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Clubbing Our Culture to Death, or Beating More Life into Downtown?

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Despite the sluggish economy a whole crop of new nightclubs have opened up in Spokane this year. Yet at the same time certain theater and live music locations have struggled to stay open, with some closing their doors altogether. Does the clubbish bent to these new venues mean Spokane is becoming a generic and predictable middle-America meat market? Or should we be optimistic for the potential of businesses like the MarQuee and Casbah to encourage new consumers to develop their ‘urban identity’?

 

Certainly not all clubs are created equal. Some will inflame people’s most base instincts, while others are better positioned to bring about the class they claim to represent. How this “classing up” can be done with intention instead of by accident is important to consider. Otherwise we risk more of what most can agree are the downsides of the typical club scene. Social drama, hollow conspicuous consumption, senseless drinking, and otherwise attractive women looking and acting like this:

Manic Mondays at the MarQuee are supposed to “toast what’s sassy, sexy and sophisticated in Spokane” on a monthly basis. Similarly, a commercial-themed social networking night happens every Wednesday at Rain. We hope these “after work casual” and other “dress to impress” events will remain accessible and interesting to the general public. To the skeptic on the street they can seem highly artificial and just plain overpriced.

Either way, it is interesting to observe how a venue markets itself and eventually becomes defined by the collective identity that gathers there. These social associations become so sticky a business has to go through significant re-branding if it is to overcome an unwanted stereotype. Try this simple experiment: What do you see when you imagine yourself at Trick Shot Dixie’s?

 

Anyways, Spokane has always had its fair share of seedy bump-’n-grind style dance clubs. And let’s be clear, there is nothing wrong with these. They serve their purpose and are a natural component of any city’s social  ecosystem. The funny thing is when a dance venue tries to get it’s patrons to step it up a notch by enforcing dress codes, changing cover requirements, and introducing a section for VIPs. The public response to this policy at Studio 23 was surprising. Some people didn’t know what to make of the command “be sexy” and many were turned away at the door. Now that the location is Envy people know the general drill and it’s not a big deal anymore.

LET US END WITH A RANT: This whole process of growing pains goes to the heart of Spokane’s tortured (or dare we say it, non-existent) fashion identity. At some point we need to stop and consider the social meaning of the popped collar. Just like gentrifying low-income housing in the downtown core, the question of how clubs can impact Spokane culturally is a loaded one. Does squeezing ourselves into a mini-dress make us sophisticated? Or does it paper over the need for a deeper process of authentic cultural soul-searching? Spokane has the potential to be a truly distinguished “best kept secret” kind of place. Little old Spokane can balance the best of high-brow and low-brow in ways that larger cities can only dream of. As we continue to grow and shape our own modern regional ethos, let us do so with intention. Let us not sell ourselves short of our true potential, and lets enjoy to the fullest the fruits of our labor – sans pretension.

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