It was Matt’s birthday and we had a small celebration in honour of the day to tide him over until his party. Jacinta had come up to stay the night and try out our local club, only two blocks from us. It was an outpost of the South African equivalent of the Walkabout called Zulus, painted in the gaudy colours of the South African flag and unfailingly packed each Friday and Saturday night. So Jacinta and I got into our glad rags, downed the birthday champagne and even persuaded the usually hermitical Matt and Monica to get dressed up and join us. When we got to the line, the doorman refused to let Matt in with us three girls, despite Monica’s incredulous cry of ‘But he’s my husband!’ The irritated blondes went home and left Jacinta and I to the tender mercies of London’s South African community.
And what a strange night it was too. We got into the club and it was in a huge hall with all the warmth and atmosphere of a school social – probably exacerbated by the dirt cheap beer and alco-pops being drunk, the dismal pop music and the overall cliqueiness of the punters.
Let me give you two examples of what a club should not do. One – it should not use really bad DJs! Now, I like my pop music – not as much as I like hip-hop and R&B granted - but pop is easy and it is pretty harmless. Unless you play two 5ive songs in a row, the second one being their ‘remix’ of ‘I Love Rock and Roll’ which is excruciatingly mixed into … THE BRITNEY SPEARS VERSION OF ‘I LIKE ROCK AND ROLL’! I was completely dumbfounded! Did he think this bizarre homage to Alan Merrill / Joan Jett was cool and self-reflexive? I don’t know what he thought actually – it all went down hill from there.
We tried to stick it out – the drinks were at genuine 1996 Perth prices and we WERE in our nice clothes - there was no need to make it a complete waste of makeup. But as the music went from very bad to absolutely terrible, we fled to the toilets for a respite. And that was when I realised why the crowd was so insular and reminded me of a school social with obvious groups of friends simply dancing in circles.
Second thing clubs should not do – make the atmosphere so exclusive that it becomes another country. As Jacinta and I lined up in the bathroom we realised that there was no English being spoken in that bathroom except by ourselves. Every girl in that room was talking Afrikaans. I suddenly felt that I was back in Turkey for all the sense I could make of the surrounding conversations. Once out in the club again I just looked around at vast numbers of ex-pats clinging doggedly to their old ways and I remembered why I try to stay away from Australian pubs.
We left Zulus after barely 45 minutes in the end and had a better time lying on the outside benches of our little Browning Road pub watching the stars for 20 minutes then we had in the club.