a love letter to my favourite club night
Club nights come and go, but the best ones stay with you forever.
I remember my first night out in London. My mate and I from Crewe were staying in a youth hostel in Russell Square. We got all dressed up in shirts our mums had bought us from Next to go out clubbing at a Kings Cross hotspot. The club was described on its website as a "full-on, warehouse-style club with outdoor spaces and 24-hour licence for all-night dance parties". The night sucked worse than you can imagine: the music stank, the drinks stank and I swear no one in the building even pulled. It was 2008 and I'd just moved to London. The question on my mind was, is clubbing in London a thing of the past before I've even started? In short the answer was no. And it won't be anytime soon if you're worried.
Eternal was held in a small Caribbean venue called Peoples Club situated on the Holloway Road. Many journalists have already written about the night documenting the incredible musicians who performed such as Jamie XX, Oneman, PC Music, Koreless; also talking about the no-nonsense perfection of the venue and the fact that gentrification has now made Peoples Club (and with it the night, Eternal) a thing of the past. Read recent developments on the case here.
What I really want to explore here is what made Eternal just so magical for me, what took it beyond being just a normal night out. Decent bookings aren't enough. I can promise you it was more than just a club night - it was a truly special time in the life of anybody who was lucky enough to be there.
When I first walked down the thin staircase at Eternal I really didn't know many people there. I knew my friend Bradley who I'd arrived with and a few of the guys and girls I'd seen around before. Normally in London "cool" nights aren't exactly the most welcoming of places. I remember when London was full of band-run club nights - the majority of which you couldn't attend unless you dated the lead singer or your dad was the band's hairdresser. To this day at many venues if you don't know the DJ or the promoter, you'll probably be in the queue for longer than you'll be hitting the dance-floor. Eternal was the complete antithesis of this. It wasn't wristbands or a person at the door with an iPad. There weren't two queues - come to think of it there wasn't even really one queue. Considering some of the world's biggest DJs were downstairs playing to a 200 person capacity room that's quite unusual.
Eternal wasn't your usual PR heavy, Facebook invite, hashtag to jump the queue event. The DJs were never announced; your mates might say they knew who was playing, but they could equally have been thrown a red herring. The mystery and surprise of the night made the anticipation all the more exciting. Quite often you'd only know who was playing when they walked up to the decks. Half the time the DJs weren't even booked - they just turned up, jumped on the decks and played.
You knew so little about how your night was going to play out walking into Eternal. Every time was a leap of faith. With most modern clubs it's so easy to find every detail about the night before you even go: Facebook gives you the option of looking at who's attending, so you can pick who you're going to chirpse before you even arrive. Eternal made sure the dancefloor - not the VIP area - was the focus of the night.
It was a dance floor of open arms, open hearts and open minds. Theorists believe that spiritually empowered underground 'ley-lines' connect Stonehenge and Glastonbury, causing it to be such a majestic place. I don't know for certain but maybe they run under Holloway Road too, making the Eternal dancefloor so special. It's either that, or the genuine sense of community that was built up over time in that small space.
Google the word "community" and the first result is "a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common". Ok, no-one lived on the Eternal dancefloor, but spiritually many people lived for it. The community was built on people who had never known or met each other before first meeting there. You could guarantee that you'd see the same faces every time and you'd never get bored of seeing them. There would also always be new people. Somehow each person seemed to be playing a role not only in creating the perfect night for themselves, but for you also. From the chaos merchants to your mate who snogs four people and pisses everyone off, each person became a necessary and fully functioning cog in an anarchic machine.
Full credit needs to go to the guys who put the night on. At the end of each Eternal, you'd see the people who'd pulled the night together get behind the decks and play songs which became synonymous with the night's end. They had a Pavlov's Dog effect on everyone: as soon as the first bar dropped, everyone would scream, slap the ceiling and generally lose their shit.
Eternal came to an end. But as the name implies, Eternal lives on. What happened with the closure of People's Club is a shame, and part of a wider problem with London, but the party continues in other ways. The guys who put on Eternal have continued the legacy with nights such as Oscillate Wildly, Luxury and the recent Trance Party Tour which saw a crew of musicians including Altern8, Evian Christ, Venus X, Total Freedom, Dark0 and many more jump in a tour bus from London to Sheffield to Liverpool, bringing the Eternal spirit to a club near you.
Whilst this piece focuses on London, there's no reason why this can't and isn't happening wherever you are. Clubbing and nightlife isn't about where you go, who you see, how many Instagram followers you have or whether you're allowed into the VIP area. Nightlife is about the brilliant friendships having fun will always bring you. We're all still friends and the thing we'll always all have in common is an Inner Smile whenever we think about Eternal.
Text Declan Higgins