If you’ve been a student in Glasgow for any length of time there’s a good chance you’ve already been lured away from the familiarity of the student unions to an actual nightclub at some point. I’m not denying that there are people who genuinely enjoy going to a veritable meat-market and hearing the same songs they heard on Radio 1 during the day, and if that’s you then keep doing your thing.
If however you can’t help but think that needing a dozen cheap vodkas just to put up with your surroundings doesn’t actually make for quality entertainment; if you kinda like the principle of going out to be blasted with loud music while jumping about like-minded folks but suspect that it could be done so much better than through yet another dry-humping soundtracked by “Sexy And I Know It”; if you are bemused that the ABC claims its music policy is “independent” and “alternative”; then you’ve come to the right place.
Time to try what I will now pretentiously deem “real nightclubs”.
First of all, the (in)famous Sub Club on Jamaica Street consistently features in worldwide top 20 nightclub rankings and is a firm favourite amongst international DJs. Its subterranean location, low ceiling, relatively small capacity and unbeatable atmosphere have drawn in adoring clubbers for over 25 years and it’s showing no sign of losing its steam.
My personal recommendation for the Subby beginner is to dive straight into the deep end (deep House end?) with the weekly Saturday house night Subculture, which often features worldwide DJ talent although sometimes the nights with only the formidable residents playing a selection of quality but nonetheless accessible house music are the best. Particularly recommended if you’re still under the impression that the likes of Swedish House Mafia have absolutely anything to do with actual house music. Fridays are also a good shout – these vary week by week but some of the city’s best promoters regularly run nights playing a variety of music from solid techno to all-out party vibes.
If you’re not quite willing to pay weekend prices, more student budget-friendly nights take place in the weekdays with a fresher-faced crowd and cheaper drinks. I AM on Tuesdays brings in talent from Glasgow and further afield alongside residents Beta and Kappa, and Wednesdays’ Sub Rosa offers great tunes and the occasional themed night at weekday prices.
Chambre has only been open for less than two years but in this short time it’s established itself as one of the city’s premier clubbing destinations and probably this particular writer’s most frequented destination at present. Things at Chambre kicked off in earnest when the ever-reliable Deadly Rhythm crew packed it out with dutch DJ Martyn at the helm, and since then nearly every Glasgow promoter worth their salt has been making use of the 430-capacity space under Urban Outfitters. Highlights include Glasgow reggae luminaries Chungo Bungo and Mungo’s Hi Fi teaming up to bring the bass weight; Freaky Freaky’s hip hop and R’n’B slow jams; NoSleep and Wax Works both bringing an abundance of heavyweight house and techno bookings; and more recently Palace and Void providing eclectic and electric beats.
Vitamins is a slightly more amorphous identity than some of the others here as it is a collective of DJs, promoters, designers and techies, all originally hailing from Glasgow University’s own Subcity Radio. The crew aims to bring something new to the table with each night, using different clubs each time or spaces that aren’t clubs at all. Their first effort comprised a massive West-End flat party that hundreds of revellers either won’t forget or can’t remember, and since then their events have included an all-night rave in a Borders forest and a trip into in an old railway tunnel under Glasgow, all with a consistent emphasis on diverse music policy and outstanding visual production.
If you’re not quite ready for full-on electronic music and want a slightly easier time convincing your doubtful friends to try a new place, yet you’re still looking for something a cut above the usual destinations, it’s hard to go wrong with the Buff. Later on in the week in particular you’re likely to catch some vintage funk, soul and disco, while Mondays and Tuesdays showcase the credible side of dancey pop music (or poppy dance music?). It’s not hard to get a hold of free entry passes or guestlist places and drinks are never too pricey.
Although better known for its upstairs bar that serves veggie food and opens late, the contrastingly spartan basement of Stereo on Renfield Street is the sort of club where you could catch just about anything depending on when you turn up. It plays host to a wide variety of offerings including house, hip hop, Hispanic and the occasional skweee (Google it…) night.
La Cheetah is yet another basement hangout, this time occupying the lower level of Max’s on Queen Street on the edge of the Merchant City. As long as you don’t get lost en route and end up in a sickly-sweet establishment across the road which is exactly the sort of thing I’m trying to help you avoid, you’ll discover a nice 200-capacity space that’s home to one of Glasgow’s more interestingly designed DJ booths. Despite its small size, Cheetah has recently hosted quite a few major league DJs and many of its nights are free entry so there’s no excuse.
As far as clubbing is concerned, the Arches was once upon a time mostly known for its big techno, house and trance nights and while most of these are still going as strong as ever, there’s plenty more going on. As just one example, Bad News have been inviting some of London and Bristol’s finest bass purveyors to play records through their generously proportioned soundsystem alongside local selectors. Meanwhile Pressure is still one of the best nights in the city to catch the biggest names in techno, and a visit will swiftly put to bed any lingering myths of it being full of intimidating shaved-head taps-aff techno types as lately its crowd is getting more mixed than ever and is usually extremely friendly, which always helps if you happen to lose all your pals after 10 minutes.
The final club here is a bit of an oddball and the more cynical amongst us might be put off by its kitschness, but the Flying Duck at the top of Renfield Street is definitely worth a visit. Its disorienting layout, unusual decor, wide music policy and late-night offerings of toast have given it in a unique place in Glasgow’s club scene and if you’re not into the other places on this list then you never know, the Flying Duck might just be for you…
So there you have it – a short list of some of the best places to check out on your next night out. I speak from experience when I say it can sometimes be hard to draw your peers away from the mainstream end of the nightclub spectrum but those who keep at it will soon discover the richness that clubbing in Glasgow has to offer … or at least be able to say they’ve tried it.