A year on from its creation, LIZZARD LOUNGE has redefined the art of clubbing in Edinburgh. Words: Jim Byers
Picture the scene: the exotic bohemian atmosphere, the hip cosmospolitan crowd. the melting pot of races. ages and sexes. the giant mirrorball spinning overhead. the Cuban band belting out a wild fusion of Latin, jazz. and funk. the gently grooving dancclloor . . .
You could be forgiven for assuming that this is a scene from Studio 24. the legendary 70s New York nitcspot. In fact. it‘s a snapshot of a Saturday night at Lizzard Lounge. just off Broughton Street in Edinburgh. Started in March last year by Salsa Celtica drummer 'l‘oby Shippey. Liz/.ard Lounge began life as an outlet for the city’s contemporary live soul, jazz. and funk scene.
Shippey had previously been promoting live music across town at Henry’s Cellar Bar. where a vibrant new music scene had begun to emerge. When DJ Joseph Malik, the man behind the East Coast Project — a collective of local bands, Dls and musicians —- joined Shippey at Lizzard Lounge. a magical new club night was born.
The marriage of traditional live music and the more contemporary elements of club culture immediately struck a chord with a generation of older (and younger) clubbers who found themselves alienated by the repetitive beat of house music. At Lizzard Lounge for example. it’s not unusual to be hearjazz next to rock, or soul next to Latin. ‘Varicd’ doesn’t do it justice.
‘Clubbing should be fun. it shouldn’t be exclusive.’ says Shippey of the Lizzard Lounge philosophy. “If you can’t have fun on Saturday night, what’s the point in going out'."
The key to Lizzard Lounge‘s success (sold out every week for a year) has been quality of the music on one
out?’ Toby Shippey
'Clubbing should be fun, it shouldn't be exclusive. if you can’t have fun on Saturday night, what's the point in going
The Audience often went through the roof at the Lizard Lounge
hand, but also the quality of the ‘experience’ on the other. Without the drug culture and musical snobbery which pervades house clubs, Lizzard Lounge has created a club environment in which people can hear quality music and have a good time, regardless of who they are, how old they are or what they’re wearing.
‘Cross fertilisation is the key,’ continues Malik. ‘You‘ve got to mix everything together to get the winning formula. People want the unexpected, but they want to have fun as well.’
Although bands from Leeds, London, Glasgow and South America have all perfonned at the club. Malik and Shippey have concentrated on developing the local scene. This commitment to grassroots talent has breathed life into the city‘s music scene and in turn, created new bands, new musicians. new Dls and new rappers. It has also given impetus to established bands like Blacka’nized, who have recently started their own label Yush! Recordings and put out two singles of their own.
‘We want to keep this scene solid,’ says Shippey, ‘and we also want to keep it going for a long time. Other clubs in Edinburgh like Pure, Tribal Funktion and Boogie Mo Dynamo have all created spin- off music through the club, and that’s what we want to do.’
As for the immediate future. Malik and Shippey are looking to broaden the scope of the club further still. Once a month, Lizzard Lounge will merge with Big Beat, while London rapper MC Mello — already a Lizzard Lounge regular — will visit every two months. There are also plans to take the club on tour to Aberdeen, Leeds and even Iceland. following an invite from Bjork who went to Lizzard Lounge after a recent gig. A live album of recorded highlights from the club is also in the pipeline.
In the longer term. the basement of Mansfield Place Church, where the Lizzard Lounge is held, is due to be converted into offices. While disappointed, Shippey plans to keep the club running but at a different venue.
Lizzard Lounge First Birthday, Sat 7 Mar, Cafe Graffiti. See listings for details. See Agenda, page 24, for closure story.
Glasgow: Squat (The Apartment), Sun 8 Mar.
’I'm not convinced there's much scope for live dance music — what format should it take?', asks Lionrock’s Justin Roberston. ’I don't want to get pressurised about going on tour with the band this year. I've got to think hard about it before I do it, I just can't get stuck in the whole rock ‘n' roll trap again.‘
Although Robertson’s new Lionrock album City Delirious is destined to be hailed as one of the best of the year - with the single ’Rude Boy Rock’, a tech-ska rump-bumper, getting A-list radio play — he’s staying away from the stage for the time being, getting back to his club roots.
He sees the new album as a natural successor to 1996’s Instinct For Detection, but edgier and more coherent. By seeing himself as a DJ again, rather than a pop star, be has regained his focus.
’The band touring ground me down for a while and I felt I was barking up the wrong tree. DJing is what I grew up doing and knowing, it’s what I'm good at. Playing live, I was trying to do something that wasn't me, or true to myself.’
You get the feeling that everything with Robertson has just loosened up. The album is a kaleidoscope of extreme musical styles: searing electro acid, dark breakbeat jazz, 60s garage, tech funk and space rockabilly. It baffles expectations just like he admits to doing in his DJ sets.
'I love the communal aspect of DJing,’ he says. ’I suppose I'm just lazy really. It’s quite an easy job, and it’s fun because you're just enjoying playing records you like and people are getting off on it.’ (Rory Weller)
I City Delirious is out on Concrete on Mon 76 Mar.
Justin Robertson: lion on the deck
6—19 Mar 1998 THE "3173