It’s one in the morning and a capacity club crowd is bristling with excitement. The rammed dancefloor is a diverse mix of ethnicities, genders and ages, and dancers’ faces are wearing expressions of delight. As Daytimers crew member and rising DJ Yung Singh takes to the decks, positioned behind an industrial-looking grille, the energy levels skyrocket. Lasers pierce the air, and the DJ has the crowd jumping and shouting to a kinetic succession of rhythms.
Breakbeat garage laced with South Asian vocals merges into samples of rock band The Police; drop-downs into grime and hip-hop tempos are followed by speedy 4/4 kicks, bumping drums and dextrous flips into jungle and footwork, via an irreverent diversion into Da Hool-sampling bassline house. Later, when jungle hero Tim Reaper steps up, barrages of breakbeat pressure and punishing sub-bass booms are emitted by the crisp Funktion-One speakers, while the dedicated audience moves mesmerically to the cascading rhythms — which range from Foul Play’s VIP mix of ‘Renegade Snares’ to Sully’s ‘5ives’ and a monstrous version of The Revolutionaries’ dub classic ‘Kunta Kinte’.
This isn’t a snapshot of some new Manchester, Glasgow or London event space, but Gonzo’s Two Room: a 200-capacity club in Norwich which aims to make the East Anglian city a dance music destination. Over the last year, the club has secured exciting bookings that range across the style spectrum, packing out the venue with artists like SHERELLE, Ben UFO, LTJ Bukem, HAAi, Overmono, LCY and Craig Richards. Set on the second floor of hip bar and burger joint Gonzo’s Tea Room (hence the name), the venue’s excellent sound, friendly atmosphere and mix-and-match decor — festooned with mirror balls, flock wallpaper and humorous portraits — have made it an essential nightlife hub in a city that in recent years has been underrepresented in dance music terms.
Gonzo’s Two Room’s previous incarnation was another venue, Bermuda Bob’s, run by Levi de Belgeonne and friends. Levi already had extensive experience in operating club nights after putting on the grime event Tropico in Norwich for years, and when an opportunity came up at Gonzo’s in 2019, he jumped at the chance, teaming up with business partner Rikki James. “There was an accountants’ on the second floor at that time,” Levi tells us over the phone. “They moved out, and over one summer, we levelled the whole floor and built a club. We already had a date for Boiler Room in for that September, so that was our deadline, and we were still painting the walls when they came in to do the event.”
Though the pandemic arrived not long after Gonzo’s Two Room started, the club has made up for lost time since 2021, picking up steam especially since Overmono’s triumphant appearance. “After lockdown, last summer, we were getting 50% no-show rates on sold-out events, which was really hard to deal with,” Levi says. “But, by the time October and November came, seeing Overmono just smash it, it felt good. We got lasers in for that, and we’ve installed them now. It was a moment where it was like, ‘This is a good direction for us to go’.”
Norfolk has had a long relationship with dance music, especially hardcore and jungle, with raves in Thetford Forest and legendary club nights in Great Yarmouth laying the foundations, while Norwich today has a plethora of great electronic artists, including Nathan Fake, Luke Sanger, Sully, MOY, Luke Abbott and 9Trane, plus labels like Cosmic Pint Glass and Hardline Sounds. Club-wise, Baselogic, who created the BLOC festivals, used to run nights at the Waterfront venue, featuring the likes of Radioactive Man, Plaid and Ceephax Acid Crew, while Dillinja and Lemon D’s Valve soundsystem also pulled up in the city. Between 2012 to 2014, Hideout was a hub for bassdriven house. In recent years, however, there have been few options for Norwich dance heads. Gonzo’s, along with another smaller venue, Space Studios, represents the start of a new chapter.
“The room itself feels like you’re at a mate’s house party. It attracts a wonderful crowd of true music lovers, and always feels like a supportive, welcoming space." - L U
“In Norwich and Norfolk, the arts and the band scene get a lot of attention, but I can’t really think of when electronic music was last represented here,” Levi says. “Our ethos is to represent good dance music in Norwich. It hasn’t been here for so long, and people are paying more attention again now.”
One of the things that makes the club good, reckons Levi, is its sense of inclusivity. Gonzo’s strives to please a broad cross-section of people, and to make them feel welcome in the venue. “We try to appeal to as wide a demographic as we can, be as inclusive as we can,” he says. “We try not to price people out, so tickets are affordable, and it’s the age gap — you’ve got students dancing next to people in their fifties, sixties, and everybody’s happy.”
Gonzo’s Two Room also maintains its credibility by keeping all its events inhouse. By being reactive and searching for bookings themselves, they remain embedded in the scene. “We programme everything in the club ourselves,” Levi says. “We don’t really work with outside promoters. Nobody had really done that on an electronic music scale in Norwich before. I think it helps, ’cause it keeps us on our toes. It means we’re always digging for music, we meet loads of amazing people. We work with the art schools, with the universities, we work with different collectives of people. That’s really crucial to keeping the dancefloor accessible for everybody.”
Another excellent aspect of the club is the residents. TADI THE GREAT, a DJ/producer who has released music through Gilles Peterson’s Brownswood label, is a regular fixture, playing “a melting pot of soulful, percussive and unpredictable sonics”, and getting on the mic like another DJ he’s drawn inspiration from: Charlie Dark. One thing TADI appreciates about the venue is just how well the sound complements the club environment. “I like the use of space, and how it works together with the soundsystem — big up the Funktion-Ones!” he says. “Everything feels like [it’s] where it should be, and doing what it should be doing, from the bar to the dancefloor and lights, all cohesive. I also think Gonzo’s is positively helping push this scene at a grassroots level, through its championing of local acts like myself.”
L U plays a mix of nu-disco and funk-driven house, the kind of sound that also drives her productions. Becoming a resident after sending in a 45-minute mix to the venue, her first gig there was warming up for Mella Dee on the rooftop — another part of the venue that gets used in the warmer months. “As my first gig post-lockdown, it was a surreal and amazing feeling to be playing tunes at sunset and getting a great reaction from the dancers,” L U says. “Since then, I’ve had some great highlights in the Two Room, including supporting Hot Chip and playing my own all-night-long sets.” L U thinks what makes the club special is its warmth and lack of pretension. “The room itself feels like you’re at a mate’s house party,” she says. “It attracts a wonderful crowd of true music lovers, and always feels like a supportive, welcoming space. The team have their hearts in the right place and that really shines through on the dancefloor.”
Big things beckon for Gonzo’s Two Room in the near future. The club recently took over the much larger LCR venue at the University of East Anglia for a Denis Sulta show, and there are more large-scale events potentially planned at another sizeable Norwich venue, in addition to plenty of great bookings over the summer in the club itself. “Coming up, we’ve got Roni Size, Debonair, Mark Broom, Tarzsa and Ewan McVicar at the end of August, which’ll be a good one,” Levi says. “And then we hit the winter, and we’re working on that at the moment.” Whoever Gonzo’s has booked for then, you can bet it will be another memorable night.