Comment: S’pore clubbers now need solid planning to even get through the doors, but it’s all worth it

Might be a nightmare for an unorganised person, so here’s what to look out for.

Kane Raynard Goh | May 14, 2022, 04:48 PM

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It feels so surreal to finally be able to hear loud bass and muffled beats escaping the walls of nightclubs in Clarke Quay.

Nightclubs in Singapore reopened on Apr. 19 this year, and demand for entry is at an all-time high after a two-year hiatus.

For frequent partygoers like myself, these past two years felt like a lifetime.

What I missed the most was the music and energy on the dance floor. The thrill when the DJ drops your favourite song, the unpredictability of how the night will go — no two nights are ever the same.

I first stepped into a club when I was 18, at the now-defunct Zirca.

Not going to lie, it was an intimidating first experience. I was like a kid pretending to be a grown-up amongst actual grown-ups, dressed in a white shirt and a blue oversized blazer — clearly overdressed for the crowd.

Soon after, I went to Zouk (back when it was still at Jiak Kim Street) for the first time and since then, Zouk has been my go-to place whenever my friends and I want a great night out. (Yes, I am still a Jiak Kim boy through and through.)

Over the years, I’ve checked out other clubs around Singapore, but none of these places gave me the same kind of energy and memories as Zouk.

So naturally, when clubbing opened up again, I knew I had to go back. It may sound like an exaggeration, but going back to a club again feels a little bit like a homecoming.

Here’s a look into what clubbing is like in 2022:

You’ll need to organise your night out

The first thing to know about clubbing in the current era is that you can no longer decide to go to a party on a whim.

In the past, I could just join my friends for impromptu nights out. A typical conversation might go like this:

Friend: HEYYYYYY, I am gonna be at Zouk tonight, wanna join?

Me: OOOO okay sure! 11:30pm near the driveway area?

But now, I have group chats that are specifically for coordinating and blocking out dates for nights out.

I was added into a group with nine others in late April and thought to myself, “Oh my lord, this is going to be a nightmare to coordinate”.

But strangely, everything turned out more organised than I imagined. We used the poll function on Telegram to check everyone’s availability and settled on a date pretty easily.

Once we decided on the date, we (mostly me) eagerly anticipated notifications of the ticket sales for the night we wanted.

The wild world of pre-purchasing entry tickets

Due to capacity limits, nightclubs like Zouk now require pre-purchase of entry tickets online, or reservations in advance.

And let me just say, it’s a wild world out there (think along the lines of getting tickets to Justin Bieber’s concert, but virtually).

In order to make sure I can get tickets in time, I follow all the different clubs and party organisers on Instagram and turn on notifications so I’ll be notified whenever they post an update.

It sounds pretty intense, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

In this new era of clubbing, you have to camp out online and get tickets as soon as they drop, or else you risk the tickets selling out before you even have a chance to look at them (especially for guys’ tickets).

This isn’t unique to Zouk either; I’ve been to other pop-up parties and clubs since the reopening and had the same experience throughout — tickets selling out in a heartbeat and high cover charges.

And then, one fine morning, when I was in the middle of a work meeting, the magical notification appeared.

I swear I low-key panicked a little and let out a scream before texting my group of friends:

The tickets had already dropped for almost an hour and I feared they would have all been snatched up.

Would we still be able to get tickets? Will the party gods bless us? If we can’t get tickets, what can we do? Will we have to reschedule and find another day? Will I finally get to taste my favourite sour plum shots again??

Clearly, my inner monologue was running wild. But after five minutes or so, everyone confirmed that they were in and it was time to buy tickets…

Honestly, I felt like I won the lottery.

I’ve never won a lottery before but I imagine that it would feel something like this.

A slight Covid hiccup

The weekend before my friends and I were supposed to make our grand re-entry into the party scene, we were slapped with news that Zouk would be temporarily closed for 10 days, including the night we were supposed to go.

Screenshot via Instagram/zouksingapore.

At that point, I honestly wanted to just give up on the whole partying experience because it felt like things weren’t going as planned.

I was about to bail and ask for a refund as I was hesitant to visit Phuture (a smaller outlet owned by Zouk within the same premise).

But then I remembered that I had agreed to write this piece, so I sucked it up and continued with the plan to party at Phuture.

Register to do your ART test beforehand

The next step was to book a supervised Antigen Rapid Test (ART) as part of the Pre-Event Testing (PET) requirements.

Yes, going to a club nowadays is an event.

Here’s some advice from a seasoned clubber, i.e. me: Book your supervised ART test and do it online beforehand. Some clubs and event nights provide on-site testing but doing it online first will save you precious time that you can spend on the dance floor instead. You also avoid being a buzzkill and wasting all your (and your friends’) pre-game efforts.

I pre-booked my test slot, showed up virtually, poked my nose and waited awkwardly for 15 minutes with the supervisor on video call.

Once that was done, the results were reflected on my TraceTogether app in a matter of minutes. Very fast, very efficient. 10/10 experience.

To me, this extra step isn’t much of a hassle. It’s an additional cost, yes, but it’s not a reason to turn me away from wanting to party.

With that, after what felt like 39429017344 steps, I was ready to party. Or maybe more accurately, I was officially eligible to party.

Waiting to enter the club

On a Wednesday night at Zouk, entry was quite seamless. There was barely any queue, only one to two small groups ahead of us.

All they had to do was check our tickets and PET status on TraceTogether, and we were in the club within five minutes.

Meanwhile, a pop-up party event at Yang Club I attended over the Labour Day long weekend had an hour-long queue. There were two queues — one for re-entry and another one for first-time admissions — both equally long, with people getting visibly frustrated.

It was definitely a buzzkill especially since I had a solid pre-game and was ready to dance the night away.

