In the midst of a pandemic…what of the clubs?
Lunchmeat is a collective of electronic music and arts enthusiasts. Their annual event in Prague is a drawcard for clubbers and intelligentsia alike (not that the two are mutually exclusive). There is always a thought-provoking symposium held in parallel with a rave night program.
This particular October represented a unique challenge. COVID-19 all but murdered most of the clubbing scene and culture. Strict government rules and regulations changing by the hour made it near impossible to plan or host large-scale events. During a window of opportunity, Lunchmeat went ahead with their program held this year at the city’s National Gallery (Národní Galerie Praha).
As I approached the gallery of the Friday night event, the reminders of the disease abounded. Last minute testing points and warnings about vaccines were prominently visible. The entranceway was busy but not as crowded as such a flagship event in Prague 7 would typically be. You could tell that despite the party ahead of us, there was an air of trepidation.
Donning my face mask (optional) and descending into the concrete bunker of the National Gallery, we were greeted by the glitch noise of the experimental secondary stage. It was fittingly post-apocalyptic as strobing visuals and ungodly noises emanated from the array of wires and speakers in the dark.
In the concrete amphitheatre of the main stage, I couldn’t help but reflect on our surrounds. A friend told me that this was designed as a bunker for the war. Yet here we were taking refuge from a different kind of enemy – unseen, insidious and something that had plagued the world for almost two years. This bunker was our sanctuary, and the musicians were our priests for the night.
The lyric-less hypnotic nature of techno was perfectly suited to this moment in history. We were united as one mass, being led by the rhythms and visuals onstage, able to forget, if for a moment, the chaos and uncertainty of the world outside. COVID-19 has torn a hole in the fabric of our shared reality. Sometimes, an evening in the club is enough to add another stitch to its repair.
Therein lies the real tragedy of losing such culture and closeness thanks to disease and fear. It’s not just about going out to get drunk or high or hook up in the dark. Those few hours on the dancefloor are where people of all walks, colours, orientations and more get together. Events like Lunchmeat are spearheading this unity, even if at times in a place as culturally homogeneous as Czech Republic, it isn’t so visible.
As I left, earlier than I had intended, I thought that this was something truly special. We are just getting out of a lockdown, and who knows how long the next one will be. Basking in the light of meticulously programmed visuals and guided by the deft fingers and ears of DJs and artists, for a few brief moments, we took shelter together and it was a beautiful reminder of all that we have lost and are at risk of losing.