Despite being a relatively small part of the world, clubbing in the United Kingdom is as diverse as it is popular. What do you think everyone does on those 300 rainy nights of the year? They're definitely not strolling through the park; they're inside a large, pumping club embracing the party culture with house DJs and like-minded revellers.
You can be right amongst the wild atmosphere with them, thanks to this insiders' guide to the 10 best clubs in the UK.
1. Sub Club - Glasgow
Now over 25 years old, Sub Club has been at the centre of dance music in Glasgow for the lifetime of house music in the UK. It is still as fresh and vital as the day it opened – except perhaps for the toilets.
It’s a basement space with a low ceiling and a top-notch sound system but, when the smoke has cleared, you can expect to see a frenzied, friendly, mixed-up dancefloor and not much else – but not much else is required! The crowd is passionate and musically savvy. There is no look and no particular age range … it’s what comes out of the people who come to the club if you play well: the love you feel in the room, the atmosphere and extraordinarily heightened energy you are lucky enough to breath in.
The club generally opens from 11pm to 3am – short opening hours if you consider the rest of Europe but it gives our parties there a great “compressed” atmosphere, a unified sense of “make it happen”. At Optimo nights, it feels like a social club when you enter at 11pm, everyone blethering in the seating booths, getting the rounds in, chatting to the staff and settling in. By midnight things begin to swell and then … before you know it … it’s “on”.
2. Fabric - London
For me, Fabric will always be a clubbing institution: it has stood the test of time and is home to one of the best sound systems in the world. But I think it’s even more important that people appreciate what Fabric has contributed to London’s club life over the years.
As we’ve said goodbye to some of our favourite clubbing spots, Fabric has pushed through the tough times and stayed true to what it is. Each room provides a different experience and I’ve had some of the best nights of my life in Room 3, dancing away in the shadows.
Friday and Saturday nights also provide a unique vibe, with Friday’s being a slightly younger crowd and pushing more bass-heavy music; on a Saturday things get slightly deeper on a house and techno trip with the crowd often a bit older.
I’ll never forget the time I went for my 18th birthday and I caught Dizzee Rascal performing I Luv U for the first time. Now, as a DJ, stepping up and playing in Room 1, I have to pinch myself. I still get goosebumps.
3. The Rainbow Venues - Birmingham
The Rainbow Venues has been at the forefront of the Birmingham (and indeed the Midlands’) clubbing scene for as long as I’ve been DJ’ing, which is a fair few years. I was actually made a resident DJ for its Saturday-night after-party, called 2.31, about three or four years ago. I learned so much in a short time – for which I’ll be forever grateful.
It is consistently putting on sell-out shows, has a varied and forward-thinking music policy, and nurtures homegrown talent well. The club is a large venue with numerous rooms all with different vibes. My two favourites are The Cellar and The Warehouse.
The Cellar is downstairs, of course, small but with great sound, a low ceiling and amazing lighting. The Warehouse is just a large room: there are no frills, no VIP or red carpet – just raw raving goodness. I love to play at The Rainbow, it feels like home.
4. West Indian Centre - Leeds
By day the West Indian Centre is a community hub serving Chapeltown residents, but by night it transforms into one of the most fascinating venues in the UK. It’s most renowned night is Subdub – run by Simon Scott – which is now its 17th year and provides the best in dub/reggae/drum’n’bass to a crowd that spans all ages!
Its sister night Exodus caters for a more dubstep-orientated audience and was the first night outside London to host the legendary DMZ nights on the Iration Steppas Soundsystem. The West Indian Centre’s cult following hasn’t happened through shiny promotion or light shows: it has come through a rebellion against those things.
When you walk down the ramp into the main room you look over the dimly lit crowd and feel the dub basslines vibrating the walkway – building instant anticipation for your night. The room is packed with an authentic dancehall atmosphere and energy, but also civilised and relaxed; the loyal Subdub crowd are respectful and some have been going for over 15 years.
The second room – covering the best in drum’n’bass, jungle and dubstep – is a 350-capacity low-ceiled, high-energy sweatbox. We played our first live show as “Author” at Exodus/DMZ and it was the most nerve-wrecking, intensive, emotional gig to date for us as the night is so pioneering. No lasers, no dress code, no frills – just vibes and the best sound system in the world!
5. The Full Moon Pub And Attic Bar - Bristol
A very fine time can be had at Bristol’s big clubs, such as Motion or Lakota, but there’s a place in Stokes Croft (the “arty bit” of Bristol) that I’d also heartily recommend for a slightly different nightlife experience. It’s two buildings, separated by a shisha bar courtyard: the Full Moon Pub and Attic Bar seems to bring a little bit of that coveted festival vibe to nearly every weekend.
Generally, it has a more eclectic or roots-orientated music policy but it constantly showcases a variety of homegrown talent. It also hosts a select amount of drum’n’bass nights featuring AFT Records and Ruffneck Ting showcases. We had so much fun at the last one with dnb lovers and enthusiastic party people rocking the venue.
