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The Carwash at Club Aquarium review

256-260 Old Street
London EC1V 9DD
Every Saturday 10pm-3:30am; UKP15

The press for Carwash make it seem as though the 70s come back to life every Saturday. The website for this pricey club (UKP 15 at the door) makes much ado about exclusivity, with warnings about adhering to their strict dress code appearing all over the place. The actual club itself is quite different.

This is not to say that one should show up to Carwash dressed in a t-shirt, but from all the fuss it sounds as though anyone not in a vintage leisure suit will be turned away. The reality was that Carwash's clientele was basically indistinguishable from any other club's. The women were awash in the usual neon-dyed hair and glitter, while men stuck to your standard suit coat / button-down shirt combos.

Bars are plentiful here, and even at peak hours the service was rather quick. Drinks are typically priced; a simple mix, such as a vodka tonic, will run about UKP 3.50, while more cocktails are usually around UKP 6; pints are priced around UKP 3 and up. It should be noted, however, that each cocktail sampled by this reviewer was rather weak. The club itself is relatively simple, though comfortable enough: two large, open stages linked by raised daises and short hallways. Chairs are scarce, though the pleasantly large dance floors don't get crowded until late in the evening. Be advised: the large pillars in the dance floors can bottleneck crowds once the club fills up. Tempers can and will flare when revellers can't get enough elbow room.

The main stage of Carwash is mostly old funk standards, with a bit of older hip hop by Sugar Hill Gang or the like breaking up the sets nicely. The music is at an agreeable volume, and the cavernous nature of the dance floors aid in allowing conversation at the extremities while still ensuring a bone-rattling volume nearer to the stage.

The other stage is more conventional and, understandably, less compelling. Anyone who goes to Carwash and does not want to listen to the classic soul of the main stage has made a mistake, as the mix is clearly a major part of the draw. In the end the attempt of the management to appeal to all has likely removed some of the draw for the real funk-soul brothers who would've populated this little microcosm. If the clientele had taken Carwash as seriously as it takes itself, this would be a fantastic venue. As it is, Carwash is an eminently agreeable venue brought low by a steep cover and unenthusiastic crowd.

- Nicholas Carter