We have been to a lot of cities around the world (check us) and we believe that Glasgow is up there with the best of them, especially if you are a bright young muso looking for a good night out. This Guide is accurate to around the end of 2011.
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THE PUBS (Glasgow isn’t short of a pub or 3 but these are the most “indie”)
Nice n Sleazy – 421 Sauchiehall Street
Venture into Sleazys and you might find an eclectic mix of drug dealers and indie kids, as well as a very good jukebox. Downstairs there are often good bands and club nights (such as Bottle Rocket and The Hot Club, though the room is a tad too small to have a genuine riot). With a newish 3am licence Sleazys has a slightly unhealthy monopoly on late night indie action, though the new Glasgow School of Art bar across the road (under the Beresford, it’s the replacement for the legendary Vic Bar) may shake that up. www.nicensleazy.com
Variety Bar – 401 Sauchiehall Street
Possibly scuzzier than Sleazies, but due to the low lighting it’s impossible to tell. It’s dim and there’s a fishtank. We’re really not selling this place but it’s good, trust us.
The 13th Note Cafe – 50 – 60 King Street
Upstairs is as lovely an indie dive as Glasgow has to offer, while downstairs was the venue of Alex Kapranos’ “99p nights” and is presided over to this day by all-round good bloke Brendan O’Hare (ex Teenage Fanclub and Mogwai). Too small for a club night, the tiny basement (basically a beer cellar with a bit of carpet) has still seen some amazing bills (such as Odeon Beat Club/Viva Stereo/My Latest Novel circa 2006, or Endor/For Abel/The Phantom Band a few years back). www.13thnote.co.uk
Heavenly – 185 Hope Street
A cute indie-pop focused bar serving up vegan food, run by folk with very good intentions and definitely worth a visit.
Ivy Bar – 1102 Argyle St
The Ivy is probably the best bar in what is becoming a mini-pub crawl along the Finnieston end of Argyle Street. Members of Glasgow’s LuckyMe and Numbers collectives rub shoulders with the odd extremely hard gangster. It’s an ever so slightly edgy place but in a good way. The Big Slope just round the corner on Sauchiehall Street is a great wee bar too.
Stereo – 20 – 28 Renfield Lane
The odd ill-informed chap whose last purchase was a copy of Urban Hymns (“for the car”) still sets out to the “Old” Stereo in the aforementioned Finnieston, despite it having shut down 4 years ago. “New” Stereo is slap bang in the middle of town beside Central Station, and has arguably lost a bit of atmosphere in the transition (odd furniture, industrial metal fittings). However it still serves vegetarian food, has amusingly confusing unisex toilets, and typically sees performances downstairs from American touring bands too popular for the Captains Rest. The Old Hairdressers bar opposite Stereo is worth a look too. http://stereocafebar.com
Mono – 12 Kings Court, King Street
If you’re expecting the epicentre of the Glasgow indie scene you’ll probably be left a bit deflated by what is basically a friendly pub staffed by characters who are in bands. It produces its own not bad home brew ale stuff, more normal drinks, delicious organic orange juice and also has a full vegan restaurant that serves fare far tastier than the description suggests.
King Tuts – 272a St. Vincent Street
Famed as the place where Alan McGee signed Oasis, in its former incarnation in the 70s as “Saints and Sinners” it was a hotbed of riotous punk gigs. Great for bands, but if you’re just on the prowl to get mangled it doesn’t really hit the spot. www.kingtuts.co.uk
Brunswick Cellars – 239 Sauchiehall Street
Remember that game “run the gauntlet” on Gladiators? Well, as the middle part of Sauchiehall Street has pretty much been overrun by horrific ned pubs, but you can play your very own version to get to Sleazys (see below) after you’ve been here. There’s nothing like a sprint to make you feel like you’ve earned your refreshments.
