Have you ever noticed that there are two main kinds of clubbing experiences? Well there are…exclusive and inclusive. And from what I can tell they draw two different types of crowds for two different reasons.
Exclusive clubs rely on guest lists and dress codes to maintain that feeling of exclusivity. If you got in, you’ve met the club’s fabulousness quotient and you’ve been lifted above all that riffraff still waiting in line outside.
Studio 54 in late ’70s New York was the mother of all exclusive clubs. It was about decadent decor and lavish procession, seeing and being seen. Bianca Jagger rode in on a white horse once. It was the preferred club for celebrities to hold their parties at and any mortals lucky enough to get in would rub elbows with the stars and have stories to tell for the rest of their lives. The currency of the club was that rush of feeling like one of the chosen ones…and that could only happen because the rest of the world was excluded from the party.
While it would have been a sight to witness, I probably wouldn’t have actually had a good time at Studio 54 because in general I’m not into that exclusionary clubbing experience.
I like inclusive places where anyone can get in, wearing anything, without a guest list hookup. When you’ve got great music and no attitude, people come to dance. There’s an infectious happy energy created by diversity in a crowd. And you won’t find a lot of posers when people are truly there for the music.
In ’90s New York I had the pleasure of attending Body And Soul held at Club Vinyl. The legendary resident DJs were Francois K, Danny Krivit and Joe Claussell. The club was the after-after party to Saturday night…it began Sunday afternoon. No alcohol was served, just bottled water. Whatever the substances of choice were, usage was not overt. There really wasn’t even much of a light show. I just remember three stacks of speakers, a couple of stories high, facing a packed, sweaty, dark dancefloor. And every kind of person was there, absolutely going off to the music.
Late 80s warehouse parties and early 90s raves were inclusive events. Though the location was always mysterious, if you found the place you were welcomed to the party no matter who you were or what you looked like.
On the flipside, gay circuit parties in the late 90s were exclusive: only muscle marys with major disposable income need apply.
A great party that’s still going on in New York is an outdoor jam called the Soul Summit that takes place every Sunday through the summer in Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park. It’s like an earthier, free outdoor version of Body And Soul. Diverse, positive and inclusive. These people are strictly about the music and they like it soulful and deep.
Toronto has its own outdoor sound system on summer Sundays called Promise. It’s free, the roster of guest DJs rotates, and you might hear anything from reggae to freestyle to funk to hardcore in one evening. It operates by word of mouth, moves around a bit but generally stays near Cherry Beach.
It’s full of hippies and ex-ravers, young couples with their dogs and kids, the odd soccer team…? Whoever hears the sound through the bushes arrives to find a happy and welcoming party by the water.
If you think about it, you can pretty much walk into any party and figure out in a few moments whether it’s an exclusive or inclusive environment. Usually if it’s exclusive I tend to walk back out.