The Brudenell Social Club shouldn't work. For a start, logistically, it was quite possibly the least natural environment to play host to live music in Leeds, entering in to what was already a heavily saturated market. However, through hard work, sheer entrepreneurship and a glowing reputation that has grown to precede it, The Brudenell has become one of the most popular venues in not only Leeds, but the entirety of Yorkshire itself.
Situated in the Hyde Park area of the city surrounded by copious amounts of student accommodation, The Brudenell doesn't even have the advantage of being located in the city centre. A good 15-30minute jaunt away from the centre by foot, or a 10minute bus ride if you're lazy, the building itself takes some finding if you haven't been round there before.
On approach, the site itself looks entirely unassuming, and you soon come to realise that it's name isn't the quirky red herring you'd might presume it was, but rather a quite accurate description. More of a converted working men's club than a purpose built venue, the building oozes Yorkshire to its very core.
Part music venue, part social club, part snooker hall and part bar, like I started by saying, The Brudenell Social Club really shouldn't work. But the reason I love it, and the reason it does so well and is held in such high esteem is because it somehow pulls it all off. A space that it more suited to hosting nights of bingo, to selling pints of budget bitter to men in flat caps smoking pipes complaining about how "it wasn't like that in our day" has slowly become Leeds very own live music Mecca. The Brudenell isn't the little train that could anymore; it's the little train that has.
Acts such as Laura Marling, The Cribs, Mystery Jets, Noah & The Whale, Johnny Marr, Ben Howard, Miles Kane and Franz Ferdinand have all gone out of their way to make The Brudenell a stop on their tours, when larger, more corporate academy sized venues would've been more appropriate. Most bands from Yorkshire any beyond that have gone on to have commercial success in their careers have first had to cut their teeth in the Social Club; and it's not far off having becoming a right of passage for new pretenders.
With two live music rooms, one small and the other tiny, the building itself has a Tardis like quality about it. While it looks distinctly ordinary from the outside, like the much-used cliché goes, it's what's on the inside that counts.
Bands that play there enjoy doing so for the same reasons that the crowds love going to watch; it's intimate yet welcoming, it's common without being cheap and it's low stage means that anyone performing doesn't get above their station. What results is a unique, communal, personal experience for all involved; after all, who doesn't want to see great live music at arms reach whilst paying sensible money for a pint? It's a marriage made in heaven.
While across the city in the chain branded O2 Academy you can pay close to £30 a ticket depending on who's playing, and then around £4-a-pint of watered down lager there after - which, by the way, just isn't cricket - in the Brudenell you've got local ales on draught, Red Stripe on tap and ticket prices that don't make you wince when paying. Tradition goes a long way in Yorkshire, and The Brudenell is build and sustained on those treasured local principles.
Some credit, if not all of it, has to be reserved for The Brudenell's own Nathan Clarke, who personally books and arranges just about every gig to pass through his doors. Recognised not only locally, but nationally for his tireless work in promoting independent music, local bands and organising fantastic spectacles, you can probably find him at the back of the room in attendance to just about every show he puts on, Backberry in hand, either tweeting support for whoever's playing or organising another show further down the line.
Keeping faith in his grassroots approach even though his products appeal has gone mainstream, you're as likely to catch him hand delivering gig tickets by hand to the local Independent Record shops as you are serving you a drink behind the bar. It's an all hands on deck approach that's long since been forgotten in the ever more commercial world of music, but one that only helps promote and multiply the overall appeal of The Brudenell.
Is it perfect? No, of course it isn't. Are there bigger, more suitable venues across the country? Yeah, there probably are. But would I swap The Brudenell Social Club for any other venue going if offered? Not a chance, we're lucky to call it our own in Leeds, and I'm increasingly glad that it's there the more and more I go.
- Website: www.BrudenellSocialClub.co.uk
- Twitter: @Nath_Brudenell