Your Guide to Niche Nights

Having spent our first year at Oxford familiarising ourselves with the Cheese Floor and Wahoo, we decided to broaden our night time horizons out and experience some of Oxford’s less busy nights out. If you’re considering something a bit different to your standard trip to Park End or Bridge, we’ve reported back on our findings from deepest darkest Cellar and Babylove, so you’re prepared should you decide to venture out.

Our foray into the more obscure side of Oxford clubbing began with a slight embarrassment at Extracurricular at Cellar. In the belief that it would save us £2 each, we wrote our names on the wall of the event, having been warned that “obvious jokes would not be accepted”. When we got to the door, we found that our names weren’t on the list — I guess this must make us “obvious jokes”. But once we were in and had adjusted to the Cellar ambiance, that is, the dark, stuffy heat, we actually started to like it. Red Stripe in hand (drink of choice in Cellar) we braved the dance floor. We weren’t strictly familiar with the music — the night had advertised itself as “no genre in particular — but soon found that it was quite conducive to rhythmic thrashing of the extremities. Slightly concerned that we’d embarrass ourselves, we kept an eye on others’ moves, and were pleased to find that no dance move is too embarrassing. For an hour or so, we made full use of this: the others may be wearing crops tops, unusual t-shirts and peak caps backwards, but everyone’s dancing is equally uncool. Even a newbie loves to see the beat drop.

Supermarket, the second stop on our journey of discovery, is hardly niche these days. To use the useful, albeit extremely obnoxious term, it’s best characterised as “entry-level niche” — sounds just right for us. We did our research beforehand and were reliably informed that the smoking area was Supermarket, as long as you don’t mind missing out on the Beyoncé and on a picture with a trendy filter (which, despite the possibility of harm to our credibility, we didn’t mind). In light of this knowledge, we decided to save ourselves a fiver and literally only go to the smoking area, with some spare friend-making Rizla in hand.  But we’re here so you learn from our mistakes, so a top tip from us: go on the right night. Odd weeks, silly!

Having found Cellar quite enjoyable, we went back for more at LoveShy. A surprisingly busy night, we found ourselves having to queue for at least half an hour. However, we didn’t mind because it accidentally gave us the opportunity to interview someone who tried to bum a cig off us. “I really like Cellar”, says an unnamed fresher (because we forgot her name), “because I get really fed up of spending time too much time around Oxford students.” We’re not sure if this is really the opportunity to mingle with townies, but the feel of the place is certainly different to Camera, for example. Once we were in Cellar, and comforted by the ubiquity of the now familiar red and white of the Red Stripe cans, we took a minute to get to know our surroundings. The attire was especially surprising to us, since we hadn’t realised that geek chic had made a comeback, and there were some questionable choices in eyewear out that night. The music was also a surprise to us. Far from being out of our depth we found it a sort of remixed throwback, with bits of songs we recognise from our youth: “Babycakes, you just don’t know how I love you so”, and also that one that goes “One, two, three, four, let me hear you scream if want some more…”. With only a can of beer in us each, the booming bass line meant we were still able to appreciate the joys of rubbing against suspiciously sweaty strangers, which only reflects well on the night. On the downside, we were promised crisps, and we didn’t get any.

On the night of Burning Down the House, Wednesdays/Fridays of odd weeks, we did actually enter Babylove. The music is versatile and varied, considering that Burning is an 80s night rather than a specific genre. But generally, it is best characterised as fun, danceable pop, or otherwise as “a Radio 2 listener’s paradise”, as one regular put it. We did find it especially pleasing to be able to dance along to Kate Bush and Blondie playing very loudly in a room of likeminded people, which you can’t really get anywhere else in Oxford. The atmosphere was also unique: intimate, friendly, and this time, when we were promised sweets, we did in fact get them. There was no real “type” of person or of attire there, though it was probably above average in trendiness. The odd nod to the 80s in fashion was valued: think oversized clothes and outrageous patterns. We also did some research at the bar: it’s expensive, but the barman has confirmed that the greatest alcohol to price ratio is a double vodka and lemonade. In the smoking area, again with our friend-making Rizla, we asked another regular what their thoughts were on Burning: “I stay until the end because I like it.” We ourselves agree we, and we also stayed until the end, and at 2.56am we were treated to Wuthering Heights (what’s two years?). Unfortunately an underrated night — personally, we had the most fun there, and found its atmosphere and familiar music the most enjoyable during our foray into niche nights.

So will these newbies go back? We found that trying out some “niche nights” every now and then is a great way to break up the routine and experience something a bit different to your standard fare at Park End. Usually these nights are lacking in the numbers that the bigger clubs draw, but in the small venues, that can also be a good thing. Now with this guide, you have nothing stopping you.