"Best $2k I Ever Spent!" Smells Of The Smell: A Study In Nightlife Aromas

by Alex Gilman · January 21, 2011

Our sense of smell is a complex and wondrous thing, capable of inspiring instantaneous flashes of emotion and Proustian depth of memory. This, of course, is not always a good thing, particularly if you spend an inordinate amount of time in nightclubs, bars, and live music venues, where the common smells trend towards things such as sweat, spilled beer and Marlboro Lights. And those are three of the less offensive ones. Let's look at some pictures from venerable downtown art space/music venue/creative hive The Smell, and discuss the exciting topic of nightlife odors.

Obviously, we in Southern California have one major advantage over our East Coast counterparts when it comes to avoiding stinky venues: we can go outside year-round. Any self-righteous non-smoker who gloats over the indoor smoking ban has never been stuck in a basement bar in January in New York City when some drunk chick decides to crop dust the dance floor. Really, we avoid thinking about/acknowledging smells in crowded bars because it reinforces what we already know but don't want to think about- our favorite bars and clubs are basically human petri dishes where we're far more likely to take home the H1N1 virus than another human being. Or, to put it less depressingly, outdoor bars are the shit.

Of course, people trying to smell good can be just as bad. Some of you may remember a story I told a few weeks ago about putting on so much of my dad's cologne in anticipation of an 8th grade dance that I nearly caused a mass evacuation of the auditorium. But remember, I was in 8th grade. Miraculously, some people still have yet to learn that too much of a pleasant aroma is extraordinarily unpleasant.

The girl in the above photo, for example, looks like she just got a double-barrel dose of whatever the guy in the plaid shirt is rocking. My guess? The seductive scent of The Secret, by Antonio Banderas. After all, as the website says, "who could resist finding out the secret of the world's greatest seducer?" Not me, Antonio. Not me.

Speaking of the fragrances of the world's greatest seducers, who wants to bet Cousin It over here smells like rosewater? Although I'm as guilty of it as anyone, I really don't understand what inspires people to flip off the camera during a friendly snapshot. I mean, if someone bursts in and snaps your picture while you're sitting on the toilet, I understand why you'd flip them off. If you're Johnny Cash onstage at San Quentin, then it's downright bad ass. But if you're willingly standing there in a public place, with your friends, what's the message you're trying to send? That you'd rather be at an Insane Clown Posse show? Now there's a smell that would surely haunt your nightmares forever.