Analysis of Results
The aim of this chapter is to analyse and discuss my results. By visiting the club, and talking to clubbers, every weekend, I discovered who visits the club and why they go there.
I found being a covert observer participating in the nightclub very easy as it is a venue that I would normally frequent during my leisure time and I already know many of the clubbers which enabled me to approach them and discuss issues relevant to my study.
This chapter will discuss the venue at night when it is a night club. The Bus Stop hosts various different club nights including some of the long standing club nights that have made a name for themselves over the years and will nearly always draw a local crowd. These nights are “Flava” which is a hip-hop night; “Jungle Fresh”, which is drum ’n’ bass; and “UFO” which provides electro and break-beat music. There have also been various house music nights over the years.
The main thing that I
discovered during my research and speaking to the
clubbers was that the venue is very popular with the underground music
“A musical scene, in contrast (to a musical community), is that cultural space in which a range of musical practices coexist, interacting with each other within a variety of processes of differentiation, and according to widely varying trajectories of change and cross-fertilization”
(Straw, 1991 in Rietveld, 1998:16).
I became a part of this group in the summer of 2000 whilst out clubbing every weekend. This core group all tend to listen to what would be classed as ‘underground’ music,
“The term ‘underground’ is the expression by which clubbers refer to things subcultural…undergrounds denote exclusive worlds whose main point is not elitism, but whose parameters often relate to particular crowds…generally underground crowds are attached to sounds”
(Ross and Rose, 1994:177).
In the context of this study ‘underground’ refers to non-mainstream music,
“Undergrounds define themselves most clearly by what they are not – that is “mainstream”...the mainstream is decried as passive, indiscriminate and uncommitted to dance culture; it is ridiculed for its “herd instinct” and bandwagon mentality”
(Ross and Rose, 1994:178).
For youth involved in the
club subculture it is important to be part of
the ‘other’ as opposed to being part of the mainstream. To be a part of
‘other’ one must know which venues to frequent, which music to listen
clothing labels to wear and how to speak the language of the subculture. Bennett (2000) examines the need of young
people, involved in the urban dance music scene in
“Indeed, among certain sections of Newcastle’s youth, the wholesale rejection of those cultural traits typically associated with Newcastle has resulted in highly particularised strategies of resistance in which music and style also play a crucial role…this is particularly so among those young people involved in the local urban dance music scene for whom music acts as a central cultural resource in determining their ‘otherness’ from what they collectively deem to be the mainstream ‘townie’ youth scene” (4).
The same is true of the local
urban dance music scene in
I would never go there now, I used to go when
it was Warehouse, but then it was cool, now they play cheesy music and
full of Janner [slang for a
This statement shows how
there are distinct youth groups within the city
and also highlights how the cultural meaning of a space can change
the style of music played and the people within the space, this will be
discussed later on in this chapter.
Other clubbers mentioned various other pubs and clubs
Throughout my clubbing life
It is this core group and
students who are interested in the music
provided that support the underground music scene in
“There has always been a locals club in Plymouth, first it was the Warehouse which was home to Cultural Vibes and Scream which closed in 1999, then it was the Cooperage with Jungle Fresh and UFO, but that went downhill after Antonucchi took it over, then it was the Candy Store but that changed into Zanzibar and is now a complete dive, finally we’ve found somewhere else to call home”.
Another told me,
As mentioned earlier the core
group comprises of DJs and club night
promoters and their friends who all tend to frequent the same venues to
each other. One of the major
difficulties facing club promoters in
“I’ve been running nights in
Mitch told me how most of the venues in Plymouth are now run by big leisure chains who do not care about music, they just want to provide cheap drinks and get as many people in as possible and without venues such as the Bus Stop the underground music scene would be limited to house parties and illegal outdoor parties.
After speaking to some of the Bus Stop clubbers, most of whom were local residents (and not students) I discovered that many of them felt that the Bus Stop was a locals’ venue, run by local people catering for the local music scene. I wanted to confirm if this was an important factor contributing to the venue’s popularity. I asked 200 clubbers, over the course of three weeks, to rate the following statements, in order of importance, about the Bus Stop.
I also asked the respondents to indicate whether they were a student or not, so that I could compare their responses with those who were local residents. The following graphs show the results.
