Shampoo - Philadelphia, PA



Wash, Rinse, Repeat?

Shampoo is one of Philadelphia’s largest nightclubs. It’s a cavernous Northern Liberties space, an industrial mammoth with all the dirty nooks and crannies you’d expect an old warehouse with a once-usable train station to have.

And it’s kept to the warehouse look. All the pipes, heaters, generators, pistons and elevators are exposed, but Shampoo is also decorated with ‘60s pop art illusionary wallpaper, ‘70s-style faux fur, vinyl covered walls, glitter, glass, and marble. The outdoor dance space has a jacuzzi. Even the bathroom is a sight, with its own DJ. This look gives Shampoo versatility – allowing it to be kitschy, retro and futuristic at once. Housing several floors with rooms that vary from one genre to the next, the club transforms with each night and attracts a very mixed crowd (including kids – it’s an all-ages club). There are nights for progressive college kids, gay nights and Saturdays can include anything: techno, acid, house, disco, track acts, leather-clad folks, or drag queens. The many rooms provide many moods. Some areas are for lounging and hanging out with friends, and others are more energized. They look to provide whatever’s your pleasure. But do they succeed? We sent the NightStalkers to this cornucopia of club genres to find out if they really hold up to their reputation, or if they’re all washed up.

NightStalker #1
Shampoo was not that easy to find. From the outside you would never know that it’s a club because it is housed in an old manufacturing building. The only thing that gave it away was the people congregating outside. The entertainment started at the door as we were greeted by a bouncer that looked like the next James Bond villain – and he lived up to the part. Inside the door was a metal detector. Unfortunately I beeped as I passed through and I was patted down. The frisking that I got was more like groping; the bouncer was getting way too liberal with his hands. I was afraid he was going to turn me upside down and shake me. That’ll teach me to leave my keys in my pocket.

There are two floors to Shampoo. The upper floor was the main dancefloor, which was lined with elevated platforms so that the beautiful people could strut their stuff. There was ample bar and standing room on the second floor for people who did not dance or were in the mood to take a break. If you came to Shampoo to hang out, the lower level was a better choice. It had a dancefloor, but was mainly an area where you could chill and converse. There were bars, couches, and little alcoves. I really liked how they decorated the downstairs; it was really campy. The bathrooms on the second floor were really odd – there were no individual sinks, but rather a manufacturing sink outside the bathrooms in the room where everyone was hanging out. This setup would be good for a frat-house, but not a club.

Now coming to the important part: the drinks. The prices were a little steep, and there was not variety in the beer selection. Come on people: If you’re going to appeal to as many types as people as you can, have a variety of beer to back it up. Shampoo did have taps, but they only carried three beers, and unforgettable ones at that. My beef is if you are going to have only a few taps at a club, make them good choices. The oddest part about Shampoo was that there were many buff guys walking around without shirts. Granted, it was hot in there, but I didn’t need to see half naked men walking around and shaking their moneymakers, especially since it wasn’t one of Shampoo’s gay nights.

Overall it was a decent place, but if I were allowed to change one thing that night it would be to have the power to enforce a dress code of wearing clothes.

NightStalker #2
Believe me, I tried to get into the scene at Shampoo. In theory, it’s a great idea. To have everything under one roof should be fun, because if you’re bored with one area you can travel to another scene without traveling across town. I mean, two floors, a bunch of rooms, and one jacuzzi should spell out a good time. It was just too much going on at once, and way too many people. When I go out, I want to dance, and there was not enough room to do that. I heard that people were being turned away at the door, but you wouldn’t know it from the inside.

The hip-hop room was pretty good, but again it was way too crowded. People, with their raunchy bodies and body odor and sweat all over you – it’s too nasty to get into. I’ll go as far as to say that at some points it was hard to breathe. I’d like to make a suggestion: Find a way to circulate the air more in this place, because it was just too hot in certain areas of the club.

As if the lack of personal space wasn’t bad enough, the music was so loud that my ears were throbbing by the end of an hour. It wasn’t bad – the DJs were definitely above average, but the sound level was a little too overwhelming. If you weren’t deaf when you entered Shampoo, you were, or were well on your way, when you left.

I wouldn’t make Shampoo a place to frequent, but I think it’s about personal taste. I was overwhelmed, but the music was good and the people were overall pretty friendly, including the staff. There’s a reason the place was packed, right? If no one liked it, then that would never have been a problem. I just wish they actually had shampoo to offer so I could rinse off once in a while throughout my night there.

NightStalker #3
If you want variety, Shampoo is the place for you. I haven’t seen many clubs with so many different routes as this place has. I thought the setup was cool, and I loved the different rooms. The club offered a lot of different vibes, and I think it worked well, except for the music being a little too loud. It was a very mixed crowd, and it’s nice to go to a club where diversity rules.

What’s also great is that Shampoo is a dance scene and not a meat market. The age of the people went up and down, but overall the crowd was pretty young – but they were there to dance and not to pick up or start trouble. I felt comfortable doing just whatever. You can dance, you can sit and talk, or you can walk around and take in the great views. There were some incredible dancers there, so it was fun to just watch the crowd. And what a crowd. I was surprised that with all those rooms that the place was still pretty tight. I think it could have been a better time for everyone if people had more space.

After weighing the pros and cons, I went home really liking Shampoo. The music was good and the club was beautiful, with its funky décor and amazing lights. The cover and the drinks were a little expensive, but it seems like a club where there’s always something going on. I think it’s an ideal club for teenagers and younger adults, because of its diversity and high energy. I would definitely recommend giving this place a try, but I would also recommend checking out what’s going on there before you go if your musical and nightclub tastes are more discriminating.

Copyright 2002 Club Systems International Magazine
Copyright 2002 TESTA Communications