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My first uni night out: “What the fuck was that?”

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Freshers week has been and gone, and with it has fled all of the cheap club nights. Those nights which see students flock, in their hundreds and thousands, to drink cheap alcohol and temporarily deafen themselves. I recently experienced the head pounding trauma of clubbing during freshers' week and was left with but one question… why?

The Shrine to Prinks

It’s probably obvious now that I’m now one for the ‘club scene’, but I went in with an open mind and without too high expectations. The event had been lingering in my mind for the past few days, since my flatmates and I had agreed to go, and the apprehension that had manifested was not so all consuming that it blotted out my willingness to have a good time.

The night began as I expect it traditionally does, with ‘pre-drinking’. I didn’t partake much, other than a single pint of larger, but my flatmates seemed very much committed to this peculiar tradition. I always struck me as odd, getting drunk before going out to get drunk. Surely it would just make sense to go out and start drinking earlier, rather than drink cheap vodka and wine in the silence of a dimly lit flat with your friends sat awkwardly around you. What is the point?

In spite of this, my flatmates made it seem a little less awkward than what I had imagined from the tales of my friends at home and their nights out. Nonetheless, not being much of a drinker, I didn’t take it to the extremes of single-handedly finishing a bottle of wine, unlike my flatmates who preach very strictly to this whole part of the tradition.

Eventually, at 10:30pm sharp, we were out of the flat and stepping (although some of us were stumbling) into an Uber. I was, as is seemingly the theme with this experience, apprehensive at taking an Uber. I’d heard many stories of shifty drivers, and the ride to ‘Factory 251’ in Manchester didn’t do much to change my opinion. The driver greeted us with a serial-killer-style glare and swung the car through the streets as though on suicide mission.

At this moment you probably think I’m being over-critical, judgmental, and ultimately being a bit cruel. But how would your opinion change if I told you he ran over a cat in the process of taking us to the club? Yes, it’s true. As the car in front of us swerved to avoid it, our driver, oblivious to the feline cowering in the headlights, ploughed on. I’ve no idea if we missed the poor thing, but I doubt its chances were very good.

Upon arrival at the club, at 11:00pm, I was desperate to get inside, even if it was to escape the judging eyes of the Uber driver. So I then, quite readily, joined the endlessly snaking line to get through the absurdly narrow doorway.

Though the queue was very long, it progressed relatively quickly, and within minutes we were at the door showing our IDs to the doorman who, somewhat inappropriately, reminded me of the Churchill bobble heads from the insurance adverts.

Once through the door we were, for some reason, herded around a small wall by two bouncers who seemingly wanted to pick a fight with everyone who entered. One guy walking in what seemed to be the right direction was suddenly stopped and bawled at before being asked, “Do you want to start with me?”

After seeing this I kept my head down and ‘Trojan Horsed’ in the middle of my group until we reached the dance floor.

At first sight I immediately thought, “Well how do we get in then?” As we were greeted by a solid wall of bodies, slowly bobbing along to the music on the edge of the room, leaving no space to breath, let alone move or dance. Without hesitation though, my flatmates charged forward, ploughing through the dense mass of people. I followed and almost leapt into every pocket of space that appeared, so as to have a chance of actually moving through to where I needed to be.

Much to my surprise however, everyone in the club seemed to be very understanding of my having to virtually shove them aside. They were all sympathetic and after a fleeting apology they just drunkenly nodded, and gave a half-hearted thumbs-up, before returning dance with the metal pole they seemed to think was a person.

What struck me after the crowd was the volume. The music was so loud that your entire body seemed to vibrate with the beat of each song and the sound waves caused your clothes to judder against your skin. The overall sensation was a peculiar one, like what I imagine motion sickness to feel like, and combined with smoke, which descended from the ceiling in thick veils, I was surprised that some of the more drunk people in our group weren’t throwing up.

It then occurred to me that perhaps the earlier drinks were what allowed them to enjoy what was, to the sober, quite nauseating. And so, after a few minutes of adjusting, I set about blending in, copying the movements of those around me and staying in the company of people I knew.

There’s not a doubt in my mind that I looked like an idiot. But then again, looking around, most of the people I laid eyes on appeared quite moronic.

Naturally as is the case in clubs, or so I’ve come to realise, I lost the majority of my flatmates after about five minutes. Luckily however, I kept the company of one of my flatmates who, courtesy of his sobriety, seemed equally as overwhelmed as I was.

It was then together that we waded through the throng of barely conscious clubbers, in search of our AWOL flatmates. It was then that we discovered that ‘Factory’ had three floors, and so, we scaled the ludicrously tight stairway, with people flooding past us in the opposite direction, to eventually give up the climb by the second floor.

The second floor was less densely packed than the first but it would still have been necessary to push and shove so, blissfully ignorant, I suggested (or rather shouted seeing as how it was the only method of communicating) that we pass through alongside the walls.

Big mistake. Unbeknownst to me it is apparently known that couples, either having arrived together or met just seconds earlier, use the areas near the walls in clubs to have some privacy so as to get ‘better acquainted’. Oh the regret. Feeling intrusive would be putting it mildly. But nonetheless we had to move through, and try our best not let anything rub against us, for fear of what is might be.

Thankfully, at the back of the room, we ran into some people that I knew from a flat party the night before and joined their group for the next half hour or so until the group dissipated at around midnight.

Having not seen our flatmates in quite a while, my companion and I decided to brave the third floor, and hence made our way to stairs yet again. By this point people were simply falling down the stairs, aiming their plummeting bodies in roughly the right direction.

The third floor was much the same as the second, and with our flatmates nowhere to be seen, the two of us decided to get a drink at the bar on the second floor (it could have been on the third but to be honest I can’t remember).

Once at the over-crowded bar it took a 20-minute wait and tag-teaming with the person next to me for the waitress’s attention, before I got the chance to order two beers. Though, for the sheer loudness of the music, I had to spell out what I was ordering like the worst cheerleader in the world. If you do think you’ll be making a trip to the bar at a club, I suggest you take and whiteboard or something to translate what you want.

After finishing the beers, my flatmate and I made one last attempt to find the party we arrived with and happened to run into them on the second floor for five minutes before they stepped out for a smoke and became hopelessly lost again. No one could be out of your sight for more than a moment without being lost; the case seemed to be the same for everyone, as we repeatedly bumped into people from our second-floor-group, who were likewise looking for their friends.

In the end we gave up the search. It was hopeless. Every time we thought we were close we were unexpectedly jolted aside by a group of girls asking a million questions about our course and accommodation, and if our answers didn’t match theirs, their interest suddenly disappeared.

It wasn’t until near the conclusion of the night that the atmosphere seemed to change.

We were, once again, on the second floor when some good music finally came on. Songs that everyone recognised and loved from the late 2000s suddenly hit the speakers and had everyone cheering and singing along. Honestly, if a party starts to get dull and awkward just put on ‘Fluorescent Adolescent’ or ‘Vampire Weekend’.

It was that final half-hour that somewhat redeemed the failings of the night, but soon enough the songs returned to Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber which had nowhere near the same effect as ‘The Arctic Monkeys’ or ‘A Punk’.

Therefore, at around 2:00am, my flatmate and I left the club and called a taxi, though not before being hugged by a mob of Irish students that had been at a ‘paint party’ next door.

And so, at about 2:30am, I collapsed on my bed. Covered in paint, deaf, and tired I wondered: “What the f*** was that?”

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