Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen Opening Night
There must come a time in all promoters’ careers when they realise they no longer want to put on events in someone else’s venue/club/field and the lack of security that brings. The desire to have something all your own that you can control and make in the image you would have of it must kick in at some point. Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen is the settling down of the recently renamed Super Friendz, the duo behind many of the best relatively new nights and festivals in Leeds and Yorkshire, including Constellations and the fantastic Beacons Festival (see here for our whirlwind weekend there). With a city centre location and a venue space to rival and compete with Cockpit and Brudenell Social Club, it aims to offer something novel in the Leeds gig scene, including space for all forms of artful media from zines to graphic prints. The opening night on Wednesday October 2nd promised to be a highlight in the Leeds music calendar, and I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss something this big.
The red light of the neon sign that dominates the entrance gives the place a mood and atmosphere before you even get inside. Enter through the double doors and you’re confronted with a great canteen, with a few rows of tables and benches down the middle and comfier sofas down the side (from what I could see through the mass of people in attendance; it seemed like the entire fixie-owning population of Hyde Park were here tonight). The stripped back decor was the intentional rather than semi-pragmatic equivalent of the Brooklyn Pop-Up Bar, all exposed brickwork and bare oversized bulbs. The original features of the building were uncovered as part of the redo, including parquet flooring. Zines were hanging off many of the walls and with a scattering of prints from local artists along the walls the potential for this place to be an amazing hub for the local art scene is already palpable. The atmosphere was electric; the place was fucking rammed and everyone was having a good time. If this had been all there was to it, Super Friendz would have every right to be chuffed with a successful opening.
But there is so much more to it. The bar itself had the usual suspects as far as trendy craft beer was concerned, with Brooklyn Lager and Brew Dog, but more interestingly also some good local representation with a couple of ales from Kirkstall Brewery and Huddersfield natives Magic Rock, as well as some lesser spotted foreign faves of mine, including Maui Big Swell IPA and Dale’s Pale Ale (voted Top US Pale Ale by The New York Times, very swanky right?). Even better, though, is the food. The Belgrave has taken the Canteen element of their name very seriously, with permanent fixtures Dough Boys Pizza providing free samples of their amazing food all night. There is also a second kitchen for a second street food specialist to take up residency in. For the first two months that honour goes to the amazing Fish&, whose original take on fish and chip batter were also freely available.
On top of that, there’s also a roof terrace, with some quite amazing views of the city to either side. Expect plenty of outdoor events to go on up there, with its garden shed smoking shelters and astroturf centre. The chimneys led down to the venue space, meaning that all night whenever the stage was occupied you could hear the musical goings on on the roof.
Speaking of which, this is the jewel in the crown. The venue space itself is fantastic. With an impressive lighting rig and a capacity of around 500, it will be quite the sight for a band looking out over this room packed to the rafters as it was this eve. The lineup tonight was a strong introduction to the eclectic current mix of bands and genres Super Friendz have booked for our pleasure over the coming months, as well as a successful test and showing off of the sound system.
Opening band MAXIXE began things slowly and moodily, with their atmospheric electronic music. With a playfulness with their vocals, using it as an instrument itself with crackles and faux death rattles to make up the backing track, this duo lured everyone in with their soulful harmonies and slowburning melancholy. Very submersive music. The bass-heavy background of their music sent the new soundsystem a-rumbling in the most enjoyable way possible.
Best Friends pulled us out of the downer such music can instil with their high-energy indie rock. Of a similar vein to Splashh, they have some great fast-paced yet intricate guitar melodies and a very lively stage show. The bassist moved around on stage with such haste that I was amazed he could still play at the same time. New single ‘Nosebleeds’ went down a treat the audience blowing off some steam with dancing and jumping.
The good mood Best Friends buoyed us up with was swiftly shattered by the dark rock of The Wytches. They’re probably sick of the comparison, but if I didn’t describe them as Nirvana-like then I’m objectively wrong and a terrible music journo. In Utero is obviously their musical Bible, but they are no mere fundamentalists. Wytches bring a more gothic, doom-laden atmosphere to proceedings, with plenty of variety in their song structures. Pounding and grinding music, their last song was particularly awesome, my enjoyment of it increased somewhat the sight of an audience member in front of me’s drugs just kicking in, producing some intensely erratic dancing. Took the poor fella two minutes to figure out appropriate dance movements and then the song ended.
Last up this eve were Superfood, who, no offense meant, couldn’t help but feel slightly anticlimactic after the fury of Wytches with their softer but no less brilliant indie pop. They had some particularly lovely three-part harmonies going for them, and some enjoyable song dynamics, jumping from discordant chord bashes to Britpop-inflected riffage. As their set drew to a close, I realised there hadn’t been a bad, boring or average band on all night. Super Friendz had pulled off a diverse but faultless line up.
Overall, what we have in the Belgrave Music Hall is a great space for whatever takes your fancy, be it beer, food, music, art, socialising, whatever. I look forward to returning there on a quieter day so I can get a better look round the place.
photos recycled from http://www.belgravemusichall.com/gallery/ I think Giles Smith took them.