There are many curious aspects of music culture, where sometimes these hierarchies exist, but on the floor, things are generally harmonious.
Dance music in particular developed in quite a democratic fashion. The music came from a rich lineage of music genres made by those who had little but their creativity and rich imaginations. The roots of this music are deep, and they were there long before disco and later house and techno, took dance music to the world.
These music genres were made by groups of often marginalised people, so it made sense that much of the disco and early house music often preached about peace, love and unity on the dance-floor. This led to some incredible music, but sadly there were many left on the outside.
The most celebrated nightclubs in the world, such as Studio 54, often adopted a door policy which was anything but democratic, and ordinary music fans often made way for celebrities. In many ways it was all in sharp contrast to the ethos of the music spun there, though there was plenty of tunes that celebrated this type of high society too. In Ireland clubs such as the Pod were notoriously selective on the door back in the day. I used often get stopped there in the 90s, until I politely informed them I was their DJ for the evening. Berghain in Berlin has a door policy that is fairly notorious too, but in truth, nightclubs all over the world have traditionally operated door policies that can confuse the regular clubber.
VIP sections, which many venues adopt, also suggest there’s a lack of democracy in clubs, and clubs themselves have also sometimes been greedy with regard to door prices.
This means that getting in is not affordable for many, and it’s one of the reasons that many got disillusioned with clubbing at the end of the 90s. This era ushered the dawn of the so called ‘super-clubs’, and big name DJs often played multiple venues per night, with the door prices increasingly rising to pay the bills. It reached its peak on New Year’s Eve 1999, and though the big clubs and big names continue to this day, many feel that the essence of club nights are much more on a low-key grassroots level.
Ultimately, it’s all about the dance-floor. As a teenager, this is where I learnt loads about music and people and though it may sound corny to some, but this is where no-one really judged anyone else while having some fun. Clubs have always been about escape, and they have always provided a chance to forget about everything else for a few hours. In the days of my youth, this was where I first met people of all different backgrounds and it was a safe space for many too.
Homosexuality was illegal in Ireland until the early 90s, and clubs were a space where many gay music fans felt safe and themselves. The clubs I frequented never tolerated any disrespect of women either, and in the years that preceded mass immigration to Ireland, clubs were often where you found more diverse faces and cultures too, and they were certainly places which were immediately more accepting of new people. Still, many have felt excluded, and clubbing isn’t for everyone.
I started Everybody Dance last year, in an attempt to make clubbing more inclusive for those with additional needs, intellectual disabilities or on the autism spectrum. We run regular events now and our next one is this weekend in the Marina Market.
But again, not everyone can go and there are other barriers too. For many people in Ireland, they no longer live near any music venues. Many of our clubs are now closed and big towns such as Galway have seen venues disappear yearly.
There’s barely any left, and even in big cities many clubs have now turned into hotels or apartments. But we keep on keeping on. The dance floor won’t die overnight and this summer in bars, clubs, raves, parties and festivals, for a few hours at least, many of us will find that special place where the music takes us away from all of our troubles and strife!