Described as "Britain's hippest city", Brighton's bohemian reputation, has attracted the inevitable gentrification that follows, but the city has always played its part in the counterculture of the UK and still does to this day. The ultimate destination for mods and rockers going for a ride, and the tribal battles that resulted from them in the 1960s, Brighton was doubly fixed into the history of youth subculture when it became the obvious backdrop for Quadrophenia.
The home of all manner of disruptors from The Levellers to Rizzle Kicks, liberally minded Brighton has enjoyed enough venues and niches to accommodate more sub-scenes than most other places in the UK, and despite inevitable closures, there are new spaces for happenings all the time.
We look at some of the places that The Brighton counterculture has lost over the years, and we look at some of the newer locations on Brighton's scene today.
The Zap Club
Eventually settling on a location in the seafront arches once used by Brighton fishermen to store their equipment, The Zap earned itself a reputation for progressive clubbing in the 1980s and 1990s. The Club was initially founded in The New Oriental Hotel by Neil Butler, Patricia Butler and Amanda Scott as a sort of radical avant-garde cabaret under the creative mantra "New Art for New Audiences". This open-minded approach made The Zap the perfect place for Acid House to find a Brighton home in the late '80s and early '90s, and live bands to grace the stage included Rollins Band, Hole and Teenage Fanclub. Changing with the times, the fun lasted well into the 1990s era of clubbing hedonism before the club was sold to a larger company in 1997, eventually closing in 2005. The spirit of the club lives on through the Zap Art charity who continue to commission and promote new art for new audiences.
Nothing to do with Brighton's metropolitan festival of a similar name, Escape was housed in an old south-facing art deco hotel. One of those venues that' seen it all come and go, Escape club also enjoyed lives under the guise of The Royal Escape, Ted Potter's Music Bar, and in later years, Audio. The building changed hands and reopened as Patterns in 2015 - still in use as a venue and nightspot, albeit part of a larger chain with upmarket furnishings and a roof terrace, capitalising on the location's attractive architecture, location and aspect.
The Honey Club
A club that perpetuated the freeing and easy-going aspects of clubbing and house music, The Honey Club had a reputation for hosting a club night, closing briefly, before opening its doors again as another club night running even later/earlier into the morning. The neverending party drew DJs such as Judge Jules and Brandon Block, but eventually, The Honey Club made way for Shooshh and its altogether more commercial incarnation of hedonistic club culture with VIP booths and upmarket booze.
Blind Tiger Club
A relatively recent closure in 2014, Blind Tiger Club fell foul of a noise complaint and was forced to close despite a 15,000 signature petition in its defence. The building had been the site of live music since 1854, operating as Hector's House in the '80s, '90s and '00s, and as The Norfolk Arms before that.
Sticky Mike's Frog Bar
With its thriving scene Brighton has perhaps bucked the trend of closing venues more than most cities, but nevertheless, some much-loved grassroots venues do fall by the wayside. Sticky Mike's was one such venue with its operators stating that due to numerous issues it would have to close, with some of the people involved in the running of Sticky Mikes focussing their efforts on the nearby Hope & Ruin instead - more about that later.
Known as the original home to Fatboy Slim's ‘Big Beat Boutique’ during the ’90s, Concorde 2 is housed in a classic Victorian seafront building that began life as a tea rooms in the 19th Century. By the 1960s, in the era of mods vs rockers, it had become a notorious bikers cafe, then in the 1970s, it was a seaside amusement arcade. It was eventually transformed into its current music venue incarnation in 2000. Concorde 2 was described as The Perfect Venue by Dave Grohl whilst on-stage in 2008.
From the outside, The Quadrant looks like a well preserved cosy Victorian pub and it does pride itself on being one of the most attractive period pubs in Brighton, but it also prides itself on being one of the best places for underground DIY counterculture in the city. Recent visitors include the like of Pussy Liquor and the programming does lean towards the local punk and hardcore scene, but there are also film screenings, live comedy and even pub theatre.
Hope & Ruin
With a Kreuzberg Berlin vibe and a kitchen housed in an indoor caravan serving imaginative vegan food, Hope & Ruin is the sort of place you might struggle to find outside of Brighton's libertarian biome. Its cosy 150 capacity upstairs bar acts as the main venue for visiting artists as diverse as Damo Suzuki and Dua Lipa, while the downstairs also hosts the occasional gig besides all manner of quizzes and art events.
While some might be put off by the gentrified appearance of The Mesmerist's lounge bar appearance and its swanky cocktails, the classy bar actually provides another unique outlet for Brighton's less obvious forms of counterculture. Much of Brighton's uniqueness is owed to its fringes outside of straightforward musician/audience interaction. Magic, circus and burlesque can often be found here, but so can mod and soul nights and live bands, from swing to rock 'n' roll.
The Green Door Store
Reassuringly underground in its railway arches location, The Green Door opened in 2011 amidst the surge of Brighton's rise to prominence as a bohemian enclave for the South East of Britain. With a reputation as one of the best places in the South, outside of the capital to catch bands. Ty Segall, Pixx, Sorry, Slaves, Joanna Gruesome, Teeth Of The Sea, Damo Suzuki and many more names, both old and new have all performed there in its seven years, as well as local success story Theo Verney.
"The Green Door Store has always been a breeding ground for fresh new music. From Mac Demarco to Ty Segall I have seen many bands here grow into huge international artists.” - Theo Verney
Read more about The Green Door Store in our Subculture Uncovered piece about the venue here.