venue reviews

University of London Union (ULU), Malet Street

Another old fave and indeed site of Kitten's first ever London gig experience (Primal Scream/Loop 26th June 1987). Although the main hall remains pretty much the same as ever (school gym vibe), the outlying bar areas have been spiffed up out of all recognition. Nothing like those halcyon (?) days of 'shambling' and 'cutie' when everyone wore anoraks and carried dufflebags. Lordy.

First things first. Having been force-fed dozens of fliers as you enter (try not to skid on the ones littering the floor) you are disconcerted to find yourself in a decidedly non-rockin' University foyer. Up the stairs to the left, hand in your ticket (at least you don't have to sign a temporary student membership card for the evening anymore), through the doors and you're hit by a warm beery fug. That's more like it. A sort of blond wood-effect bar area (used to involve a sticky carpet and some knackered chairs, memories…) greets you. If you fancy cider get it here now, I'll explain why in a minute. So everyone's hanging out surrounded by tasteful wood (Hello 'Tail-man', Hello 'Windmill Nick Cave' & chums). There's a raised area with tables for those early arrivers who wish to feel superior. This is also the usual hunting ground for the t-shirt stall, not to mention the lavs. It can get a tad crowded in this arrivals lounge, so lets stretch our legs with a stroll along the length of the main hall (aforementioned school gym).

Down by the right-hand side of the stage is a magic portal (okay a door) which will transport you to a large white brightly-lit room. No you have not gone to a better place, merely the ULU canteen. Here you will find clusters of long seats, their once pristine upholstery heartbreakingly stained by night upon night of beer+student abuse, each curving around a table. Very conducive to sitting and chatting, so don't get carried away by the sound of your own voice and end up missing the band. Nearby is a pool table, which means you will frequently be obliged to through back balls as they ricochet past your feet. If you are Billy Nomates then pretend to be absorbed in MTV playing on a screen in the corner. Whoops. Its that George Michael dancing in a toilet video, no wonder you're alone.

At the far end of the room, past a series of canteen style four seater tables is yer student food counter. Kitten has never ventured this far down as she is not one for stuffing her face immediately prior to jumping about to …And You Will Know US By The Trail Of Dead. (or even prior to swaying slightly to Mogwai). However she was once fortunate enough to witness Kenickie-era Emmy-Kate Montrose making her stately way down the room laden down with not one but two platefuls of chips. Yes, this is absolutely true. Kitten was also even more fortunate to behold Jason AYWKUBTTOD Reece walking through the room talking loudly enfolded in a large green parka. Oh, and she also saw Brian Molko and that Stefan Placebo bloke. Never mind, eh?

Anyway, hopefully you are clutching your pinte de cidre from the other bar, because in this bar the cider is very often FLAT and DISGUSTING. On the second occasion Kitten was forced to return this foul brew whence it came the following exchange ensued:
K: This cider is flat, I therefore wish to exchange it for a pint of Kronenbourg.
Bar Woman (Student): Okay (pours Kronenbourg)… This costs 17p (or whatever) more.
K: Yes, but the cider was flat (ie. Since you have inconvenienced me and caused me to sup upon an inferior beverage, I think we can wave that 17p nonsense).
BW: But this costs more.
K: (exercising consumer rights) Yes, but the cider was flat.
BW: Yes, but this costs more, you must pay the difference.
K: Yes, but the cider was flat. (can you see my clever argument here?)
BW: You must pay the difference.
K: Yes, thank you, goodbye. (walks off Kronenbourg in paw, no extra monies exchanged -result!)
So just get your cider from the other bar okay? Or drink something else.

Enough of the peripheries you're here for bands, right? Back into the hall then. The sound in this place can be a bit dodgy and it gets pretty darn sweaty in here. Look out for the bouncers surveying the masses from a vantage point to the left of the stage. If you try anything funny, they'll be down in that crowd and on you in a flash, the gits.

This is one of the few remaining venues that foolishly still has an easily accessible stage if you fancy a spot of diving, but a word of warning. Kitten was once heartily amused when enjoying the toe-tapping sensation that was Gumball to see several stage divers clamber up and launch themselves into the void. As the audience was a trifle sparse, the crunch splat those stage divers made on the wooden floorboards could be heard above Don Fleming's squalling geetar. How I laughed with glee.

Back to the list of Venues

[top of page]