York’s music and clubbing scene

Tom Killingbeck maps the diverse topography of York’s music and clubbing scene.

Once you’ve unpacked, done your hair, met your flatmates and checked your timetable, the more musically minded freshers among you will probably want to investigate York’s noble music scene. While seemingly non-existent when Googling from home, much like a secret map in Harry Potter, a thriving and somewhat rewarding network of venues, clubnights and people will slowly unveil on your arrival, and will provide plenty of musical nourishment during your time at university. The main two venues in town are The Duchess and Fibbers, the former being quite new, the latter being a classic sticky floored dive. You’ll probably be quite surprised by the bands that actually turn up in such a small town, from Foals to Gallows, RZA to Chase & Status, there’s some big names from all over musical planet inexplicably ending up in York. Both venues also do average indie and rock clubnights, the best being Up the Racket, The Duchess’s Friday night chart indie session which is usually pretty packed.

For clubnights at these two venues it’s better to stick to the student organised parties, particularly Beatcake and Idioteque, both popular electro, techno and dubstep nights. The percentage is about 40% people raving their tits off to another 60% of students looking ‘cool’ in ‘neon clothes’ but don’t let that put you off, just get messy down the front. The two Beatcake DJs, Bebe Barbu & Nik-L, are prolific at campus events and also play a part in Fibbers’ electro night Melt, and seem to have the Midas touch at student electro nights. Despite the hilarity of white middle class students getting ‘urban’, Breakz Society are the most successful student music society, bringing big names like Benga to York, as well as commandeering long running nights like Herbal Mafia. ‘The Hub, a squalid building that looks like a squat, is host to this and many other legendary nights, including Freakin, Movements, and Hijacked. It’s worth suffering the STIs and piss-soaked shoes of The Hub to shake your tailfeathers to such a rich banquet of dedicated DJs.

For those less electronically inclined and, like myself, a shamelessly poncy indie tool, York also offers a good dosage of choppy rhythms, wild guitar and floppy haircuts. The City Screen Cinema basement is one of York’s best undiscovered venues, where hip new Leeds bands like Dinosaur Pile-Up, as well as bigger transatlantic names like noise-poppers Times New Viking and Sic Alps play to miniscule crowds. As well as being more indie than Steve Albini’s toenails, it plays host to several fey clubnights, including The Revolutionary Freaked-Out Fuzz Club, which puts on savage garage, psych and R&B bands. Jonny Strangeways, of legendary Leeds night Strangeways, has also been known to put on a York branch of it, and I once ended up doing indie bingo with him reading the numbers there. So indie it hurts.

If you like dressing up in a full length leather jacket and windmilling to Nightwish there’s Fringe So, if you’re Brazilian there’s Samba. If you think you need a back up in case your degree fails there’s ‘Pole Exercise’. But for most people, York’s two fine nightclub institutions, Gallery and Tru, should do the trick. Both are chronic good-time toss-fests, but some of the most fun you can have when trollied. Just expect lots of 5ive. As your friendly STYCs (well, friendly until you let them cop a feel, then it’s all ‘Get in the van’) will tell you, Tuesdays for Tru, Thursdays for Gallery. There is one last venue to mention, a venue that few reach as it is the Mount Olympus of nightclubs, the Valhalla of York’s music scene. Only true warriors make it to The Willow on Coney Street, a Chinese restaurant that converts into a cheesefest disco after dark. All I’ll say is: doorman looks likes Mr Miyagi, free prawn crackers, cheap drinks, and I once requested the full 11 minutes of Meat Loaf’s Bat Out Of Hell and they played it all. And there’s a scary old man in a suit with an eyepatch who’s always dancing there. It’s all you need. So there you have it – York’s music scene. Pretty shit really, ever heard of Leeds?

3 comments

  1. 14 Oct ’09 at 5:15 pm

    Anthony Woodhead

    I find it surprising that you fail to mention another club where the residents prides themselves on playing the latest upfront house and electro; even when everywhere else in town has shut. I’m talking of course about Blue Fly where I have been personally been DJing for the past year or so.

    Indeed York is somewhat limited compared to Leeds in terms of it’s music scene but if you look beyond the cheese there’s some good nights. Freakin especially has been doing the business for a good few years now.

    Anyway i’m gonna let my music do the talking this Friday when I’m playing Alcuin Hall 9pm till 2am. With hopefull with more sets to follow. (I have to help pay for my Master somehow!)

    To be honest though, I can’t resist the call of Leeds either; the new saturday afterhours night Uber is particularly popular at the moment, even though it doen’t bother opening the doors till 4am, right after Fly shuts!

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  2. “So there you have it – York’s music scene. Pretty shit really, ever heard of Leeds?”

    Not a very beneficial thing to write for the hard-working club promoters of York who try their best to bring to York the best DJ’s they can within they’re budget:

    Andrew Weatherall
    Scratch Perverts
    Skream
    Unabombers
    Paul Woolford
    Freestylers
    Jehst
    Chase & Status
    Nicky Blackmarket
    DJ Fresh

    Not shit really eh?

    Students in York need to get off campus at weekends and experience it all. It’s really not a scary place to go y’know.

    If you’re gonna come here and study then the least you could do is support the scene.

    Ofcourse its not Leeds, its a tenth of the size!

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  3. This write up is really helpful. will be doing my masters in York in October and most of the people I met claimed York to be boring and has no music scene whatever.

    So, now there’s hope after all. :)

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