These events are the last great London enigma: just what goes on in there? Sunday, The Lord’s Day, is one for rest – one for forgetting Sainsbury’s closes early and so having to eat Weetos for dinner. But events that look suspiciously rowdy keep popping up, with Phonox’s (5pm-midnight) attracting particularly illustrious performers. Are they for the ravers? Are they an Autumnwatch-tame alternative to the millions of brunches out there? Are they… for you?
It’s 6pm in Phonox’s downstairs bar and there’s a diverse tapestry of people: couples taking advantage of bottomless Bloody Mary and prosecco; small clusters of pals chatting while gulping rum and cokes. You don’t need to shout to make your factually dubious point about free-trade agreements heard.
Think Sunday in a pub transported to a club, with the crackle of a real fire replaced by the snare and clap of techno. Not too disconcerting. Certainly no reason to fear you don’t belong – put the Observer away for a week and bloody well tap your foot a bit instead.
“People who go out on a Sunday are going for the music, not to get hammered,” says Zachary, a 26-year-old Mancunian. And the DJs are soothingly middle-aged and 6 Music-friendly: Gilles Peterson last week, Matthew Herbert this. They know the score.
Or do they? By 9pm, upstairs is a different beast: the dancefloor is strobe-lighty and loud. At first glance, it’s just like a Friday or Saturday, and shocking when you try to acclimatise. But look closer, friend. It’s less busy, for starters – getting served at the bar is rapid. And there aren’t any intimidating, lunch money-stealing groups of #ladz, only approachable-looking friendlies finding solace in the crowd’s collective normality. If all the Fabric furore has you intrigued about the state of “clubland”, this is the safest way to dip your toe back in.
It still feels distinctly boisterous, though. Ultimately there’s only so long dance music-soundtracked Sundays can be convincingly restrained. The Mark Corrigan-loving, pension-contributing part of you will be restless. I have a 10am with Neil from Legal, this can’t be happening!
Giulia is a 29-year-old architect from Milan. She too has work in the morning; she also partied on Friday night until 8am Saturday. “Going out on Sundays is more chill,” she says. “Everyone has fun but is home by 1am. I wouldn’t be in bed before 1 anyway.” That’s a fair point – we all have our bedtimes delayed by a tumble down the staring-at-our-phone rabbit hole.
So, the lesson we’ve learned is that yes, for all the Bloody Mary-type concessions to traditional Sunday fare, these parties are still pretty wild. A six on the Wild-o-meter. They provide an illicit thrill, a welcome escape from the maternal warmth of the sofa, and a test of your self-restraint. If you can be Up In Da Club and restrict yourself to a couple of limb-loosening liveners, you’ll have a great time without dire consequences. The only thing you need worry about is avoiding Planet Earth spoilers in the office on Monday.
Words: James Bird
Preposterous and delicious limited-edition meat parcels
At the National Portrait Gallery's Taylor Wessing Photographic Portrait Prize