Saturday, 25 October 2008

It's all academic: The Academy opens in Leeds

Academy venues are famous the country over. It was about time Leeds got one of its own. LS2 were very kindly invited along to the grand opening...

The Venue

As a piece of architecture, the freshly named Leeds Academy is spectacular. The nineteenth century building was always wasted having a distinctly generic club as its incumbent but it’s a loss the current occupant more than makes up for. The separating layer between second and third floors has been ripped out to open up an expansive yet intimate space with optimum acoustics. The venue’s plush chrome naming on the outside is a signifier of the sharp use of design within. It’s a shame they couldn’t resist hanging four bashful disco balls from the ceiling. They looked like History of Art student in the Brotherton; not really sure what they were doing there.

LS2 sat in the fancy balcony section looking out onto the stage with a perfectly angled viewpoint. There are more than a fair few rows of extremely comfy, prim and proper seating with enough legroom to allow for clambering between aisles. It seems more than a bit of an odd juxtaposition compared to the squashed revelers below but we weren’t complaining. Throw in the bar at the back of the section which seemed to have more staff than punters – making service instantaneous – and plasma screens showing the gig going on behind you and it's a winning combination.

The Academy’s structural masterpiece - and what will doubtless turn into its signature features – are the fantastically grandiose iron arches supporting the crisply white ceiling. At first glance they look like a mimic replication of Tudor architecture but on closer inspection they have an industrial characteristic. It’s like a sixteenth century builder has joined forces with Isambard Kingdom Brunel. The luxuriously purple curtains enclosing the stage add an element of theatre to proceedings; they provide a fantastically unique frame to the drama enclosed.

Underground Club

LS2 had high expectations for this much rumoured-about little club. Unfortunately these expectations weren’t quite met. Situated, surprisingly, underground the main room, the after-party venue immediately strikes you as being exceedingly white. It’s clearly a deliberate design choice but one that seems flawed. You don’t want to party in a place that reminds you of the hospital where your great aunt died. In spacial terms, think Wire or even Hifi but with a clinical edge. It didn’t work; there was no charm. Our judgement may have been influenced by the fact it was populated by numerous older folk also on a freebie night out (all on the weirder side of inebriation) but we doubt it. An amusing side note on the club found manifestation in a sign nailed to the wall: “We kindly ask that patrons refrain from smoking in the venue.” Funny, we thought it wasn’t really a matter of choice since September 1 2007.

Originally published in Leeds Student on October 24 2008

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