King Krule's latest, impenetrable album is a tough listen, reviews Letty Gardner, but worth sticking with till the endWritten by Letty Gardner on 22nd October 2017
The Musical Guide to Birmingham
Whether you're into cheesy bangers, warehouse raves or the thrill of live performance, we're on hand to highlight the best of Brum
Whether you're a first year who's unsure what to do with themselves now the bingy euphoria of Freshers Week is starting to fade, or if you're a hermit-like returning student who's never been outside since you've lived here, you'll most likely be in dire need of a helping hand when it comes to picking the best nights out in Birmingham. Fortunately, us good folk at Redbrick Music have trawled through sesh after sesh to compile this, the definitive list of the best live music, club and event venues the city has to offer.
Birmingham’s got a lot to offer when it comes to nightlife, especially from the clubbing scene. Being the UK’s second largest student city, you’re guaranteed to find yourself enjoying the abundance of student nights out. Broad Street, the most popular region of the city's nightlife, is of particular importance, with numerous clubs and bars illuminating the street by night, but explore a bit further out and you will find more venues sure to tick all the right boxes. Here is a brief lowdown of some of the clubs Brum has to offer:
'Gales for short, Nightingales is Birmingham's resident LGBT super-club. Set across three floors, the four rooms are rife with queer delights and solid bangers, and it promises to be the friendliest night out you'll have at uni. With their Thursday 'Pounded' night easily being the best value night out in Brum, with £1 VKs, £1 vodka-mixers and £1 Gale Bombs (essentially a Jägerbomb), you're sure to get to a pleasant level of drunk with enough money left to do it all over again next week. There are dancing podiums and a stage backed by a light up wall. They host the Real Housewives of Birmingham and a plethora of other extraordinary drag queens on the regular, and even once welcomed Aqua and Alesha Dixon to their stage. Most importantly, they take student discount: £4 entry instead of £5. To neatly paraphrase, make sure you try out 'Gales.
This club may not be on the busy stretch of Broad Street, but don’t let this dampen your view of possibly the best indie club in Birmingham. As you’d hope, the drinks and entry are decently priced, but the tunes are far above-average; it’s the only place in Brum where the DJ will take you seamlessly from Arctic Monkeys to Alphabeat in minutes. It’s one of those places where you tell yourself you’ll leave after one last song, and then end up staying for another 2 hours because it’s just too good. I’ve found some strong friends by observing how many lyrics they sing along to at this fine establishment.
Other perks include the massive R&B dancefloor upstairs, free entry/bottle of champagne on your birthday, no dancers and the hall of faces in the entrance which makes you feel like Arya Stark. If Britpop is your thing, Snobs is sure to become your go-to night out, with a special night called ‘Live Forever’ dedicated to the indie and Britpop tunes we all know and love taking place the last Friday of every month.
FAB 'N FRESH
Arguably your most reliable night out, Fab 'N Fresh is your Saturday standard. Hosted in UoB’s very own Guild of Students, you can avoid the usual Uber fees and 2-star rankings that come from pre-drinking in a taxi, with a short walk from most halls and Selly Oak. Fab’s convenience and familiarity makes it the easiest night out to organise and convince unwilling friends along to. Fab is also a great way to meet other people from every year at university, who will no doubt insist on passing down their post-fresher wisdom.
Being a student union, expect mainstream party bangers: Joe’s Bar has a fine selection of pop and cheese, whilst Underground often provides the R&B classics. Queues for entry can sometimes be long and the price is standard, with tickets under £6, but the bouncers are always friendly - as long as you stay out of the fountain. Make sure to look out for special occasions, with special events for Halloween and Christmas etc, where the Guild will liven things up with a silent disco or Fab 'N Friday.
The biggest (but not necessarily the best) club in Birmingham is Pryzm. It’s the designated place to host those semi-famous celebrities from a reality TV show as well as hosting dedicated artist nights (i.e. Beyonce or Jay-Z night). With the price of alcohol there at eye-wateringly high levels, you should pre-drink properly. Forget sneaking anything in either - it has a 100% search rate, with multiple metal detectors and burly guards.
