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Plenty of music collectives and craves for raves, but where are the nightclubs?

Written by Meike Jentjens | 9 dec 2022
Koelhuis Eindhoven nachtleven
Picture: GOOSEBMBS | Koelhuis

Ask people from other countries than The Netherlands what Eindhoven is known for, and you'll get PSV for an answer. Ask the same question in other cities in our country and you'll most likely end up with the famous bar street Stratumseind. But if you do not want to end up in those pubs and love underground club music, you won't get much further than Effenaar or a small number of other places. And you won’t be able to find nightclubs at all.

The feeling of unity and intimacy in the night, where it doesn't matter what you think about pressing world issues and politics or what you look like, is exactly what makes rave culture a necessity for young people. The real clubs, the swirling and sweaty rave basements or artsy venues on industrial sites where you can lose yourself and each other in all the corridors and nooks, is exactly what Eindhoven is lacking.

Arcade nachtleven Eindhoven
Picture: Tom Doms | Arcade

And that's a shame, because with over 238,000 inhabitants in December 2022, the city ranks fifth in The Netherlands. This number is forecast to rise to 300,000 people by 2040, with the aim to have the growing number of internationals mingle with residents from neighbourhoods like Woensel, where hip-hop is very much alive and pop culture has a home in the city. Yet these two groups still can’t find that feeling of belonging at night, together. So why exactly are there no nightclubs, where people could easily meet new friends? And what would it take to give the music collectives that do exist in Eindhoven a permanent home?

Endless queues

There used to be clubs, though, when everything was better back in the day. That’s what people will say who went to places like De Danssalon in the 90s or travelled to club Hollywood in the late 1970s to lose track of time. Local newspaper Eindhovens Dagblad even compared the latter to the famous club Studio 54 in New York, and that’s not only because of the large disco ball, the colourfully lit dance floor, or the music styles: there were endless queues at the door of Hollywood on each club night as well. Those queues were also in place when Effenaar organised a revival of the discotheque in 2015. From 1994 to 2004, harder styles became more popular in the city and techno celebrated its Eindhoven heyday, partly because of Lady Aïda and her legendary Detroit club nights called Fluid.

Discotheek Hollywood
Discotheek Hollywood
De Danssalon
Picture: archive Piet van Rooij | Club Hollywood

But today's generation wants something, too. A study by Christina Goulding and Avi Shankar of University of Wolverhampton and of Exeter University shows that while most of the ravers are in their twenties, the group between 30 and 40 years old should certainly not be forgotten. And as it turns out, 14% of all of Eindhoven's residents fall exactly into that age group, making it the largest group of residents in Eindhoven.

The importance of the night is strongly felt in The Netherlands, as shown by a large-scale, nationwide protest to reclaim the night from the pandemic regulations last February of this year. The same urge was felt in Eindhoven. Effenaar featured four night-curators from the city who argued that the night should be given back to them. The relatively new club SUBBAR gets mentioned as a hotspot, where event organisations like 575 Collective and arts and music festival Draaimolen were already organising underground, queer-friendly raves.


Yet also mentioned is that for 'real', safe, and open-minded clubbing, you have to go to cities like Rotterdam and Amsterdam – an opinion that’s commonly stated. Clubs in Eindhoven that even came close to the clubs in the capital eventually all fell by the wayside. Places like the futuristic club Arcade on Stratumeind closed, and clubs like the old school building De Sociale Dienst, De Bron, and De Bank in the middle of the city centre were forced to shut down.

They called it quits for a variety of reasons, like permits that were never issued, financial struggles, and the never-ending search for a permanent home: it's all a part of it. But there is one thing even more important than having a physical club, says Theo Ploeg, sociologist, lecturer, and music journalist. A real nightclub arises from within, from a group of passionate people seeking unity on the dance floor.

Arcade Eindhoven Nachtleven
Arcade Eindhoven Nachtleven
Arcade Eindhoven Nachtleven
Picture: Tom Doms | Arcade

'A club doesn't just mean having a physical place for people to gather and to rave, but it requires a certain shared culture. That is the sociological aspect of raving; club culture involves certain rituals, symbols, and expressions that people share. You usually have a group of people who find each other interesting, which could lead to something new.' When Ploeg lived in Eindhoven, he noticed that there are many people making music on their own and that they wanted to be part of an electronic music scene. This group remains fragmented, so he thinks they should unite. 'The city needs passionate people who are going to try things out.'