Brel – 37 – 43 Ashton Lane
Once upon a time there was a lovely little, er, lane in the west end with nice little pubs. It was the sort of place you could pop along to and get a jar whilst listening to Belle & Sebastian and thinking about that girl you really want to go out with who just laughs when you’re trying to give her some silky chat. Anyway all that fey shit has well and truly been blown away by Glasgow’s clubbing Mr Bigs, who have transformed Ashton Lane into a gaudy neon extravaganza that Disney would probably baulk at. Still, Brel maintains the old spirit of the place – lovely food, great range of beers and a nice bit of garden out the back to sit in during the 2 weekends in Glasgow is doesn’t rain. The Basement Bar (3 mins away on Byres Rd) is worth a visit too, as is the Hillhead Bookclub (up near Fopp on Byres Rd).
The Belle – Great Western Road
Near Oran Mor, this is a very small but very cool pub, almost always somebody vaguely famous on “the scene” will be in here!
The Halt – Woodlands Road
Bonkers bar, with a really mixed bag of clientele. Sometimes mysteriously smells as if someone has died, but tolerates a fairly high level of debauchery.
Bar Bloc - 117 Bath Street
In a city centre street of bland style bars where DJ I-Pod punishes The Kids, Bloc is a beacon and hosts live bands – even though it’s so small the audience might leave with their ears bleeding. The clientele at Bar Bloc tolerate great local indie acts, and nights by the likes of Olive Grove Records or Glasgow Podcart, but you know what they really want is noisy emo. (Just don’t call it “emo”, or they’ll run off to their room to sing that song about “hating my mom” whilst tattooing their forehead.) So, you can expect performances from mad Scandinavians, earnest acoustic sets, but also great electro and house on the weekends. www.bloc.ru
THE CLUBS (Glasgow has loads of great venues and club nights and far more knowledgeable writers than me cover them. The guide below is limited to “indie” kind of clubs or club nights. As a very broad rule anything involving Subcircus, One More Tune, Wrong Island, Brian D’Souza or Twitch will be fun and high quality.)
The Flying Duck – 7 Renfrew Court
“The Thin White Duke, throwing darts in lover’s eyes” sang David Bowie, but at The Flying Duck it’s more likely to be hunks of half-chewed bread blinding the object of your affections. That’s because they serve TOAST! This place has a bar and also later at night becomes a club. The idea is to create a “house party vibe” and the venue is kitted out to resemble somebody’s home, complete with kitchen. Sadly you’re not permitted to free-pour your own horrific measures of booze, dance on the sofa or spew all over the bathroom. Testament to the Duck is the number of cringeworthy G1 Hellzones which have sprung up trying to emulate its’ look (Flat 0/1 etc). Great nights kick off here including Lock Up Your Daughters, 90s disco Common People, Gav from Camera Obscura’s “All back tae mine” and of course Pin Up Nights! http://flyingduckclub.com
The Admiral Bar – 72a Waterloo St
It’s aspirational at The Admiral, where the menus ambitiously claim that it’s located “in the heart of the financial district”. It’s true that it’s near the off-ramp of the city’s “artery” (the M8), and a lot of “transactions” are carried out in the vicinity by practitioners of the oldest profession, but somebody should tell all this to the old drunks who are unaware of the trendy re-fit and keep wandering in for a pint. Nevertheless it’s downstairs in “The Hold” that the waves are made. Ryan from The Cribs infamously once thought he’d killed someone when he whipped up a crowd-crushing frenzy, and there’s also well regarded club nights such as dance extravaganza Melting Pot, Glasgow institution Divine! and indie disco Pretty Ugly (they threw me out a few years back for chucking my shoe during “Hounds of Love”, so I’ve steered clear since, but keep your shoes on and it’s probably still a laugh). www.theadmiralbar.co.uk
The Arches – 253 Argyle St
The Arches are the vaults under Central Station and the venue is widely acknowledged as one of the finest clubbing environments in the UK thanks to mould-breaking nights such as Death Disco (even if DD has rested on its laurels a bit the last few years). www.thearches.co.uk
Sub Club – 22 Jamaica Street
Absolutely legendary Glasgow club and justly so, home of genuinely world-famous club nights Optimo and Subculture. Enough said. www.subclub.co.uk
Blackfriars – 36 Bell Street
For years great club nights slipped through Blackfriars fingers due to its small capacity, low ceiling and bizarre L-shape. Nobody would dance, possibly because the DJ couldn’t see most of the people in the room, but more likely because people feared banging their head if they stood up. However it has now expanded and is reaping the rewards, though club nights here still don’t tend to last especially long – not sure why. ”All Tore Up” is always terrific.
