They say smell is the most powerful trigger for memory. In fact, Marcel Proust wrote a seven-volume novel that all but proved it. For me, though, it’s always been music. As Dave Herrera wrote last week, the songs of our youth, irrespective of their quality, leave an indelible imprint on us. When I hear Glenn Campbell’s “Rhinestone Cowboy,” I’m instantly beamed to my mom’s car, on the way to preschool. Throw on “Lick It Up” by Kiss, and suddenly, I’m back in my middle school gym, fretting over how to avoid showering after P.E. class.
Last Friday, my remembrance of things past was triggered by my first-ever trip to Lipgloss, the much-hyped club night at La Rumba. Michael Trundle has been giving me a lot of crap lately for prudishly retaining my Lipgloss virginity all these years, so I finally decided to go all the way.
When I walked into the club, I was immediately impressed by the music that Tyler Jacobson was playing. I love poppy dance music – Electronic’s best-of and Kylie Minogue’s Fever are two of my latest musical acquisitions – but I stopped going to dance clubs long ago because I rarely heard music that actually made me want to dance. Trance-y stuff doesn’t hold my attention, R&B is often nondescript, and hip-hop is wildly inconsistent. I’m not even sure what Jacobson was playing, but it was enough to draw me away from the bar area and toward the DJ booth.
As I slowly made my way through the packed dancefloor, Jacobson spun a grin-inducing panoply of tracks from a variety of genres. But it was New Order’s “Blue Monday” that thoroughly and inexorably kidnapped me from reality. Though that particular track has become a dancefloor cliché – a wedding and bar mitzvah must-have – it instantly loosened my hips and transported me back to my earliest dance club experience.
One Sunday night in the mid-eighties, my sister – four years older and immeasurably cooler – grudgingly consented to take me to Fort Ram in Fort Collins for the club’s all-ages dance party. As her boyfriend, Ted, sped up 287 to Fort Collins, my sister jabbered excitedly in the passenger seat and flicked the radio dial between KAZY and KTCL. I sat in the backseat, nervously sharing a repulsive, treacly mixture of cheap beer and Coke with Ted’s sister, Amy. I was certain that the combination of alcohol (most likely 3.2 beer), high fructose corn syrup and dancing would get me laid in the backseat on the way home.
I was astounded when I walked into Fort Ram that night because, if memory serves, Dead Or Alive was playing. I never imagined that there were so many people in the world who shared my love for that kind of music. Amy and I went almost immediately to the dancefloor. Depeche Mode, Erasure, Frankie Goes To Hollywood, Ultravox and Tones On Tail kept me bouncing and smiling like a dolt for hour after sweaty hour.
But the track that changed everything was “Blue Monday.” This wasn’t the first time I’d heard the song, but feeling that absurd beat thundering over the club’s sound system transported me in almost religious ecstasy – before I’d even heard of the drug. I didn’t get lucky on the way home – for which I’m sure my sister is grateful to this day – but I didn’t care. A DJ had just saved my life – or, at least, taken my virginity.
“Blue Monday” was a gateway drug. As the years went by, there would be many more nights like that one. There were the all-ages nights at a crappy club by the railroad tracks in Loveland, where Violent Femmes and Dead Kennedys occasionally interrupted the thumping grooves. Then there were the truly cheesy underage nights – always on Sundays – at places like Mirage, the Rush and – Guido help us – Club L.A. in Westminster, whose DJs occasionally spiked their sets with mosh-inciting tracks by Ministry and Nine Inch Nails.
The college I attended had a club on campus, but the DJs there leaned heavily toward laid-back hip-hop, so I ventured into nearby Manhattan to fix up. I was invited to one of Michael Alig’s famous parties at Limelight, shortly before he was arrested for murdering his drug dealer. Another night, with a gang of Ecstasy-addled friends, I had the honor of hitting up DJ DB’s famous NASA club night, somewhere in the Bowery.
Throughout the years, live music – especially the kind found in beery basements and crappy clubs – continued to be my passion, but there was something mystical and mind-altering about the hours of grinning, gyrating and groping that occurred on the dancefloor. I always felt less inhibited and more primal when that electro-bass was booming.
Still, like the hackneyed junkie endlessly chasing the perfect high of her first sniff of glue, I kept searching for something to approximate that Fort Ram experience – or, at least, my increasingly flawed memory of it. I wanted dance music with hooks, melodies, unique beats, and vocals or samples I could sing along to.
Much to my surprise, I found my mythical high at Lipgloss. While Jacobson raged hard with nostalgic tracks, Trundle tended toward the new school, with records by MSTRKRFT, LCD Soundsystem and She Wants Revenge – all artists with at least one eye checking the rearview mirror for Bauhaus, Nitzer Ebb and, yes, New Order.
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I felt like the whole experience was constructed just to resonate with me. Just as Proust was carried away by the scent of a madeleine, I found myself transported by the gestalt of Lipgloss. I wandered away from my friends and was soon dancing alone on the club’s stage. Hour after sweaty hour slipped away as I bounced and smiled like a dolt, not caring a whit what others might think of my ridiculous movements.
Why should I care? I wasn’t even there. For me, it was 1984, and I could almost taste the Coke and beer. -- Eryc Eyl
“An exquisite pleasure had invaded my senses, something isolated, detached, with no suggestion of its origin. And at once the vicissitudes of life had become indifferent to me, its disasters innocuous, its brevity illusory - this new sensation having had on me the effect which love has of filling me with a precious essence; or rather this essence was not in me it was me. I had ceased now to feel mediocre, contingent, mortal.” -- Marcel Proust