In Sydney (my hometown) we have a well-known venue called ‘The Island’. Put simply, it’s a barge that floats wherever it likes on our iconic Harbour. During summer, this place is a circus of world DJ’s, smiles and dance. Whenever I was on board, I’d always take a moment to stop and take it all in. A couple hundred people partying their arses off at sea. Not half bad hey..?
Now living 16,632 km away in Amsterdam, it’s about time I took a look at some of the more unique venues that the European continent has to offer.
It’d be rude not to begin in my new hometown with the stunning space Paradiso. Once a congregational church, Paradiso is gorgeous inside and out. Think rainbow stain-glass, high arcing ceilings and balcony rings overlooking the stage. Although the sound can be echoey at times, the location itself makes up for all that. Over the years, gods of music have belted out records here from The Rolling Stones to Jamiroquai.
If you’re looking for a unique space in East London, your search ends with EartH. Buried under the streets of Hackney, this stunning multi-arts space takes a broad approach to programming, something we’re all for! Seeing as it EartH two distinct performance areas, they have the ability to cater to events from all walks of life. This February, Bicep is hosting a special Italo-Disco charity evening while the following weekend famous long-distance swimmer Ross Edgley is presenting ‘The World’s Fittest Live Show’. There’s a bit of everything here.
Welcome to De Roma. This old school cinema erected in 1928 is one of Belgium’s most respected venues. After a restoration in 2015, the owners wanted to keep the classical vibe intact and so far it’s worked a treat. This place is a self-proclaimed ‘house of the people’, where anyone has the opportunity to contribute. Walking in, you may have your ticket checked by a pleasant old woman or handicapped man, who will most likely be smiling from ear-to-ear. This is not out of the ordinary here. What’s more, they're renowned for having incredible pricing on beers and the cloakroom won’t cost you a thing. Now that’s more like it! If you’re looking for a traditional and quirky gig in Antwerp, visit De Roma. In the coming weeks, jazz maestro Alfa Mist will take the stage, who is definitely worth your attention.
How about catching your favourite act in the hull of an ex-Soviet ship? Well at A38 in Budapest, that’s all possible. In 2003, after retiring as a stone carrier the ship docked permanently on the Danube and has been hosting concerts, theatre performances, exhibitions, discussions and film screenings ever since. During the warmer months, there really isn’t a better spot for a cold beer, than on the vessel’s deck. You’ll also grab a stunning panorama of the capital.
If it’s exciting and captures the imagination, A38 will be interested. There’s an attitude of vibrancy and all things new here! We’ve also been told the acoustics in the body of the ship are astonishing and what a beautifully different spot to dance. I think it’d be plain silly to skip a trip to A38 next time you visit Hungary.
The O2 Academy sits on a pedestal when it comes to England’s live venues. Housing close to 5,000 people, you’re essentially being entertained in an opulent theatre. Usually, when shows get bumped up to sporting arenas they lose a certain edge. No need to worry about that here.
Londoners have high standards for shows, so there’s no surprise that the O2 has stellar acoustics. You could be squished in the top right tier and Mac DeMarco’s voice would still sound as clear as the Adriatic. With the ground floor sloping down towards the stage and a sweeping upper balcony, it’s pretty hard to find a spot that doesn’t have a primetime view of whoever is performing. The stage area itself is a marvel too, detailed in white, it’s almost as though your looking at the entrance to a palace. Come and see what we’re chatting about, this March acts like Kamasi Washington, Black Coffee and The Internet will be strutting their stuff!
The Sala Apolo is a shapeshifting live space, in its long tenure (being one of the oldest dancehalls in Europe) it’s been an amusement park, a bingo hall, a professional skating club and a nightclub. This one feels like you could throw an awesome Mad Men party inside. Red decor and dim lighting with parallel balcony’s on either side, give it that classic 80’s dancefloor feel. Since it was coined ‘Sala Apolo’ over 11,000 bands and 5,500 DJ’s have wowed audiences here. The venue also has a philanthropic tilt, being members of the LIVEUROPE initiative, aiming to boost the booking of young European acts and help them reach more ears.
