Stags and Weasels

This weekend was Greg’s stag weekend. I think others will comment on the fun bits, but I’d like to describe a particular sequence of events that’s really got to me.

After we’d done the shotgun shooting, after we’d bought cocktails in the Evil Eye, we went to Darklands. And it’s about Darklands I’ve got something to say.

To set the scene; we have a mix of folks, some typically dressed for darklands, some not. We have a mix, too, of people into the scene and people not.

So we enter the club and almost instantly we’ve got six or seven people up on the dancefloor; if memory serves, all people who are regulars at goth nights – Derek, Greg, me, Yann, Spence… A couple of songs in, someone (presumably part of the organising crew) comes along and asks me to dance more carefully, and asks Greg to cover up (he’s shirt-free at this point). They’ve had complaints, she tells me.

Now, this is the same dance I’ve been doing for years, at Body Electric and Afterlife and Wendyhouse and Death by Misadventure, at Spiders and Fibbers and Whitby; never once have I been called on it. But tonight I am, and the only difference I can think of is that tonight, I’m wearing a white shirt.

It’s not long after this that it becomes clear that someone – a guy in a top hat with a feather and really bad teeth – has a real problem with Tony P. I don’t know what started it, but a problem exists, and the guy starts shouting, and his girlfriend starts shouting, and his big mate behind him starts glowering. Clearly all’s not well.

So we try to talk to the guy; it’s hard to communicate, though; it’s loud and the guy really doesn’t seem to want to be talked to. He’s clearly in the mood to start some agro.

I go and talk to the people on the door. I try to explain that this guy is being very agressive and we can’t seem to calm him; I’m asked “well, what do you expect me to do about it?” She doesn’t stand, or ask me to point out the trouble. She just sits, blank-smiling.

There are several other incidents; the top-hatted guy tries several times to provoke something; at one point he tells me that one of us has spat at a woman in the club. Dunno about you guys, but it seemed unfeasible to me.

Derek comes to me and tells me that the guy is trying turn other people in the club against us; it feels to me like, if we stay, there’s going to be real trouble, so I hurry people out of the club. We get everyone out who’s not wearing black, and we go home. After that, I hear, the trouble subsides

So that’s the story. Other people will be able to tell different parts of it, stuff I’ve missed out because I didn’t see. But that’s the essence of the story for me.

What did I make of the whole thing?

I don’t think any of it would have happened if we’d been soaked in black dye before entering the club. I think everything about that experience can be linked back to the fact that some of us were wearing color and some of us were wearing short-sleeved shirts. I get asked to tone down a dancing style I’ve been indulging in for a decade without (negative) comment, and a goth trying to start a fight barely raises an eyebrow with the door staff. And I promise you, if he’d succeeded, the story you’d have heard is that townies came and started a fight at Darklands.

I think it highlights a myth I’ve heard several times, that goth nights are tolerant and non-violent, in a way mainstream clubs aren’t. It’s bollocks. There is tolerance as long as you look right, non-violence if you act the way you’re supposed to. Conform or suffer.

I think it’s part of a familiar logical fallicy, that looks something like this;

My minority is morally and intellectually superior to the majority; we are the upper end of the bell curve of tolerance, creativity, intelligence, suffering, sensitivity, knowledge or insight

It’s a tribal belief I’ve seen several times. You hear it amongst role-players who think that they are more ‘creative and tolerant’ than the ‘mundane’ mainstream; you hear it from ‘adventurous and tolerant’ goths; you probably see it in most groups of friends. It’s probably the foundation of most cults, too, the few elect who know the Truth.

Thing is, it’s generally bollocks. Few tribes are really merit-based. You get in for listening to a certain type of band or playing a certain game or believing a certain nonsense. If the tribe doesn’t have a difficult selection process, it’s going to be composed of average kinds of people.

It was disappointing for me to see the intolerance of at least part of the goth scene; it has killed any enthusiasm I had for the scene. It’s a pity, because the goth scene is so small it needs to do something better than the mainstream. It suffers from uninspiring venues, a smaller stable of artists, a narrow variety of style, and a tendency to rehash the past endlessly. The idea of tolerance and friendliness was one thing I thought it had going for it. My belief in that has now gone.

