Our first night clubbing in Europe started as all raucous club nights do, with a nanna nap at the apartment we were renting in the hipster-approved Vrsovice neighbourhood of Prague.
I had read the day before that UK techno stalwart (and one of my favs) Pearson Sound would be appearing at Meetfactory, a multipurpose art space started by famed Czech artist David Cerny. Well-rested, we took a couple of trams and ended up in the southwest of Prague in an old industrial area. The streets were cold and empty and I wasn’t sure if we were in the right place.
As we walked alongside a set of train tracks, the unmistakable four-four thud of loud techno emanated from an abandoned looking building in the distance and grew louder and louder with each step we took towards it.
As we entered, Perm, resident DJ at Leipzig’s Institut fuer Zukunft (more on this club later) was playing a mix of hard techno and acid – a nice start to the evening. The venue itself is a fairly nondescript and familiar looking dark room with a bar on one side and DJ booth at ground level which the crowd faced as they jolted and swayed in rhythm with the music.
Pearson Sound came on at about 2am and played a solid set of very bass-heavy techno, which went down well with the crowd. Whilst it was never heaving inside, there was always a good mix of ravers packed in front of the DJ booth.
Everybody we met in the club was great, particularly a guy named Viktor who we spent most of the night and the next day hanging out with. The night proved a good introduction to the rave scene in Europe and I had finally experienced clubbing in Europe, something that I had yearned for since reading Energy Flash by Simon Reynolds five years prior.
Whilst Meetfactory was a good introduction, it wasn’t entirely what I expected when I imagined raving in Central/Eastern European clubs. Institut fuer Zukunft on the other hand was about what I had imagined, and ultimately proved better than expected.
Prior to coming to Europe, I had spent quite a lot of time researching clubs and venues that I wanted to attend. I was probably most interested in Institut over any other place that I had read about. This is despite the fact that information about the club in English is scant and the information that is in German is very sparse.
The little information that was available pointed to the club being very left wing in its outlook, a big plus given the negative influence that ‘bro-culture’ has had on the electronic scene in recent years, and the space itself looked cool too.
We arrived at the club to a fairly long line of eager club goers waiting to walk through the doors. The door staff seemed to be interrogating each patron as they approached to enter. I had no idea what was being said as each conversation was in German and I was beginning to wonder if we would pass the test, whatever the test may be.
When it was our turn, we were met with questions about what kind of place it was, the kind of music played and what the night was called. We knew what kind of music to expect and what the place was and that seemed to be enough for the security guard who told us to be safe and to have a good night.
As we entered there were posters up saying “No Means No” and “Respect Everyone on the Dance Floor” and flyers advising what to do if anyone was overdosing in the club. Any club that loudly expounds on how men should behave whilst inside and harm reduction when it comes to drug use is one that I am on board with, so I felt good as we made our way through. Photos were also banned, which was very strictly adhered to by all attendees.
Walking into the main room was a pretty awesome experience. Hard acid techno thumped away; a massive crowd shifted as one with the music. The whole place had that run down Eastern Bloc vibe to it; industrial and cold, on the verge of collapse. It was great.
As the night went on, the same hard techno continued to boom in the main room. Trips to the toilets were, erm, an experience shall we say. It was hot and sweaty and as loose as any venue I had ever been to. Every single person we spoke to was great. There were conversations about the rise of the right in Europe and what needed to happen to destroy it. Music and travel were each good topics. The cultural life of Leipzig was constantly praised, and rightly so.
It ended up being one of those brilliant nights that really reinforces why a good night at a club is one of the most fun experiences available to human beings.
Despite Berlin being the next stop on the trip, it wasn’t until London that I would have my next taste of the club scene in Europe. I fell ill whilst there, so wasn’t able to make it out of bed. I am still bummed about that and hope to return soon to go to those clubs that I had read so much about before leaving Australia.
As Boxing Day rolled around, we headed down to Ministry of Sound in Elephant and Castle to attend the Rinse FM Boxing Day show. The lineup was massive and it promised to be a huge night. And it was a big one. Throughout the night we saw Oneman (who dropped ‘Black Beatles’ and ‘Blinded by the Lights’, so massive big ups are in order), Loefah, Kamixlo, Novelist, Logan Sama with Jaekae, Big Zuu, Jammz, Capo Lee, AJ Tracey and loads more.
It was a good night, but something about it left me wanting slightly and I mainly put it down to the venue. I would probably never go to Ministry of Sound otherwise. It is a massive corporate club and is devoid of soul. Everything is so clean and proper inside. Give me a dank basement shithole or a faded old building like Institut any day.
Also they sold Fosters in plastic bottles and they were 6 pounds a pop or something, so fuck that noise. Pretty sure that is the first Fosters I have ever drunk and it was garbage. The highlight of the night was seeing the sun rise over the Thames during my first walk along that most famous of embankments, another tick added to the list of experiences that I have dreamt about for so long.
A couple of weeks after this, we headed down to XOYO to see Mike Skinner of The Streets fame DJ. I have been a fan of The Streets since seeing them at Livid in 2001 (I think?) and smashing the hell out of A Grand Don’t Come for Free so was pretty excited. This night did not disappoint. XOYO is an awesome venue and was packed.
It felt like what you used to imagine clubs were like before you were old enough to go. Massive energy, crazy dancing and loud as fuck. Skinner played a nice mix of garage, trap and grime and the energy was immense throughout.
I’m very much looking forward to further exploring the club scene here in London and beyond in Continental Europe. Institut fuer Zukunft has definitely been the highlight and I hope to find similar places along the way.