time to change the way we view music and the arts

If only I could judge you by your cover

No Shirt, No Shoes, No Service sign

If only rules were always this clear…
(Cit. MyDoorSign.com)

Probably one of the most commonly tossed around phrases in literature and book enjoyment today, is “Don’t just a book by its cover,” which is a slightly altered version from its initial usage, originating from the story, “Murder in a Glass Room” by Edwin Rolfe and Lester Fuller Rolfe. This book’s wording of the phrase goes the way of, “You can never tell a book by its cover.” 

The whole meaning behind this metaphor is centered around the idea of not jumping to conclusions or forming a pre-disposed opinion on someone or something solely based on appearance and without delving into additional substance. Said philosophy and course of action can easily moved over from books and covers to music and album/track art. While for music, it is usually recommended that the artwork chosen relate in some way to the songs contained on the CD or mp3, (whether literally or metaphorically itself,) if this is not the case and an artist goes for a less expected image that provokes a direct pang of irony or other emotion for reasons unrelated to their songs,  the work is not a lost cause -it just strays slightly from the conventional route.

All this said, do not misconstrue why the title is what is it is for today. There might be some benefit to getting people to somewhat judge outward appearances for PR fuel but the principal subject at hand is actually neither books nor music -for the latter, at least not music as the sole product. Dance clubs and related night time venues are the target for now and the point of what has been said thus far was to set the tone about dimensions of pre-disposed notions with a segue into music.

Clubs, night life and party scenes are vastly different depending on where one travels in the world and night of the week it is. For the sake of a more informed discussion, characterizations of such places pertain to the local NYC and surrounding areas.



Here’s the scene: 

It’s the weekend. A group of tightly knit friends decides to spend Saturday night checking out a fairly new entertainment venue establishment that opened up not that many months ago, in a town not far off, which has an equally tight knit community of its own. There is an ever-increasing amount of local business and diverse kinds of goods vendors in this town, as well sources of entertainment available. Everything is centralized, making a lively concentration of attractions that is slowly but surely expanding outward to eventually re-establish the whole area.

Among the longer established businesses offering food, drink and live music in casual but polished and fairly intimate settings, this new venue breaks the pattern to a degree and is much more of a large scale business aiming to draw in more out of town clientele and because it is a flexible performance space, higher profile musicians as well. Aside from the times where run-of-the-mill concerts are scheduled, other, more daily events, are what make this company double as a night club.

Now, for many night clubs and multi-faceted pubs/bars that are big enough to include dancing space, there is typically a dress code that is expected to be followed. Whether patrons take the time to look at these in advance of going to one such place or not, door staff are usually expected to turn people away from entry if someone is violating code by wearing (or not wearing) an article of clothing required for that night’s event. As a hypothetical example, here is a common looking list, comprised of rules from various similar businesses within a relatively close radius of one another in the NYC-Metro area -and keep in mind- many of these list items cross-inhabit between these venues:

  • Neat and Casual
  • No cut-offs
  • No jerseys
  • No tank tops
  • No baggy shirts/pants
  • No excessive jewelry
  • No ripped jeans
  • No sweatpants
  • No hats or headwear
  • No flip flops
  • No work boots
  • No sneakers

Despite the notable number of bullets above, many of these requirements are almost followed by default when club goers prepare their evening outfits. As said though, not every establishment mentions every item on this mix of a list, so certain things may be accepted depending on where one ends up going. The situation I often witness with men’s attire when it comes to getting in the door, is that the general outfit aesthetic is very much the same among the majority: non-ripped jeans or casual slacks with a button-down or nice polo-style shirt of some color and variety, finished with darkly colored shoes or designer sneakers. This is probably because such combination of items is likely the most easily and widely selectable in their wardrobes. (Let’s face fact here. Men do not have to evoke as much concern as women when it comes to pairing top pieces with bottom pieces because cut styling just doesn’t stray for them.)

Anyway, although the room for possible error with code or need for more scrutiny goes up with the range of women’s clothing, in an ideal situation, females are expected to avoid the same types of items too. So the ideal end result? A club full of nicely dressed people dancing to a range of music.

Herein lies some irony and a bit of “deception” with the above nightclub expectations and common culture: If there is the possibility for someone to be turned away because their outfit and resulting outward appearance does not come up to par and said person is portraying a look via their outfit that the management of an establishment does not want permeating their club, (e.g. unruly, unkempt, gangster) then why are there occasions where the music and entertainment being provided within the establishment are quite literally, playing to the contrary?



A) Music and clothes…you readers might think things have gotten off track but stay with it.

B) Club visitors expected and required to dress to a pretty common and higher bar of appearance than that of average days.

C) Failure to do so results in the inability to even enter.

D) Yet upon entering, knowing that you as a consumer have met the “higher standard” insisted upon for the aesthetic of a club, the entertainment provided to you for the night turns out to be that of a blatantly contrasting theme: excessively profane, excessively sexual and or derogatory in any manner -racial gender or otherwise- just as examples.

Now, clearly nightclubs rotate their roster of entertainment -DJs in particular- even for those that do regular sets for a particular business. There are as many DJs as there are remixes and genre-concetrations. Each has their own style and preferred setlist that they spin during a gig, so this is not to blanket label DJs or club playing musicians as turning to this kind of content but, some do. Regarding DJs in particular though, who can often switch from one music style to the next at the drop of a hat if it resides in their playlists, while there is an understanding that they cannot edit lyrics or content of what they spin, a myriad of tracks exist out in the world; most of which don’t fling undeniably controversial content in one’s ears.

Other than a potential effort to appease a certain kind of club culture/perception that involves drinking to excess and or dancing freely morphed to frottage, (which, for the record, also seem unbecoming of this ‘standard for sharpness’ set at the door,) severely explicit material just isn’t needed and can be avoided.


My one example of severely explicit for now: Spinning a nearly one-word rap track where the one word repeated loud and fast, is the “n-word.”

Bringing up the “n-word” certainly opens a can of complicated worms that could introduce an entire series of discussions on the varying cultural, historical and sociological associations with this term, that would not be fully appropriate for me to engage in currently. However, and on a slightly less objective note, I would imagine at least a good portion of the population finds some level of pause at the utterance of this word and finds it (at the very, very very least,) to be an “off-color word not meant for public mention.” My personal feelings would describe it much more harshly but for general reader’s sake, the base sentiment of nearly ubiquitous negativity is the main objective.

Going back to the friends out on the town and visiting the new local night club…To stay relevant and afloat during the crucial early period of operations, this business needs to project a positive and interesting outward appearance. The logistical operations inside (e.g. bar, restroom, security, coat service) may run rather smoothly and with good control as well, leading to a consumer experience with less physical mis-haps but I am really curious as to why the need for a customer aesthetic standard. when once inside, all bets are off for the music and yes, the music is all the matters because honestly, even if your bar is clean and bartender speedy, if customers were just going to care and talk about the food and drink service, they could simply go to a plain pub without the music and dancing component.


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