Beer and Loathing in Your Hometown (Maidstone)
Source Bar, Maidstone
Your hometown. You can’t bad mouth it too much because you still have friends and family who live there but at the same time you treat it with the sort of contempt usually reserved for phone calls that begin with “Congratulations! you have been picked…” This is because the place you once knew and loved died a long time ago. Your hometown is no longer your hometown but a town full of no good up-start kids and shops that you don’t remember being there before. The high street that used to be impossible to walk down without bumping into somebody you knew is now devoid of anybody you recognise. Or even worse, somebody you do recognise and used to be mates with, but now it’s been so long without speaking that you have to play the “Greet, Nod or Blank” game. Nine times out of ten you will choose blank. Don’t lie.
Myself and a quartet of ex-Maidstone gentlemen decided to re-visit the nightclub that moulded us into the upstanding citizens we are today. Our motives were a mix of curiousity and sado-masochism. Because whilst we did wonder what it would be like now, we had also received reports from intrepid explorers/younger siblings about what to expect.
Dubstep. Dubstep and fucking kids that think The Only Way Is Essex is less a crap docu-soap and more a lifestyle guide.
The thing is. I remember being an 18 year old. Fresh out of AS-Levels and onto the dance floor, looking around and seeing these livid 20 somethings muttering curses to themselves in the corner. I used to wonder what their fucking problem was. Why were they even out on a Tuesday night? Hadn’t they got jobs to go to and families to raise? I now realise of course that these haggard bags of post-post-pubescant anger were kids who had returned to their hometown to find it infested with the ‘cool’ trend of they day. For them it was The Wombats and waistcoat sporting kids in pointy winklepickers. For me it is dubstep, New Eras and Topman aztec print.
Whilst I was sure the sight of gurning 18 year olds womp-wobb-wobb-wobbing about the place would annoy me as much as the sight of a gurning 18 year old me blowing a neon whistle and dancing to Golden Skans annoyed the previous generation, I vowed to control my anger. Maybe even get involved.
But, even from the first impressions of our once beloved indie nightclub, all was not well. Hung across the upper balcony/smoking area bit was a huge banner claiming that, yes, the rumours were true, you could indeed watch Euro 2012 here. On one of literally 5 screens. And would there be drinks deals? By fucking jove would there would be drinks deals. Red card and yellow card themed shots, as many WKDs as you could drink before you died and a 3 for £5 deal on something called “Carsleberg.”
Now, either the recession has hit Maidstone worse than I thought and they’ve started selling fake bottles of lager they got down the market off a middle eastern dude or somebody managed to spell Carlsberg wrong on the fucking sign. Carlsberg. An international brand that pumps millions upon millions of pounds into advertising designed to engrave its name into your brain. On a sign the size of a family car you would assume that were it the latter of the two possibilities somebody would have, at some point in the process, been like, “Gary, you’ve spelt Carlsberg wrong” before sending the design off to the giant poster making company.
So immediately we assume everybody inside is stupid. Our rage is sated momentarily when the bouncer recognises us, which was nice. It’s a bit like a teacher that you didn’t really have that many lessons with at school seeing you many years later, remembering your name and asking how it’s going. You feel touched. Although it perhaps only seems like that to me because I remember far less of my time within Source Bar than the bouncer does. To him, recognising me is like recognising the student that you used to teach for every lesson, who was eternally drunk and that you had to occasionally throw out of lessons for moshing to The Kooks.
Inside was very busy and sweaty and full of precisely the sorts of person we predicted would be there. Within 2 drinks we had already succumbed to tiredness and a desire to not be crammed in like sardines next to A-Level students coated in the latest offerings from Superdry. So we sojourned to the balcony/smoking area bit that the stupid Carsleberg sign was hanging off of. We found a nice chair/sofa combo and set up camp. This was very nice. Though that worryingly speaks volumes about our current abilities to party. On a night out where the plan from the off has been to drink too many bottles of VK Cherry and have a tear up, our almost immediate move has been to find a comfy corner and have a nice sit down. This would not have been understood by my 18 year old self. In fact I never even understood pubs when I was 18. I would always pre-drink cans of something 8%ish before heading to da club then bomb about the place screaming lyrics to budget indie until I almost blacked out due to lack of oxygen in my brain. Now, however, a night out is almost a chore, something I have to really prepare for. Not enough sleep or food and I end my night being woken up in a darkened bus by an irate bus driver.
