The Vic Bar, Renfrew St, from outside.
We have been having a countdown over at Menergy as we led up to our last party (and second-to-last public party EVER) at the Glasgow School Of Art's Vic Bar, and as I write this on the Monday after the party I have had time to reflect on the venue and what it means to me.
I have to say I fricken love the Vic Bar - I have been going since I got to Glasgow in 1997. I didn't attend the Art School itself, but the Vic and the Assembly Hall upstairs were by far the coolest student unions in a town with many. Being there I felt plugged in to the kind of vibrant youth culture I left Ireland to find. I would regularly attend Hi-Karate on a Thursday evening (where pints were only a pound and getting drunk was pretty compulsary), where a great mix of hip-hop, house and what was called "big-beat" was played. This was also back in the days when smoking was legal in clubs, and it's safe to say we smoked many joints on that black and white dancefloor, shuffling around people to dodge the security and their twitching noses. This is a tune that reminds me of those times:
Tim "Love" Lee - Again Son
Saturdays back in my day were hosted by Knucklehead upstairs and the mighty Divine downstairs (Divine are hosting the last ever public party at the Vic next weekend, and rightly so). Knucklehead was my first ever experience of proper "raving", as it were (oh listen to me - but I mean raving not just going out dancing. I had my first "drug" experience there, beyond simply smoking a joint. It was speed, it was cheap, nasty and the comedown was pretty boggin. Banging my foot on the floor for four hours while relentlessly chewing gum turned out to be not my thing really, but it was an experience from which some proper friendships were formed. And not in the ways expected.
Divine was much more my bag musically, opening my ears to the delights of funk, soul, and even some post-Austin Powers/Blue Note easy listening. The atmosphere was more mellow, and while Knucklehead worked in the big, empty, dark, dingy Assembly Hall upstairs, Divine felt like a little oasis in the Vic Bar. Here are some tracks I associate with both clubs, whcih should illustrate my point:
Thomas Schumacher - When I Rock
Ananda Shankhar - Jumpin' Jack Flash
Props too to my homeboys Mungo's Hi-Fi, who moved to the Arty after their legendary stint at the Woodside social club in Kelvinside. Many great Mungos have I had there, especially when they moved downstairs to the Vic and the bass became even more physical and intense in the smaller space. There were some immense gigs there, including the legendary Sister Nancy and Warrior Queen, not to mention the wicked Mungo's album launch party with Kenny Knotts and Mikey Murka - which managed to change my flat mate's mind about live MCing in a club context. It was at Mungos too that I could most readily see the generational shift in clubbing. It developed from (my own background of) ecstasy and house/techno to dubstep and ketamine, going far beyond the simple pleasures of dub/dancehall and weed which had always been my default favourites. NOw kids sway and brrrap as their pants slowly fall down and their guts wobble. I don't find it to be about dancing and it leaves me bored. But hey ho, I am old now, so maybe that's my job. Here's a Mungo's clip from the Assembly Hall:
Mungo's Hi-Fi, Kenny Knotts & African Simba - Please B Digital
Our Norave freshers party in the Vic last September was amazing fun, managing to draw in 200 people on a Tuesday night to listen to a mixture of indie-rock, post-crunk, stoner metal and abstract electronica. We got three live acts on that were all awesome - Hillary Van Scoy's wry and moving Blood Of The Bull, the brutally brilliant heavy jams of Holy Mountain, and one of my favourite producers, Joe Howe aka Ben Butler and Mouse Pad. It was at Norave in the Vic that me and Joe actually got to perfomr for the first time our collaboration "Infinite Capacity" and considering we had no rehearsals it went remarkably well!
Our Menergy tenure in the Vic has gone amazingly well too, better than I could have hoped for. We seem to have really made a connection with our crowd, musically and aesthetically. They lap up the gay disco we throw at them, and we have managed to create a safe space for people not to feel like freaks or weirdos, and where they can experiment with different sides to their personalities. Even when Menergy hasn't been super-busy we've still had a full dancefloor at the end with people braying for one more tune. This has really proved to me that what we are doing is the right thing, and that if we can do it there we can do it anywhere.
You'll have heard a bunch of Menergy mixes and edits by now on here and on Menergy.tv so here's my mini Norave mix from last September instead:
Bring The Noise Mix NORAVE PROMO by theniallist
It's safe to say the Vic holds a special place in my heart - I really will miss that chequered dancefloor, those rattly windows, the wonky PA and the watered down beer. Even though I am too old to really be in the loop now I will still miss meeting my mates in there, having a good dance, and hopping outside to smoke a wee bifter while avoiding the attention of the door staff.
It has been an honour and a joy to be involved in the Vic in the last year of its existence, and to take our Norave and Menergy ideas/vibes and see them work so well in what has been my favourite venue in Glasgow. Here's hoping that what goes up in its place is just as good!