thinking, why should we? But once they’ve packed it in and we’ve all clapped politely, it used to the be the case that – at club nights with late licences – we’d stay put and drink until dancing down the ‘indie disco’ became virtually involuntary. Hearing our favourite records played louder than our rooms allowed – and flailing around without levelling our CD racks – was the reason to go out in the first place. Now, we can’t wait to scarper once the headlining band have put down their instruments. ‘Club nights’ have largely become gigs, often in inferior venues.

Saturation can be blamed to an extent, sure. Especially in a city like London where alternative music played in public isn’t a month long wait away like in smaller provinces. And maybe our new free music culture hasn’t helped either – we can have our own discos at home now, with DJ Spotify on the ones and twos. Councils enforcing early live music curfews; let’s point the finger there too – our bands are over and our nights have peaked long before somewhere like Studio SP has more than two people in it. And yet, what seems to be really killing the indie disco is something far odder. It’s the very thing that was meant to make them a better, more sensory experience. It’s the bands.

By adding live music to the mix we’ve confused our own minds. We think that any club night is simply a live show, not unlike those at Brixton Academy or Wembley. You pay your money, see two or three bands and then it’s time to leave; weeping, lonesome tumbleweeds spinning around the place for no one but the bar staff and unlucky final DJ to sympathise with. Live bands were meant to be an added something, not the main event.

The indie disco doesn’t have to die because of this, though; nor because of the curfews, saturation or our new (un)healthy appetite for music files. We might even be able to work out a way around the extortionate drinks prices that often have partygoers fleeing to the nearest Weatherspoons ASAP. We just need to pick our club nights a little more carefully, and then stay in them a little longer. A lot of them are playing the sort of music that we once craved the opportunity to hear outside of our houses, like our Club of the Year on page 30. A lot of them could give São Paulo a run for their dinheiro.

By Stuart Stubbs

This article comes courtesy of the good folk at Loud And Quiet magazine, originally featuring in Issue 24 (Vol. 3), published in Dec 2010. Check ‘em out.

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