viseu, portugal - it's a large and loud club that attracts the young clientele who are the bread and butter of cosmopolitain nightlife. But the Day After is not located in Lisbon, second city Porto or the resort region of the Algarve. We find it in Viseu, a remote interior town of fewer than 20,000 people. The club got off the ground in 1988 when the telecommunications group Visabeira bought a closed-down factory on the edge of town to turn it into a disco.
"It was really more of a joke than a business venture," admits manager José Arimateia. "There were no discos in Viseu at the time. What we had to do was create a night culture."
Fifteen years ago TDA was nothing more then a one-floor disco in a one-horse town. Today the club comprises two large dance floors (top 40 and electro), a microbrewery, the Torre Millennium meeting complex and karaoke bar, an indoor go-cart track, an outdoor playground, a fast food restaurant, the live alternative venue Bar Americano and a tequila bar.
But on our first of two weekend night visits, we find only some of these facilities operational. Business fluctuates with the academic calendar, and this is low season. Attendance at the local polytechnic peaks in August at the same time that the emigrant connection kicks in. Many of Viseu's sons and daughters left for France, Switzerland, Canada and the United States during the 60s and 70s, and the town sees this population return every August.
For the remainder of the year, TDA courts just about everybody. Posters advertise fashion shows and, for the traditionalists and tourists, the occasional fado night accompanied by a multi-course dinner. Our first night at the club, the Torre Millennium holds a book launch for the former Portuguese minister of culture, followed by a karaoke competition.
Also up and running are the top-40 dance floor and the tequila bar, suitably decorated with saguaro cactuses, wagon-wheel ceiling fans and stills of a young John Wayne and a youngish Marlon Brando in his Missouri Breaks days.
Saturdays from midnight till dawn the club runs a free shuttle service. On our second night we ride to TDA with clubgoers. Shortly after the shuttle pulls up, we wander into the club and onto the electro dance floor, where three transvestites dancing on Roman columns and on the bar clad in silver hot pants and boots are the centre of attention.
Meanwhile, down the hall, a nearly full top-40 dance floor pumps out contemporary chart hits along with Brazilian favourites. By 2 am, a quick glance at the lineup outside indicates that this is going to be one hot night, with a lot of bodies thumping to the various rhythms.
We then make our way to the Bar Americano, where local band Trash play before a euphoric crowd on the same stage that once held such international acts as Lloyd Cole and the Pogues.
Arimateia made it clear to us that to get the full feel of TDA we must visit on a Saturday when everything is operational. And he's right. Tonight the dance floors are packed, servers deliver food and drinks non-stop, and the scent of burning rubber fills the air over the go-cart track.
Night culture lives in a remote region of Portugal.