Think Club, Think Kyiv, Think Closer


Image credits: Lesnoy Prichal & Mishka Bochkarev

There’s nothing quite like a club. I’m all for a bar, a pub, even a drink on a street bench; but there’s just something about club culture that’s unrivalled in my eyes. Whether you rock up to your local club with your mates or decide to venture out alone, once the night’s in full swing and you’re on that dance floor, it’s just you and the music. Any pressing thoughts, deadlines and partners you’ve left at home become as irrelevant as the direction the water flushes in the very club you’re stood in.

Music is not a living thing. It’s not even a tangible object. Nevertheless, it can evoke pure emotion in a listener, and this can be felt across the world, irrespective of religion, race, gender or social class. Music shatters social boundaries, and undoubtedly strengthens social bonds. Clubs can therefore act as perfect places to strengthen these ties as the dance floor is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness. Virtually any space with four walls can become a club. From dark and dingy basements to enormous, airy warehouses, all that’s needed is a good sound system, people devoted to the cause and at least one person behind the decks with a good taste in music.

As we enter June and my clubbing dry spell continues, I’ve found myself thinking more and more about one of the last times I hit the dance floor on a trip to Ukraine in one of Kyiv’s well known clubs; Closer. This is a venue that ticks all the boxes. However, were it not for some drastic scenes in Kyiv’s streets a few years earlier, the vibe may have been unrecognisably different. The 2014 revolution in Ukraine put a hold on club nights as everyone came together to deal with a national issue of unprecedented scale since the independence of Ukraine from the USSR in 1991. Thankfully for Ukraine and its residents, the country came out of this crisis victorious, and Kyiv emerged from it with a new generation of ravers.

Somewhere near the hipster district of Podil, up the winding potholed streets at the top of a cul-de-sac lies a large gated entrance guarding a space which I had travelled 2,000km to experience: Closer. Jumping out of the ridiculously cheap Uber and stepping into the complex, I was a bit oblivious as to what I was blindly walking into on my second night in the country my ancestors once called home. I eyed up the many alleyways and buildings which must have been home to the radio broadcasting station, vegan restaurant and other enterprises operating within this space before finding a lit doorway beyond a terrace occupied with a few people dotted about. On entering I encountered a “few” more people (still half wondering if I was in the right place) and ordered myself a cold one. Now, it’s not often I hear people talking about my home country at a bar in England let alone Ukraine. So when I overheard a conversation (in English) about the Rock of Gibraltar within a minute of entering I had to butt in. The next hour was spent chatting with a local lad, who I still follow on Instagram, and a Mexican couch surfer about life.

This level of openness and willingness to engage with me, a lonely foreigner, was representative of the crowd as a whole throughout the night. The crowd is a crucial part of any club and it was on point all night long. Among the new acquaintances were a local lad who was pleasantly surprised by my choice of city for a birthday vacation, a chap from the States who bought me far too many drinks (gotta say Leffe’s a welcomed but peculiar choice of beer for a club of this nature) and a Brazilian who quit her job at Vice and had decided to travel the Trans-Siberian Express photographing the locals on her journey. I must say I don’t go clubbing alone very often, but this night couldn’t have been a better advocate for pursuing more of these solo adventures.

The club on the night consisted of a modestly sized main room with a bar adjacent to the dance floor, a side chill out room for chatting shit with strangers, and a multi-levelled smoking area kitted out with a whole forest’s worth of timber flooring and furniture. I mustn’t forget the cloakroom in what was the most memorable exchange with a cloakroom worker I’ll ever have. I handed him my jacket and asked how much it was. The response I got was “It’s free. What do you think we are, Nazis?” Welcome to Eastern Europe.

Closer knows how to reel in the big dogs. Everyone from the likes of Ricardo Villalobos and DJ Stingray, to Bambounou and Call Super have graced the stage at this factory-turned-club in the past 12 months. Tonight was the turn of Russian veteran Andrey Pushkarev. Known for his extensive vinyl collection and immeasurable musical knowledge, he did what the masters of minimal house do best and jockeyed for 9 hours straight. While journeying through deep and melodic house, I could definitely sense a minimal grain running through the set. Not surprising given the length of it. If you are not aware of Pushkarev, I highly recommend checking out Kvadrat; a feature-length documentary following his life as a DJ. No interviews, no voice overs, just an hour forty five in the life of Andrey. Anyways, with the help of Pushkarev and a group of some serious ravers, I partied well into the night on my last Friday as a 25 year old. I could not have asked for a more welcoming and authentic introduction to the Post-Soviet scene that has sprung up from the ashes of a national crisis.

It’s not taken us long since my birthday bash to fall into an international crisis, affecting much more than our Friday nights. However, I feel we can look to Kyiv and Ukraine and take note of how they developed their underground music scene for the better. Just as the Ukrainians reignited the club culture of Kyiv after such a devastating period in their country’s history, I pray to the DJ gods that we are able to do the same on a global scale. Anxiety and excitement are very similar emotions. The only difference is mindset. While it’s not going to be easy logistically or economically for the club atmosphere we work tirelessly all week for to return, we must be patient and creative, and above all remain excited at the opportunity to become a part of history and help mould club culture in a world post Covid-19.