It was the goodbye no one wanted. But when it came to it there were tears, cheers and fears among the 2,600-strong faithful who made the pilgrimage, cans of Red Stripe in hand, to Wolverhampton Civic Hall to bid farewell to the best of companions for nearly two decades: Blast Off.
A cascade of confetti and balloons fell on revellers who took to the stage to wave goodbye to the their beloved home from home with reports that some had snapped up tickets on ebay for as much as £180 when the face value was just £5.
The final song chosen by promoter Dave Travis was poignant – Time to Go by Sugergrass – a tribute to the thousands of supporters over the years. Indeed, it was the first and last time the tune would be played at the legendary club night – claimed to be the second biggest in the world.
As hundreds clambered onto the stage for the dying moments of indie utopia, their extreme human thirst led to an extract of one more song.
As the hall lights illuminated in the madness of the final moments, Sally Cinnamon by Stone Roses rung out as the final pieces of confetti precipitated over the disciples of music heaven. Blast Off ‘you are my world’, they chanted.
And when the track came to an abrupt end midway through, the congregation reluctantly retreated outside to an unknown world – one without Blast Off.
After 18 years, nearly one million customers and 915 nights, it was over. Gone.
For the masses it was one of those rare occasions in life where idealism triumphed over cynicism. The staccato beat reverberated across the sticky dance floor, out of the side swing doors into the long parallel chequered-floored corridors.
It had the pulse of a thriving rocker in his prime – not that of one in his final hours.
The throbbing Civic had not seen a night like this in years – possibly ever. Old friendships were renewed while new ones emerged.
Not only did they come for the music, they came for the memories.
Mr Travis, who has ran the club night since its inception, had kept details of the final song choice closely under wraps.
Bringing a close to an emotional night, he said: “It has been really touching and has filled me with pride from the bottom of my heart.
“I have been speaking to a lot of people who have told me what a big part of their life Blast Off has been.
“There are people who have met their girlfriends and boyfriends here and went on to get married and have children. We have helped make families. That is really special.
“The lifetime of a club night is normally two to five years. So I never expected it to last 18. We decided to do something different with Blast Off. It is an Indie night on a much bigger scale than done before.
“We have incredible attention to detail and that has served us well. It has been a memorable send off,” he said.
There was much speculation over the final song choice. The penultimate song was Don’t Look Back in Anger by Oasis followed by Time to Go before the Roses gatecrashed proceedings.
“The lyrics were just very fitting,” said Mr Travis. “It summed up what tonight was about. It is as simple as that.”
The club night first hit the scene in 1996. Since then the total number of people to have passed through the doors is 996,220. Saturday’s finale saw old fans return for one final fling.
Ash Whittmore, 37, from Bilston was at the first Blast Off and made it to the last with his wife Kari-Ann and friends Tony Toe, Hollie Till and Lisa Pountney.
He said: “The first one was brilliant, I can still remember it.
“Blast Off is the only place in the Midlands that plays the music that we love.
“I came more or less all the time until I got a family but we have packed the kids off tonight as we wanted to be here for the last one.”
Sisters Sarah and Katie Day from Seisdon arrived with friends Chantelle Nash and Rebecca Cooper from Penn.
They have been revelling in the Civic Hall for their entire adult life.
Holding back the tears, Sarah said: “Blast Off is an institution that I am loathed to give up. So much so that it hurts inside.
“Once Blast Off is gone I have nowhere else to go in Wolverhampton.
“The only thing I have left to look forward to is retirement and I’m 25,” she said.
Katie, 29, added: “Blast Off is the one place you can come and be yourself. There is never any trouble and the atmosphere is always great. It is going to leave a massive hole in Wolverhampton and our lives.”
Richard Beeson, 32, and Emma Lawrence, 31, travelled up from Bristol to pay homage to their favourite club night.
The couple met in 2001 on the back stairwell that leads to the Wulfrun Hall when Richard was living in Wolverhampton and Emma’s father was serving at RAF Cosford.
Richard said: “I was actually on a night out with mates when we were supposed to be getting over women. I can remember it vividly because Blurry by Puddle of Mudd was playing. We then came back here on a date. Obviously we wanted to come back for last one because it is where we met and it is just a great night out. It will be very sad to see it go.”
Emma added: “We have so many happy memories here that when we heard it was ending we straight away said we had to go.”
Sarah Collings, 22, from Whitmore Reans, Wolverhampton, took her boyfriend James Cronin, 22, from Solihull to his first ever Blast Off on Saturday night. “Blast Off is the most incredible night and the only place you can go for indie music. It is the only place to come to in Wolverhampton,” she said. “You always see people who you know. And it’s atmosphere is second to none. I had to get James to experience it before it closed. It’s a sad day.”
Jamie Simner, 22, from Tipton, has been going to Blast Off since he turned 18. He said: “It was the best Blast Off ever. There was amazing tunes – no nonsense, and great company. There is simply nowhere else that can match it.”
They generally say there are two things in life that are guaranteed: taxes and death. But for nearly two decades in the Black Country you could have added a third: Blast Off.
But while the songs may now have ended, the memories will linger on.