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AUDIO BRIGHTON (BEST SMALL CLUB)

Audio fly the flag for underground dance music in a changing Brighton scene...

If Brighton is London by the sea, as the saying goes, then it’s Audio that’s almost single-handedly making sure this seaside city lives up to this legacy in terms of club culture.

“Last week we had Chris Lorenzo DJing and recently we had Monki and friends,” says General Manager Sarunas Astasovas, who everyone calls “Charlie”. “Monki brought quite a few DJs with her and the place literally exploded. The place was packed. It was great.”

Set over two floors and following a “mostly house music” policy, Audio has been adding a sonic boom to its patch of seafront since it opened in 2004. This summer Audio celebrated its 10th birthday and marked the occasion with a party headlined by Âme — also known as DJing duo Kristian Beyer and Frank Wiedemann — as well as local house DJ and producer Seamus Haji. And before it was Audio, the venue was called Escape, a club that ruled Brighton’s nightlife alongside the old (and now sadly closed) Zap club. The Stone Roses played at the Escape in the late-1980s. Later on, in the early 1990s, Paul Oakenfold, Sasha, Pete Tong, The Chemical Brothers and Daft Punk all played there too. And when the Escape gave way to Audio, in 2004, local DJ Fatboy Slim was joined by his pal Carl Cox to play the swansong gig.

Norman Cook still sometimes rocks up at Audio. As do any true dance music fans who might happen to be in Brighton. In the summer, Audio’s doors open out onto the beach and people spill out onto the terrace, smoking and chatting while music pumps gently out onto the sand and further out to sea.

The thing is, says Charlie, there are too few venues in Brighton playing good music these days. “I think the mentality to clubbing in Brighton has changed and it has become a bit more ‘stag and hen do’ orientated here,” says Charlie. “That’s why we don’t allow those parties to come into Audio and we have a policy where we don’t let in large groups of people at all.”

Downstairs in Audio there’s a capacity of just over 300, and that’s where the main club nights happen. While upstairs — a separate space that’s called ‘Above Audio’ —there’s a cocktail bar complete with DJ booth where the music policy follows a “slightly more chilled” soundtrack. If you come to Audio, you can move from the downstairs to the upstairs — which is great if you want a change in atmosphere.

“In the club floor, the DJ booth isn’t on a stage, it’s set more or less in the crowd,” says Charlie. “James Zabiela says that’s why he likes playing at Audio. And that’s why he chose to play here on New Years Eve.”

When the owners were thinking up the concept for Audio, they used clubs they loved, such as The End in London, as inspiration. The End — with the AKA next door — had its DJ booth right in the middle of the dancefloor of the main room. It created an atmosphere you’ll never find in a bigger club. It’s that atmosphere you get at Audio. “We don’t have the biggest names down here but that means we stick to our guns with the music policy,” says Charlie. “Our regular night is Warehouse, on a Saturday, and that is strictly house. But we also have DJs like Toddla T and Bicep.”

Just recently, Audio installed a new Traction soundsystem. “Traction is a local company, and all the sound engineers and sound techs who installed the system had been in the club at some point,” says Charlie. “They know what the club is about. And this system sounds perfect for house music.”

And, even more recently, Audio was bought by The Mothership Group, who also own The Book Club and the Queen of Hoxton, two venues in East London.

While this buyout isn’t going to change the ethos of the club, assures Charlie, the injection of cash into the venue will mean the upstairs cocktail bar gets a much-needed refurb.

“It’s exciting. But, music-wise, things will carry on as they are now,” says Charlie.

 “We want to keep playing good, underground music.”

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