Maggie May’s – 60 Trongate
Named after the famous Rod Stewart song or perhaps in prescient tribute to the type of ladies who frequent it, Maggie May’s attracts an err slightly more “mature” crowd which nonetheless knows how to have fun. www.maggiemays.co.uk
THE RECORD SHOPS
Fopp – 19 Union Street/358 Byres Road
You’re probably familiar with Fopp, as it had loads of branches across the UK before going bust. HMV bought over a selection of the most profitable branches and kept them running.
Missing Records – Heilenman’s Umbrella
Mainly 2nd hand CDs here, run by fans of 60s music, there’s a good range of older classics available and also lots of local music fanzines amongst the vinyl at the back.
Love Music – 34 Dundas Street
It’s not unknown to be subjected to a history lesson here if you attempt to purchase something a bit new and crass/blatantly derivative. A great selection of up to date indie stuff, also a bit of punk and hip hop etc, and seemingly 10 copies of every Sonic Youth album ever released.
Monorail – 12 Kings Court, King Street
Leaning mainly towards what we’d call leftfield guitar and electronica the staff are great and there’s a good selection of music by local bands, a very informative notice board and fanzines too www.monorailmusic.com
Mixed Up Records – 18 Otago Lane
A fairly bizarre shop with everything but the kitchen sink available. Excellent for a dig about if you have time going spare. www.mixeduprecords.com
Lost in Music – De Courcys Arcade, Creswell Lane (runs parallel to Byres Road)
Many a Saturday afternoon in the late 90s I made a pilgrimage to this shop as I built up a CD collection paid for by shifts at Sainsburys. I don’t go as often anymore but it’s still good for older 2nd hand CDs that you’ve always meant to pick up.
Barrowlands – 244 Gallowgate
The legendary Barras ballroom with the sprung wooden floor. The best venue in town bar none, it holds around 2000, has stars on the ceiling, and unlike other venues I could mention, sells Diesel (snakebite, whatever you want to call it) straight up rather than making you mix it yourself like some kind of twisted episode of Blue Peter. www.glasgow-barrowland.com
o2 Academy – 121 Eglington Street
This venue is increasingly getting the gigs that used to be held at the Barras (it has a slightly larger capacity of 2500). Getting served at the tiny bar beside the door is a rage-inducing lottery, but that’s a walk in the park compared to trying to listen to a band. Let’s just say that if you’re one of these fussy people who likes to hear the guitars, bass, drums, vocals, keyboards etc all at the same time, you might get a bit gumpy. And don’t get us started on the Slippery o2 Academy Steps of Doom. The Guinness Book of World Records approved “world’s largest burlesque club” Club Noir takes place here every few months.
The Arches – 253 Argyle St
The Arches also hosts gigs, and though the space is too big for local bands – an attempt at a Glasgow Club NME foundered here – over the years I’ve seen great shows by MIA, Beirut, Roots Manuva, Toots and the Maytals etc. Again, check the listings. www.thearches.co.uk
Oran Mor – 731 Great Western Road
In the west end (capacity 400), this place cost a packet and it shows. The downstairs venue is good for gigs – I’ve seen amazing gigs by Tom Vek, Patrick Wolf, Ladytron, Gruff Rhys and Wild Beasts here, to name a few. It’s also an upmarket restaurant and a bar – NOT suitable for getting wrecked in – though the auditorium above painted by famous Scottish writer and artist Alasdair Grey is amazing. Just mind that gigs start very sharp indeed and end 10-ish.
SECC – Finnieston
The big arena venue for the big arena acts. It’s a bit like an aircraft hangar and isn’t exactly for the purists, as the sound is understandably rubbish. Still, I’ve seen Pulp and David Bowie do great gigs here, so it is possible, good workmen don’t blame their tools etc etc.
Captain’s Rest – Great Western Road
This bar has recently been acquired by Glasgow promoters PCL and as a result there should be some fairly tasty gigs occurring there from now on.
King Tuts, Nice n Sleazy, Stereo, The Admiral – see Pub listings above.
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