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48 thoughts on “Stags and Weasels

  1. I’m afraid it was pretty much inevitable. A group of drunk stag party people was never likely to be welcome there. The night does say it has a dress code and, had I not known you guys, I’d have been asking you to leave myself.

      • It was inevitable that there would be trouble and that they would be asked to leave. To be perfectly honest I was in the club when they arrived and slipped out quietly because I knew it would be hassle and didn’t want to deal with it. If a group of people arrive obviously not matching the dress code and obviously pretty drunk then they’re likely to get chucked out.
        As for why they’re let in, the policy there is usually to see how people behave when they get in there. Someone not matching the dress code but unobtrusive and with friends is fine so I’ve been there with friends who show up in blue jeans and a coloured t-shirt, dance along and have a good night and really enjoy it. Someone not matching the dress code, obviously drunk and stripped to the waist is going to get chucked out. Someone not matching the dress code and dancing in a really obtrusive way is probably going to get chucked out. A party of people doing this is almost bound to get chucked out.

      • So when the people on the door saw this particular party, they thought that they were not drunk and likely to be unobtrusive? Either way, of course, Steve’s point on tolerance remains unchallenged.

      • There youi are wrong. It has been some years since I have worked on a door, and I was only voluntary when I did so, but that is a crucial function of the job.

      • Yes. I am inclined to agree with Spencer that these things are better discussed offline, because we both seem to have the impression that the other is not reading what we write.

      • RE: Gothness
        What strikes me as funny is that an alternative night has a dress code
        at all, I mean surely there is more to being alternative than dressing
        in a particular way. Indeed surely if you conform at all you cannot by definition be alternative.

      • Re: Gothness
        Indeed surely if you conform at all you cannot by definition be alternative.
        Sure you can; you have to be alternative _to_ something, as it’s a comparitive term.

      • Professional door staff are trained to pick up on warning signs, including drunkenness (particularly in groups of men), breach of dress code, etc. Obviously there’s no way to be sure how someone’s going to behave once they get in, particularly if they’re drinking, but part of the point of doorstaff is to spot potential problems and keep an eye on them.

      • Yes. These are not professional door staff. They are generally friends of the organiser who are taking entry money. They are also usually female, sitting down and wearing corsets. They are not the ideal people to prevent the entry of drunk and possibly violent trouble makers if you think about it.
        It’s a small goth night in the backroom of a pub and could not afford professional door staff — the professional doorstaff are on the front door of the pub.

      • True, the lass(es) that are normally on the door aren’t ideal for preventing entry of drunken idiots. They are capable of telling the main bouncers this and then said troublemakers get physically removed.
        It doesn’t happen often, but I have seen it being done a couple of times.

      • Oy. Weren’t you there the night (oh, several years ago now) when I bounced three blokes out of a Banshee Aircrew gig? All a good 6″ taller than me and they went out with their hands in the air & tails between their legs (metaphorically speaking on both counts). Unless a fight’s already started, bouncing doesn’t really require physical attributes. Being a useless dolly-bird on the door is an attitude problem, not a physical one.
        [/offensive attitude]

      • Dress code
        It’s funny in all the many Goth or whatever nights I’ve been to I’ve never seen anyone either drunk or with their shirt off get chucked out. Anyway, Steve’s point was that it wasn’t us that was really causing the aggro – and the security etc. was not at all interested in sorting it out).
        It’s not like we had randomly happened upon this event – at least half the party are regulars there, and we knew a good many of the people in there.
        I think concentrating too much on the ‘stag’ nature of our trip is missing the point somewhat.