The essence of rave culture

He cites the great success story of Amsterdam’s Club 11, which later became the legendary club Trouw after it closed and eventually led to the famous club De School. 'The organisation managed to hold on to those shared rituals and values from Club 11 and carried them all the way through to Trouw and De School. It’s important to know what you stand for as a group and to determine what your shared values are, and then plan how you are going to convey that to other people in the future, rather than starting a club first. To do that, you need people that will fully commit to it together. That is the essence of rave culture, and what distinguishes clubs from commercial places.'

There are a lot of collectives that are trying to get a foothold in Eindhoven, though. For instance, you have  KADER, MOZEM, De Missie, PLASMA, BAUPLAN, and XTRA, among others. These collectives change venues for every event and have no permanent residency.

Mathijs van Zantvoort
Picture: Ward Mevis | Mathijs van Zantvoort van HET WILD

An even larger number of collectives have previously tried to make Eindhoven the place to be, as much as Amsterdam already is. One of those collectives is HET WILD. Mathijs van Zantvoort founded it with Elvin Usidame in 2015, when they were both interns at Effenaar. 'We used every lunch break we could get to make plans for our future, and that's how the idea for HET WILD was born. A new club had just opened at Stratumseind, Arcade, which gave us the idea of organising our own club night there. We were missing a club night with house music and disco that we would like to attend ourselves, so we just started it ourselves.'

He says Eindhoven could use a little more fun, cheerful, specific, and unique events. And that worked out quite well. It actually always went pretty well, says the Eindhoven native. But after three editions at that venue, Arcade ran into financial problems. 'The people working at Arcade told us that it was not going to work out financially to organise HET WILD again, unless we booked a big name for very little money. We then decided to do it all by ourselves, at another venue.'

Going broke

The next editions took place at Stroomhuis. Mathijs van Zantvoort describes that this venue also completely suited HET WILD's vibe: people could still smoke inside, the DJ booth was on a cool platform and the whole thing felt a bit raw, edgy, and weird. Decoration didn't matter, as long as the music was poppin’. 'At Stroomhuis, we could book whatever names we wanted, and still enough people came to see them. We would hit break-even if we would sell 145 tickets per night and we only had a capacity of 150 people. So we took all the financial risk ourselves and organised every edition purely because we thought it would be really dope. Suppose there had been a HET WILD edition where only 30 people would’ve turned up, we would have been completely broke.'

Stroomhuis Eindhoven Nachtleven
Het Wild Eindhoven Nachtleven
Het Wild Eindhoven Nachtleven
Het Wild Eindhoven Nachtleven
Het Wild Eindhoven Nachtleven
Picture: Dick Rennings | HET WILD

So pure passion it was. 'We just wanted to have those sick acts like Palms Trax, Hunee, Jameszoo, and Palmbomen II to come to Eindhoven. It makes almost no sense that we did this in the first place.' They even organised a one-off HET WILD Weekender with two totally different styles per day, for which people were already buying tickets without even having released one name of the line-up. That was a big moment for the duo.

There is one HET WILD event that millennials in Eindhoven still talk about when it comes to the best moments they ever had in regards to the city’s nightlife. Their Tom Trago all-night-long event was sold out within a week and is still seen as one of those nights where you just should have been there. But even this night was far from profitable. 'I remember Elvin and me walking home, and we had a quick chat about how our night was. Elvin told me that we had made a loss that evening. OK, we said to each other, at least we had a good time, on to the next one.' This tells us something about the determination you must have if you want to revive or keep alive the club scene in Eindhoven. Besides the financial challenge, there is another all too familiar stumbling block, and that’s permits.

Night permits

Politically, things were tough for HET WILD at Stroomhuis, as the venue never got issued a night permit. Warnings followed, which did not make organising the events and communicating with clubbers any easier. The same applied to the nightclub and atelier De Sociale Dienst. One of the reasons why the only club in Eindhoven that came close to De School had to close, is that many fines were handed out here as well, because of the lack of a night permit. Their organisation never got one because the municipality of Eindhoven issued very few of them at the time, especially so for clubs outside of the city centre.

De Sociale Dienst Eindhoven Nachtleven
Picture: HET WILD | De Sociale Dienst

Tom Jacobs is co-founder of 575 and 212 Collective, the latter of which originated from illegal raves. He would very much like to open his own club with his collective, but finds it very difficult to get the right permit. They don't want to be on Stratumseind and prefer to look just outside of the city centre where clubs are now only allowed to open until 2am. And from his point of view, that doesn’t work for a club. 'A club night usually starts at 1am, which means you only have one hour to dance, so people will still head into the city centre after our event.’

