Park End/Lava Ignite
Park End only really exists in your life in the first three weeks of your first term at Oxford. After a few weeks drunkenly stumbling around Oxford’s biggest club with all your exciting new friends, you’ll quickly find something better to do with your Wednesday nights. The depressing carpets make you feel like you’re on a P&O cruise, crossed with a failed neon rave where people think that by striping themselves in £2 glow paint or throwing on a Primark one-sie they’re somehow being wacky. It’s officially a night out for the university Blues teams, and so there are a high number of students making themselves feel extra-important by wearing their 2nd XI Hockey Tie in the hope it will get them a drunken fumble with a lonely girl come 3am.
The R’n’B room upstairs is the only bearable place to go in terms of music and clientele – but make sure you leave before the end so as not to get caught up in the sweaty tragedy of the Year 7 Disco songs on the cheese floor at the end, which will make you not want to wake up tomorrow. The night calls itself ‘FUBAR’, which supposedly stands for ‘f*cked up beyond all recognition’. Apparently blues rugby players and the glee soundtrack is really fucking out there.
A small bar/club off the High Street offers some hope to those people who can’t stand the monotony of VKs and Taio Cruz. The student DJs on the highly popular ‘Supermarket’ night on alternate Thursdays and ‘Action Stations’ on alternate Wednesdays provide a welcome mixture of Hip-hop and Reggae, which is otherwise hard to find. While its small size lets it down, as you squeeze past people you can listen to them explain quite how many ‘The Doors’ vinyls they have and how this year’s Notting Hill Carnival ‘just wasn’t 2009’. Despite their strained attempts at strange costumes and avant-garde opinions, don’t be fooled; they probably study Chemistry at Merton and will ultimately be in PwC middle management by the age of 28.
Undoubtedly the best club for music in Oxford (with the possible exception of the back room at the Bullingdon), the Cellar offers something different. It is a much more authentic venue, in terms of both music, crowd and décor, than all of the other clubs. While the Blues-playing VK-chugging Park Ender may look at you funny at daring to go to a club with real people in, this is undoubtedly the most under-appreciated of the Oxford clubs.
Not many other clubs offer such an effective through-the-building circuit to pace around when you are furiously trying to find Benedict to tell him that you saw Agatha getting off with Humphrey. The darkness of the upstairs dancefloor is a self-haven for you and your partner when you run out of small talk after ‘What did you do for A-Levels?’. Bridge’s real facet however is its dustbin zone turned large smoking area outside. This area borders the smoking area to Anuba – the soul-destroying bar for the Bridge-rejects when Bridge gets full – in a hilarious arrangement akin to the French-Swiss border in World War II.
While the arrival of the infamous Brookes’ night Fuzzy Ducks might revitalise Wahoo, its combination of bright lights downstairs and endless space upstairs means a very good sports bar turns into another regrettably boring club. That is unless you are so drunk that you confuse a circus of Hollister drones listening to David Guetta while having jaeger-offs with a good night out. The DJ here, like many in Oxford, unfortunately feels the need to only play bad Skrillex tracks from 2am onwards.
Like Park End, but with a greater number of dickheads packed into a smaller space. The fact that the VIP area is nearly bigger than the rest of the club sums up Camera – made for people whose Mummies give them enough pocket money to sit in a extra-special area of a club, wear a suit and drink Champagne because, well, that’s what all of Daddy’s friends do, right? Camera is associated with everything that’s bad about Oxford – entitlement, the Union and shit club music. It does however take advantage of there being nothing much else to do on a Tuesday for people who can’t get through any more of the week without going out and drinking themselves into self-loathing.
Walk down George Street after 9pm and you’ll get someone shouting ‘free entry free shot’ at you, which as a sales policy, is Roppongi’s chief USP. For being brave enough to accept the offer and walk down the stairs you are greeted by a thin corridor of a club which, despite the inviting mix of old males and even older females, is fairly empty. Ignore the toothless tramp on the dance floor – order your drink of vodka mixed with tonic disappointment, get your free shot, and move on quickly.
Unsurprisingly all the clubs in Oxford have official twitter accounts now, and while it’s sweet that Hotel-Management-graduate-turned-small-town-club-owner wants in on social media, I’m not sure what tweeting “Tonight is gonna be a large one, who’s heading down there?!” to 64 followers is going to achieve.
Having said that, recently this club’s official account, @lolalooxford, tweeted “Soooo Happy About St Giles Fayre Food Court Being Outside The Club! NOM NOM NOM NOM!”. Ignoring nearly everything else about that tweet, it’ll tell you that LoLaLos’ location is its forte, giving a fresh dose of the Caribbean tropics in between the Ashmolean and Tesco. What was once Po Na Na is now a small downstairs club with a tropical-themed décor, which is admirable if not successful. No matter how many overpriced cocktails and Hawaiian leis around the neck, it’s hard to really feel immersed in the beach spirit when the Lolalos website advertises Friday nights’ music as ‘the best in chart, commercial, dance and remixed favourites’. Reading that you know it’s probably time to stay in and run that warm bath of gin.
Another recent reinvention, what was once Kukui changed to ‘The Junction’ after financial problems in 2011, though just changing the name and colour scheme didn’t quite turn the venue into the Fabric the owners wanted it to be. Popular Rock’n’roll and swing night ‘Itchy Feet’ uses the Junction as its venue and is worth attending at least once; the music isn’t as progressive as it makes out (there will be a lot of ‘Twist‘n’Shout’ and Parov Stelar) but it does offer some musical variety. Other than that, the one rule for clubbing in Oxford applies to Junction just as much as to anywhere else – if in doubt, get drunker. It will keep quiet that voice inside your head asking if you’re really enjoying yourself.