Standing at the doorway on a blustery Saturday night a thought comes floating through the night… “There’s no music…” Bob pondered allowed whilst handing over the 90 crowns entry for the beautiful Bianca and himself.
“Pausa…” Assured the doorman as he ushered them in and locked the door behind them smiling knowingly…. these kids weren’t ready yet for the hell which waited them.
Peklo (literally Hell) canteen by day – dance hall by night, is hidden down some stairs, round a corner behind a locked door, slap bang in the middle of Prague’s Wenceslas Square, advertised only by two sandwich boards depicting a waltzing couple. Surrounded by clubs for the yoof and titty bars for the English stag parties, Peklo offers not only a route into the darker side of the afterlife but also a trip back in time, back in time to an era when it was acceptable to tuck one’s shirts into one’s trousers, play tombola and lock people in a club in dangerous disregard of EU health and safety regulations.
Drunkenly stumbling into Hell, Bob and Bianca were shunned by everyone they came into contact with, riddled with the sin of being closer to getting a student discount than an elderly one. Unperturbed, they managed to exert a drink for an extortionate price from behind the bar and perch on a stool awaiting the band to come back from their “pausa.”
“Here comes the band…” Bianca excitedly called at the sight of some shuffling on the stage. With his hair swung sideways to cover the bald patch and trousers pulled up to the nipples, the King of Synthesizer greets his crowd with a grunt of appreciation, clicks on the automatic backing track and, joined by his younger-bit-on-the-side, bursts into a collection of ABBA 70s cheese and the room erupts with shaking hips and grinding pelvises.
Clubs which cater for those with a more mature taste in music are few and far between; the mainstream is catered for and the various alternative genres look after their own. 70s and 80s nights are packed full of yoof enjoying the kitsch of it all, sarcastic smiles plastered to their shiny young faces. Peklo is one of the few remaining places which allow the old to shake their saggy bodies unashamed by pretty young upstarts. And shake it they did, the rush to the front at the first chords after the pausa was reminiscent of the reaction to a boy band at a school disco.
Two Pretty Young Upstarts
So then it was no surprise that when Bob and Bianca swung their toned bods onto the dance floor they were met with open hostility. First a couple the size of Slovakia waltzed their way full on into the helpless pair, sending them scattering towards the tables. Trying their best to make it look as if they were deliberately heading for the seats, they slumped down onto the dark red upholstered chairs… “tut tut” a passing waitress spat at them, pointing towards the reserved signs on the only “unoccupied” table in the house… they pull themselves up and red faced retreated to the back of the room.
But then why should the elderly tolerate youngsters crashing their party? The music industry is a machine which attempts to drive and control popular culture, and in doing so it targets the big spending yoof. In Peklo, a group of people who’ve never been into alternative culture have managed to carve themselves out a special place where the market forces which dictate what should be listened to, what’s cool and what will soon be cool has no power – they defend this place and they defend it well. Interestingly the most popular post-communist Czech film is “Empties” a film released this year about a retired man, who takes on a job as an empty bottle collector to pass the time. So the elderly, though ignored, do still mop up the mainstream when they get the chance.
Old But Hard
After a hectic 10 minutes of hard playing, the band stop for a well earned soup and ‘male pivo’, giving the floor over to the tombola lady so she can threaten those who haven’t yet purchased a ticket with eviction. Luckily for those who are more into dancing than casual gambling, the last of the soup is slurped down and Hell’s hottest act are back at the mic. Like a couple of lemmings skipping towards the precipice, Bianca drags Bob dance-floor-wards, unable to resist his undeniably szexy moves. As they dance round and round they observe the couples one last time before they make their bid for freedom. One 40 year old is unashamedly grinding away at his partner, hard-on pointing proudly skyward; the lady next to him has 6 centimetres of make-up slowly melting under the disco lights; whilst a couple motionless in the middle of the floor, have their lips locked in a salvia filled snog, just like when they were 15 and she got wet fingers behind the bike-shed.
Bianca and Bob look at each other. They realise that this is no place for them. This is a place for the bodies of those whose minds refuse to follow them into middle-aged sagginess. In 20 years they might be back, if they’re lucky they might even win the tombola, but for now the depths of Hell are rightly occupied with those who are not allowed to party up on earth.