There’s a strange feeling to tonight.
It’s the beginning of a new venture, but the end of an era. As I stand in the queue, and a sticker is put across the phone of my camera thanks to a refreshing approach to today’s ‘must be seen with the DJ’ culture from Matt Burns and his new event Breezeblock, I’m struck by the deafening reality that this is the last time I’ll ever party here.
It’s 11:26 and I’m in the SU building in Belfast, home to Mandela Hall, the Bunatee, Bar Sub and The Speakeasy. These names may mean nothing to you, but, especially given the alarming rate venues close these days, I’m sure you can relate to what I’m about to talk about.
Sadly, these places will cease to exist in the coming weeks, due to plans to demolish the current building in order to rebuild a larger, student village type concept for the growing number of Queens University students. In honesty, no one actually really knows what’s being built, apart from the people actually building it.
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The mystery hangs over Belfast like a fog. It remains unclear if a space like the one we’ve come to love will be a part of the new age. Everyone has that one place where it all started. That was the SU for many people of Belfast, and beyond.
Annie Mac used to stamp wrists on cold winter nights stood outside, educating herself on the art of DJ’ing by watching the guests control the crowd once the doors had shut. Bicep cut their teeth here, coming first as punters before deciding to go onto become arguably the biggest doublet in dance music today. The early, hedonistic days have long gone, but the legend of these walls remains the same.
The influence that the SU building has had on Belfast’s electronic music community cannot be denied. It’s been the home to Shine and Twitch, two of Belfast’s oldest nights, for many years. It’s the kind of place you could go for a rave by yourself and end up bumping into a crowd that you knew. That maybe has a lot to do with how small Belfast is, but there was a real sense of community to it, something that can be felt amongst the Irish in general, exemplified by the family feel that festivals such as AVA thrive on.
The Bunatee has played host to some of the noisest, rowdiest and downright dangerous nights I’ve ever been to. A low ceiling paired with one of the strangest, most intimate layouts you’ll ever see. Match that with two hundred odd rave hungry Irish and a selector who doesn’t mind getting sweaty and you’re in for a treat.
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It’s a venue that has truly put Belfast on the map. Little old Belfast, a city with such a negative stigma due to years of violence, blossoming through kick drums and synths. The Bunatee has been listed as one of the best places to play, from the likes of Ben UFO, Steffi & Virginia and Midland, three of which actually played out the final series of gigs there. Three of which nearly made the roof cave in.
Tonight, however, I find myself in the long dark room of The Speakeasy. It’s quite a way to bow out, I must say. Modeselektor, Anastasia Kristensen and Bobby Analog make up the line up. Pretty impressive when you consider that this is Breezeblock’s launch. Even more impressive when you notice that Baba Stiltz and Lone have already been booked for the coming weeks. All play fantastically well, but it’s Kristensen that really steals the show. As good a set as I’ve ever seen in this building, and a fitting way to see it bow out.
The whole evening feels like a throwback. The ‘no cameras allowed’ policy, although an annoyance to non-regulars, encapsulates the way here is meant to be lived in, not through a screen, but purely present in those moments of ecstasy.
As I look around it’s hard not to feel a shred of sadness, even amongst the euphoria. This is truly the end of an era, but the culture lives on. The urge to dance was there before the SU, and it will last long after it’s gone. One thing that can never be replaced are the memories, and trust me, there have been plenty of them.
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Words: Andrew Moore
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