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Lothian Road's new potentially crowd-pulling alternative club nights have gotten off to an unconvincing start
Jane Maddison
Wednesday, 07 October, 2009 | 16:55

This September sees the launch of three new club nights at the HMV Picture House. Octopussy, a student fest, kicks the weekend off on a Thursday night. Revellers can enjoy the HMV's own Adventures In Sound, an indie, electro and pop fusion with DJ Andy Wilson on a Friday night, while Kieron Mellotte brings up the rear with Saturday evening's Beat Control.

The new club nights are aimed at filling a niche in the Edinburgh scene. David Laing, group operations manager for venue operator MAMA Group says that “despite its reputation as a cultural hub, Edinburgh has lacked any real sense of balance for clubbers for years.

"Previously, unless you liked R'n'B, commercial dance or cheese, there were only a few credible alternatives available. These were at much smaller venues and nothing on the scale of what the HMV Picture House has to offer.”

Similarly to the Glasgow ABC’s successful alternative club nights, the HMV Picture House will attempt to carve itself into a relatively undersized Edinburgh indie scene.

Since opening its doors in September 2008, the HMV Picture House has been unable to stage late night club nights following legal action brought against them by the club’s previous owner, Luminar. The conditions under which the building was sold to MAMA Group prevented them from holding club nights in direct competition with Luminar’s Lava & Ignite in Tollcross. After a long legal battle, the HMV Picture House has finally managed to secure its long-awaited licence.

Over the past five years there has been a shift in student clubbing trends, with diminishing popularity in the big cheesy chart venues and a rise in smaller, inimitable clubs and club nights. There is still a gap in the market—perhaps fuelled by the loss of The Liquid Room—for a weekend club night to cater for the conscientious indie/pop lover.

By moving to attract this clientele the HMV Picture House is also attempting to regenerate and improve Lothian Road’s poor after-dark reputation. The area presents a contrasting mix of cultural hubs such as the Usher Hall, Lyceum Theatre and Filmhouse and the seedier strip-joints and bars. Being part of the “collective pool” of artistic venues, General Manager John Stout envisions the Picture House as a venue that will revitalise Lothian Road's after-dark reputation by catering to the more discerning clubber.

The venue itself is majestic and pristine; the art-deco walls are set and ready to absorb the sounds of Little Boots, Muse and Bat for Lashes, but the challenge of transitioning from being primarily a concert venue into a successful club, as well as filling it with eager revellers, remains.

Friday’s Adventures in Sound certainly had a challenge on its hands. Having negotiated the dense assembly of security staff to get into the venue, once inside, the patrol of crowd-controllers—while appropriate for an Oasis concert—intimidated the small gaggle of clubbers. The dance floor policing seemed strange, not least because the Picture House has gone to such lengths to win their dance floor in the first place. The austerity was a turn-off and the night never really took off.

The anticipated indie/electro/pop mix was too much on the chart side, and played it just a bit too safe. For an alternative club night, it proved far from groundbreaking. The drinks specials are reasonably enticing, but it could take more than cheap booze to coax students into making the trek down to the depths of Lothian Road.

The Picture House may have won its legal case, but that is only half the battle. Adventures In Sound needs to assert itself: while it will attract a friendly and potentially trendy student crowd, the venue needs to open its arms and embrace clubbers, not frighten them so that they remain glued to their bar stools. The potential is there, but it needs some serious fine-tuning.

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