The most important factor for both students and non-students is the music, with 17% of students and 15% of non-students choosing this as the most important factor about the club. This was to be expected as that is the venue’s main purpose, as I was advised by Tom, one of the managers of the venue,
“We hope to be able to
Music is now a very important factor with regards to youth subcultures, Bennett (2000) discusses this,
“In many different parts of the world popular music is a primary, if not the primary, leisure resource for young people” (34).
Music gives meaning to spaces and can change the meaning of spaces. Valentine (1995) explores this concept by examining how the music of K.D. Lang, because of the meaning given to it by its audience (namely lesbians), creates lesbian space,
“when kd lang performs her music publicly at concert venues such as the Hammersmith Odeon and the Albert Hall, these spaces, which are taken for granted as heterosexual, are culturally produced through the meanings given to her/her music as something different, namely as lesbian space” (478).
A specific cultural meaning
can be given to a space because of the music
that is played in that space. I have
observed this concept in the Bus Stop by visiting the venue when there
various different ‘nights’ on. When
hip-hop music is being played the venue becomes a hip-hop space,
characteristics associated with the hip-hop scene, break-dancing and
(see plate 4.1 – hip-hop MC on stage at Flava), and drawing in those
with the hip-hop scene in
Plate 4.1 – Gertbiggun (Hip-Hop MC) on stage at Flava in the Bus Stop.
When drum ‘n’ bass is being played, the venue displays characteristics of the drum ‘n’ bass scene. It is rather difficult to verbalise, but the atmosphere in the space is different depending on the music that is being played there. The clientele may differ slightly from night to night, but as mentioned earlier the core group always tend to be there. It is therefore not the clientele or the venue, which both remain relatively the same, that creates these specific atmospheres, it is due to the music that is being played and the cultural meanings that are attached to these styles of music. The music itself, however, does not actually carry the meaning it is the audience that gives meaning to the music because of their cultural background. Bennett (2000) quotes Shepherd (1993) who argues that “music does not “carry” its meaning and “give it” to participants and listeners. Affect and meaning have to be created anew in the specific social and historical circumstances of music’s creation and use” (60-61). This fits in well with the work of Roland Barthes and his concept of the death of the author, he states, “the birth of the reader must be at the cost of the death of the author” (1977:148). What is important is what the cultural text (the music) means to the audience, once the author has produced the music they are unable to add to or produce any meaning for it and it is the audience who creates their own meaning depending on many factors such as their cultural background, where they were when they experienced it, who they were with and so forth. The way that the music is played in clubs such as the Bus Stop fits well with this concept. Once the music has been produced and is pressed onto a record the DJ mixes it up with other records creating a whole new meaning which is then experienced by the clubber who can again give the text further or different meaning. Barthes tells us that all texts are infinitely deferred, a text is never original it always draws from other texts, this is particularly true of modern music. In some ways this is really obvious with music containing direct samples from other music it may, however, be more hidden, but someone creating music is always going to have been influenced by their previous experiences of music, thus intertextuality is inevitable.
I have said that the production of these different atmospheres within the Bus Stop, on the various different club nights, is dependent on the style of music being played, this in itself is dependent on the meanings given to the music by those who are in the venue, Valentine (1995) confirms this by stating, “the production of space is dependent on those present” (478). However, those present are there due to the style of music being played so the meaning of a space cannot be created without both the music and the audience, “a club is a socially defined space where a crowd can make or break the occasion” (Rietveld, 1998:173).
Music is used by youth to confirm their identities and to mark out territory. This concept has been investigated by academics since the first research into youth subcultures was begun by the subcultural theorists of the Birmingham C.C.C.S., who are discussed in chapter 2. Although the C.C.C.S. recognised that music played a part in defining subcultural identity, the research tended to focus on issues of class, “in modern societies, the most fundamental groups are the social classes” (Hall et al, 1976:13). Class is no longer the defining factor of youth subcultures and in today’s society music appears to be the main differentiating factor between youth subcultures and people are placed into certain subcultural groupings depending on the style of music they like to listen to. In some instances people will go along to a certain club night purely to be with a certain group, as the questionnaire results show the second most popular reason that people will frequent the Bus Stop is because their friends do, as Bennett notes,
“in some instances musical tastes and accompanying consumption patterns are quite deliberately fashioned in such a way as to enable the clear articulation of collective attitudes or statements that respond directly to everyday situations experienced in specific localities” (2000:68).