With four rooms, Pryzm offers a good variety. The huge main room plays the charts with a few classics thrown in for good measure. There is also a 'House' room but house music, as far as I’ve experienced, is rarely played. In the ‘Ballroom’ you’ll find music a little more obscure to a chart follower. Hip hop, trap and grime are played here loud and proud. Finally, a favourite to many is the vinyl room. Here the rule is, the cheesier the better. You will definitely hear 'Mambo No.5', 'Dancing Queen' and 'The Cha Cha Slide' played, followed by pop hits of years past. Flashbacks to your Year 5 disco are almost guaranteed to be set off by the 20 mirror balls and iridescent retro disco floor in here.
All in all, Pryzm is the most ‘clubby’ club you can visit. Is it expensive? Is it crowded? Will you get hit on by someone on a hen/bachelors night who is probably way too old for you? Absolutely yes. Overall though, it’s normally some good, clean fun, and worth trying once if just to marvel at the sheer size of the place.
Undoubtedly, Players will become your byword for a Tuesday night out, because 'Stupid Tuesday' is one of the more decently priced nights for students, and by far the biggest around.
A few things are guaranteed to happen in Players: 1 - You will either comfort someone crying in the bathroom or in the smoking area; 2 - You will see someone down a Blue W.K. faster than you can say hangover; 3 - You or someone you know will get thrown out; and 4 - You will forget a significant portion of one of your nights here.
The layout is simple. Upstairs is for chart toppers and downstairs is more for hip hop and general DJ mixes. Both are long rooms with a decent amount of space both for dancing with mates, getting drinks and looking for friends because (who are we kidding) that always happens.
Surrounded by the chippies of Broad Street, Players is in the prime location for your hard earned after-club snack. Student favourites include Pit Stop and Big Bite. where cheesy chips are always a must. Players is a favourite night out for a lot of students: it’s student friendly, and has a great atmosphere. You are always guaranteed to bump into people you know without even arranging to meet them. Grab your tickets online to avoid the disappointment of being turned away at the door due to full capacity (yes, this really does happen).
Welcome to the world of UK grime, bassline, house music, drum and bass and much much more. Birmingham hosts some of the best nights the UK has to offer when it comes to all things under the umbrella term of ‘dance music’. With nights like 'Ouse', '02.31', 'Seedy Sonics', 'Tektu' and 'Carnival Magnifico' (to name a few), Brum is not short of venues hosting nights tailored to the rave scene. Couple this with big name DJs, these venues host the sort of events you won’t want to miss.
THE RAINBOW VENUES
Situated on Digbeth's Lower Trinity Street, Rainbow is Birmingham's Mecca for lovers of house, techno and drum and bass. Head here if you enjoy accessorising with heaps of glitter and dancing to heavy bass until the early morning. Rainbow is famous for its big nights, like 'Cirque du Soul', '02:31' and 'Carnival Magnifico' which are all about spectacle; think big name DJs like Toddla T, Hannah Wants and Bicep, crazy light shows, confetti canons and crowds of enthusiastic ravers all partying under one roof. 'Tektu' is the venue's most frequently attended night, hosted biweekly with a mix of local and outside DJs playing an array of techno and house jams until the early hours.
Not to be missed is 'The Haunting', Rainbow's Halloween event which is subsequently the biggest in Birmingham this autumn. Also, 'Carnival Magnifico', held each year in early June, is the perfect way to celebrate the end of exams: an explosion of colour, boasting a line up of big name DJs, the event is held both inside the Rainbow Warehouse itself and its huge outdoor area, bringing together 5000 ravers from across the city.
Keep an eye out for Rainbow, as it promises some of the best nights out Birmingham has to offer.
