Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Newcastle; A Wide-Eyed Review of an Intense Nightlife


This past weekend, I ventured (even more) up North for my fourth ever visit to Toon. Being a student, and as I was staying with friends at Newcastle University, this was never going to be a trip drenched in high-brow culture, five star rooms, fine cuisine and finer wine. Much more likely was the “Skool Disco” themed bar crawl, student halls covered in cider spills and Dubstep Night posters, and a late night McDonlads after a round or two of alcopops…

But then, who says the height of sophistication is the height of fun? Certainly not Newcastle, in any case.
Kicking off my trip with a two hour train delay (without a book to keep me preoccupied- huge oversight on my part), I was already freezing. Pacing the platform in York to avoid freezing solid in the wind was good preparation for the inevitably bitter Newcastle weather, and was just the first opportunity that weekend for me to scold myself for not owning what my mum would call a “proper coat”.

Once I’d eventually pulled into the station and met my friend, we walked back to her university halls. We immediately started getting ready for a night of drinking games & trip into the city centre to experience the infamous Toon nightlife. Originally we intended to go to Digital, possibly Newcastle’s most famous club, but the (at least) hour long queue dampened our spirits a little bit, and having already turned down a night at the Student’s Union, we opted to go to Powerhouse instead.

Easily amused by a flashing dancefloor.
Being a student in a city where the nightlife is humble, and the peak of most wild evenings is generally spent in The Willow; a former Chinese restaurant’s function room which serves free prawn crackers all night and plays Rod Stewart in between Pixie Lott and Nero hits; walking into any club in Newcastle can be a little overwhelming at first.

For a starter, I’m yet to go into a club in the North-East that isn’t massive. On another (entirely unrelated) note; I’m yet to spend a night in a North-East club without getting lost at any point. The first time I ever went into Riverside, it took me a good half an hour to find the rest of the people I’d gone in with. Perdu is aptly named.
Easily amused by unusual lampshades...

The clientele was a mixture of locals and students, the music was your standard chart & club hits, and the drinks were a little overpriced for my pauper/student budget. Exactly what you’d expect from a Saturday night on the tiles. What was new to me, however, was the sheer size of the crowd, and the extravagance of the venue itself. Flashing dance floor, enormous and bizarre light shades, and enough podiums and platforms for everyone to have a go at being centre stage. I was impressed.

PowerHouse
The second night was a student bar crawl, cringingly called “Carnage” (bit too much of a “Gap Yah” term for my liking, but the branding isn’t really up to me). It’s a notorious event among students, and tickets (t-shirts) are hotly sought after in the hours leading up to the event. Although it officially began in Players Bar at 8pm, most students hadn’t recovered from the previous night’s hangover by then, and were still customising their Carnage t-shirts into something related to its school kid fancy dress theme.

As a side note, how weird is dressing up as a school pupil when you’re only just at University yourself? Many Uni students will have only been out of school uniforms for a summer, or at the most for two years whilst at college. It’s a bit like doing a beach themed fancy dress a week after you get back from a holiday on the coast. Whatever, Carnage needed an obligatory theme- and having already previously used up “Cops & Robbers”, “Sexy Santas” and “Nympho Nurses & Dirty Doctors”, the Ann Summers catalogue they seemingly use to decide on a costuming premise was probably looking a bit battered. Not that the women of Newcastle had any difficulty in providing all kinds of imaginative ways to turn up wearing a compulsory t-shirt ticket and very little else, all within the theme’s limits.

Vast crowd in Liquid
Finally, loaded with 3D glasses and drawn on freckles, we gave Tiger Tiger a miss and headed straight next door to another unfeasibly enormous bar, Sam Jacks. Was pleasantly surprised at the price of a double vodka cranberry, so decided to order another one at the following bar to be met with a disappointingly higher price in Bambu. Another Bambu related complaint- the entry stamp took severe and repeated scrubbing for several hours before disappearing. Loved the oversized discoball, loved the balcony from the upstairs bar area overlooking the downstairs dancefloor. That is, until the spectators watching the dancing realised how hilarious it would be to spill a little of their drink to watch the dancers’ outraged reaction. Other than these (admittedly minor) complaints, this bar/club didn’t fail to impress.

Liquid 
Once we’d had enough of it here, we headed to the final destination, Liquid. I’ve been to the franchised club before, once before on a similar event the year previous in Newcastle, and in the Halifax version when I’m a bit closer to home. Liquid Newcastle dwarfs Liquid Halifax, though you can clearly see the similarities in the d├ęcor and style of the clubs. Not as edgy as other Newcastle nightlife venues, it’s probably my least favourite club I’ve visited so far in the Toon, but it still makes an impression- if only due to its sheer size and labyrinth of routes to and from the smoking terraces, bars and toilets.

The nightlife in Newcastle is definitely a major attraction. With so much competition so many different demographics to excite, and such a notorious reputation as the party capital of the North, the clubs and bars really strive to stand out, in an off-hand and impossibly cool way. Rather than being home to several massive and soulless venues, most place has real character and soul, in a way many other cities’ clubs omit. A Toon night out mightn’t have any class, but it certainly has its own unique style.

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