Some pretend to like something even though they may not in order to fit in and be cool. This was something I observed in the Bus Stop. Although the majority of the clientele like the music as do their friends, some go along because they think it is the cool place to go and the cool music to listen to. This does tend to be more of a male trait. I spoke to a few female clubbers who were there because they had been dragged along by boyfriends or friends who like the music and they were perfectly happy to voice their opinions on the music, one female clubber said,
“I hate hip-hop, I think it’s a load of macho rubbish, I’m only here because my boyfriend loves it and I’d rather go out than sit at home by myself, which way’s the bar, I’d better amuse myself somehow!”
Speaking to one male clubber, whom I know personally and know from previous experience that he really does not like hip-hop, I asked him in front of his friends why he was in the club as I thought he did not like hip-hop, he replied,
“No, I like hip-hop like this, it’s just some of the other stuff I’m not to keen on”.
I asked him later on when he was by himself at the bar why he had lied to me and he told me that he did not want his friends to know that he did not really like the music, because if they knew, they would tease him about not being cool and make jibes about the commercial hard house music he likes to listen to. Ross and Rose highlight this gender difference,
“Girls and women often opt out of the game of “hipness”, refusing to compete and conceding defeat” (1994:179).
Gender did not appear to be an important factor in the construction of the Bus Stop as a club space, the only main gender difference that I observed was the concern of males to always appear to be ‘cool’. They tend to follow their friends more than the females do. Other than pretending to like music that they do not really like, in order to fit in, I observed that on every club night I visited, females were always the first to be on the dance floor (see plate 4.2). This is a phenomenon that I have observed in night clubs and at parties for so long as I have been attending them, more often than not, it is my female friends and myself that are always first to get up and dance, from reading the work of Ross and Rose (1994), I would assume that this is because the females are far less concerned about whether the music is seen to be ‘cool’ and will dance because they personally enjoy it, whilst males will wait until their friends or other males are dancing before they will join in, in order to confirm that the music is indeed ‘cool’. Reitveld quotes Grossberg (1994), “rather than dancing to the music you like, you like the music you can dance to” (1998:164), this opinion fits in better with females than with males, as males will tend to ‘like’ a particular style of music or music track because of its associated ‘coolness’, whereas a female will tend to like what she likes.
Plate 4.2 Girls first on the dance floor.
From the research undertaken,
I discovered that one of the main factors
contributing to the popularity of the Bus Stop is that it appears to be
venue, just from personal knowledge I know that there are a greater
local residents, those who are part of the core group, that attend the
than attend other youth venues in
“The musical event, from collective dances to the act of putting a CD into a machine, evokes and organises collective memories and present experiences of place with an intensity, power and simplicity unmatched by any other social activity. The ‘places’ constructed through music involve notions of difference and social boundary” (Bennett, 2000:61).
As mentioned earlier, many of those attending the Bus Stop are part of the core group, this group have had many musical experiences together which has created strong ties between them and they have brought these strong connections to the Bus Stop, thus creating a collective sense of place, a feeling of belonging in that space, which is why many feel that it is their club. This group mark out their territory in a number of different ways within the venue. As many of the core group are DJs who play in the club, they tend to some of the first in the venue each night and will claim their space, whether that is the sofas by the bar (see plate 4.3) or adjacent to the DJ box, the core group will always tend to gather together in a specific area. This group will always try and display their belonging to the space, by ensuring they greet other members of the core group and staff within the venue, thus, although to many this is subconscious, they are telling others in the club “I belong here”.
Plate 4.3 - The bar and sofas, within the Bus Stop, where the core locals tend to congregate.
The Bus Stop is decorated with graffiti done by local graffiti artists (as can be seen in plates 4.3 and 4.4), many of whom are also part of the core group, although not immediately obvious, this is another way in which they are marking their territory.
Plate 4.4 – Graffiti covered walls in the Bus Stop.
Graffiti has long been seen to be young males marking their territory by writing their names, or pseudonyms, on walls, they are letting others know that they are there and it is their space, “the practice of graffiti by dominant groups makes claims upon the meaning of spaces” (Cresswell, 1996:47). The fact that the owners of the Bus Stop have encouraged local graffiti writers to decorate the space with their personal writings is again enforcing the idea that it is a local space. Many of the locals who attend the venue know the graffiti writers, therefore, the writing on the walls will mean more to them than to non-locals. An example of this would be that one of the writers always adds his girlfriend’s name to his work, this is something that would only be known by those who are part of this local core group and those that recognise this will be able to further develop their sense of belonging to the space.