The Sociology of Nightclubs

The nightclub is a strange place. It’s social character and behaviour is rarely discussed of or examined in any great deal. On the surface, the club is a place of loud music, people, and generally speaking the wild consumption of alcohol.

However, on a second look there lies something striking in nature which never fails to raise my eyebrows – the social interaction of the club. I’m hooked by how people’s social actions are manifested within chaotic scenes. Namely that of highly diverse and dynamic environments such as bars and pubs.

Sociology is the cause of my torment to reach for understanding, hopefully students of Social Science may resonate and students of other disciplines will begin to pause. As I walk down Harcourt street at eleven o’clock at night I begin to regret not leaving the Bleeding Horse earlier. Ugh their out! The people who have chosen to cloak themselves not only with their ‘evening wear’ but an impenetrable layer of perfume. Perhaps I shouldn’t be so hastening to judge.

After all these people did spend plenty of time to carefully select their wardrobe and to artistically present themselves as young, happy and above all attractive individuals looking for a good time. I mean this all seems reasonable up to this point until we think about the social activity that takes place.

One of the key element of any behaviour of the nightclub is the demographic of people. A strong tendency to note is that most clubs on Harcourt Street apply to the largest demographic. The music played is back-to-back charts. If I am to be portentous I might say that this style of DJ is by no means creative, and the music is all too commonplace. So it can hardly be the music driving people to these clubs, there has to be something else.

In great contrast to clubs of DTwo or Dicey’s Garden, there lies a selection of clubs scattered and sprawled which present an atmosphere not wrapped solely in alcohol consumption but rather presenting a space to listen to music mixed live with a creative backbone. Such clubs tend to offer an intimate setting of a smaller crowd, usually all adhering to a particular style. I am distinctively referring to are that of  the Workman’s Club, Wigwam and The Sugar Club.

And so it would be unfair to make judgment for people’s behaviour without understanding the environment they are in. However I do believe that if one was to look closely it would be seen that clubs such as that on Harcourt Street are oftentimes visited by those of a younger audience. While music may not be a center of their night out they do offer the space to meet up with friends, dance and most importantly drink. Smaller more distinct crowds draw from what could be an older crowd, gaining in drinking maturity and looking for a night with extra depth.

If we may pause and pretend that we have a bird’s eye view of a Harcourt Street nightclub what would we see? From our perspective on the dance floor there are two modes of examination. First the broader, large inclusive image of the people as a whole, and then the up close and intimate image of individuals.  

The broad image of the people is one of a massive clump. Any floor space is all but an illusion and the people have taken to filling out the entire surface area of the floor. (I’m pretty sure the club managers have let too many people in… again.) There is an also an strange out-of-sync ripple effect, similar to open water as the clump moves against the beat. It’s quite bizarre to witness, because even though the track is changing the ripple doesn’t seem to change significantly. However notable ‘tunes’ in the DJ’s repertoire does bolster hands to raise suddenly with screaming.   

But the larger image bores me, it is the close-up perspective that holds to much headache requiring comprehension. Up-close the behaviour becomes muddled and messy. The sweat is pouring, so much for that so called impenetrable layer of perfume or cologne, the scent is stale. Yet it is in this close up realm questions concerning motives and attitudes come alive.

If I am to point out just one of the strangest features of the nightclub is the behaviour enacted by two completely random individuals whom have their tongues down each other’s necks. We all know the scenario we look round, witness, and roll our eyes.

When in discussion with a friend I brought up this scenario, to which there didn’t seem to be any confusion about how such an event would occur. ‘You look over and like what you see, they do too, and you kiss’. My friend’s testimonial lays a lot to be desired. This is a nightclub, surely the dynamic isn’t this simple but more complex.For starters in review  of said testimonial ‘they do too…’ it can be easy to say that you like the look of somebody, but finding how true the other side is. Is this not the origin of much disconcerting feelings?

But there is a difference here – there is alcohol, a catalyst of what only time can tell to be either laudable or regretful actions. But to reiterate surely this is a question regarding motive. One thing that I can’t get out of my head is the concept that not everyone there is at the nightclub to ‘get lucky’ (to put it simply). So when the hovering begins or the hands begin to touch, perhaps surely there is a less invasive means of finding out if ‘they do to’?

But whatever the environment and crowd there stills lies odd behaviours on the up close level that raises eyebrows and sets the mind on a range of meandering thoughts.


George Hannaford – Features Writer

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