It’s 7:00AM on a November Sunday morning. It’s 7 degrees Celcius. A dying bonfire flickers through the windows of PIP – the now clean club. Robbert sits cross-legged atop the bar, smoking cigarettes and eating cold pasta from a Tupperware container whilst discussing the upcoming final exam for his law degree from Leiden University.
Marlot, a student of Interactive Media Design at the Royal Academy of Art and Robbert’s girlfriend, sits beside him listening and sharing his ginger beer. The couple have pledged not to drink alcohol for a month, despite having just served beer to the hordes of partygoers for the past 7 hours.
For most people, juggling a university degree with night shifts would be too much. For Robbert, Marlot and their colleagues, however, this is not just a student job.
It’s 2:30AM. PIP’s main space is packed with the silhouettes of dancing bodies, whose owners appear and reappear with the strobe lights which flash in time with the hard-hitting bass.
It’s 3:00AM. The music rattles the walls of PIP’s smaller room, known as ‘The Bunker’. A thick smell of sweat hangs in the air. Robbert and Marlot muse that different nights at PIP have different smells:
It’s 4:00AM. Robbert and Marlot take turns to navigate the shadows and collect stacks of empty cups. They dance as they do so, spotting familiar faces amongst the smokers huddled outside around the fire. The pair are quick and efficient with their work but still take moments to enjoy the party before heading back behind the bar.
It’s 5:00AM when Onno, the manager for the evening, approaches the DJ to shout in his ear that he needs to wrap it up. People won’t leave until the DJ stops playing, Onno says, and they often just keep going.
It’s 5:30AM when the music finally stops and the lights come on. As the remaining guests’ eyes try to adjust and they begin to filter outside, Robbert, Marlot and the five other staff members are already sweeping the premises for more plastic cups.
“Can you do anything with a singular AirPod?” Marlot asks the group loudly from the cabin which hosts the club’s lockers. As Robbert sweeps up the remnants of the night left on the floor (empty packets of cigarettes and other substances, butts, and damp autumn leaves), Marlot collects the smaller items with her bare hands, throwing some into the fire which is still burning.
They keep the individual earphone in the lost property drawer and remember finding far stranger objects after nights at PIP.
Despite washing the sticky parts of the bar and floor by hand, the pair claim that this is a relatively easy night of cleaning. They recall far worse experiences from bigger nights which the club has hosted.
When asked why they’re happy to clean urinals at 6:00AM on a Sunday morning, one element in particular shines through Marlot and Robbert’s answers. There is something unique about PIP. This multipurpose space not only offers a wide selection of electronic music and innovative stages, it also provides an escape from the administrative bustle of The Hague.
The scenes which unfold when the music stops certainly support this claim.
Instead of filing out when the speakers went silent, a large group of partygoers stayed until 6:00AM, chatting outside as the sky changed colour. When the bouncers were getting ready to leave, they followed without being asked twice and thanked the crew for the great night. A handful of the most dedicated PIP enthusiasts even offered their services and helped the crew clean up the fallout of the party.
The PIP team consider each other family, making these gruelling shifts fulfilling. Indeed, Onno attributes this atmosphere of solidarity to an ineffable quality of the the club scene. “Something about working through the night makes it a little bit special,” says Onno. Robbert is slightly more academic about it and thinks it stems from the physical intensity of the shifts.
One thing they do agree on however, is that PIP is unique.
It’s 6:30 AM. “Who wants a shot of Jaeger?” asks the bar manager. Music, quieter but only slightly slower than before, echoes around the main room again. The rush of the previous hour has returned the space to a clean slate.
Those not taking a sober month down their shots and migrate outside to what is left of the fire. They dance around the embers, celebrating the conclusion of another “successful project.” Someone starts to sing as Marlot produces a circus ringleader-style whip and cracks it.
PIP is ready for next weekend – but it seems the party has already begun again.