Sure enough you will get to know Rainbow, but dive a little deeper into the underground underworld of Digbeth and you’ll discover a lesser-known gem hidden beneath the railway arches: Amusement 13. Located on Kent Street, Amusement 13 is a tad less grotty than your typical exposed-brick warehouse environment, opting instead for a minimal aesthetic that marks the venue out as something a little classier than your classic sweaty rave. Last year the main room underwent a refurbishment and was kitted out with a brand-spanking new VOID sound system – arguably the best in the whole city – so expect your favourite uplifting vocal house cuts or wonky bassline wobblers to sound crisper and harder-hitting than ever. And if filth is your bag, Amusement 13 is home to Birmingham-based clubbing brand BASS Collective, purveyor of deep-down-low and dirty UK bass and garage bangers from international and local selectors alike (last November we had the beardy maestro himself: Claude VonStroke). If you fancy venturing down to the city’s creative quarter any time soon, consider heading to BASS Collective’s event in partnership with Lengoland on 29th September – be sure to check Facebook for more information.
Located in Digbeth, LAB11 is an event-based warehouse venue, which regularly invites world famous DJs to its stages. Created by TRMNL, LAB11 is predominantly an electronic music venue but hosts many other different events such as Itchy Feet, an old school rock and roll, swing and blues night.
Smaller than the local rave giant Rainbow, with two rooms limiting its size, the environment created is intimate and ultimately more sociable. The terraced area is partially covered by the Digbeth viaducts and a roofed dancefloor, but is best suited to sunny summer raves, with the nicest places to sit being out in the elements.
Its smaller size, along with the high-quality artists and TRMNL name, attracts all kinds of people across all ages, making LAB11 the perfect place to get away from the student population and meet the local ravers of Birmingham. It’s a fitting destination for both beginners and experienced techno heads who enjoy a heavy night but in a pleasant environment.
These venues are home to Brum’s live music scene. You can expect gigs from small-time indie bands to the big names in pop doing arena tours. You’re guaranteed to find a venue playing the music you want to hear, so check out what Birmingham has got to offer:
THE BRISTOL PEAR
If you’re anything like me, The Bristol Pear will become your second home. It’s easily the best pub in Selly and is well worth the journey down from The Vale in first year. It’s the best kept cellar and their guest beers are always interesting. The music choices are always great - turn up at around 9.30pm for an incredible few hours of Britpop. It’s also one of Selly’s only live venues, and the cheap rent on the room means that if you’re a creative type yourself you’ll end up living there. It goes without saying that because of this it’s largely student bands and events that are on, but this is one of the biggest pulls for me. Even on a single night you get so much variation, and it’s nice to see the bands that could become the next big thing. The Bristol Pear really is one of those ‘I was there’ venues, and considering you won’t be paying much, if anything, to get in, it really can’t be missed. Add to this the fact that Liam (the sound engineer, who also works behind the bar) is one of the most talented, accommodating, and genuinely lovely guys I’ve met in years; sure the gear he’s working with isn’t the best in the world but what he manages to do with it is truly astounding. The Pear will make sure you get one of the best nights in Birmingham and it’s all on your doorstep. Give it a go.
I am ashamed to say that it took me almost an entire year to discover a music venue that was tailored to my music taste, which is why this handy little guide will be so useful to you if, like me, you’re into anything rock, pop-punk, or metal. The Asylum is an intimate, 600-capacity live music venue, and over the years has hosted gigs for rock royalty and up-and-coming artists alike. A gig at Asylum is never anything short of spectacular, with state of the art sound systems and lighting that create an unbelievable atmosphere. But, best of all, the venue is home to a weekly alternative club night, 'Total Uprawr', every Saturday. From 10:30 until 3am, the club comes alive with old-school emo anthems, nu-metal, heavy metal, and everything in between. The drinks are cheap (I recommend the slushie cocktails), and served by doctor and nurse bar staff - it is an Asylum after all. They frequently host guest DJs, themed nights and giveaways, so it’s always bound to be an amazing night. For £5 entry, you really can’t go wrong!
If a busy concert venue is not quite your thing, or if you just want a 50p cup of tea, some art and live music, the Ort Café in Moseley is the perfect alternative. It’s next to the Ort Gallery, which holds smaller exhibits by local artists, but in addition to being a place to go to assure yourself you’re still being cultural, it also provides a colourful mix of evening entertainment. With weekly Spanish/French/German £4-5 language lessons, Forro dance workshops, as well as improv evenings, not to be missed are the music and spoken word open mics as well as the live performances. I really couldn’t recommend a better place to wind down, and experience a different side of Birmingham away from the more mainstream venues. For more information and for the calendar of events, visit their website.
