Re-opened at the end of September under new management, Coliseum is the venue we once knew as Digital Brighton. A regular hang-out for clued up students, with bookings like Annie Mac, Fatboy Slim and Julio Bashmore on a regular basis, it won Best Small Club at our Best Of British awards twice. However, minds inside probably the UK's most cultured coastal city fear that, in its new incarnation, it's going down the same route as other late-night establishments along Kings Road archways.
Honey Club, once a popular spot for decent house music, has already re-opened as Shoosh, a list-and-bottle superclub where VIP tables are more coveted (priced higher?) than the DJs on the bill. Bermuda Triangle, the bar next-door to Digital, has also been taken over also by the Shoosh group, indicating on its website that it will be moving in the same 'commercial direction' as the club attached to it. Another seafront club called Life no longer exists, arguably leaving Concorde 2 and Audio as the only two remaining spots for underground dance nights on the seafront, once the automatic go-to area for a decent night out in the city. So how do locals feel about the “Shoosh effect” changing the face of Brighton's club scene?
“If you want 'Geordie Shore hosts...' then Shoosh is the club for you!” quips an ironic Darren James-Thomas of Elite Management, a booking agent in the city who looks after talent such as Mr C, Tom Flynn and Matt Walsh. “I can only imagine it being hen party central on a Saturday night. Who in their right mind in Brighton would want to go there? Sadly this is the sorry state of affairs along Brighton's once prestigious clubbing seafront!”
A town famous for its diverse and carefree nightlife, home to Fatboy Slim (as well as Skint Records and Southern Fried), Brighton's cultural cutting edge can be traced back as far as the Mod movement during the '70s, if not further. In the late '80s and early '90s, with The Zap in full force, it was one of the top clubbing destinations. Today, however, with the recent popularisation of house music and as a result more commercial forms of clubbing, it's in danger of succumbing to the same booze Britain mentality dominating other coastal towns such as Bournemouth and Blackpool.
“We came to Brighton four years ago and experienced some really good nights and have witnessed first-hand the slow deterioration over the years,” explains Ugo Realfonzo, who co-runs Keep It Moving in the basement of Sticky Mike's Frog Bar, a night that recently booked Alex Coulton and Tom Sevinski. “AKAKROAR were a big influence to the scene attracting many underground artists and had reasonably priced tickets.”
Unfortunately, nights with booking policies as brave as Keep It Moving are fewer and farther between in Brighton these days, or at least moving away from the seafront as a result of this ongoing transformation. According to Darren, however, the onus is on Coliseum — re-fitted with a hi-tech 'ancient underground feel with a futuristic edge' — to embrace similar values to the venue it replaced. “It appears it could be going a similar way to the rest of the front, but all being well, and if they bring in the right external promoters, it could turn their shortcomings around,” he says.
Moody Disco — the same promoters who've brought the likes of Seth Troxler and Maceo Plex to Audio and The Brighton Coalition — were on board for the opening party, suggesting the club is not totally adverse to credible bookings, however early signs point towards a safer, more centralised policy hinged more on hot-at-the-moment names and conceptual gimmickry than solid subterranean talent.
Hannah Wants, Fatboy Slim and Flashmob are appearing on line-ups alongside the likes of Roger Sanchez and DJ Fresh, Pukka Up are involved, while nights like SLS claim to be about all things 'RnB, hip hop and commercial'. On top of that there's nights like #ashtag, C U Next Tuesday and Poundance offering cheap promotions during the week, and you don't need to be told what to expect at student night Shut Your Trap For EDM on Thursdays. The Shoosh approach is proving to be a box-ticking one.
“We don’t have a music policy per se, we are priding ourselves on being versatile to provide every party-goer an opportunity to have their night out in the Coliseum,” says the club's events and promotion manager, Kim Harrington. “The Brighton club-scene has been said to have been dying out but I believe it is on the up and with this exciting new venue for people to come to, providing the right atmosphere, music, service and surroundings. With ever-changing music scenes and sub-genres emerging, we feel it is important to cater for everything. From commercial to underground, Coliseum has something for everyone.”
Whether there's something for you is for you to decide, but one thing certain is that Brighton seafront is changing beyond recognition.