Prompt 093: Wallflower at the Disco
93. You and your friends have been sent back in time to a Disco club in the 1970s! Describe what outfits you'd have to wear to fit in. How would your dance moves compare to the moves of the regulars?
In my youth, I was petrified to stand out unless I was already on stage. The urge to dance may have been there, but for whatever reason I felt intimidated by the chance I'd be judged or ridiculed for my lack of dance moves. Of course, my brain never made the leap to internalize the reality that "practice makes perfect," so I was able to tell myself that, since I didn't know how to dance, I'd never be any good, so it's best not to waste any time in practice.
The only time I ever danced, at least when I was in high school or younger, was at a school dance. Even then, it was only with my date, and the best I could manage was to mimic what I'd seen on television or films. Meanwhile, there were girls who would dance in a circle, with their other female friends, enjoying themselves or at the very least learning how to exhibit themselves. The rest of the guys and me were either partnered up with their date, or watching the girls dancing in those small-group circles as we wandered round the gymnasium.
There's no memory of me dancing in my college years. I did start going to clubs with friends to socialize, but never went to concerts or music shows with any regularity. I had a fiancee then wife then ex-wife during those years, so when she and I were together it was slow-dancing (nothing stylistic or skilled, like samba or tango, just typical whitey hold your partner and step left-right-left-right...).
Only after my wife left did I start going out to clubs with regularity. There were nights I would drive round the city looking for a basement rock club, only to return home disappointed (this was in 2000-2001, before GPS were affordable, smartphones were available, and websites were helpful). Until one night. There it was: people lined up outside, smoking cigarettes. I shouted to myself in triumph, "Fuckin' A right!" and found a parking spot.
Inside, it was just as I remembered, only fewer tables and no booths. Dark, smoky, the walls festooned with stickers and Sharpie graffiti. On stage was a band I'll never forget seeing for the first time: The Berzerker. They all had Slipknot-style masks: black vinyl, zippers, rubber tubing, and maybe false dreads. Every couple songs, the lead vocalist would remind the audience, "Check out our website at dubya-dubya-dubya dot... THEEEE BERZERKER dot com!"
Later that night Skinless played: a thrash metal band from Quebec. There was a fire-breather there, doing her thing between band sets, apparently ignorant of the naked natural gas piping overhead.
I wandered out after the three-band show that night, buzzed and elated. I remember coming home and drunk-dialing my estranged wife on her cel phone: "...I just made it back from [that club], where we went to with Charlie and Naomi back in the day! It was fucking awesome and I'm gonna keep going! I love you and I hope we can work things out!"
Well, we never worked things out. But I kept going to that club. Nearly every single weekend for nearly two years, that place was my Friday and sometimes Saturday night go-to. I didn't need to see who was on the bill for that night before I went, and some nights I ended up going home early because nothing was going on. All I wanted to do was be there, headbang and drink Natty Bohs for a couple hours, give the bands some cash to pay for gas money, and make it home. I learned to appreciate drummers those days, especially lady drummers.
As time went on, I didn't become part of the scene but I was familiar with and became familiar to a number of the regulars and staff. Being at the same business establishment 50 times a year will do that to ya. I was invited to audition for the lead bartender's husband's band, and even invited to their house for Christmas one year, along with her sister, a couple other friends, and the owner of the bar. During a moment during the house tour, the husband showed me his pistol, kept in a metal case under their bed. A nickel-plated semi-auto with patterned wood grips. He had sideburns and a rockabilly bouffant, like a weaselly Elvis.
My wardrobe assimilated t-shirts of bands I would see those weekends. I worked at a software company at the time, with a casual dress code, so it worked out perfectly. I knew I was invested in the scene and routine after buying a second pair of sound-blocking earplugs. My shitty car was plastered with anti-government and punk and metal band bumper stickers. When I was finally in bands, that place was my favourite venue, and I think I played there at least four times in four years. I would still go to shows and support other bands on my weekends off: when a band I was in didn't have a gig, and the arts space I ran wasn't hosting a show.
That place is still around, thank goodness. I am happy for those years, and for being able to support bands at the time with my cash and presence in the audience. My life became a whole lot more interesting at that time, when I was lonely, single, and needed a reason to go out and spend money. It was a period of personal reinvention, what with my wife having left me and whatever visions of the future I ever had vaporized. The rock club was my solution, and I latched on to it like a terrier on a pant leg.
Were I somehow ever time-warped to a 1970s disco club? Would I fit in? Hell no! I suspect this has a lot to do with footwear, as far as fashion goes. I was never a man for loafers.
As for dancing, there are only three situations where I would find myself ever, ever dancing:
- The aforementioned slow-dancing with a date.
- Afrobeat, anywhere and everywhere. This is the only real exception to my public wallflower stance. Not many white guys do this, but afrobeat percussion is the only thing that ever really moves my ass.
- A semblance of moshing, slam-dancing, headbanging, and whatever else people do at metal and punk shows. I wouldn't feel at home at the disco.
- Air guitar, which I do alone, at home. This is therapeutic for me, even while in my early 40's.
I'd be one of the squares at the bar (see? Who in the 1970s used the word "square" to describe another person?), drinking and gawking, looking for the next Dionne Warwick or something.