THE SUNFLOWER LOUNGE
One of the smallest but best live venues in Birmingham is the independent Sunflower Lounge. With a capacity of less than 200 people, this underground gig space is a truly intimate experience. The upstairs bar is a common drinking spot for Birmingham band members, and great for running into acts after shows. Mostly home to small, up-and-coming musicians, Sunflower Lounge is the exciting hub of new music in Birmingham. For smaller bands on city tours or local bands playing sell out gigs to friends and fans, the Sunflower Lounge is high on the list of places to visit for live music fans.
O2 ACADEMY / O2 INSTITUTE
If you’re a music fan, chances are you’ll experience the O2 venues several times throughout your time at Birmingham. With the Academy located just a short walk from New Street Station and the Institute in the heart of Digbeth, you can see some of your favourite acts in a much more intimate setting just a stone’s throw away from your accommodation. The Academy tends to play host to larger artists, with the likes of Lorde, Clean Bandit and Bryson Tiller all gracing the stage in the following months. However, if you’re fan of up-and-coming acts such as Tom Grennan, Fickle Friends and Declan McKenna, the 2,000-max capacity Institute is the right place for you.
THE HARE AND HOUNDS
If you fancy a break from Fab’s sticky floor and sweaty lads, the Hare and Hounds is the perfect chilled alternative to a club night. Having consistently been ranked in the top 10 best independent pubs in the UK, the Hare and Hounds is definitely a local gem and a cornerstone of alternative Birmingham. The downstairs pub is often packed with a balanced mix of local crowd and the hip community of King’s Heath. They offer a wide selection of craft beers for reasonable prices, as well as great food including several veggie options. The upstairs, meanwhile, is one of the hottest indie venues in town, having hosted artists like Albert Hammond Jr., Hinds and Los Campesinos in the last year or so, to name just a few. The same room also hosts a DJ set from Birmingham’s own Mike Skinner’s three times a year, which is a must-go if you ask me.
Against the unlikely backdrop of the industrial, sparse Digbeth, Mama Roux’s is a mysterious, Instagram-worthy gem of a venue, which plays host to a variety of different live performance acts every weekend. The venue’s music varies from displaying local bands, to booking more well-known acts – a perfect example of the two is Superfood, who are set to be playing in October. Alongside its live music, the venue has played host to a range of bizarre performance acts – electro-burlesque anyone? They regularly hold club nights with their next-door neighbours, Spotlight – a venue which also uses its outdoor space to accommodate the diverse amount of street food that Digbeth Dining Club has to offer. The peculiar yet relaxed vibe of Mama Roux’s is completely different to anything else that Birmingham has to offer, making it the perfect place to go if you’re looking for somewhere different to have a drink on a Friday or Saturday evening.
THE DUCK AND SCHOLAR
OK, so in terms of nightlife the Vale’s onsite bar The Duck And Scholar is not the hottest spot in town. It doesn’t pull in big names - Charlie Sloth during fresher’s week is all you’re really gonna get in terms of legit gigs. But, if all you’re looking for is a convenient and cheap place to have a pint any day of the week, the Duck is gonna satisfy your every need. The upstairs hosts a food stall serving the usual burger van cuisine (which you can get on your meal plan), and the downstairs boasts a bar where you can grab a cheap pitcher before you compete in the weekly Duck and Scholar pub quiz. The Duck lends its space to various events throughout the year, the TVs showing anything from sporting events to general elections (if there ends up being one this year). It’s basically a Wetherspoons on your doorstep, without the middle-aged drunkards that you’ll find on Broad Street.
|'Bounce' @ Rosie's||'Stuesdays' @ Players||'Big Wednesday' @ Snobs||'Vodbull' @ Rosie's||'Propaganda' @ O2 Academy||'Loaded Saturdays' @ Snobs|
|'Pounded' @ Nightingales||'Live Forever' @ Snobs (last Friday of every month)||'Fab 'N Fresh' @ The Guild|
|'P.A.R.T.Y.' @ Pryzm||'Playground' @ Pryzm|
|'Tektu' @ The Rainbow (every other Thursday)|