Nightlife Reports: A Tour of Glasgow’s Bars and Clubs

Will Coldwell, The Guardian, July 25, 2014

It’s 11pm on a Friday night and I’m sitting at the bar of Glasgow’s delicately named drinking spot, Nice ‘N’ Sleazy, with Dominic Flannigan and Clair Stirling - AKA DJ Eclair Fifi - of the city’s trendsetting record label and art collective LuckyMe.

Dominic - who had previously been making excuses for not wanting to go too crazy that evening - has just placed a round of Buckfast in front of us. Barely a sip later and Clair has already knocked hers over. “Now that’s a blessing in disguise,” she says. “I think that’s what you’d call a Freudian slip.”

Glasgow’s nightlife - and the city in general - may have a raucous reputation, fuelled by a heady mix of cold air, fried food and tonic wine, but it’s also one of the most creative, friendly and witty scenes in the country. The sprawling industrial town, which has been tirelessly regenerating itself over the past three decades, seems to produce an endless stream of forward-thinking musicians, artists and designers that spiral out of its live music venues, pubs and clubs - often via a stint in the effortlessly cool Glasgow School of Art.

In many ways LuckyMe epitomises all this. Created in 2007, the collective has seen one of its founding members, Hudson Mohawke, rise from being an underground beat juggler to producing tunes with Kanye West, while helping other Glaswegian producers such as Rustie to receive international acclaim for his ground-breaking “aquacrunk” tunes. Dominic, LuckyMe’s co-founder and creative director, and Clair agreed to be my “spirit guides” for the evening, and take me on a night out in the city that made them.

We met much, much earlier in Glasgow’s Merchant City area, an old part of town that’s become known for its high density of galleries and bars. In Glasgow, strict licencing laws requiring pubs to stop serving at midnight and clubs at 3am, mean that if you’re planning a big one you’ve got to start early.

But it’s not just the threat of the music stopping that has helped develop the intense character of Glasgow’s nightlife. The scene is intertwined with a mix of art, radical politics, rave culture and rock. Record labels such as Chemikal Underground (The Delgados, Arab Strap, Mogwai) have helped define Glasgow’s post-punk sound - most recently playing a role in the city’s regeneration by programming East End Social, a series of cultural events across the city’s underdeveloped east this summer. Meanwhile Glasgow’s legendary and “charismatic” clubnight Optimo, (“all things to all people,” says Dom) continues to bridge the gap between genres with its eclectic sound policy ranging from techno to rock and roll. The city’s other big clubnight Numbers has gone on to release records from the likes of Jamie XX and SBTRKT, and there’s always a “young team” coming through with fresh ideas, such as recently established label All Caps.

The first venue we visit, Mono, a vegan cafe, microbrewery and gig venue founded over a decade ago, is like a subculture HQ. Sharing a roof with Monorail record store (owned by Stephen Pastel of Glasgow’s long-time indie rockers The Pastels) and the Good Press Gallery (a zine store and show space) it remains an important stage for new bands to cut their teeth on. As well as paying host to the likes of Belle and Sebastian and Franz Ferdinand – the city’s original art school rockers – it’s the venue where LuckyMe first started putting on shows. “If you’re a band that’s half decent, Mono is the place where you’ll start to play,” says Dom.

Leaving Mono, we pass another important independent music venue ... and vegan cafe, 13th Note, and duck into an opening at South Block Studios just next door, not least to take advantage of the free scotch lined up for the taking from a table in the corner.

Once in the centre of town we reach Nice ‘N’ Sleazy – a venue with a reputation as one of the stand-out indie clubs in the city – for that obligatory glass of Buckfast. In a shadowy corner a gothic looking girl plays garage rock from her stool behind the decks. In the basement metallic chords and screams filter out everytime the door opens. Outside the pavement is busy with young smokers. Popular with students, Sleazy’s – which opens till 3am seven days a week – has entertainment almost every evening. As they proudly put it: “we don’t have TVs and we don’t show football”.

Accross the road Dom swings his hand over at Pomme Frites - the snack shop formerly know as Mr Chips, and a poignant symbol of the change Glasgow is going through (in Glasgow fried food shops are a big deal) - and we head further down Sauchiehall Street to another, slicker venue, the Centre for Contemporary Arts. Its cooly designed Saramago Cafe Bar sits at the bottom of a modern courtyard and hosts regular free nights such as Blue Sunshine which has resident DJ Plasmatron, from Mogwai, selecting the tunes.

Behind is The Art School – or the GSA Students Association – still overlooked by the burnt-out shell of the Mackintosh Building, which was destroyed in a fire this May. “The relationship between the art school and the music scene is really strong – the Union is still the main spot for new bands” says Dom, looking up at the building, which reopened in January following an ambitious refurbishment.

As it reaches midnight we walk up and over the roaring M8 motorway and down into the discreet entrance of the Berkeley Suite, where David Barbarossa is playing selections from his discerning disco collection. There’s a dreamy David Lynchesque feel to the bar and “ballroom” that fills a former Victorian pub. Art-deco chandeliers, matched with dim, red lighting, a smoke machine haze and a central, retro-looking DJ booth make the club feel almost like Glasgow’s answer to Paris’ Silencio – albeit without the icy door staff and extortionate prices. It’s a strangely sophisticated space where you can expect to see anyone from local dub soundsystem Mungo’s Hi Fi to DFA’s James Murphy behind the decks.

Other late night options in Glasgow include La Cheetah - a tiny club with a big Funktion-One soundsystem in the basement of Max’s Bar, which you can expect to find crammed full of people dancing with the kind of energy that makes Glasgow’s nightlife scene special. In the West End there’s SWG3, an art space and venue that hosts big dance nights in its raw warehouse space, while Club 69 - way out west in the suburb of Paisley - remains a pioneering institution for Scotland’s technoheads.

But after Berkeley’s we head back across town to Glasgow’s historic clubbing venue Subclub - where Numbers are celebrating their 11th birthday. Needless to say there’s a queue outside. We head down below Jamaica Street and into the club, which has been a seminal fixture in the city since it opened way back in 1987. With its low ceiling, wall of speakers and bodysonic dance floor, the hot air inside is literally tingling with vibrations. Add to this 400 people going nuts to house legend Paul Johnson, throwing their tops in the air, slapping the roof and chanting along to dance music melodies and it’s easy to see why the club has earned its electrifying reputation.

As the night draws to a close we head back up to street level. At least one topless man strides past and crowds gather outside McDonald’s. In the smoking area groups are plotting their next move - quite possibly to one of the city’s notorious after parties. Beneath us, even though it’s almost over, the pace in the club is still going full blast. “In Europe people don’t get it,” says Clair. “The clubs go on till nine in the morning. Here you’re always left wanting more. But that’s what makes it exciting.”

Travel between London and Glasgow was provided by Virgin Trains (, advance single fares start at £21. Accommodation was provided by Citizen M ( in the centre of Glasgow: rooms start at £69

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This article was written by Will Coldwell from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.