Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The Leeds Gallery redux

I did a post last year about the Gallery Night Club in Leeds, and the re-unions they were doing. The next re-union is coming up soon, and Im off again, as they certainly know how to capture the atmosphere there. Steve Luigi (on his website) has written a little piece about the history of The Gallery - and he says it a load better than me. And yes, dear reader, I used to dance on the bar ALL the time lol. Any stage (even a bar), and the show-off in me wants to perform on it! lol

"The Leeds Gallery started out its life as a restaurant in 1986 called ‘Coconut grove’ in Lower Merrion Street, Leeds West Yorkshire. The restaurant was an upper class affair and also hosted a jazz club on the upper floor and a small nightclub called ‘Ricky’s’ in the basement. The Restaurant ran for approximately 2 years, hosting famous jazz artistes such as Ronnie Scott, George Melly, and many other jazz household names. It was ran and managed by Gianfranco and Gipinno Damone and owned by their famous father ‘Salvo’, already a restaurant owner in the City.

In 1987 the club was taken over by an ex DJ by the name of Paul Lamont who immediately turned the building into a full blown 3 floor nightclub and renamed it ‘The Gallery’ due to it’s upper floor having a balcony that resembled an art gallery with pictures that surrounded the balcony. The balcony was soon to be the main feature of the Gallery and helped change a lot of lives for the better. More will be explained later. The middle floor had a white grand piano, which actually stayed there for most of the clubs life, and there was a large bar that also played a huge part in the clubs history. Downstairs in the basement stayed as ‘Ricky’s’ nightclub, a somewhat separate affair for a time.

The club opened its doors in 1987 as an R&B club which was very successful for some 4 years, where it boasted some 1000 clubbers every Saturday night, by the day’s standards that was some mean feat, remembering that these were the days before the birth of the super club. The club ran its course as an R&B club until the owner ‘Paul’ came back from his travels of the clubs in the UK and decided that he didn’t want an R&B club anymore. I remember like it was yesterday, Paul came up into the DJ stand at the end of another packed Saturday night and said “Right Steve, as from next week its not an R&B club anymore”, I asked “what is it going to be then?” and Paul replied “RAVE”, I said “Does that mean that I have to change from an R&B DJ to a Rave DJ in a week?” and Paul replied “If you want a job, yes!” and the rest is history.
Fortunately for me, I had the year before opened a record shop, and was selling House, Rave and Techno, so I had all the records at hand, thank God!

This is where the ‘Gallery’ that we all know and love came to fruition. It was an instant success hosting more that 1500 Ravers every Friday and Saturday night. On Friday night it was known as ‘Bliss’, a very popular night that was hosted by Tim Garbot and Gez Utah (The Utah saints), and Tony Walker (Local DJ) and myself. Paul decided after a few weeks that mine and Tim’s music styles were very much alike, and decided to split us up, Tim, Gez and Tony on Fridays, and me and Richard Simpson (local DJ) on Saturday nights. Both nights were hugely popular filling to capacity most weeks. This is really where my knowledge of Friday nights grows a little dim, as I was too busy concentrating and promoting my night on Saturday. I booked many artistes and DJs to play at the club including such names as ‘Carl Cox, Pete Tong, Simon ‘bassline’ Smith, DJ Killer (10 year old DJ), Anne Savage, Dream Frequency, Flipped out, Love Decade, Baby D, Doop and many more big names of the day. The place was just hugely popular, to the point of being voted 2nd best venue in Europe in 1992, by no other than ‘Mixmag’ an international music magazine. Pete Tong quoted on his Radio 1 show that it was the “Maddest ever club that he had ever been to or played at!”, and Carl Cox exclaimed “I’ve never seen anything like it, AMAZING!” After the vote from ‘Mixmag’ people started coming from all over the world including America, India, and Australia to see what all the fuss was about. I remember some American guy coming up into the DJ stand when I was playing and saying “Shit Man, I can’t believe it, there’s nothing like this in the States, Out of this world”. I had to agree, it was amazing.

Apart from the great music and DJs, if it hadn’t been for the crowd, the club would have not been a success at all. Thousands of kids graced the building week in week out just to hear the massive tunes that were played nowhere else at that time. They affectionately named themselves ‘The Gallery Posse’, and spent all night dancing on the bar, and leaning over the balcony railings, arms outstretched to the gigantic inflatable globe in a hand, hung from the roof as though it was their God, and buzzing from the other revellers on the floor below doing the same to them and vice versa. They all came armed with their white gloves, glow sticks, face masks and sometimes full face WW2 gas masks and air horns WHAT AN ATMOSPHERE! Nothing has ever touched it to this day and it never will, as any ‘Gallery posse’ member will tell you. Now known as ‘The ‘G’ Crew’ and still swearing their allegiance to the best club that ever existed.

There is a sad AND a happy end to the legend that was ‘The Leeds Gallery’. Before the club closed, unfortunately ‘Paul Lamont’ passed away and was and is very sadly missed, after all, if it wasn’t for his foresight of things to come…………….well you know what I mean. The club was then handed down to Paul’s brother Chris and his wife. With all due respect, the club was never the same when Paul had gone and soon ran into financial difficulty. Other financial backers were recruited and they wanted their way with the running of the club as far as music policy was concerned, and they didn’t want the style of music being played that had actually made the club what it was? So it changed name and style of music and the ‘Leeds Gallery’ was gone for good.

That’s not quite the end of the story though, is it?
Leeds Gallery resident DJ Steve Luigi, has decided that the story is far from over, the club lives on in the hearts of ‘The ‘G’ Crew’, and in the reunion nights that are to be held in Leeds. (See forum for details)

No comments: