One thousand and one nights

Manic Mondays, Toxic Tuesdays, Wicked Wednesdays and Twisted Thursdays: Dublin’s club nights are as numerous as the grains of sand in the desert, but do these thousand and one nights all tell more or less the same tale?

The diversity of the capital’s clubbing scene was dealt a blow last month with the closure of the POD, home of Tripod and Crawdaddy. When it was announced that the venue was being taken over speculation was rife that the space would play host to another Copper Face Jacks or Wright Venue.

Does Dublin really need another Coppers, or have the capital’s nighthawks grown tired of the ‘mainstream’ scene?

“Every night out that is advertised seems to be the exact same,” says UCD graduate Emer Nugent. “Blah blah neon, drinks offers, celebrity DJs. There just doesn’t seem to be a really inventive or original idea for a student night out.”

DCU student Aodhán Taylor agrees. “I don’t go to many of the student promo nights” he explains, “but the ones I have been to did all seem very similar”.

Music journalist Una Mullally is a veteran of the Dublin scene. She thinks 18-24 year olds are facing a very different nightlife culture now than their demographic was facing five years ago.

“They are bombarded with Facebook event invites on a daily basis and eventually a lot of that stuff becomes white noise”, Mullally says.

“I also think a decrease in the popularity of dance music, once the default setting for clubs, and indeed music-driven night clubs as a whole, which once upon a time was white nightclubs were actually about, is contributing to a rather vanilla nightlife, where much of what’s going on is homogenous”.

“The market wants what the market gets”, she states, highlighting the fact that Copper Face Jacks is one of the most profitable clubs in Europe. “You can’t argue with the fact that people actually want to go to Coppers, and that its formula is extremely successful and has been aped by many other places.”

Indeed DCU graduate Sarah Doherty says she’s gone nowhere else but Coppers for almost two years.

Does this mean Dublin no longer wants something different? Former UCDSU Ents Officer Jonny Cosgrove says no. He works with Pamplemousse, the group behind many successful nights across the capital.

Cosgrove isn’t sure of the exact details regarding the sale of POD, but comments that it has changed hands before and says it may change hands again. He doesn’t put its closure down to a lack of interest in diversity but rather to a number of things going on in the industry.

“There are over 7,500 licenses premises in the country with saturation being met at about the 3,500 mark so unfortunately somebody has to feel the pinch”, he says, adding that the race to the bottom in terms of drink prices, entry in and “whatever gimmick you can think of in an attempt to get punters in the door” has also left some venues struggling to compete.

Mullally agrees that while they’re becoming more prolific, the ‘mainstream’ club nights haven’t totally taken over. She says there are still creative and interesting club nights available in the city, citing Bodytonic as one group at the forefront of this scene.

Sean Arthur goes one step further, arguing that in his college at least, “the paint by numbers, cheap drinks/chart music style event actually brings in poorer numbers”.

Arthur is a DJ with Dublin-based Emergence and says there’s a great sense of community at the venues he plays in. “Everyone knows each other or if not they will soon enough” he laughs. He’s a DJ at Ripple, a weekly Thursday night session of 80s/90s music that started late last year.

“We have watched [Ripple] grow immensely since then with sell out nights and big lines out the door. I definitely feel like there is a huge demand for alternative music and people just need to be exposed to catch onto it” he says.

Cosgrove says that while Dublin clubs will naturally lean towards Entertainments Officers who can offer them access to students “this is not always the case as there are only four full time Ents officers in the country, with one potentially being removed if the new UCDSU constitution passes”.

The queues still snake down Harcourt Street on Mondays and Wednesdays but people are now looking for the new ‘cool’ hangout, he claims.

“Alt is ‘in’ at the moment,” says Cosgrove “and we are seeing that by, as ridiculous as it sounds, the places people are checking in [on Facebook]”. He might just be on to something.

“The week following the closure of Crawdaddy Swedish house producer Axel Bowman and Housewerk played the Lost Society along with the resident Ripple and Provider DJs”, Sean Arthur explains. “The doors opened at 11 and there was a line down the end of the street and beyond. The night sold out in an hour and, at my best guess, 100 people were turned away. Similarly our re-launch night in Grand Social was sold out by about 12 o’ clock. That’s something you don’t see happening at a lot of mainstream clubs.”

Are people finally discovering that odd oasis that they didn’t know existed? One thing is certain: punters are asking for more from their nights out. Students were up in arms in recent weeks with a campaign by Midnight promotions causing controversy and a boycott of a Dublin club being launched online.

Cosgrove said that the scandals highlighted the fact that social media could be a useful communication tool. “Yes, people can email or call but at the end of the day their peers are on Facebook, they recommend stuff on Facebook, so why not air your disgruntlement on Facebook? In this age, Customer Relationship Management is paramount for survival, and while everyone wants to like the ‘cheers for sorting us last night’ comment, we also need to be able to take the hit, listen and learn from those not entirely happy with the service provided. “

Mullally is also optimistic about what these new movements mean for the Dublin club scene.

“I think the fact that this discussion is even happening, that many people into clubbing in the city would prefer to see POD stay open as it was, that the people are complaining about advertising taglines, or setting up a Facebook group to boycott a club means that there is now some kind of discourse starting around the quality of nightlife in the capital. It means that people are questioning what’s being offered to them instead of just going along with it,” she says.

UCD student Rob Corr goes on a night out to enjoy himself with his friends, regardless of the venue. He admits that most people follow the crowd but says the alternative night out is there for you if you want it. “It can be hard to convince others to go with you though, because they think they’re less likely to ‘get the shift’ off someone who’s a little bit tipsy”, he laughs.

Even in an endless desert of one thousand and one seemingly similar nights, it’s still possible to find a diamond in the rough.

DCU College View March 7th 2012

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