We’re hardly having the kind of spring weather that makes you want to roll in the tulips at the moment in Europe but last week I decided to venture out after work. The evening began well, with some food and good conversation at a friend’s pub in north London. Then a small group of us decided to go to a gig at a nearby club.
Now, I’m not exactly old but I have to admit I haven’t actually been to an established “nightclub” in some time. So it was with a mix of confusion and horror that I realised this particular haunt had – in the two or so years since I’d last passed through its doors – become more difficult to enter than the Pentagon.
I should also point out that it was not late. Thursday, 21.30. No queue. Nobody else around. But still, a three-stage entry process which felt more like an application for an overseas visa than a fun night out. The long, empty snake of crowd-control barriers which we were forced to worm our way around did little to detract from this.
Stage one: demand for photo ID. Not just to check age but to scan into their computer system to keep a record of everyone in the club. Any flattery which could have been derived from this was immediately undermined upon entering when I learned that a band member’s parents who had come to the gig had found themselves in the same position. What exactly happened to this data once the evening was over? I’m not sure. But there was no mention of a lottery or raffle, which may have won me over. Having handed over the ID, we walked on.
Stage two: demand for email address. The girl asking for it, who was unfortunately blocking our route to the club entrance, was unable to explain why this was needed. I suspect it was to clog my email with promotional material, though they could have been setting up a dating website. Who knows?
Further on still, stage three: with the door to the establishment only metres away, a taste of normality – do I have a ticket? Am I on a guest list? Questions I was more than happy to answer. Relieved, I began to reply, when the girl behind the desk bleated out, “I’m not sure what time he’ll get here!” My companion and I looked at each other, confused. “Sorry,” replied the girl. “I’m not talking to you, I’m just wearing this headset and I’m talking to the bar staff. We’ve all got them.” And sure enough, hidden under her mane of chestnut hair, was a small, shiny black plastic radio earpiece and microphone.
As I finally made my way inside, I wondered whether I had somehow strolled into an Orwellian dystopia where paranoia, confusion and the myth of “security” reign over common sense. Was this a taster of the nightclub of the future?
“Don’t be ridiculous,” I told myself. “You’ve just come to see a gig with a friend. Go and get yourself a drink.”
“Two gin and tonics,” I asked the man behind the bar, who looked up at me.
“Got any ID?” he said.
Katie Bilboa is a producer for Monocle 24.