      • Re: Dress code
        I go to Darklands all the time and it has a problem with drunk lads showing up because it is serving beer after hours. Often they are very drunk and rowdy and often obnoxious. I have regularly helped chuck them out. They make some people who go there nervous simply by being there because they look like the kind of people who start trouble. When I left you guys in the cocktail bar you were very drunk and rowdy (even though I know you well enough to know that you wouldn’t dream of starting trouble). I know that by being in that club you would have made some of the regulars who don’t know you very wary and, if you stayed, you would have ruined the night for some of them without even meaning to.

      • Re: Dress code
        But I forgot to add taht I hope it didn’t ruin your party too much. You looked like you were having a pretty good time in the cocktail bar.

      • Re: Dress code
        🙂 It’s all part of life’s rich pageant. I didn’t know about that paticular aspect of Darklands reputation either – I’m surprised that the Goths among us suggested it in that case. I hope we didn’t spoil anyone’s night – that must totally suck.

      • More later, when I’m not being Very Busy And Important, but for starters…
        If it was a dress code issue, they shouldn’t have been allowed in in the first place. I take your point that the people on the dorr are not professinal door staff, but I’m assuming they have eyes. If the party was let in, despite breaching the dress code, then that should have been the end of it, and should not have been a factor in any subsequent dealings with them. From Steve’s post, it sounded like it was.
        Also, re the removal of shirt/over enthusiastic drunk dancing: good job no goths I know have ever been drunk, whipped their shirt of and danced like a twat.
        Oh, wait.

      • It wasn’t a dress code issue as I already pointed out. And yes, people who are goths do get drunk, dance badly and strip their shirts off sometimes. If they do it in a way that makes enough people uncomfotable they would be asked to leave and I’ve seen that happen too.

      • I realise you’ve pointed that out already, I’m just querying whether that was the case. Certainly, the OP seems to suggest that perhaps the situation would have developed differently if they’d been – for want of a better phrase – gothed up.
        Also, gothgrr’s comment (as someone who was there) says that it’s not all about clothes, but states:
        “if you’d all been wearing black people would have thought you were just drunk (but that you
        basically understood what’s what), not that you were just drunk and perhaps about to cause loads of trouble.”
        I wasn’t there, being neither a goth nor a stag, but from the post and comments, it does sound like it had quite a bit to do with the way they were dressed, even if unofficially.
        *shrug*

      • OK — I should have said “It wasn’t *only* a dress code issue”.
        I’ve been to that club with people who turn up in blue jeans and a coloured t-shirt and come away with the impression “what a friendly club, I had a great time.”

      • My point being that once they had been allowed in by the door staff (professional or not) it should not have been a dress-code issue, in any way as, by allowing them entry to the club, the door staff had deemed it a “non-issue”.
        It just doesn’t look like that was how the evening played out.
        It’s impossible to say, as I’ve not been to that club, but I wonder whether they’d have had so much aggro for their behaviour if they’d been gothified. Ah well, no point taking the argument into “what ifs”, I suppose.

      • And it wasn’t just a dress code issue otherwise the dress code would be strictly enforced. The lack of dress however does make people wary and that exacerbates the situation when there are other problems, because people are more likely to assume there will be trouble. If they’d been off the dancefloor chatting and laughing in a group this might well not have happened.

  2. Well, maybe… but…
    To be honest if I hadn’t known you I’d probably have been quite intimidated. There isn’t much space on the dancefloor, it was already very crowded, and there was an awful lot of drunken bumping into people going on, which is never going to go down well. Personally I hate that kind of thing (much more from strangers than from friends) and I know other people do too. That has absolutely nothing to do with what you were wearing. There is space to dance in the WH but there isn’t at Cert 18… you, and Tony were jostling people and IMHO being a bit insensitive about personal space issues, and it got people’s backs up. Sorry to be blunt, but that’s my perception.
    People in ‘non goth’ clothing regularly turn up after the pub night next door and there generally isn’t a problem. But an alternative club such as that is considered a safe space, particularly as quite a few of the people who go are TV or TS and don’t go to straight clubs precisely because their clothing, sexuality or gender would attract a lot of negative attention. I know you are not prejudiced (and did try to talk to a couple of people who seemed offended), but nobody else knows that do they? So when a group of non-regulars turns up, obviously pissed, and not dressed up (so you don’t know how accepting they’re going to be), people get tense and defensive. When some of them show behaviour you’d normally expect (and avoid) in a straight club that just confirms people’s fears.
    That’s why you had so much trouble I think. And if you’d all been wearing black people would have thought you were just drunk (but that you basically understood what’s what), not that you were just drunk and perhaps about to cause loads of trouble. People *do* get asked to leave for excessive jostling/drunkenness on the dancefloor and it’s not just about clothes.
    It was a damn shame things turned out that way, as it was great to see you all.

