23 November 2010

I was a fey, nerdy, Smiths listening, 20 year old student myself.

Life is getting harder for the aging Lothario. Remember the good old days when you were a professional 'player'? Still think you've 'got it' or are you slowly being put out to grass as the wrinkles set in?

Our man with the roving eye, TV cabbage correspondent Full Phat, tries it on for the night in Canterbury...

A visit to Studio 41: a social experiment

A young student at Studio 41 in Canterbury 
contemplates how the Hegelian idealist
account of reality as a whole revolutionized
European philosophy and how it was an
important precursor to
Continental philosophy and Marxism.
 Being fully cogniscant of how appalling Canterbury is at the weekend, particularly since Derrick “DP” Patterson lost his residency at The Loft, I had long been curious about whether Canterbury’s student scene had anything to offer. Was there a midweek niche for the tVC mission to convert clubbers to the new and old beats of deep house? I thought I’d use my occasional opportunities to work from home to facilitate solo scouting missions to Canterbury’s student “scene”.

It would also serve a secondary function: as my girlfriend recently barked at me, exasperated by my wandering eye, “why don’t you go out and do that on your fucking own”? An entirely reasonable request.

First on the list was the student night “Soap”, at Studio 41- a nod in its name to the classic New York palace of hedonism perhaps? I would go alone, as I could not imagine finding anyone foolish enough to join me on such a ridiculous mission. I had a quiet pint with my mate Rob Jones, a lucky man who’s off work for four weeks after a cycle accident. In the White Hart, it turned out the teenage barmaid recognized me from DJing at the Brewery Bar. I sounded her out on what I could expect to find when I got to Studio 41. She said, “well, it’s very young”. It turns out we have a mutual friend called Ruby, whom she said was “quite a bit older” than her. Ruby’s 21. So she must have thought I was her granddad. I thought even if I look utterly out of place, I would at least get to listen to some decent house music, as it was supposedly a dance event. And, I thought, students are generally OK, so it can’t be too bad.

I feared the worst when I turned up and the doorman said, “have you got ID? I mean, you’re obviously old enough, but it’s just in case any trouble happens”. He might as well have said, there’s a maximum age limit mate, and you ought to be in bed anyway. When I got in, I could see the potential for a great club - a massive bar, seating area and room 1; chill out area upstairs with comfy sofas, and a dark, medium sized classic main room reminiscent of the magnificent Rockshots in Newcastle. Nothing prepared me for just how young most people in there were though. Where were the mature students? The post grads? The other people who can work from home in the week?

Such an environment is not good for the ageing lothario. When I went to Ibiza two and a half years ago, tanned and happy, I got attention from the whole age range of women, 20 to 50. I was 38 and didn’t consider it inappropriate. Just flattering. It was a great feeling. When I started DJing it continued. I remember soon after coming back from Ibiza standing outside The Smack with my record box, waiting for a lift, when a car full of pretty girls in their early 20s drove past. I saw one point to me and say to her friend, “I’d have him”. I’d started a relationship with someone at this time, so never got the chance to put her words to the test. Few words, however, are finer to the player’s ear. They seem a very distant echo now as I watch the “students” (all of whom look like they work in Wilkinson’s) stagger into the club clutching each other for support.

I had started to suspect that my “Blue Peter presenter” looks were justifiably starting to fade after a long life of raising children who didn’t sleep well, and caning drugs and alcohol since I was 17. The girls under 30 still look but now look away very quickly - ticked off the list of whatever they might need to make them happy; be it for an hour or for a lifetime.

There is the odd exception - a very pretty 20 year old hairdresser tried to seduce me in front of my girlfriend in the Neptune in June, but that felt like the swansong of an ageing nightclub singer, or that someone had given her 50 quid to cheer me up. I have quietly grieved the loss of my broad appeal to the women folk of East Kent for over a year now, wondering how to cope with the desire to carry on going out, when by the very fact of going out you are constantly reminded that you’ve lost something that was dear to you. Suddenly feeling that awful self consciousness that the attention you used to give women, that was welcomed when you were desirable, is now an imposition, and compensating by suppressing any sexual desire within your self lest you expose yourself to the risk of humiliating rejection.

I hadn’t expected there to be so few people under 25, let alone 21. I felt utterly conspicuous yet invisible at the same time. This was the sort of youthful, sexually charged atmosphere that used to send me into a psychological tailspin when I was a fey, nerdy, Smiths listening, 20 year old student myself. Before E and contact lenses made me more extrovert and randy. The girls, who were totally underdressed yet somehow not sexy, either looked quizzically at me as if I had come in to tell one of them that their mother had had an accident, or right through me.

Without being conscious of it, whilst in a relationship I had imperceptibly crossed the threshold whereby any woman between 20 and 25 would relate to me as a sexual personality. It was the first time in 3 or 4 years I’d been in an environment which would expose that, or even make me think about it…like it or not, appropriate or not, 3 years ago, they did.

And the prospects for house music there? The musical and behavioural culture was utterly alien: I had expected, at the worst, electro house. Nothing could have prepared me for the awfulness of the atrociously mixed music that assaulted my ears. Bizarre electro mash ups with choruses that everyone knew the words to and sang. Badly mixed into soft rock tunes from my youth; Bon Jovi, Foreigner, Survivor. All sung by people in their late teens or early 20s. Then the occasional electro house remix of Dizzie Rascal and Wylie dropped in. It was by a long, long way, the worst music I’d ever heard in my life. These poor fuckers, I thought. If you were a student in Canterbury in the late 80s, you got tVC playing at the Works. This lot have got a coalition government ensuring that they’ll owe £20 grand before they’ve even got a job with their arse wipe degree; they won’t be able to get a house, even as a couple, until they’re 40, unless their parents are rich. And this is what they’ve chosen as their soundtrack.

My research done, I scrounged a fag off a spotty Nirvana fan, swerved my way through the girls screaming and stumbling towards the burger van, and drove home. A great club to do a great house music night in, but an utter impossibility. I left them to their problems and returned to mine - CSA payments, pending redundancy, and the inner lament of the player at the cusp of being put out to grass. But fuck me, the soundtrack to my problems is infinitely better :-) And I do still have an amazingly sexy woman as my girlfriend.

And for the younger girls and boys - Daisy, Charlotte, Dean and their mates - who sometimes come to our parties and say how much they love the music, surviving the sneers and askance looks of the older group members - I take my hat off to you. If that’s the dominant culture of your age group here, I’m not surprised you slag it off, and you come and seek out some deep house free party vibes as respite from the musical hellholes in Canterbury and the Brewery Bar. You’re always welcome in my house and our pub. And I’ll tell anyone who takes the piss out of you to go look in the mirror, bewail their wrinkles, and fuck off home to bed.