Clubs and live music in Brighton
With Nick Cave and Norman Cook as residents, Brighton’s live music and clubbing scene hardly needs to prove its credentials. But because this is a compact city, gig venues also live in permanent threat of the dreaded Noise Abatement Notice (RIP the semi-legendary Freebutt and Blind Tiger Club).
Alternative music venues that survive, such as The Prince Albert (you can’t miss the huge music-legends mural, and Banksy graffiti of two kissing policemen) are duly treasured. New ones, meanwhile, spring up with a clandestine sense of magic. Green shoot the Green Door Store is tucked under the railway arches with the feel of a cellar speakeasy. It hosts, amongst other specialities, the best small noisy bands, and discerning music-lovers’ club nights dedicated to jazz, African music and successful Brighton soul and funk label Tru Thoughts. The free entry after 11pm makes it popular too.
Just down from the station, the Hope has been reborn as the Hope & Ruin, with a 150-capacity upstairs gig space above a bar serving poutine at tables made from old washing machines and baths. Bleach, a new venue above a popular burrito pub on the up-and-coming London Road, is hoping to become a rite-of-passage for rising bands.
The balcony at The Haunt, which practically overhangs the stage, is another great place to catch up-and-coming bands close-on, plus alternative ’80s and ’90s club nights. The Grade II-listed Old Market in Hove (bought and refurbished in 2011 by the local founders of global percussion sensation Stomp) is a classier option for touring bands and has a brilliant sound system.
Bigger concerts are best enjoyed in the plush regency auditorium at Brighton Dome (where, we’re contractually obliged to mention, Abba won the Eurovision Song Contest in 1974) or the smaller neighbouring Corn Exchange.
Post 11pm, the party sweeps down towards the seafront with the tide. Here two new music-focused clubs have arrived to counter the ‘VIP’ meat-market swarm. Reworking the site of the old Audio, Patterns is run by Mothership Group, who operate several hip London venues. Popular nights include Disco Deviant and Bastard Pop, while local and national promoters put on live acts in both the downstairs club and upstairs bar. Meanwhile Arch is working to reinstate quality dance music to the seafront on the site of the old Zap and Digital. The fact the new owners’ first act was to revamp the bespoke 12KW Funktion-one Dance Stack soundsystem speaks volumes.
Of course, you don’t have to go to a club to experience a great club night: Komedia (also a theatre, comedy club, live music venue and cinema) is home to a raft of fun and credible regulars including Spellbound (‘the ’80s night for people who hate ’80s nights’.) For gigs in more unusual spaces, check in with top local promoters Melting Vinyl, who’ve used local galleries and churches.
Clubs and live music venue details
Prince Albert 48 Trafalgar Street, Brighton, BN1 4ED. 01273 730499.
Green Door Store Trafalgar Arches, Lower Goods Yard, Brighton Train Station, Brighton, BN1 4FQ. 07944 693214.
The Haunt 10 Pool Valley, Brighton, BN1 1NJ. 01273 736618.
Hope & Ruin 11-12 Queens Road, BN1 3WA. 01273 235793.
Bleach Above the Hare & Hounds, 75 London Road, BN1 4JF. 01273 6882839.
The Old Market 11A Upper Market Street, Brighton, BN3 1AS. 01273 201801.
Brighton Dome Church Street, Brighton BN1 1UE. 01273 709709.
Patterns 10 Marine Parade, BN2 1TL. 01273 606906.
Arch 187-193 Kings Road Arches, BN1 1NB. 01273 208133.
Komedia 44-47 Gardner Street, BN1 1UN. 01273 647101.
LGBT nightlife in Brighton and Hove
Brighton’s famous LGBT scene is deep-rooted, dynamic and a bit of a misnomer: while Kemp Town, East of the Old Steine, is Brighton’s ‘gay village’, there’s no ghetto here. Rainbow politics, LGBT culture and the pink pound permeate most areas of city life. This is especially true of Brighton nightlife, which owes much of its spark and anything-goes character to the LGBT community.
Many clubs put on at least one gay night (look out for the flamboyant branding of prestigious party starters Wild Fruit), while at Revenge, the biggest gay club on the south coast, you’ll find as many straight revelers dancing to cheese (or the latest X-Factor evictee). Kemp Town’s Bulldog Bar on the main drag (no pun intended) of St James’ Street is a bustling little bar dating back to 1979, popular for pre-club shots. The street’s newest addition is SubLine, a members-only male cruise bar decked out like a sex dungeon. Lovers of leather of all persuasions should check out Club Spank, a travelling mixed fetish night where only the incurious are unwelcome.
For a cosier scene, The Camelford Arms is a quiet community pub that won Best Sunday Lunch at the 2014 Golden Handbag Awards. Thursdays are always busy thanks to the popular quiz (accompanied by ‘mystery meat’ sandwiches). And don’t miss Piano Bingo on Sundays at the Bedford Tavern (no website), a 200-year-old pub with its own ghost, who doesn’t seem to mind Golden Handbag-winning landlord Adam Brooks encouraging sing-alongs from ‘The Jungle Book’.
Brighton’s LGBT performance scene was for a time somewhat limited to drag artists and endless re-bookings of ‘The Rocky Horror Show’. That’s all changing, with no small thanks to the Marlborough Theatre – housed above a well-established lesbian pub, this is a tiny proscenium arched space where some say (dubiously) that Virginia Woolf conducted her affair with Vita Sackville West. Now it runs Pink Fringe, an ambitious year-round programme of LGBT performance, entertainment and heritage.
August’s Brighton Pride, meanwhile, remains one of the biggest dates in the city’s calendar – less for the now heavily commercialised and ticketed Preston Park party, and more for the free and family-friendly parade.
LGBT nightlife details
Revenge 32-34 Old Steine, Brighton, BN1 1EL. 01273 606064.
Bulldog Bar 31 St James’s Street Mews, Brighton, BN2 1RF. 01273 696996.
SubLine 129 St James’s Street, Brighton, BN2 1TH. 01273 624100.
Camelford Arms 30-31 Camelford Street, Brighton, BN2 1TQ. 01273 622386.
Bedford Tavern 30 Western Street, Brighton, BN1 2PG. 01273 739495. No website.
Marlborough Pub and Theatre 4 Prince’s Street, Brighton, BN2 1RD. 01273 570028 (pub), 01273 273870 (theatre)