By Lucas Arthur, Music Editor
Some things never change. The queue for Lakota, along the graffiti-strewn walls of Upper York Street, is as vibrant as ever – social distancing is patchy and masks are few and far between, but it’s a young crowd and the sun is shining. It feels good to be back.
Lakota Gardens is one of the many socially-distanced music events on offer over the next month, as venues adapt to the stringent laws that limit the spread of Covid-19. Like all large gatherings, it takes place outside; ‘Garden’ is used in a liberal sense (think beer garden) with a grid of picnic benches spread across the smoking area of the nightclub.
Vines, leaves and disco balls are suspended from the colourful circus canopies above. The stage sits centre, adorned with gold trims and elaborate foliage. When seated, the only obvious abnormality is the huge Perspex screen in front of the DJ, framing him like a fish tank.
The security on the door are friendly and understanding, leafing through wallets and bags before directing you to a temperature check (where I scored a healthy 36.3oC, in case you were wondering) and hand sanitiser stations.
The rules are taken seriously, as is to be expected; masks must be worn while standing, a one-way system must be followed and interaction with other tables is strictly forbidden.
The rules are taken seriously – masks must be worn, there's a one-way system and interaction with other tables is strictly forbidden.
A £34 ticket buys you two hours at a table for six people. This isn’t a cheap day out, as drinks come at the standard Bristol club prices that we all know and loathe. A single shot and mixer will set you back £6.20, so getting pi**ed on a student budget is out of the question. Pre-drinking would be a wise move.
Once seated, it’s a great atmosphere despite the restrictions, somewhere between the laid-back boozing of a pub lunch and the safety-first fun of a school disco. For the first time in a long while, you feel at ease while in the midst of a large group of people. Conversations hum in the air; a table near the stage is covered in bubbles, to the amusement of those nearby; ‘cheers’ go up when a drink is spilt, in true British fashion. It’s the small things that make a place feel alive.
Sadly, the music had the opposite effect. A disciple of the ‘Just Press Play’ school of DJing, the lad on the decks would lazily mix tech house and disco tracks before sauntering off the stage to grab a sandwich or mingle with staff.
‘Disco’ was a considerable oversell; the volume was so far down as to make one track indistinguishable from the next, more akin to ambient restaurant music than the party we’d been led to expect. The event flyer had namedropped Folamour, Crazy P and other renown disco-house DJs, implying an event where the music took centre stage. Yet this was anything but.
It feels unfair to be so critical, however. No event which adheres to the current government guidelines will come close to the garden parties, festivals and raves it replaces; a sit down disco is contradictory in it’s very name (it’s hard to dance while seated), so perhaps keeping the music below a conversational volume was a good move after all.
While a similar experience can be had at just about any pub in the city, the layout of Lakota gardens felt far more sociable, and we left feeling happy to have gone. There are many similar events across the city this summer.
While they’re certainly worth a try, I can’t help but feel that they’re only a mean of passing the time until true nightlife returns.
Featured: Lucas Arthur / Epigram
Are you planning on attending a socially-distant music event in Bristol this month?