What it meant to me

So, I heard the other day that Tiger Lounge is closing its doors for the last time on the 12th August this year, and as you may have noticed, I got pretty emotional about this.

After 13 years in its current location, it’s moving on to an as-yet-to-be-determined new space find out more. This isn’t an ending, the night will still exist, the DJs and playlists will still be there, well, not there, somewhere else, but at least they’ll still “be”. So why am I so upset? I’ve been asking myself the same thing for the past few days, and I think I have an answer.

When I were a lass in the wilds of Yorkshire When I was a teenager in Hull, my first forays into nights on the town were pretty limited in what they could offer. There wasn’t much in the way of musical diversity, and the small concessions towards indie/rock music were no good to me since my friends didn’t share my taste. Every week was the same: on Tuesdays we went to Bus Stop at LA’s, on Thursdays it was drink voucher night at Waterfront, and on Fridays we went to LA’s again. The same nights, the same music, the same takeaways, the same taxis. I wore towering heels, tiny skirts and shivered through the city with blue arms and legs rather than spend valuable drinking/dancing time queueing to put a coat in the cloakroom. I did what was expected of me because I wasn’t brave enough to go against the grain. Luckily, I had some wonderful people to go on these excursions with, which made them worthwhile in the end, but nothing, not the club, not the clothes, not the people, and definitely not the music, was to my taste. I danced half-heartedly and tried my best to like it, because that was What You Did.

I had the chance to change this when I went to university, but to be honest, by then I was only in it for the drinking and I didn’t really care where I was as long as the vodka was cheap and my friends were there. I started to branch out though, and understand that nights out weren’t all cut from the same cloth. I started going to Jilly’s Rockworld every Thursday, still not completely to my taste, but definitely an improvement. Jilly’s was a revelation in itself – the fact that this place existed, and was so widely known and loved was testament to Manchester’s immovable status as The Big City in my eyes. A fact I grew out of when I moved to London over a decade later.

When I moved back to Hull after university everything changed. My much braver, and far more confident housemate led trips to Piper on a Friday night, and the Welly Club on a Saturday. It was glorious. It was Rolling Stones, Kings of Leon, Small Faces and The Killers. NOW I knew what I was looking for. There’s one night that stands out in my mind, a defining moment of youth, an illustration of the reason you do it all – get drunk, wake up tasting of regret and feeling horrendous, but laugh it off and do it all again. I was standing in the middle of the dancefloor at Piper, one Friday night circa 2005/6, in that perfect stage of drunkenness, where the world is incredible, you love everyone in it and you’ll be happy for the rest of your life because you know that feeling will never end. The Killers “All These Things That I’ve Done” started to play, and as it built so did my feeling of bliss, it was the closest I’d felt to musical perfection since I first heard Hendrix’s cover of Watchtower. My friends were all around me, I was in a place where I felt at home, a place I felt I belonged. I put my arms in the air and smiled, I felt euphoric, truly and wonderfully euphoric, I felt invincible. I knew with an absolute fervour that everything would always be alright. For me, that feeling perfectly sums up the crest of the addict’s wave. It was heaven, and I’ll never forget it.

The next year, following my move back to Manchester, I discovered Tiger Lounge. I can’t remember how I got there, who introduced me to it, or why we went, but I like to think I stumbled upon it, having been led there by its voice calling out to me in my dreams: “Chaaaaaarlotte, come hoooooome…” and, I know I don’t remember things very clearly from those days, but I’m fairly sure it didn’t happen like that…

Tiger Lounge promised kitsch, and it sold itself short. As I entered they stamped my hand and invited me to take a candy necklace from the bowl. Strong start. I descended, past velvet paintings, through a faux-tiger fur covered door, into a wooden basement room of….of…..WONDER!!! There were cats on the wall – not real ones – pictures of flamenco dancers, candy machines and they were playing Ike & Tina Turner. Not Tina Turner. Ike & Tina Turner. I literally squealed I think, and rushed to order a cocktail. They played Jump in the Line, The Clapping Song, The Snake, Jailhouse Rock, a French cover of Son of a Preacher Man, Janis Joplin, Blondie, Yes, The Stones, Bowie, Hendrix, The Pixies, Johnny Cash, Led Zep, T-Rex, Fleetwood Mac, Wilson Pickett, Madness and Nancy Sinatra. It was like nowhere I’d ever been before, I couldn’t believe my luck.

After a while we became Saturday regulars, and I flitted between flailing uproariously around the dancefloor, bombarding the DJs with my usual requests, most of which they’d already lined up, and cooling off outside with the smokers, because whatever else Tiger Lounge was it was HOT. Make-up didn’t last long, and I inevitably left sporting the drowned rat look, by virtue of over-enthusiastic sweaty dancing. It was here I first saw DW’s Mick Jagger impression. It was here I saw my husband-to-be join in the homage, and thus an enthusiastic duo was born, that now performs at weddings, whether you want it to or not.

I may not have met my husband in Tiger Lounge, but we had our first kiss there. He’d asked me out a couple of months beforehand and I’d turned him down, because I was on long-term sick from work for mental health problems, but you’ve heard all that. Over the following months we’d got to know each other properly, with no agenda, and when we finally became a couple it was with the confidence that we each knew what we were getting into. Where could be more fitting for it to happen than my spiritual home, the place I could always be myself?

With those other clubs we found in Hull I’d finally felt at home, but with Tiger Lounge I felt I was home. My Home. And that moment of addict’s clarity I had on the dancefloor at Piper? Every night at Tiger Lounge was like that. Every night. I always felt loved, I always felt welcome, I always felt powerful, I always felt invincible. This was my house, this was where I belonged.

I went back sober, after we’d moved to London, just the once, and it was harder than I was prepared for. I looked around My Home, seeing it for the first time without the alcoholic tint, and it was still glorious. It sounded the same, it felt the same, the staff welcomed me home like an old friend and played my favourite songs – the doorman requested to buy me a drink, a coke by that point, because it was so nice to see me back. It wasn’t the same though. The feeling was tainted. I knew now that I wasn’t invincible, that the things I wanted weren’t the things that were good for me, and it hurt. It tangibly, physically hurt my heart to be so close but know I could never have it again. I wanted more than anything to be back there, and suddenly it became a dangerous place to be. I was supposed to understand that addiction was a slow and deadly awful, it wasn’t supposed to feel so invitingly like home. I looked across the dancefloor and found I was actually surprised not to see myself there, the me from two years ago, in my red dress, holding court, dancing up a storm, and acting like I owned the place – because I did, that’s how it felt.

My heart broke when I didn’t see her, when it dawned on me that if all went to plan and I stayed well I’d never see her again. And that, right there, is why it means so much to me. Tiger Lounge was my soulmate. Tiger Lounge was my home. Tiger Lounge was where I’d been the most me that I could ever be. The end of Tiger Lounge symbolises the end of her – the me that I thought I would always be. I’ve known that for a while, but it’s never seemed so real because Home was still there, always there, if I needed it. The end of Tiger Lounge is the end of euphoria, the end of invincibility and the beginning of reality, and I need to grieve.

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