Friday, July 08, 2005

Show Me The Way To The Next Whiskey Bar

Nightclubs in Jozi are generally kinda like sexy R&B babes – they come and go quicker than you can say "Ashanti". Well, except The Doors. See, The Doors has just turned a whopping 15 years old. So what's the secret to its longevity? Regular contributor Derek Lynch revisits the grand old dark witch of the Gauteng club scene to find out.

The Doors nightclub turns 15 on 3 March 2005. When I first heard this, my initial reaction was "My God – I'm ancient! After recovering from the shock of my impending slide into middle-aged mediocrity, it dawned on me: The Doors has to be one, of if not the longest-running nightclub in Gauteng. These days nightclubs change names so often you can go into one and in the time it takes you to wake up from your Long Island Iced Tea, you could be in a completely different club – same faces, same monotonous music, same monsters on the door wanting to beat several shades of crap out of you for wearing shoes that look suspiciously like takkies... but a different club nonetheless.

The longevity of The Doors is due mostly to two things: the music that moves the people; and the people that move to the music. The music at The Doors has always been a seamless mix of current and classic alternative music. Anthems and oddities blare from a sound system so loud that you have no choice – you have to shake yer ass. There is no "cool" way to dance at The Doors either. I've seen every dance style, from mosh to waltz (I've even seen people dance both in one song to Nellie The Elephant), and no-one bats a mascara-laden eyelid. None of the usual self-consciousness that characterizes so many dance floors at clubs around the country – just hundreds of lost souls finding their own primordial rhythm to groove to.

The dress code of The Doors generally subscribes to the old Henry Ford motto: "Any colour you like, as long as it's black." But here again, there are no rules. No-one gives a rat's posterior what you're wearing: you rock the way you wanna rock, baby, and if you wanna do so wearing a pink tutu you are more than welcome.

You would think that the scariest looking clubbers in Joburg would produce some of the most spectacular club violence anywhere. I've been going to The Doors for fourteen of the fifteen years that it has been open, and I have yet to see a fist or Doc Martin thrown in anger. People go to The Doors to dance, drink copious amounts of Black Label and have a good time with like-minded people from the fringes of "normal" society. This is also down to the door staff; more diplomatic and friendly than any other door staff I have ever come across.

My early memories of The Doors as an underage clubber at the old Marshall Street venue in central Johannesburg (can there be a more rock 'n roll street name for a club venue?) are pretty hazy. Toxic Sludge was the tipple of choice in those days, a potent mix of jelly, Windowlene and lighter fluid (or was it Vodka?). The infamous "Doors Wors" (I still don't want to know what was in those suspiciously pink sausages) that provided sustenance for munchie-driven clubbers at 4am until the all-night pizza place opened across the road (where a friend of mine used to perform Michael Jackson impersonations for pizza money on the pavement – he invariably went hungry).

When The Doors made the move to the current Van Riebeck Street venue in Edenvale I feared the worst. However, the spirit of the old venue seemed to pack its boots and come along for the ride, and it has seen off all comers to remain Johannesburg's premier alternative music venue. I'm getting old now, so I don't get to rock out as much as I used to (I battle to get up the stairs with my Zimmer frame), but when they have their 15th anniversary party, I'll be putting in my hearing aids in and heading off to Van Riebeck Street for a fix of the musical junk that I've been addicted to for the past fifteen years.

So this March, lift a bottle of Black Label and salute the grand old dark witch of the Gauteng club scene. Here's to the next fifteen years.

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