Saturday, 25 June 2011

The devil's playground

As many of you will attest, Hong Kong at the turn of the century closely resembled Sodom and Gomorrah on speed. Life raced by in a hedonistic haze of hands-in-the-air dance parties and deliciously dirty little clubs, and it was not unusual for Friday night to turn into Sunday at the drop of a pill. You knew you were a clubber if you thought chupa chups were a food group unto themselves.

From the extraordinary home grown talents of Joel Lai, Christian Berentson, Kulu and Lee Burridge; to the veritable invasion of international DJs that graced our shores such as Sasha, John Digweed, Paul Oakenfold, Pete Tong, Paul Van Dyke, Armand Van Helden and Jeremy Healy to name but a few; barely a weekend went by without at least four raves taking place. We had a ball.

Given space is always an issue on the island, the main event usually took place in the larger venues. Bar City was a personal favourite. Over on the dark side – Kowloon to the uneducated – the club was in the basement of one of the major hotels and played host to countless incredible nights.

It was a great venue. Dark and dingy, you walked in through the shopping mall entrance, made it past the chill out room – a seething mass of bleary-eyed dance denizens swearing undying love to the stranger sprawled next to them – and felt the music literally slap you silly across the face as you hit the main room.

The bar on the right was always busy, selling bottles of water that cost more than a dirty martini today, but the main action was down a small flight of stairs. Unfortunately there was only a railing on one side, and the owners had strategically placed a rather large potted palm on the other side in a vain attempt to prevent accidents. The reality was I routinely fell into the damned thing as I wobbled my way to the dance floor – a great look when you’re wearing a skirt that barely covers your backside. I know that thing claimed many a victim.

And talking of accidents, Jimmy’s Sport’s Bar also played home to one of my more memorable mishaps. The Fat Boy Slim gig was especially unforgettable for me, primarily because I managed to slip and aquaplane down the stairs from the VIP area to the dance floor on my PVC-clad arse, taking out a small crew of clubbers as I landed. This was clearly a high point of the evening for me, and by far beat out the fact that we ended up hanging out with the man of the hour in his hotel room until 8am. Top fella that Norman Cook by the way.

Hong Kong was also famous for its after parties, which usually took place in the decrepid dungeons of Wanchai. These tiny clubs, which began their evenings filled with fat old expats listening to the lively strains of Filipino bands and trying to pick up bar girls, miraculously transformed into filthy underground dens of iniquity kicking out dirty great beats and literally heaving with the overflow from the night’s best parties: the true Hong Kongers who refused to go home until the drugs were all gone and they were ready to drop. Well that or the magical phrase “Back to mine” was uttered.

Neptunes 1 was the fricken bomb. Quite possibly one of the most disgusting clubs I have ever been to, no night out was complete without a visit. To put it in perspective, the seats on the women’s toilets all had dirty great foot prints from girls standing on them to squat, and I once woke up after one particularly massive night there to discover a massive lump of hash stuck to the soul of my boot. And no I didn’t before you ask.

Countless more of these clubs would open and close over the years. CE Top, Homebase, Level 27 and the Yellow Frog all became Hong Kong institutions, frequented only by the most intrepid of players who didn’t mind if their feet stuck to the floor. Oddly enough, the Yellow Frog was one of the few places in which I managed to not make a complete twat of myself – although I do recall one night when a friend of mine decided to dance on the table and got smacked in head by the ceiling fan.

And who could forget Funky Times, the 70s club night that made its way to HK on a regular basis and goes down in history as one of the best parties in town. So big, one HK crew went so far as to hire a bus to take them to the venue in full on funky regalia to make sure nobody got lost. My particular favourite was the school disco-themed final hoorah, when a certain friend of mine dressed up as a headmaster and spent his evening trying to confiscate illicit substances from everyone on the dance floor. You know who you are!

Almost a decade later, Hong Kong remains a haven for hedonists, however nothing quite matches up to the debauchery of the late 90s. As we settled into the new millennium, smarter, sleeker clubs such as Drop and Dragon-I opened their doors, introducing a new generation of equally talented DJs such as the inimitable Eric Byron, and a considerably more sophisticated approach to clubbing emerged. The glow sticks and lollipops of the late 90s disappeared. I stopped wearing my hair in bunches, ditched the glow-in-the-dark lipstick and swapped my red wings for stilettos.

None of this was a bad thing, and today any one of these clubs will deliver one of the best nights of your life, albeit wearing considerably better clothes. Fuck New York. To this day, Hong Kong is the only true city that never sleeps.

For those of you who remember those heady days, Bar City, Neptunes, Funky Times, CE Top and the Yellow Frog all have facebook pages where you can shamefacedly find yourself in the many photos that have already been uploaded. Check them out.


  1. Oh , those were the days!!


  2. Neptunes 1 wasn't just the bomb ... it also looked like a bomb had hit it by about 8am. Human wreckage. Total carnage. It was awesome.


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