A place with a night licence could help accommodate the collectives, but then the programming has to match it and be consistent on each club night, Jacobs believes. 'You want to be able to pull your friends along to a sick club after dinner, just like you would in Amsterdam. And that requires class acts at the right times so that it doesn't matter what time you walk in.' Plus, the group of people he has gathered would like a different and refined clubbing experience every time, and that also means different venues. Something that must be constant is a safe environment, which he can only guarantee with his own bouncer. It’s still much of a struggle.

It has to be possible

Still, he really wants to do it, and like Mathijs van Zantvoort, he thinks it really could be possible in Eindhoven. Van Zantvoort: 'You won't beat the competition of other cities, but Eindhoven is the fifth largest city in the Netherlands, and with so many different nationalities and students, it should be possible.' He now has a job as Pop Marketeer at one of the biggest concert halls of the country, TivoliVredenBurg, has moved away from Eindhoven, and mentions Eindhoven resident Gianni Jorissen as one of the last ones standing. He describes him as someone who just keeps trying to get the club scene thriving in Eindhoven. 'Gianni is a real entrepreneur and I respect that. He’s one of the only strong survivors. You have to be full of passion and love to do so.'

Nightlife ambassador and big club entrepreneur Gianni Jorissen agrees. He stresses that while it is difficult to find good spots for venues, he is immensely proud of the change he now sees in the city. 'We finally have 24-hour permits coming up, the municipality is thinking about new permits like ‘verlaatjes’, I see cool new organisations coming up, and several people waiting in the wings to also open a venue if politically possible. I think we are on the eve of an incredibly cool nightlife if a few more pieces of the puzzle fall into place,' he says. 'Verlaatjes' are exemptions from closing times for clubs and bars that the municipality of Eindhoven has instituted as a pilot to give nightlife more life. In addition, two venues have been granted 24-hour permits for a year as a trial, one of which is Effenaar.

De Bank
De Bank
Picture: BRAM | De Bank

A cool club night in Eindhoven

According to Jorissen, this is the only way forward. 'Eindhoven is and will remain like a bit of the chicken-and-egg problem. How do you build a scene? Is it by creating a space or getting the community together first? You see a lot of nice initiatives here that always attract an audience, but don't yet have a way to find solid ground. People need to gain confidence that you can always come to Eindhoven to experience a good club night.' With his latest venue Mylc, he at least accommodates a large group of ravers that he has been dragging with him to every industrial venue in Eindhoven for over a decade now, even from back in the days when he was still a UK garage and 2 step DJ.

So, the key is to unite the ravers in Eindhoven. Even though the city is about half the size of Amsterdam, a club like Pip in The Hague can do it too. They represent the specific sound and feel of their city. And if they can do it, ‘we’ can do it. 

Raving is about a group feeling and not about the individual, is Theo Ploeg’s theory. The current shift in society makes people crave that feeling even more, according to him. 'Now more than ever. You notice that young people had thought that the government would be there for them, but you can tell that they are disappointed in them. Disappointed about climate issues or housing problems, for instance. This also increases the need to escape that status quo and turn to the dance floor.'

The urge and powerlessness

Does Ploeg also see a comparison with the 90s, when rave culture was booming in our country? 'Yes, but the world has changed as well. It used to feel more euphoric on the dance floor, almost like an exaggeration of real life. The need for raving comes from the same urge and powerlessness that people felt back then; young people want to escape the standard structures of society. That’s why I think today's movement is much stronger than it was back then, because this movement has realised that capitalism is here, and that it is much stronger than we actually think it is. The task they face is to destroy everything and rebuild a brand-new base for themselves. You see all the new communities that are emerging already doing exactly that.'

There is hope, with the municipality instituting trial runs, and communities building and looking for opportunities. Tom Jacobs thinks that a good five- or ten-year plan for clubbing is going to move the scene forward and is working to create a place in Eindhoven just like Amsterdam’s Sexyland, where a sanctuary can be created for collectives and other musical or visual artists. 'With grant plans that support locals, we can put Eindhoven on the map as a serious club city. This could help DJs as well as other artists. If they are taken seriously, that has a domino effect on the whole music scene in the city, which leads to more room for education, another important part of the club scene. Because the question of why we want to be taken seriously is just as important as the fact that we want to be.'

Editorial note:

Every source I spoke to while writing this piece emphasised the need for inclusive nightclubs in Eindhoven. A few also asked me if I know any good places myself, and if I could share those with them. Therefore, if you know of any spots that the collectives or organisers could use, please let me know and I will pass it on! Another personal note: as you can see, all sources quoted in this piece are male. Other than PLASMA Collective, I could find few women running collectives or promoting nightlife. Are you a V/X and/or queer person committed to the night? Get it touch with me and I'll be one step closer to an inclusive scene!


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