    • Re: Well, maybe… but…
      The problems that we had seem to stem from the fact that there is no door-staff (in any serious sense) at Darklands. This means that some of the clubbers are starting to feel that they need to police the dance floor themselves. Because these people have had little or no training and are probably not sober it can lead to situations escalating and becoming prolonged when they could probably be nipped in the bud.
      So in our case over-enthustaistic dancing on a tiny dance floor built up by stages into bad feelings, people feeling threatened and a minor incident.

      • It might be worth mailing Jared (realmsofdarknessuk@yahoo.co.uk ) about this because as you say a firmer hand from security could have sorted this one out, without any unpleasantness. There is a real irony that you are all friendly faces yet you had trouble.

      • Good, idea, GG! I’ve mailed him with an explanation, which I hope will give him another insight into the incident (I’m sure he’s heard -something-) and might help with future events.

      • I did think about speaking to him myself but wasn’t thinking entirely straight having had a couple of drinks myself. They have had some troublemakers – obviously you aren’t like that, but they’re not to know that and it makes people much more edgy.

    • Re: Well, maybe… but…
      I know we weren’t as coordinated as we should have been; for that, I apologise. However, when asked to calm it down I did try hard to do so, and we ringed Greg so he wasn’t falling into people.
      It’s weird. I’ve never been to Darklands, but I should be a familiar face from Afterlife, from Body Electric, etc. More generally, our group was about a dozen people, and over half were regular york goth-nighters; Alex, James, Derek, Spencer, Yann, Me, . We met Caroline Meacock and and Zoe and you. If memory serves, all the dancers have been regular attendees at goth nights for years and years.
      And when the goths started trouble with us, I went right to the door staff and asked if there was anything they could do because of the agro we were getting. And when they didn’t, we left voluntarily, because we didn’t want to be involved in any real trouble.
      It could be, as steer says, that it was inevitable; what has saddened me is that those people who were shouting, accusing, pushing, looming and glaring were left alone, and the ones who asked for help were ignored. It was, I think, the least friendly, most threatening event I’ve ever had in a pub, club, or concert.
      My larger point was that the scene is perhaps not as tolerant as it believes; I talked to Spence, Derek, and Yann over lunch, and none of them felt like they were being stared at or picked on; they were all dressed correctly. On the other hand, I very much did feel threatened.
      I’m still, as you can probably tell, pretty upset about it. 😦

      • Re: Well, maybe… but…
        My larger point was that the scene is perhaps not as tolerant as it believes
        Any colour you like as long as it’s black. 😉
        With about 14 years as a goth-scene regular behind me, I would never have said it was any more or less tolerant than any other scene. Open-minded, maybe, but tolerant? Anything but.

      • It’s never as easy to think straight when everyone concerned has had a few drinks. I don’t want to offend you but like I said, you’re big blokes, if I hadn’t known better I’d have felt intimidated and could see that other people were. Knowing you all and that you’re friendly, decent people meant I wasn’t that bothered by the dancefloor stuff but people who don’t know you’re a friendly face only have the clothes and general demeanour to go on. In that sense, it isn’t personal.
        As a woman my personal armour goes up when I’m around stumbling-around-drunk men, purely because they’re unpredictable and don’t know their own strength, and I know a lot of women feel the same – it’s a natural defence that I like to be able to drop in a goth club. As far as I could tell, aggressive Dracula lookalike was being protective of a couple of his female friends who were probably more bothered about it than a group of blokes might be. It’s a shame your efforts to sort things out didn’t work. Of course I know you and Greg would never dream of behaving in that way, and it must be really galling for people to believe you would, but these people don’t know what you’re like.
        Jared only moved to York a couple of years ago and I don’t remember him from Afterlife so he probably doesn’t know you by sight. There were an awful lot of people there this time that I’ve never seen before either – or only a few times. It’s a shame the night ended that way because it didn’t need to 😦

