20 Years Of Britpop

The Rise And Fall Of The Britpop Dance Night

Another thing that drew us in: Those nights provided an extremely cheap shot of glamor into some extremely glamor-bereft lives. I don’t remember paying more than $10 at the door at any of these, and at least in the non-New York cities, you could afford to drink pretty heavily on some seriously sad wages. This was right around the time H&M started opening stores in America, which meant you could dress in a busted approximation of Jarvis Cocker or Justine Frischmann for not much money. And it probably helped, too, that the Britpop haircut and the emo haircut were basically the same haircut. There was a bit of play-acting at work in this, and that whole peacocking side of it was especially prevalent at Tiswas in New York, where I remember throwing who-the-fuck-is-that-guy looks at Carlos D before I’d ever heard of Interpol. Mostly, though, this was a balling-on-a-budget situation — a chance to go to the same clubs where you’d always go and see the same people as you always saw, dressing up just slightly more nicely than you might ordinarily. And you were way more likely to meet the person you’d marry at a Britpop night than you might be at, say, a Yo La Tengo show a week later, even if you were both at that same show. The pheromone levels at those Britpop nights were just different.

Of course, it didn’t last. How could it? This whole thing was a backward-looking enterprise, and it started to feel painfully uncool once other dance nights started, dance nights where you’d hear M.I.A. or Dizzee Rascal or Slim Thug next to Björk or the Breeders. I remember hearing Hollertronix’s Never Scared mix and feeling like the whole game had changed, which it had. Pretty soon, Destiny’s Child wasn’t something you had to sneak into the set; it was the whole point of the set. That’s why I can’t get mad at Diplo whenever I see him land another Blackberry commercial or Chris Brown collaboration. He was an honestly transformative figure in that little world, and the parties got more fun when they stopped ignoring rap and pop. Still, those Britpop nights probably paved the way for this new breed of club night. After all, doofs like us had to figure out that it was OK to dance somehow.

People don’t really talk about Britpop nights anymore. I’ve never found any sort of online database of them, or any honest remembrance of what they meant to the people who’d go to them every month. There are probably still a few nights like that running somewhere in the country, but I have no idea where. I don’t go out dancing anymore, and I honestly don’t know where I’d start if I even wanted to. But I look with enormous fondness on those days, on those of us who tried our honest best to get dressed up and act cooler than we were. We’d missed Britpop. It had happened when we were in high school, and maybe we’d seen the Verve or Oasis at a shed somewhere, but it had passed us over. So we took it and made something else out of it. And even if what we made was just a faint echo, it was still plenty.