Cabaret Voltaire's second birthday

Come to the cabaret

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David Pollock talks to the team behind Cabaret Voltaire, one of Edinburgh’s most consistently innovative and entertaining venues, as it reaches its second birthday.

Regardless of musical tastes, most people will be able to find a great night out in Edinburgh if they pick the right club on the right evening. Unlike anywhere else in the city, however, turning up on just about any night at Cabaret Voltaire is likely to be an event. In the last two years it’s gained an entirely deserved reputation as the capital’s most consistent and forward-thinking venue.

Seasoned Edinburgh clubbers will tell you that it’s been Cabaret Voltaire (‘the Cab’, by way of shorthand) for a lot longer than two years, and that it was The Honeycomb and Peppermint Lounge before that. What the upcoming second birthday is really all about, however, is the change of management which set the Cab on the way to its current high regard. When Sarah David (manager of the Liquid Room for 13 years) and her partner Tim Makin (half of DJ duo Smokey and the Bandit) took over the venue’s ownership in February 2005, it quickly became obvious that the Cab was destined to be a venue to get excited about.

‘In my time at the Liquid Room, it had reached a point where all the guests the venue attracted were the obvious ones - the bands who’d had a number one single, the DJs who would play an 800 capacity venue,’ recalls David. ‘I’m always up for a challenge, so when Festival Inns asked us to take over the Cab I was excited about the downsizing, about the chance to book all the up-and-coming producers in a smaller venue before anyone had heard of them. In terms of the bands we’ve had on [Cab run mid-evening gigs almost every night, and clubs such as Clash incorporate bands], it’s been really rewarding to see people like Editors, The Horrors and Jamie T play some of their very first Scottish gigs here’.

The small but atmospheric basement club’s reputation is already starting to precede it and big names are actively seeking out the opportunity to play there. The always well-attended We Are . . . Electric night has seen guests like Andy Weatherall, Felix Da Housecat and Tiefschwartz pass through - on a Wednesday night, no less - while David talks excitedly about Erol Alkan personally Myspacing her, requesting to play an upcoming date. Utah Saints’ monthly Sugarbeat Club - the first Cab club to run under the current owners - is also a popular fixture, alongside well-known Edinburgh nights like Trouble and seminal Sunday night gay club Taste. It’s all going so well, in fact, that David and Makin plan to extend the venue into the adjoining Old Town vaults, and are currently refurbishing the Cowgate’s Red bar as a smaller sister venue.

‘We didn’t really believe Cab would do so well when we took over,’ says David, ‘although sometimes I don’t think we realise it’s been successful yet. We just keep our heads down, work hard and make exciting bookings. It’s a really tight team here; we listen to our DJs, staff and customers, and try to get everyone involved in the decision-making process. The place is run by people who love what they do, and I think we’re very much living up to our “Breaking Boundaries in Music” motto.’

The second birthday will be held at this month’s Sugarbeat Club, with special guests Krafty Kuts and A Skillz, Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, Fri 23 Feb.

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