Post-Clubbing: Fabric's Closure & The Digital Disco
Text: Mantis Kane
Illustration: David Foldvari
You might disagree, but Margaret Thatcher is dance music’s true impresario. By stoking social segregation and dog-eat-dog capitalism she divided the nation and ignited a counterculturism that produced the rave movement as a strange cultural outgrowth.
As much a political reaction as musical uprising, squadrons of sound systems volleyed across rural UK in the late 80’s, relocating the nightlife from the English countryside. Unrest, new music and new drugs landed fortuitously together. Dance culture was borne, then abruptly suffocated by a suspicious and neurotic Parliament.
In passing a bill that essentially outlawed these free parties, Thatcher unwittingly forced promoters to legitimise their operations. The fuse had been lit; repetitive beats were the pulse of a disenfranchised society and organisers quickly repackaged the party to comply with new laws. Stamped with the appropriate health & safety stickers, local authorities passes and receipts for the taxman, events moved back to the towns, into the clubs. The era of super-clubbing was in motion.
When Thatcher died in 2013, many detractors held street parties, dancing vindictively to those very same vilified repetitive beats. They hailed the death of the dragon; celebrating the passing of dance music's killjoy; totally oblivious to the irony that her most enduring legacy was the culture they so revelled in.
In 2016 another high profile death reverberates through Britain. Tenuous it may seem, many believe the super-club Fabric's closure by Islington Council is a Brexit byproduct, in some way fitting the dark narrative of the referendum. The petitions, the social media outrage, the teary eulogies, they're all falling on deaf ears. Many are weaving its closure into the dystopian isolationist tapestry; a symbol of Britain’s closing door. Fabric was a node of pan-euro clubbers, producers, performers - a sort of foreign exchange programme for munters. It represented the two-way ebb and flow of the new world.
What will replace it? Perhaps the building will return to its original function as an abattoir. The ghosts of forgotten ravers moving around eviscerated pig carcasses to the hum of refrigeration units and rhythms of dripping blood. As Europe’s new North Korea, the UK will need to cut away the culture and repurpose her monuments. The Tate will soon be a T-Mobile sweatshop; the British Library a storage bunker for Primark; St Paul’s Cathedral a large industrial washing machine for the standard issue corduroy uniforms we’ll all soon wear.
But just as the outlawed free parties backfired to create today’s dance culture, Fabric’s closure could be the catalyst for a new chapter.
Post-clubbing is rearing its head. The disco is about to go digital.
The indicators have been flashing for some time. The Boiler Room’s unlikely success flirted with the concept of Remote Clubbing. Watching a DJ perform a set on YouTube seemed like a poorly thought-out Dragon’s Den business proposal, invented in some misguided cocaine induced epiphany. But legs it has. Now fully established as a worldwide brand and go-to site for retired, lazy, voyeuristic and antisocial clubbers.
In hot pursuit, the world of virtual reality looms closer. The two dimensional relationship between viewer and device is about to go obsolete. Experiential, interactive, augmented are all buzzwords that have never really applied to clubbing until recently. The Digital Disco is a software platform that marries the real with the unreal. The next generation of nightlife will be orchestrated and experienced from your own home - the computer representing a portal into more fantastic and limitless events.
Create a clubbing avatar, climb into a movement suit (similar to the ones used in special effects studios) and enter the virtual club. A real DJ will be playing, as their own avatar, broadcast remotely, probably from their bedroom too. Roam the club - dance with fellow clubbers - chat via a headpiece - all without leaving the comfort of your own console. It’s Second Life for ravers.
The concept was originally a virtual showroom for clubs; a promotional tool that superseded the bog standard Facebook event. But it quickly became apparent that the digital club was strangely alluring, with beta testers outstaying their welcome and lingering inexplicably. Like Pacman killing time in a dead-end, these people didn't want to leave. Being immersed in a vacuous digital platform - completely mindlessly, with no defined role - seemed to inadvertently contain the blueprint of the zeitgeist. Digital attendance, cost effectiveness, facelessness and remoteness - it's no wonder that kids are gravitating to the sedentary clubbing experience.
Online and off site, you'll never have to
leave the console again.
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