Thankfully, this wasn’t the case at Zouk and we were in and ready to party in no time.

Good music and good vibes

As we stepped into Phuture, I was surprised by the turnout.

Actually no, before I could even form any actual reaction or impression, I went to the bar and got some shots using the drink coupons that came with the cover charge. Priorities.

I actually do miss shouting my drink order (“2 shots of vodka please!”) over the bar counter. Just that now with masks, you need to shout louder (“2 SHOTS OF VODKA PLEASE!”).

The club was crowded for a Wednesday night — almost as good as a pre-Covid Friday night crowd. Good gender ratio too, and most of them looked like they were in their 20s to 30s.

I guess it’s really the younger folks who have the energy to party on a work/school night.

Photo by Kane Raynard Goh.

The vibe and energy that night was pretty amazing. I am not sure if it’s because it’s a somewhat unfamiliar feeling after two years or that everyone just stepped up their party game and decided to completely let loose.

I choose to think it’s the latter.

Photo by Kane Raynard Goh.

Everyone on the dance floor was jumping ON BEAT and IN UNISON, two things that I’ve never experienced before in a club in Singapore. I guess two years of partying alone in their bedroom paid off and everyone was having a good time, or at least, looked like they were.

Photo by Kane Raynard Goh.

I chose to go on a night DJ Ghetto was spinning because he has never disappointed me. I’ve had so many memorable nights with him helming the decks, and that night was no exception.

Photo by Kane Raynard Goh.

I knew I would be in for a good night in terms of music, and boy was I right.

The night was a mix of Top 40s and throwback hits from the likes of Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, and Beyonce. There were also some K-pop hits from Blackpink, Big Bang and BTS littered throughout the set.

At 2:30am, the set veered towards a “heartbreak anthem” playlist comprising songs like “Bedroom”, “I Love You 3000” (or was it “2002”? Or both? At this point I was too buzzed and all I recall was singing numbers) and “Locked Away”. I kind of lost my sh*t.

But the night truly peaked when Justin Bieber’s “Sorry” came on. Everyone in the club was singing along and jamming hard. It was an experience and I remember thinking to myself at that moment: “Wow, this is actually pretty sick”.

Gif by Kane Raynard Goh.

Don’t forget to wear your mask

While the vibes felt as amazing (or even better, if I can say so) as pre-Covid times, there were also a number of huge differences in the experience.

For one, we weren’t allowed to bring our drinks onto the dancefloor. There was a barricade around it, and drinks were not allowed beyond that point.

My friends and I took regular trips to the bar to keep ourselves hydrated (and by “hydrated”, I mean downing more booze).

I was a little annoyed that we couldn’t have our drinks with us and we lost our prime spot in front of the DJ booth just because we needed to exit to get more drinks.

Photo by Kane Raynard Goh.

This also means we had to finish our drinks at the bar instead of being able to slowly sip (or gulp, no judgement) our drinks while dancing.

Masks have to be worn at all times when on the dance floor.

I understand that wearing a mask is important for everyone’s protection, but in practice, it got quite restrictive and uncomfortable as the night progressed.

I found myself gasping for air several times during the night and had to pull my mask ever so slightly away from my face for a few seconds to catch a breather. Maybe it was a sign that I’m getting old, or that I was dancing too hard.

You also can’t really see who is around you because everyone has their mask on. It was already hard enough pre-Covid trying to spot the cuties in the dark. Now with masks, it’s almost impossible.

Photo by Kane Raynard Goh.

I think because of that, people seemed more “well-behaved” on the dancefloor as everyone just mostly stuck with their own group of friends.

But a friend of mine mentioned that if someone approached her on the dance floor, she would ask the person to pull down their mask to “check” them.

The mask requirement also means making out with people on the dance floor isn’t possible, so if you desperately want to snog, be creative with it or find a spot elsewhere.

The same friend who wanted to “check” behind people’s masks matched with someone within the first hour we were on the dance floor and left our group for the majority of the night.

The mask-wearing rule is no joke. Another friend of mine got kicked out of the club (yup, meaning no more re-entry) because she pulled down her mask for a brief moment to catch her breath.

My friend and the bouncer got into a bit of an argument as she was being escorted out. I remembered trying to pull her back when the bouncer said: “You are lucky I am not blacklisting you for six months!”

Call me a bad friend, but all I could think of at that very moment was, “You can blacklist her but please don’t blacklist me, I CAN’T AFFORD TO BE BLACKLISTED”.

(I am happy to report that nobody got blacklisted.)

Photo by Kane Raynard Goh.

The general rule is to always keep your mask on. If you see a bouncer flashing a torch light at you, check your mask to make sure it’s on properly and covers your nose and mouth. If not, you might risk suffering the same fate as my friend.

Same same but different

The whole clubbing experience was the same yet different compared to pre-Covid times.

While it was rather chaotic to plan a night out, it was all worth it at the end of the night.

The only real issue I have was the club closing at 3am. What happened to the good old days when clubs closed at 4am, or even at 6am?

It was an enjoyable night, but I think I would have enjoyed it even more if I could have spent more time on the dancefloor. I wanted to burn off more calories — after all, for a S$50 cover charge, I’ve got to make it worthwhile.

There was a lot more to prepare for the night out, as compared to pre-Covid, but I guess this may be the “new normal” for clubbing in Singapore, at least for the near future.

As I’m planning on clubbing quite a bit more, though, I am pretty sure I’ll get used to it.

A friend said to me recently: “Go once to experience can already what. You are also not very young, don’t want to stop ah?”

I am in my late 20s now, but some days, I still feel 18.

Having partied for almost 10 years now, I have no plans of slowing down. In fact, I am just getting started.

After two years of not clubbing, I am declaring this my revenge clubbing season.

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Top photo by Kane Raynard Goh.