      • I think you’re right on all counts. Misunderstanding was basically rife throughout the night.
        I think I might spin off a discussion about tolerance; there’s a bigger issue than a couple of hours in a pub and I wonder if there’s a general approach to it.

    • Re: Well, maybe… but…
      There isn’t much space on the dancefloor, it was already very crowded, and there was an awful lot of drunken bumping into people going on, which is never going to go down well. Personally I hate that kind of thing (much more from strangers than from friends) and I know other people do too.
      I wasn’t going to comment on this at all as I wasn’t there, but as a general point I have to agree with this.
      Certificate 18 has never struck me as a particularly friendly nor tolerant venue. There always seems to be a certain ‘us and them’ feeling and I always feel intimidated when I have to walk through the main bar to get to the loo. It would be unfair of me to take sides about this specific incident but I have to say that it all reinforces my rather negative view of Cert 18.

  3. I’ve done the door thing for the Goth night that JD DJed at in the (distant) past, I forget what it was called – but that’s not important.
    As the door-person, I had no training – but instinctively kept the inquisitive drunk townies out – and had some “muscle” on hand to keep any arguments short and distinctly one sided.
    I’d be interested to hear Jared’s POV on the evening’s events.

  4. Stags and Weasels
    Hi, I don’t have time to register and to be honest I wish to remain anonymous for the time being. I was a member of the stag party on Saturday.
    I have to first re-iterate the fact that we chose to leave the Goth thing voluntarily – we weren’t chucked out. This has to suggest that the organization of the event, however small it may have been, was pretty non existent if they didn’t notice trouble brewing (or potential trouble on the door).
    That said, I think in retrospect that it was a good decision for us to leave, because whether we like it or not we were perhaps not all ideally suited in either our state of drunkenness or in some cases our temperament for the situation in which we found ourselves.
    I in fact felt entirely comfortable in that particular environment as I have done in a wide range of cultural events where I have for one reason or another been a bit of an outsider.
    I was drunk, but I was respectful and I have to say cautious also for the very reason that I immediately identified this as being an obviously tribal group. If you have a specific dress code as a group of people then I don’t care what you say, you are naturally inclined to view anyone who is a stranger and is not wearing that dress code as an outsider and therefore be wary of them. Tolerance is by no means the exclusive domain of one social or cultural group over others. All are made up of people with egos and all sorts of human frailties.
    This is why I was in no hurry to launch myself onto a crowded dance-floor, although after a while when I perceived that those around me were less wary, I did ease into the music (to which I am no stranger and a lot of which I identify with very strongly).
    But I did feel (knowing at least a few personalities who were there) that not everyone shared this approach. I name no names, but at least one member of our party has a weakness for (however playful) testing peoples sensibilities (I wouldn’t say winding people up, but it could easily come across that way).
    This does not bode well in a scenario like this, even if you exclude the whole issue of general drunkenness. I guess it’s why we choose our friends carefully, especially if you’re going to stick up for them come what may.
    I didn’t really hear or see a lot of what is purported to have gone on at this thing. But I personally didn’t feel threatened by anyone around me either, which is why it was a bit of a surprise at the time to find ourselves leaving.
    That said, the issue of tolerance is a complex one. We all at some time feel as if we have a space (social, cultural, political, personal) that we will be compelled to defend at some time or other. Whether we choose to do so through the use of threat or violence is a personal one, as is whether we decide to disrespect other people’s space.
    We acted as a group (tribe?) to avoid violence whether or not we felt unjustly treated, or whether some member of our group shared some responsibility for causing ill feelings. I think this is admirable.

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