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a city by city guide to the best indie clubs, bars, record shops and local bands

Brighton, UK

By Ash Whiting & Sara Vali

Beautiful Brighton by the sea. Famed for one of the largest gay communities in Europe and also the strange Regency folly that is the Pavillion, an arabesque structure slap bang in the centre of the town. It has become known (largely to Londoners, it has to be said) as "London by the sea". Not something Brightonians are really happy with, but there you are. In recent years, the city has become well known for its breakbeat scene, largely due to Norman Cook and Damien Harris' Skint Records. But it also has a wide variety of well known indie bands which thrive due to its laid back and cosmopolitan attitude. Bands of note to have been nurtured by the seaside town include Primal Scream, The Park, Sharkboy and The Popguns. More recent bands to hail from Brighton include British Sea Power, Electralane, Air Formation and The 80's Matchbox B-Line Disaster. There was a time when indie bands would find it tricky to find anywhere to play in the town, as every club seemed to just be geared up for dance music, but now there is a wealth of venues where you can catch a band, listen to some great music and eat some good seafood - often in the same venue! If you want to shop, Brighton has some of the best shopping in the UK, centered around the North Laine area of the town. There are some amazing record shops and Snoopers Paradise is a must for junk junkies. With the most pubs per head in England, you could go to a different bar every day for a year and not experience all of them. The town boasts over 1000 pubs. (AW)


Da Doo Ron Ron

Komedia, 44 - 47 Gardner Street, Brighton, BN1 1UN, dates vary, check the website for info
Superb girlgroup soul extravaganza. Da Doo's musical menu is a femme-centric celebration of 60s girl groups, embracing Phil Spector's Wall of Sound, Tamla Motown, 60s girl pop, northern soul etc. You will never hear a male lead vocal at DDRR! (AW)

Born Bad
Komedia, 44 - 47 Gardner Street, Brighton, BN1 1UN, every third Friday of the month
Rock'n'roll, rockabilly, 50s, blues, punk, swing, girl groups, 60s garage, surf and trash at this legendary Brighton speakeasy.

Stone To The Bone
Komedia, 44 - 47 Gardner Street, Brighton, BN1 1UN
DJs Chris King (Da Doo Ron Ron) & Jon Slade (Born Bad) tear the roof off the sucker spinning Psychedelic Soul / Blaxploitation / Afrobeat / Funky Soundtracks & TV themes / 70s Motown / P-Funk / Philly Soul & Jazz grooves.

Komedia Studio Bar, 44 - 47 Gardner Street, Brighton, BN1 1UN, third Saturday of the month
80s night for people who hate 80s nights, brought to you by DJs Cherry Foxxx and Simon Price (the people behind London's legendary Stay Beautiful club.

Tonight We Fly
The West Hill, 67 Buckingham Place, Brighton, BN1 3PQ
A free evening of cinematic sounds for doomed romantics. Expect an escapist soundtrack of widescreen 60s pop, sweeping strings, hi-fi literate pop, swoonsome ballads, sinister folk-sounds, dusty Americana, soaring psyche-noir, and haunting death-disc melodrama.

November Spawned A Mozzer
The Loft, Ship Street, Brighton, BN1 1AD
Brilliant occasional Smiths and Morrissey tribute night featuring Moz Shrine, Moz cakes, gladioli, decorations and much more. Previous nights have included miniature Morrissey model-making (from home made playdough), make a Mozzer mask, The Queen is Dead, Long Live the Quiff! competition, design a Morrissey/Smiths commemorative plate competition.

Another Sunny Day
Toms Bar, 13 Prince Albert Street, Brighton, BN1 1HE
Another occasional club night playing indiepop (old and new), Swedish indie, twee, and Britpop.

