I just came across The New York Times' mini-guide to what's hip in East London published in November 2008. A lot of these places do sound rather cool, but I'm a little wary of anything that's in Hackney, having ventured there for the first time at night (and my second time overall) for Bad Passion, an underground club night at a disused club behind the Shacklewell Arms.
The event in itself wasn't bad; in fact, it was quite an enjoyable night, what with the disco and funky house music Eric Duncan (one half of NYC DJ duo Rub 'n' Tug) was spinning, but mostly because of the assortment of freaks, dweebs and weirdoes that made up pretty much the entire population in the club barring my friend and I. We wouldn't even have been there if I hadn't won tickets, so it's a safe assumption that I, honestly, do not belong to this particular clubbing demographic, even if I do enjoy the music, which was very much like what you would hear at a set by David Mancuso or Greg Wilson.
From the people with the ginormous shoulder pads and disco outfits, to a guy with hair that would look right at home in Breakin', to the Indonesian ladies who looked very much like short transverstites (and who were most likely high on some illegal substance) to a guy with a Tom Selleck 'tache to the bartender who looked like a cross between Queen Latifah and the lady cop from Law & Order, to a couple whose dancing can only be charitably described as "spaz" to a guy who might have been trying to do the Twist on the dance floor, but somehow only managed a Twitch... the list goes on and on.
And when you consider the club could only comfortably fit 50 people or so, you realise that this event registers a 37.8889 on the freak-o-meter scale from 1 to 10.
Just to clarify, it wasn't the event itself which made me feel uncomfortable about Hackney; it was getting to and from that location. On the way there, we passed by a grocers which had an unusually large crowd of youths congregating outside the doorway for no apparent reason whatsoever. One youth, with a large camera in hand, was taking photos, and actually ran over to take a photo of someone on the bus we were on, sliding across the hood of the car next to the bus, even as the traffic light turned from red to green. We saw just as large a crowd outside the same grocers on our way back, even though it was close to 3 am. If I had been walking, I think I would have been rather freaked.
I guess the other reason is the reputation that Hackney has; there're Turkish and Vietnamese gangs operating in the area, and while I thought I was sort of okay with the idea because I look Oriental, I realised that it doesn't really help, because they'd just assume you're with a rival gang if they don't recognise you, so... yeah. I kind of felt conspicuously out of place the moment I left the comparative safety of the bus and club.
In any case, I'm not usually one to avoid a good night or an interesting venue just because I think it might be dangerous, though I don't go out of my way to court danger either, so I'll just have to figure out which places on the NYT's list are worthwhile exploring one of these nights. And I am definitely going to check out one of Bad Passion's events in Shoreditch, just to see if the crowd's any different!