By DeoVonte “Deo” Means
I descended upon the Chicago club scene in 2001 as an ultra-sheltered sophomore in college that had never tasted the intoxicating juices of the urban night club. My first night at Club Centrum, which was then the popping Saturday night club, left me overwhelmingly addicted to what became a weekly experience. I had officially “pricked my finger and drank the punch.” Like any euphoric drug, there was no turning back. Traversing this journey through 12+ years, I experienced experiences and gained friends that forever changed the landscape of my life. This was all before social media entities. Myspace, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram were not even in their mother’s womb. Cellphones and home computers were still rare luxury items that most did not possess. If you were a part of the community, the Friday night weekly night club (The Prop House), served not only as a necessity, but also the mitigating force within our lives. The “anonymous” scandal sheets were our form of fake profile tea posting and we did not have microwave popularity created by “adding friends” and posting half naked pictures. No, in this era popularity was established the honest way; actually going out, making statements, meeting people and winning their approval. Regardless of your personal situation or circumstance -rain, shine, sleet or snow- if you were a part of the community, oh, you were gonna make your way there! Once you were in the building, you and your crew felt an overwhelming aura come over you that made you feel as if you owned the world and not a single FUCK was given. The enviorment was diverse. EVERYONE was there!
This is where we met our dates, passed tea, celebrated accomplishments, and grew our community. Once again, this was all before you could walk past a five star restaurant, tag yourself on social media as being a guest there and be hailed as FAB. Much like Facebook, we had a hierarchy, but violence and ratcheetness was not a part of our deck. It was all about being grown & sexy…even at 21… Keep in mind, the club was like the manifestation of our world. Much like high school. Every Friday night was like homecoming for the city. Everyone put forth their best! I mean who would want to be caught dead acting a fool and embarrassing themselves, friends and the community at homecoming?…The air was heavy with nothing but pure unmitigated sex, drugs and rock & roll….We danced, flirted and partied the night away. In 2014, the weekly night clubs are often times viewed as a desperate outlet for the young, thirsty or ratchet. Most of my peers have adopted the mindset and motto that “We don’t do weekly clubs, we do events…” We now have the disposable income, sexiness and connections to make it GREAT but the weekly night club’s in Chicago has become embarrassing, annoying and a waste of resources! Granted, I will agree that most promoters of today have completely sold out on the notion of grown & sexy in exchange for the dedicated ratchet that will frequent the club, regardless of what it gives. The ratchet in which I speak of generally have nothing else to do or nowhere else to go so they invade any space that lays out the red carpet for them in exchange for admittance; but this new mindset also leaves me to question, has social media effectively slayed the need and position of the weekly nightclub in our community?
During the time referenced above, the weekly night was not only a need, but also an imperative establishment within our community because we had no other place to convene, socialize, associate and interact with each other. In 2014, we are directly connected to each other 24/7 through the usage of social media platforms such as Facebook. News, updates, gossip and tea is released, promoted and spreaded with the click of a mouse in real time, seven days a week. Private Facebook groups enhances this reality as screenshots, arguments and scandals are now able to be posted instantly instead of the Friday night check-in of yester-year. Dating has also become more conveniently available through social networking. The club was one used as the designated place to meet new and intriguing sexual prospects. If you did not utilize the club for dating, you were only left with the option of flipping a penny and hoping you would meet a prospect during your everyday interactions, which was not common in the pre-gay acceptance days of 2012. Today, the inbox feature on FB has seemingly eliminated ANY need for using clubs as a means to score dates. We are all familiar with accepting a new friend and receiving the infamous “wassup” message in our inbox. The inbox is profound because it removes all possibilities of being humiliated and publically rejected if you do not meet the person standards. Social media also gives you a buffet of instant dating options by simply browsing pages. The club was also used as a place to showcase ones accomplishments. If you got a new job, well that meant you showed up at the club with new clothes, cars and increase money to spend. In 2014 a single posting of a new accomplishment can be inflated and then shared across the globe with a single pic and clicking of your mouse. Social media has now allowed us to effortlessly send our desired messages without the hassle of leaving our homes. Social interaction has always been a major component of our community. It was once difficult because you had to ensure your “product” was on point and possessed an image of high standard in reality. You also had to possess the people skills of meeting, engaging with and alluring new people. This is a quality that’s actually rare in 2014. Yet in today’s world, social media has allowed us access to conventions such as “add a friend”. We are able to post enticing magazine quality pictures with the help of utensils such as filters, lighting, angling and Photoshop and sit back while the new friends request and fans pour in…All we are now forced to do is click accept and entertain a conversation. If we do not receive enough friends request within a designated period, we then have the of adding friends ourselves and selling them whatever “delusion” we wish to entertain and allure them with.
The club also served as a weekly reconnect with friends and associates that were already established. In 2014, Facebook has negated this necessity because as long as we’re friends online, I’m granted unprecedented access into the daily following and interactions of anyone I call an acquaintance…no matter the distance or geographical location. The usage of “likes” and “shares” also enable the most prolific among our community to continue to receive the “life” they used to receive privately in the club, but only in a more tangible and visible way. How fab and exhilarating do we feel when a picture or post exceeds the 100 mark? This type of self-fulfillment is something that could have never been accomplished in the club era unless we were on stage hosting. In my opinion, the need and desire for us as a community to socially interact will always be a necessity, but the dawning of the cyber age has allowed us the opportunity to reprioritize it. Yester-year, it was mandatory for us to convene weekly at a centralized location; today, we can grab a cheap bottle of wine, recline, entertain and hold court with the masses within the comforts of our own homes. This truth do not come from a place of conjure and speculation. It comes from a place of observed behavior. As a community, the need to convene in a central location has so been affected that promoters are now implementing a standard of “free entry” to allure supporters. I cannot remember the clubs of yester-year having free entry EXCEPT for the 11-12a.m. hour (when promoters would try to allure you out early to partially fill the club), or the customer appreciation day (which took place the week after Pride in which admission was doubled for the night). Many of us are now viewing the weekly clubs as nothing more than a nightly day care center for the young & ratchet, while reserving our energy and resources for the selected functions in which we call “events.” The escalated violence, adoration and catering to those from the slums & hood of Chicago has added to this exodus.
It has become a financial heyday for the more calm and selective as we are able to bypass the expense of weekly clubbing, while engaging and entertaining our friends online and saving our resources for major events. Personally, I cannot begin to calculate the money spent and wasted during my years of weekly clubbing. I’m most positive I could’ve purchased a nice home with those coins tho. This past summer I spent time researching and analyzing the culture and environment of cyberspace on a Friday night while the weekly club was being held. I found it to be provocative, exhilarating and fulfilling. The participants grab the cocktail or party favor of their choice, push play on their selected playlist, recline in their home and fully interact with the other online guest. Once they’ve successfully entertained themselves for the night, they either connect with their “new found” friend or shut their computer down and go to bed. Those that seek a bit more social interaction tend to setup intimate gatherings or “kickbacks” and enjoy the evening with their selective friends without the expense or hassle of the club. This mindset prevents them from being exposed to the violence and antics of the LGBT ratchet public in which the weekly night clubs tend to cater too. The common denominator in all activities; rather public (clubbing) or private (home intimacy) is that they are actively logged on social media and engaging, updating and interacting with those that are also online. Perhaps the promoters of 2015 will pull something out of their hat, or simply begin to engage with the public and give them an experience that’s worth their presence and motivates them to become weekly patrons again; but as of now, social media has won the battle and effectively downgraded the status and importance of the night weekly night club…I’ll see you at the next EVENT….Deo ….