Hold Up!
The Arc, 160 Kings Rd Arches, BN1 1NB, Saturday, 10pm-2am £5
An unpretentious indie night spread over two floors – pose on the balcony or shoegaze in the shadows
depending on mood. Guest DJs have included Andy Rourke, Shaun Rider and Stuart Murdoch. Just be prepared to feel old if you’re over 20 – the "strictly over 18s only" rule seems more of a guideline. (SV)

Funky Fish Club
New Madeira Hotel, 200 yards east of the pier on Marine Parade, Friday and Saturday, 10pm-2am, £5/£4
The coolest mix of music - Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Jackson 5, Aretha Franklin – in a tiny venue that’s always heaving. No dress code – all they ask is that "you do not turn up covered in food or smelling of wee." (SV)


The FreeButt
1 Phoenix Place, Brighton, East Sussex, BN2 2ND
A tiny live music venue, which plays host to anyone who is anyone on the indie music scene. They put on indie music most nights of the week, with varying quality. It is well worth checking in one of the free listing guides you can pick up in most bars in Brighton to get an idea of who is playing. If you don't fancy a band, the venue has a nice little bar upstairs. (AW)

Concorde 2
Madeira Drive, Brighton. BN1 4ED. Tel: 01273 697888
Quite an obvious choice, as this is the main live music venue in the town. The quality of nights here tends to vary, depending on who is playing, but the venue is very personal and right by the seafront - Quadrophenia fans will recognise it immediately! The beer is very reasonably priced and the venue is very well run. (AW)


The Great Eastern
103 Trafalgar Street, Brighton, BN1 4ER, UK
Taking it easy is the order of the day in this small, friendly pub. Books adorn the walls and the atmosphere is quiet and reflective. Particularly fine on a Sunday afternoon after you have filled up on top veggie food across the road at the busier George pub this is a great pub to while away the hours and watch the world drift by. (AW)

The Mash Tun
1 Church Street, Brighton, BN1 1UE, UK
Chilling out to The Mash Tun's choice of relaxing tunes - Belle and Sebastian for example - is made easy by the very laid back atmosphere in this pub. The bar staff are friendly and the crowd is mixed. Super-trendy students rub shoulders with scruffy indie types. The beer is reasonably priced and the food is pretty good too! Best avoided on Saturday nights as it is often heaving. (AW)

The Dorset
28 North Road, Brighton, East Sussex
Very laid back pub in the heart of the fashionable North Laines. You can sit outside and watch the world drift by over a very reasonably priced pint of beer! Their food menu is also to die for, particularly the local seafood. (AW)

Brills Lane, BN1 1JU
It's tiny and hard to find, but worth tracking down (underneath The Prodigal on the sea-front). They
screen a free film every day at around 5.45pm, but get there early to claim a seat. (SV)

The Hop Poles
13 Middle St, BN1 1AL
The Hop Poles is generally ludicrously packed for a reason – it's welcoming, has a lovely beer garden
featuring an adopted pigeon, is adorned with sculptures made of hubcaps and provides delicious food
from a wittily written menu. (SV)

The Hobgoblin
31 York Place, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 4GU
For punks and rock fans. This is the only pub in Brighton with a late license 1am on Fridays and Saturdays. Woo, push the boat out, Brighton council. They also often put on gigs (mainly punk acts, but the nights are often free) (AW)

Record Shops

Wax Factor
24 Trafalgar Street, Brighton, 01273 673744
This is a must for second hand record fanatics. The shop is bursting at the seams with second hand and rare vinyl. There are very few CDs on sale in the shop, and it smells as it should - musty and like a room full of old records. The indie section goes back to the beginning of time and the soul section is to die for. (AW)

Gardner Street, Brighton
The chap who owns this shop is something of a 60s psyche and garage fanatic. Having said this, this shop is possibly the only place in town where the owner still insists on stocking a great selection of new vinyl. Mainly new records in here, apart from the 60s rarities, this shop is well worth a little browse! (AW)

Rounder Records,
19 Brighton Square. Tel. 01273 325 440

This shop mainly stocks new stuff, but they stock a great line in 12 inches and vinyl. Norman Cook used to work here, many moons ago when he was poor after leaving the Housemartins. If you sift through the racks you are bound to find some rare white labels and bootlegs. (AW)

