If you can brush away the heaps of flyers claiming the cheapest entry, in conjunction with paralytic incident-inducing drinks deals, you’ll see a city that’s nightlife has a proud history of quality. From classy cocktails and tottering stilettos on Call Lane, to weeknight regulars, to the exquisite plethora of the world’s finest DJs, Leeds has been aptly described by Crash magazine as a ‘northern powerhouse’. Luckily for you, this is all on your doorstep, and here’s our guide on how to make the most of the wee small hours.
Wire, found off Call Lane just behind the Corn Exchange, probably boasts the best variety of events, powered by a Funktion One system in the underground club. Regular nights include Fuzzy Logic on a Thursday, a strong indie night, hosted in previous years by Foals, The War On Drugs and Wild Beasts. The capacity means intimate parties including Butter Side Up Pearsons Sound’s Acetate night (an all vinyl treat), Selective Hearing, SubDub, Deep Fever and Leeds’ infamous bash Back to Basics. Real excitement comes with the one off events, this venue a favourite of Leeds’ Hessle Audio trio, with Midland and Hunee playing upcoming shows.
Just around the corner is HiFi, focusing on jazz, soul, funk and disco, keeping it head and shoulders above the other venues, despite also being underground. Also boasting excellent guests in the form of Gilles Peterson, and SBTRKT, the midweek nights are hugely popular: Mixtape on a Tuesday (an unparalleled, anything and everything night!), MoveOnUp on a Wednesday (inexorable funk and Motown) and Sunday Joint (a free night, featuring guests, live bands and a definite boogie) are reasonably priced favourites of lecture-dodging students. The club continues to shine in its weekend bookings, featuring the likes of Romare, Onra and Horse Meat Disco in 2015, with Rhythm Section’s Al Dobson Jr and Henry Wu penciled in for October.
If you like HiFi Tuesdays, you will also love Donuts at the Faversham on a Thursday. Bad things happen to good people at Donuts, particularly when doubles are £2.50… The Faversham is located on campus, behind Charles Morris and is a cushty bar and restaurant by day. Also on campus are Stylus, Pulse, and Mine all found below the Union, with the infamous, inescapable yet irresistible Fruity every Friday.
Mint Club (sister to Mint Warehouse and host of Mint Festival) is another institution whose national and international recognition disguises its relatively small interior (and corridor for a smoking area). A first-rate sound system and LED ceiling keep drawing punters and DJs back. Mint Mondays and Thursdays can suffer occasionally from overcrowding, but do not be deterred, as the club continues to draw in international party-starters to soundtrack your night (including Hot Since 82 and Joy Orbison last year).
What all three of these have in common is an intimate and unique clubbing experience – for your run-of-the-mill clubbing moments, dare to take the plunge into Tiger Tiger, Pryzm or Space Tuesdays, but don’t anticipate a desire to return…
Leeds’ larger establishments are just as well known and with even more room to bust those moves. A survey of the city’s nightlife would be incomplete without mention of The Warehouse. Opening its doors in 1979, the club (found just of the Headrow) is an important part of Leeds’ musical history, having showcased big names such as 1-800 Dinosaur, Hudson Mohawke and Eton Messy in the early stages of their careers. Wednesday’s Mischief (the sports night – expect to be squashed between bicep and peck) and Friday’s Sticky Feet provide extremely popular, cheap and cheerful entertainment, and in line with the club’s history, Saturdays still see some of the best line-ups.
To reach the warehouses and biggest venues of the city, a more intrepid taxi ride is required. South of the city centre in a converted Victorian bed factory is Beaverworks. A gritty, intimidating, rabbit warren of a venue where the atmosphere is quite the opposite (find a dress code of French plaits, crochet crop tops, bucket hats and a firm grip on a can of red stripe). Here you can be guaranteed an adventure, a boogie, and losing everyone you arrived with, as people take root in the different rooms. With nationally renowned events like Cirque du Soul, Flux and Good Life often taking place here, the party-ready crowd find themselves dancing to the Leeds DJs of tomorrow, with a smattering of larger names making an appearance (take Nightmares on Wax back in June).
Other larger venues include Canal Mills, a vast warehouse with eye-catching line-ups (Bonobo, Shy FX, Daphni and Jon Talabot to name but a few…) a luxurious smoking area and relentless dance moves. The West Indian Centre has suddenly sprouted onto the scene, hosting the infamous SubDub and new night Triple Cooked.
For those searching for a more civilized evening, outside of (pricey) Call Lane is jazzy Smokestack with free entry, endless swing and jazz music and well-decorated interior, making it one of the best (but do not get your card out as £10 minimum stings). Thursdays seems to be the time to go!
A more proactive bar experience can be found at Roxy’s on Albion Street, with pool tables and beer pong. Bierkeller provides table-stomping fun with mass sing-alongs at the weekends.
On the other side of Headrow you’ll find the Northern Quarter with some of the city’s best and newest bars, boasting tasty food alongside local cask ales, a mix of live music and DJs and good vibes. A similar spot down in town is Nation of Shopkeepers, which occasionally has events stretching into the early hours. The Backroom is another gem, serving cocktails till 7am. Distrikt has the mysterious ability of attracting some of the world’s best DJs to the people of Leeds for no ticket fee, a feat rare throughout the UK. This year saw Rahaan, Session Victim and Phil Weeks all play and the coming months feature Octave One, Max Graef and Marshall Jefferson.
Leeds is known for its nightlife, for many obvious reasons – we haven’t even scratched the surface here really. A northern powerhouse indeed, certainly enough to make the most of your freshers (before you realize who you’ve befriended and that assignments are necessary), and enough variety to keep the spice in your student life in Leeds.
Chris Caden and Flora Tiley
(Photo credits: Union Events; Leeds List)