Ask any washed–up senior about their instinctive routine for Wednesday night. One of the most ingrained traditions on campus is partaking in a night of debauchery and 50–cent drinks at Smokes for Sink or Swim. Deviating from this tradition on a Wednesday night felt like I was betraying an institution that gave me so much. The sloppy DFMOs, hair–holding in the bathrooms, and embarrassing dancing clips the next morning were what made Smokes feel like a second home. It felt wrong and out of place to go venture elsewhere on a Wednesday night, but alas, like a moth, I was lured by the shiny lights of one of the newest clubs on campus: West & Down.
In the back of my mind, I remained cautious—as they say: all that’s new, bright, and shiny isn’t necessarily gold. Away from my comfortable table at Smokes, I approached this night with skepticism. But a little skepticism certainly wouldn’t stop me from downing $3 White Claws.
Upon turning the corner on 39th street from Walnut, my friends and I immediately saw a line, stretching the entire block. Excited students stepped out of their Ubers clad in an array of chic looks. The huddles of tall guys negotiating with bouncers outside and looks of hopeful individuals eager to get stamped reminded me less of any bar on campus and more of a club in New York City's Meatpacking District. Hype and energy filled the air and my uncertainty morphed into anticipation for the ensuing night.
After getting checked out by the bouncer, we descended into the subterranean space. The size and scale of the club blew away all of my expectations. For a basement space below HamCo, West & Down spanned a huge area. The space itself has two full–sized dance floors, each with different DJs fueling the energy in the club.
If EDM and Top 40 isn’t your style, the second dance floor features hip hop and R&B. The club was packed enough to bounce off the energy of other party goers, but still included plenty of alcoves to stake out and regroup with your friends. Along with space at the bar, there were a number of tables to drink by and step back to after dancing.
We pushed our way through the crowded bar to get our fix of Black Cherry White Claws. Already several drinks in, we maneuvered our way through the packed crowd to the dance floor. Music pulsed as the DJ hyped up the crowd. Excitement and euphoria permeated the air, bringing me back to the unrestrained thrill of freshman year NSO parties. This was certainly a step up from the damp basement parties in frat houses three years ago, but still evoked the same fun. As we danced the night away, parades of servers carrying bottles of liquor lit with sparkling cannons snaked through the crowd, rallying everyone up in jubilation and extravagance.
West & Down created an experience that was like a love child between a frat party, bar mitzvah, and a Penn downtown. The DJs seemed to select tracks exclusively off of a standardized frat party playlist, replaying songs that will invariably get you on the dance floor screaming lyrics at the top of your lungs. Although the interior decor—including black–lighted neon walls and cliché alcohol displays—bordered on tacky, the TV screens cycling through White Claw memes and DJs shuffling through hit throwbacks created an amusing irony in the space.
Yes, you really are in a basement below BonChon, but you’re still going to have a really good time. The nightclub embraces the new–kid–on–the–block mentality and uses it to create a space that buzzes with energy while deflecting any kind of pretension.