28 Kensington Gardens, Brighton, BN1 4
Independent record shop in the north laines.

17 Duke Street, Brighton, BN11AH
Music, film and books.

34 Sydney St, Brighton, BN1
Superb punk based record shop. The owner Buz also promotes most of the punk-centric events around Brighton, including recently gigs by the Rezillos, The Dead Pets and Deadline. (AW)

Local Bands

British Sea Power
Eccentric animal loving, hiking indie band with a quirky method of both performance and songwriting. Now legendary in Brighton due to their early themed gigs and club nights which helped launch the band into the mainstream. Moody and atmospheric with a very eclectic method of constructing songs, this band could only have honed their craft somewhere like Brighton. As I am sure you are all more than aware, it has been a while since they were Brighton's best kept secret! (AW)
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The Pipettes
The Pipettes are like the love-children of The Ronettes and Le Tigre, infusing their rebellious tongue-in-cheek lyrics with a Motown soul. It's as if pop stopped with Phil Spector and the Beatles never
happened. See them live for the full effect of matching polka-dot dresses and choreographed hand
movements. Joyous. (SV)

The Go! Team
Trying to sum up The Go! Team is tough. Basically - it's like an enviably huge record collection got
thrown into a blender: there's northern soul, hip-hop, indie guitars, cheerleading chants, '70s funk... It works in a glorious, wide-eyed, euphoric way to create an electric jolt of music that won't leave your stereo. (SV)

Air Formation
Long running shoegazing/spacerock band, who recently signed to Club AC30's label. This band create beautifully atmospheric soundscapes (I will not use the term "cathederals of sound") in a similar vein to Sigur Ros or Slowdive. Active on the Brighton scene for a few years now, the band are poised to break through with their sumptuous new E.P. "57 Octaves Below" - Swoonsome indie looking towards the floor, and definitely a band to catch live. (AW)

Wonky Beak.
Wonky Beak have a great name, there's an awful lot of them and they have described themselves as 'pop-polka-jazz with elements of Cossack Middleweight'. This very funky and funny Brighton band has been rocking out at festivals all over the summer, with their witty, highly infectious harmonies and eclectic mix of instruments (sax, harmonica, whistles, anything really...) (AW)

80's Matchbox B-Line Disaster
Another eccentric and downright bizarre band who could only have come from Brighton is this bunch of miscreants. Fusing 60s psych, The Cramps and goth kitsch into more accessible indie-based shapes, the band created quite a stir in the town when they played their first few gigs. Appealing to both goths and indie kids and having a singer with an uncanny resemblance to Richard Ashcroft helped the band make waves across the UK. They never quite fitted into any scene, hell, they couldn't seem to agree on a coherant image within the band!! Dirty, unpleasant and not a bunch to take home to your mum. (AW)
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Brighton Festival - May
The Brighton Festival is rather unusual in that it fuses art, theatre, live music, comedy, cabaret and just about anything you can do within a "festival" environment. From the highbrow to the lowbrow, this festival has something for everybody. Pretty much every major venue in the town runs its own events as part of the festival and artists open up their houses (some of which are more beautiful than the art they are showing). Expect to see street theatre, modern dance, bands, storytelling, art "happenings" and general merriment during the 2 weeks it runs. (AW)
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Snoopers' Paradise
7-8 Kensington Gardens, BN1 4AL
Like getting to rummage around your eccentric uncle's attic, Snoopers' Paradise is full of the sorts of
treasures you never knew you coveted. For all your 1940s clothes / old children's toys / photos of
strangers / miscellaneous junk needs. (SV)

Volk's Electric Railway
A mere £2.50 gets you a return journey on the oldest electric railway in the world. Ride along a one mile stretch of the seafront and feel the envy of pedestrians. Get on at the Palace Pier and go one stop for crazy golf or all the way (ooh) for the nudist beach (blimey). (SV)

Main Brighton photo © Urban75

If you'd like to recommend a club, bar, record shop, band or any indie delight for inclusion in the Indie Travel Guide, please email us. If we've included a link to your band/shop etc, it would be lovely if you could link back to us. Thank you!

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