Today’s norm is a night in the pub, where sitting down is the aim of the game, talking to your mates is key and getting drunk is almost incidental. Now this may make me sound like a cunt who thinks he is old beyond his years, but the fact that our first introduction to the world of regular alcohol consumption is via this weird weekly ritual where you drink as much as you can and try to grope members of the opposite sex in a fantastically noisy darkened room strikes me as a bit unhealthy. But what do I know, I suppose people have been doing it since the 70s and turning out alright. Maybe the Cheeky Girls were right. Maybe touching bums truly is life.
So we to and fro’d between the bar and this base camp we had set up on the balcony when suddenly calamity struck. Not enough of us had been guarding the seats and these four odd amalgamations of everything that is wrong with the world had stolen our spot. They were foul tempered and awfully dressed. Obviously we had to bully them into leaving but this proved harder than we thought even though all the raw materials for bullying were there. Crap love heart/star tattoos, misguided BOY London cap and hideous Evanescence style lace dresses with Adidas hoodies over the top. Unfortunately we hadn’t reckoned with the fact that our amateur ‘Do’s and Don’ts’ style fashion comments would be met with a level of ignorance that rendered even the wittiest one liner less than useless. No matter how much we fucking tried we could not successfully bully this chick for wearing a BOY London New Era cap. It quickly transpired she didn’t realise the East London connotations. Upon being pressed on whether she had been to Hoxton recently (with a smug hipster wanker smirk on our faces) her response was “Nah! I’m from Northampton, aren’t I!?” Not even an answer to our question really. It dawned on us that we were out of our depth and we retreated to the battlefield of sweat and spilt alcopops that dwelled below. Later on though I did spot that awful bird and she had taken her cap off. Which made me feel bad, although this dubstepette didn’t know why her hat had drawn so much attention, clearly our curled lips had made their impression on her and she was no longer sporting it proudly. You’ll thank us one day, Skrillette, you’ll thank us one day.
The final notable incident of the night, and one that legitimised our decision to leave early and not drink all the VKs in the world, was the sight of a completely fucked school boy on his own outside the kebab shop. He was, for want of a better word, a geek. I know we don’t get them properly this side of the pond but you know what I mean. The quiet kid in your class who nobody paid a great deal of attention to but did very well. The sort of kid who clearly had a lot of shit he wanted to say but lacked the balls to say it. That is, until he gets a half bottle of apple Sourz down him. Then he says everything he wants to say and consequently loses all his mates, who weren’t that keen on having him follow them around all night anyway. Well, we had caught this young man in that section of the night. He was stumbling aimlessly up and down the road attempting semi-aggressive conversation with passing dudes and semi-flirtatious conversation with passing ladies. This was not a wise plan of action for a lad that even I thought I could beat up. We contemplated doing that playground thing to him where somebody would get his attention then somebody else would get on all fours behind him then we could push him over. But the tarmac is hard and, bless him, it looked like that was the sort of thing that happened to him most days at school anyway. As we walked away with a successful harvest of chips and meat it looked like he might be getting into actual trouble with a couple of big blokes who he probably shouldn’t have been annoying.
I saw some dude with a tie dye on and bumped into another chap who wrote reviews for this here magazine. So points there (obviously. rofl.) But other than that it was a forbidding wasteland where male tans reign supreme and BOY London is worn by accident.
Top location for getting back home if you live in or around Maidstone. Unfortunately, I don’t. And whilst Maidstone may be a pleasant enough town during daylight hours, cometh the night the streets run red with the blood of drunk kids who stole the wrong bloke’s chips.
Everything sensible was £2. Which is alright I suppose. However I remember the days when it was £1 a drink all night and wearing glowsticks as an accessory was cool.
I didn’t see any fights, but the bemused chavvy dudes watching us scream “This is just a tribute” were definitely landing a few kidney shots when they could as they ‘moshed’ with us. Weak vibes. In all fairness to us we shouldn’t have been moshing. I suppose at least this time round it wasn’t to The Kooks, though.
Do you have any god awful pubs in mind for Jack to go to at some point in the future? If you do please harass him on twitter @beerandloathinz