But whether dnb maestros such as Jinx and Saxxon are on the bill or live bands such as Dr Meaker, Laid Black or Musical Youth, all nights here seem to maintain the friendly vibe. There’s a great sound system and in the summer the spacious courtyard becomes a venue in its own right.
Door prices are low (or free) and drinks are served in proper glasses. The only downside could be the 2am license … but then there’s always those super clubs to continue on to – or crash out at the onsite backpacker accommodation if you’re ready to call it a night!
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6. Concorde 2 - Brighton
I first discovered this amazing venue in the mid-90s when it was home to Fatboy Slim’s Big Beat Boutique. I spent many nights watching Norman Cook destroy the place with his block-rocking beats, taking the crowd on a genre-bashing musical journey and giving me the inspiration and drive I was looking for as a DJ.
Now, I love playing this venue. It has its own intimate vibe. For me there isn’t another venue in the UK like it, it reminds me of some concert venues in the USA: it doesn’t feel like a nightclub but still has the intensity and rawness of a packed club.
Every week you can expect to find the best in everything from drum’n’bass to glitch-hop, with acts from Julio Bashmore to The Selector. This venue has it all: cool sound system, great stage, perfect location.
7. Dalston Superstore - London
Dalston Superstore is a palace of nocturnal activities. Founders Dan Beaumont and business partner Mickey saw a gap in the market for an all-under-one-roof experience. It’s a Brooklyn-style space on the ground floor, where you can get great cocktails and a strong mix of DJs from across the city.
There’s art exhibitions and it’s always really upbeat. In the basement, it’s a dark, sleazy space that opens up to some of the best (and my favourite) DJs: Derrick Carter, Optimo, Tama Sumo Terje and countless others.
What I love most about it is the neighbourhood feel. There’s a flavour of the diversity of east London. The crowd is a sweep of young London’s gay, arts and creative community, which is surely due to the club’s ethos and staffing approach.
You can expect to see anything, from drag shows and DJs of all levels … but for me it’s all about the basement. It’s not a place to go and be fashionable and stand around; it’s somewhere you go to get down and lose control.
8. HAUS at Camp and Furnace - Liverpool
This is my favourite venue because it’s dark, dingy and made from solid concrete with a warehouse feel. There’s very little lighting, with visuals taking their place. What makes it stand out is that it’s a space where promoters get to let their imagination run wild on decor; it’s a blank canvas.
The owners help nurture small club nights that need a boost in their early stages. The sound system is a weighty Funktion-One, which sounds amazing. Waxxx is the main club night, which usually runs every month and features steller DJs, art installations and props.
One of my favourite nights partying there would have to be the Waxxx 90s parties: the warehouse gets a transformation and it’s loads of fun. It goes all out with the themes; one night had a huge light-up disco-floor, and a dream-themed one had a huge cloud hanging above.
At Halloween people go all out – you wouldn’t want to be the one not in fancy dress. The crowd is spot on; they go to listen to good music and have a dance. Because the venue isn’t publicised much, it’s all word of mouth, so you have to hunt for it.
9. The Night Kitchen - Sheffield
Unless you see the queues outside you wouldn’t give the warehouse front a second glance. It’s in an old Sheffield cutlery factory and the Night Kitchen (TNK) has that dark warehouse-party atmosphere, with shadowy corners, passageways and unusual artwork and wooden sculptures spotted around outside making for an interesting smoking area.
If you’re looking for a space to simply enjoy good tunes without all the stage and light shows this is a great venue to get lost in the music. The space has seen various projects pass through it from studios to pop-up club nights. Now TNK is run by two great ventures: Creative arts development space (Cads) and Party for the People (PFTP), the latter of which is a non-profit music organisation that raises funds for local charities.
This makes TNK not only an important place for the scene but Sheffield in general. So many different club nights and events pass through TNK but whatever night you find yourself at you can always bet on it being a friendly one. You’ll end up in the courtyard chatting to someone new until the the morning sun (it can happen!) creeps up and you realise its time to go home.
10. Soup Kitchen - Manchester
This will always be my favourite club in Manchester. It came along when there was a real lack of good clubs in the city and filled that void perfectly, combining great bookings with a friendly atmosphere and good sound.
It’s in a former boxing gym in the Northern Quarter, it’s got two floors; upstairs a bar/canteen that has resident DJs playing while you eat great food, and downstairs a basement club and gig venue. It has an intimate vibe and the focus is always on the music.
The crowd is a good mix of more seasoned locals and some bright young students and, as well as cool gigs, it has fantastic regular nights, such as Swing Ting (playing grime, bashment, reggae, garage and more) or Me and You (house and techno).
My favourite night there was seeing Move D do a three-hour set in 2010: just a great sweaty night watching him mix flawlessly and keep the crowd guessing. I haven’t been to a night there since moving to Berlin but it would be top of my list if I was on a night out in the north; you can guarantee the music will be “on point” and the crowd will be trouble-free and into the music.
The club feels special because it places the music first, there are no crazy lights, club photographers or huge names; just a dark room with a good sound system and good people.
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
This article was written by Will Coldwell from The Guardian and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.