Saturday, April 3, 2010

Friday Night Clubbing at Club Fuego, Dubrovnik

From Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, and Slovenia
Club-curious visitors to Dubrovnik face in insidious choice at the bus stop outside the Old City's walls. Should one catch the last bus back to the comfort of one's hotel room or hostel at 11:55 PM, or should one gamble that the quiet Club Fuego, just across the street from that bus stop, will turn into a lively venue sometime later in the evening? The price of failure: getting ripped off by a cab driver, or a one-hour walk back to your digs. Add to that the prospect of another brutal all-nighter, thanks to one's bizarre decision to take a 7:30 AM bus back to Zagreb the following day, and one faces quite a bind.

Last night my hostel mates chose to return to their beds. I don't blame them. At Fuego's entrance, where 30 kuna ($6) tickets to the club were sold by a weary Kurt Vonnegut lookalike and things seemed unusually quiet, there were no encouraging signs that the venue would amount to much. But despite the fact that life would have been far more comfortable had I gone "home" with my friends, I reminded myself that I am DJ King Pigeon, and I came here to conduct research into Balkan club life.

When I entered the main dancefloor area it seemed I had made a terrible mistake. A group of people running the gamut from 40 to 60 years of age sat at tables under flashing lights while Michael Jackson's "Thriller" played. When I am 40 to 60 I hope to still be hanging out in clubs, also. But it was an odd juxtaposition. Had I blundered into an 80s night?

But the stroke of midnight announced a change in music and clientele. As Beyonce's "Sweet Dreams" played, the older people got up at once and exited. This struck me as a fascinating idea; to run a nightclub that in the early evening serves an older group who wish to bask in the memories of clubbing days long past, then turn things over to today's young all-nighters who are manufacturing and oblittering new memories of their own.

The all-nighters were mostly students, few older than 30, fewer still older than me, though there was an apparent 40-something woman in a catsuit going crazy to the music as she danced with some youthful guys; a good night out for her. Some of the clubbers merely dressed, some dressed up, and some dressed to kill. Several young Britishers aggressively chatted up the many Croatian girls in the room, but they appeared to have no success.

Club Fuego is divided into several sections. The dancefloor is in the basement. Upstairs from that is a "Chill Out Room" which offers a great concept: a projection-screen TV showing a live stream of the dancefloor action on the floor below. A level above that one can take a seat and chat with a friend without having to yell over the music. It's on that highest level that one realizes why the club seems chillier than most; you look up and see the moon and stars and realize you are on a sort of patio; the whole club with its interconnected rooms and levels is thus open to the night air, which must make it a terrific place to be on a summer night.

The music included the usual top 40 dance suspects, including the requisite Lady Gaga "Bad Romance" remix, followed by a number of house tracks, including Martin Solveig's "C'est la vie," which reminded me that I had seen Solveig's singer perform in Kiev three months earlier.

Then, as was also the case at Club Saloon in Zagreb, the DJs switched to all-Croatian pop music, which seemed to alienate most of the expats in the crowd, but which gave me the most pleasure as here was a reminder that I really was far from home. The club's patrons sang along to Croatian Eurodance (there was clearly a lot of Croatian Eurodance made back in the day), and later Croatian rock tunes. The clubbers even assembled themselves on the steps on one end of the dancefloor like some kind of boisterous, drunken mixed chorus.

I left at 3 AM, an hour before the club officially closed. I chose walking over taxi, and had a great conversation along the way back with Cristina on my cell phone.*

I caught my bus back to Central Operations (i.e., Zagreb) with literally five minutes to spare (I had written down the wrong time, apparently), and today I qualify under three technical definitions of the word "dead." But as George Bernard Shaw, a man who loved Dubrovnik, once said, "Use your health, even to the point of wearing it out. That is what it is for. Spend all you have before you die; and do not outlive yourself."**

* The conversation had an odd start to it because she rang while I was sitting on a street corner talking to an intoxicated Croatian guy named "Doc," and Doc would sometimes punctuate Cristina's and my conversation with shouted exclamations. I gently extricated myself from him (he really seemed to be a nice guy, but Cristina wasn't paying to talk to him).

** For the benefit of my Romanian friends, "Foleseste-ti sanatatea pina la limita ei de-i nevoie. De aceea o ai. Cheltuieste totul inainte de a muri si nu trai mai mult decit ti-e dat."

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