On the 6th October 2019 Octo Octa, Eris Drew and Miss Jay came to Amsterdam to play a set at the Amsterdam nightlife institution De School. I knew it was something I couldn’t miss so after all my friends declined, despite my pleas, I decided to go anyway. What followed was a night that I can only describe as ‘odd but fun’.
TIMESTAMPS: SOLO CLUBBING IN AMSTERDAM
Names have been changed for privacy reasons.
23:14 - I’m standing in the queue of the club on a surprisingly temperate night for early October in Amsterdam. A group of bros in loud, Hawaiian shirts stand waiting in front of me. They look decidedly out of place. I watch in anticipation as they approach the notoriously rigorous doorperson, dressed in a long wool coat and a Soviet style fur hat. They hold their clipboard like a shield and scan the boys slowly.
“So tonight is a trans-friendly event, I just want to make that clear, okay?”
They nod obediently.
“And before I let you in I have to ask, can you define ‘queer’ for me?”
My ears pricked up. Hearing this question had been an urban legend for me since I had moved here two and a half years ago; it was my grown-up equivalent of wondering whether bouncers really asked for your astrological sign sometimes to check you were of age. Apparently, asking for a definition of queer was a way for some clubs to vet punters and work toward making a safe space. I guess if you could at least give a basic definition, it increased the chances that you would treat other club-goers with some basic human decency. It’s probably not a foolproof system, but it’s better than rejecting people based off of whether their shoes are nice enough.
In front of me, the group stared blankly at each other before one of them did his best stammering Hugh Grant impression.
“Not tonight guys, sorry.”
They turned quietly and looped back out of the queue into the cold night. I silently thanked them for paving the way as Clipboard waved me in, shaking their head at the retreating floral shirts.
23:21 - I pay my 2 euros and drop off my coat at the cloakroom. It’s actually like a hall with a long desk with racks of waterproofs hanging behind it. It’s one of my favourite parts of the club because it feels like going backstage before a show. People giggle and greet each other warmly, take off layers, attach accessories, adjust leotards and harnesses and zip up impossibly high boots that would otherwise be useless on a bike. You can hear the bass thumping in the background and the corridor into the main area is a shadowed and smoky affair.
23:24 - It’s at this point that it’s really sinking in that I’m alone. There’s no one with me to pull into the crowded smoking room to catch up with nor anyone to offer a drink to. I head towards the bar and sway anxiously to the disco I can hear coming from the room next door. After receiving my first vodka-mate of the night I move towards the dancefloor.
Have you ever seen the meme of that woman that gets lost at a leather event and gets trapped between walls of well-oiled abs and chest harnesses doing overtime? Yeah. That was the mood. It was both intimidating and freeing; I was getting in a lot of people’s way but at the same time, everyone either smiled at me or literally didn’t see me. It reminded me of why I had chosen De School in particular to visit alone in the first place.
00:05 - I’m dancing in the back left section of the room and Octo Octa’s disco house set has melted away a lot of my anxieties. The room’s just dark enough that I don’t feel self conscious and plus, there’s a completely naked customer dancing on a podium to distract everyone from my flailing. Swing low, sweet chariot.
01:38 - After grabbing another drink I see someone I know! Swaying nonchalantly at the back of the room I see Henrike*. I had met them the night before at a dinner party and we had mentioned to each other we’d both be here. They were with a friend and the three of us headed into the garden for a cigarette.
01:45 - Henrike* and their friend tell me they used to date and insist several times that they have a “great friendship now.” They even tell me how much they like each other’s new partners. I can see that there’s still a lot of tenderness between them and as they tell me about their lives and their take on what’s become of Amsterdam’s club scene I feel warm and grateful for this small city, full of random connections.
02:11 - The temperature has dropped by a few degrees now and as our words form little icy clouds in the air, we make a collective decision to head back inside.
02:35 - Buoyed by the conversation and the energy of the crowd, I’m really enjoying myself now. A disco song is playing and the refrain tells the crowd “to move their funky feet to the rhythm of the beat”. A spotlight hits Octo Octa as she whirls around the booth with Eris Drew, mixing and grinning at the front row. Someone next to me is dancing with a fan that says “AC” and I feel an intermittent soft breeze on my face. I close my eyes and attempt to ‘get lost in the music’ or whatever the fuck people do when they dance.
02:37 - I take a small break from getting lost and open my eyes to something dark and spiralling high above me in the darkness. A cold, sharp thwack! hits me between the eyes. My eyes immediately water as the bridge of my nose feels like it’s doubling in size. I look around for a culprit and see a Jupiler beer bottle rolling away from me on the dancefloor. A classic hit and run. But who threw it? In front of me the crowd is dense and no one seems to be looking back at the girl clutching her face. I’ve lost my new friends at this point and I stumble to the bathroom to assess the damage.
Luckily, it’s not too bad but there’s a blooming green hue appearing on my right cheek and for the time in my life, I have a nose bridge. I wonder if it will stay and whether this means I can now get glasses that don’t have nose pads.
02:39 - I’m not in too much pain but I’ve definitely sobered up and the loneliness has well and truly hit. I don’t find the incident as funny as I would have with a friend and I wish I could still feel the vodka. As I walk out into the corridor a man sees me touching my nose gently and asks if I’m alright: “Ouch...who the fuck throws a beer bottle into the air? Maybe you should go to first aid, what’s your name?”
“Tiffany, yeah I think I will actually."
It would take me a second to gather myself before I went back into the dance so I approached one of the bouncers. She was stern-looking, in her mid forties, with blue eyeshadow and a padded vest on. She took me to a small back room and gave me an ice pack as I sat on a fold-up chair. The other bouncer walked in and asked me if I had seen who had thrown it. I considered telling her that I was a little busy getting lost in the rhythms of Octo Octa but I decided a “no” would suffice.
(FROM CAMERA ROLL) USING PHONE CAMERA AS MIRROR
02:50 - “Ohh my god what happened?” Two English girls interrupt a story one of the bouncers is telling me about Amsterdam nightlife in the early 2000s. They’re giggly and drunk and one of them is stumbling into the first aid area, her Fila stomper dangling in her hand. I explain the bottle incident and she shows me the glass in her foot. I feel a small sense of homesickness wash over me as she balks theatrically and squirms at the bouncer approaching with tweezers. As I remove the now thawed ice pack from my nose the girls tell me to come find them on the dancefloor.
02:55 - As I squint my way from the first aid room back into the darkness, I’m intercepted by the same guy from earlier who directed me toward first aid. “Your nose looks better!” He touches it gently and I pull back gingerly. As I walk away, he asks “can I buy you a drink?” and I laugh at the expertise of one of the incredibly few straight guys somehow sniffing out a girl alone at a club. I politely decline and decide it’s time to go home.
03:05 - I fold myself into an Uber and head home. Back in my bed I text my friends and take a picture of the scar that’s formed on my nose. Two years later you can still see a faint scar there.
(FROM CAMERA ROLL) THE MORNING AFTER