Furthermore, the Barca hotspot works closely with musical powerhouse Primavera, which we’ll always have a good word to say about. Prominent upcoming shows include Cloud Nothings, Jungle By Night and Lee Scratch Perry.
Simply meaning ‘Old Belgium’ this classic 3 floored space is situated in the heart of Brussels, catering to the world’s finest contemporary artists. Since it first became a live music venue its ethos hasn’t shifted — bringing the music of today, by people of today, to the world in which we live. This all sounds pretty positive to us.
With the flexibility of 3 separate spaces (the “Main Hall”, “AB Club” and “AB Salon”) the place caters to a cocktail of sounds and influences. ABClub is always a melting pot for young artists. Rising Australian songwriter Julia Jacklin will take to the stage here in early April and she’s definitely worth some investigation.
Some venues are special in that they’ve got the heart and soul of a city embedded in their DNA. Razzmatazz is Barcelona. Barcelona is Razzmatazz. Think a layer cake but genres, here there’s the alt/indie Razz Club at the base, the house/techno Loft and Lolita up high and the pop and rex room in the middle, for pop, electronica and disco. Throughout 2020, acts like The Calling, Angel Olsen and Ziggy Alberts will wow their respective rooms.
With a rough and tough industrial flavour, this cake (club) has only one rule for bookings, acts of quality. Artists don’t have to have reached a certain level of stardom, they just have to showcase talent. Names like Coldplay, Justice, Skrillex and the The Strokes have all beaten out tracks here…but well before they came noteworthy. Here’s a slice of Ziggy Alberts mastery to show you what you’re in for, if it’s that gig you choose.
In a place like Cologne, the fight for underground club supremacy is red hot. One of the front runners for our mind is Bootshaus (‘boathouse’). As its name suggests, this dark den used to house vessels. In the coming weeks Alesso, Laidback Luke and Charlotte De Witte will put Bootshaus through its paces.
Here, less is more, with the owners focusing on the two things clubbers love most, clean sound and spellbinding lights. Think overhanging Funktion One stacks and a prismed DJ booth. These guys are never afraid to employ co2 or fire cannons either. The music most represented is on the trap and EDM tilt with a dash of techno.
See below a taste of an evening/early morning in the den.
Don’t let the cute name ‘the little living room’ fool you, hidden behind this quaint title is a vast club. Every weekend, night owls from all over Lyon congregate in two different themed spaces, to shake the cobwebs off. One room feels like you’ve wandered into the Ancient Empire while the other space whips you back into the present day, adorned with gripping visuals and the trendiest of musical programming. House legend Kerri Chandler will spin records here soon and not long after techno godfathers, Octave One are set to play live.
Go lose your mind in the living room, as these ravers did with Amelie Lens.
If De School had a spirit animal, it’d be a chameleon. Situated in the west of Amsterdam this venue shapeshifts between a kindergarten, gym, restaurant and club.
The basement of De School is probably the most iconic rave space in the whole city. If you’re lucky too, the upstairs dancefloor (Het Muzieklokaal) may be open, which looks out onto a stunning courtyard. A courtyard perfect for catching some fresh air while you rest those ‘clubbed out’ legs. Loyalists say ‘you won’t hear cleaner cut sound in all of Amsterdam’. The worlds best DJ’s are here week in, week out. On the horizon is Antal, Ben UFO and Laurel Halo.
Amazingly, all attendees come here to soak up the best in house and techno, nothing more. No prejudice. No chest beating. With a strict no phone/camera’s policy too, there’s no chance of people being glued to their screens.
It’s one thing reading about these spots but the proof is in attendance. Next time you’re in the vicinity, jump on TicketSwap and see what tickles your fancy.