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Cock

I have an odd love of The Cockpit in Leeds.

Originally a gay bar, then (and still now) a live music venue, it transformed over the years into the sort of horrible, dingy, mainstream load of absolute bollocks that I’d usually avoid most carefully.  The sort of sweaty, smelly, sticky-floored pile of crap that plays pop-rock and calls it “alternative”, filled with first year students who appear to have just discovered alcohol for the first time and think it’s okay, when drunk, to elbow each other and me in the fucking face.  It’s the sort of place that has so much spilled booze all over the floor that, when almost completely sober a few years ago, I slipped and pretty much snapped my kneecap off, resulting in a few months of not being able to walk, stand up or bend my bloody leg, and then a few more of agonising physiotherapy.  (Perhaps notably, I am not the only person I know who’s suffered a serious injury at The Cockpit.)  I should hate it.  I often convince myself I do.

And then, for some reason, I end up going there.  And I always forget why I ever thought I hated it.  Because it’s wonderful.

The other night, a friend and I were sitting with a box of wine, on a quiet night in, discussing the hideously annoying use of the word “random” to mean “unexpected” or “impulsive.”  As in, “hey, wouldn’t it be random if we got in a taxi and went clubbing right now?”  And we laughed at that ridiculous sentence.  And then my friend said, “…but it would actually be quite a good idea to get in a taxi and go clubbing right now.”  And, as if by magic, but actually by car, and because it was near a cash point, we ended up at The Cockpit.

We’d assumed it opened at 10, as most Leeds places do – on that scene at least.  We arrived at 11:15, and initially thought it was closed, as the main doors were shut.  A glance round the side revealed the bar was at least open.  We wandered in, paid a fiver, and… well, there was literally no one else there, aside from staff.  And yeah, in that moment, I hated it.  This fucking astonishingly awful place was even more awful when empty.  A dive.  An absolute, sodding dive.

We grabbed a drink each anyway.  The guy behind the bar thought he was funny.  “Can I have a pint of Kronenberg and a whiskey-and-coke, please?”  “You can, but I’m gonna have to charge you money, I’m afraid.  “Er. That’s fine. I expected as much.  How much is that, then?”  “Five hundred pounds.” Yeah, just fuck off, basically.

Almost as soon as we’d sat back down, the place started filling up.  Only the bar was open as yet, but we were told the club would be opening soon.  At about half eleven, it did, but curiously, only the small room.  The main room, where most of the action usually takes place, remained shut off and bouncer-guarded all night.  Not entirely sure why, but it proved to be an excellent idea.

It probably wasn’t that busy.  Room 2 capacity is 300, bar capacity 100, and neither were ever full, as in shoulder-to-shoulder-can’t-move-at-all full.  I’d guess there were probably between 200 and 300 people there in total at its busiest time – I guess all those hideous first year students are all still home for Christmas or something.  Though a fair amount of them were still there.  Snotty nosed little fucks.  The sort that come up to you and expect you’ll be massively interested in talking to them, then when you do indulge them, start talking about all the drugs they’ve been taking.  Then…

Oh, god, no.  Not that.  Someone asks me what I do.  Like, for a living.  Shit.  Not now.  Really can’t be bothered.  Could just say I’m a journalist, but I can already tell I’ve paused for too long.  They know something’s up.  I sigh. And then my friend just comes out and says “he’s a videogames journalist.”

Until this year, the question that always, always followed that answer had been “Oh, cool. Do you like Halo, then?”  Now, it seems it’s changed.  The last twice I’ve told people I write about games, they’ve asked what I think of Modern Warfare 2.

I said I’d not really played much of it.  Didn’t see the point.  Played No Russian.  Thought it was rubbish, but interesting that it passed the censors.

The guy mumbled something about it being cool.  Then wandered off.

Then something awesome started to happen.

Firstly, someone I knew turned up.  The Cockpit is the sort of place where you can pretty much guarantee this will happen.  It’s a catch-all club.  It plays a bit of everything, and it is, to its credit, an eternally friendly place.  You don’t really get people who know they’re being cocks there.  You get a sort of naivity about how not to be one, sure, but there’s very little malice to its clientelle. It’s the sort of place you go if there’s a group of you and none of you can agree on where you want to go.  None of you really want to go there, but you’d rather go there than the sort of incipid shithouses the others have suggested.

So this someone who turned up was, funnily enough, someone I was trying to describe to my friend earlier – a sort of “who’s that? I know the name, but I can’t place her.”  And then she turned up.  Which was good – always nice to see people, though we didn’t chat for long.  But then, around that time, the really remarkable thing happened.

I started to… enjoy myself.

Blame the drink, perhaps, but I even fucking danced. Like, really danced.  Like, Thought Bubble danced.  We commented early on that some of the big tunes seemed to be arriving unusually quickly – big stuff from Prodigy, Pendulum, Muse and more had already hit by midnight.  But the set list was fun and varied.  By 2 it had dived away from the dancier stuff and into modern chart rock – a Paramore appearance made me facepalm at having not bloody included their latest record in my Things of the Year list, while even the completely ordinary Fallout Boy provided a bit of boogie time.  By 3, when it all shut up shop (interesting FACT: it’s the first time, to my knowledge, I’ve ever been in a club at closing time, when I wasn’t actually actively involved in the night in some way, like having played at it or organised it or known I could stay in after hours ’cause I knew the staff), we’d gone all X Factor.  As in, the furore surrounding the winner’s song stuff.  Iccle Joe wasn’t played himself, predictably, but the DJ dropped Killing In The Name second-last and then ploughed straight into the entirity of Don’t Stop Believin’. Ladyfriend has forced me to love that song, being an enormous classic-rock-head.  I always thought I hated it.  I always thought I hated the Cockpit.  Turns out I’ve always been totally wrong about both.

Because it’s a fabulous closing track for the first club night of a new year.  Don’t stop believing, y’know?  In that sort of drunken mindset, it all seems to make perfect sense.  You’re in a shit club, filled with people you’d rather not associate with, sticking to the floor, being overcharged for atrocious house whisky.  You can have had a 2009 you’d rather forget, and a pretty disastrous start to 2010.  But, y’know, it can still be a fantatic start to the year.  Don’t stop believing.  Never stop believing.

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6 responses »

  1. I have a similar, beautiful love/hate relationship with a local Bath club that sounds a lot like this Cockpit. For every night I spend standing at the bar giving the first years withering looks, there’s at least two where I’ve had the best time of my life.

    Reply
  2. Moles. Indie club, with some pretty good bands. Sometimes. If I’m ever out, I end up in there. It’s the only club in town I can really stomach.

    Reply
  3. Really great article; reminds me of the Black Sheep Bar where I live. Exactly the same deal.

    Reply
  4. Pingback: Ribs « Lewis Denby

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