So what's nightlife really all about?
Like a scene from The Graduate, I have one word for you -- fluids. Some people just want to swill 'em, others are looking to spill 'em. DJs want to make sure the music is fluid, while promoters want fluidity in everything else. But sometimes things don't flow smoothly. That's when nights become memorable.
I've been covered in blood at an Atari Teenage Riot show and champagne at Eleven50, smelled like sweat and spilled beer at MJQ and expensive perfume at Halo, had a ringing in my ears from whiskey and from bombastic breakbeats. I've found religion in the audience and sin backstage. Sometimes I've ended up elated, sometimes livid. But I've always gotten what we all want from nightlife -- one hell of a story.
BITD (Back in the Daze): People say clubbing was better when they had to walk uphill both ways to go. Truth is, it wasn't, they were just more intoxicated. But that's not to say it wasn't great.
Atlanta has a long history of debauched destinations -- Velvet, Karma, Nomenclature Museum, Backstreet, to name a few more recognizable names. I've had celebutantes drag me into the utility closet so they could hit a bump, and been towed from club to club so others could score a bean. Glitter in my eyes, I've shared urinals with drag kings, and watched living dolls snort off the porcelain. You could get so fucked up you'd need Pampers.
Now we've got lounges geared toward poise and feeling pampered -- Halo, The Mark, Eleven50, Formosa. I've had the pleasure of shutting down -- or shutting down at -- just about every club in Atlanta in the last eight to 10 years. I've been too drunk, too stoned or just too thoroughly rocked to leave. I've been in ecstasy many more times than I've been on ecstasy. But I've also had some rude awakenings.
Once, amidst goths and geeks, I fell asleep in an easy chair at the Chamber, only to be shaken awake violently by leather-clad hands, while someone yelled, "Wake up, do you need help? Do you remember what you took?!?"
Rarely are things so literal, however. Once, stage fright in check by generous gin and tonics, I walked in a fashion show at Deux Plex, only to realize one step too late where the runway ended. I spent New Year's Y2K in the bowels of the Clermont. The world didn't end with a bang, but the night may have.
I stood vigilant at many of the city's last large-scale, dance culture events, such as FutureFest 2K, watching kids peacefully file in at dusk and sheriffs forcefully file them out at dawn. I've run from cops for breaking lines and crossing ropes set up for egos, not efficiency. I've faced greatness: KRS-One, after blowing a sound system, got down in the crowd, with no mic, and blew minds (as Public Enemy's Professor Griff stood to my side). I've watched what gardens of good and evil have grown -- seeing fundraisers produce not only some memorable stage shows, but also movies (Claire) and restaurants (Teaspace). Just because there aren't regular parties called Studio Filthy Whore doesn't mean people aren't out to get sex(y); the sounds sure as hell are still Lush, the nights Red-eyed.
Swill your fill: So were the '90s better? Depends on why you're going out -- to relive memories or make them.
Just last month, at Vision, I stood next to Jay-Z's bodyguard's bodyguard and passed around a bottle of Cristal. Truth be told, it didn't taste any better than Moet, and didn't get me any drunker than Pabst Blue Ribbon. But people were having a good time, and that's what counts.
The city's creatures of the night have grown up. Fuck, most people don't even know what they really want to do till their late 20s anyway, and, with a few exceptions, Atlanta's clubbing, having developed exponentially, is barely out of its proverbial teens. Take, for example, electronic act Aerial. I watched them debut on a pair of sequencers in a Castleberry loft in the late '90s. Now a quintet, they put on a show worth seeking out. They reflect transcendence, which is what nightlife is all about -- a timelessness that doesn't feel dated.
Nightclubbing is a tough business on both sides, and its face often changes -- clubs have changed names, hands and clientele. But the true visage of Atlanta nightlife reveals and reflects its experience; and as long as places like MJQ or the Crescent Room exist -- places where you can go to hear a good DJ and get handed a good drink with no attitude, places where that intangible "vibe" still seems more than a bad line -- Atlanta's nightlife will show no signs of giving up, and you'll still find me going out.
-- Tony Ware
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