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Strange Brew's Third Birthday

Creating a space for local music, art and enterprise to come together, Strange Brew's third birthday celebration was a reminder of why it's heralded as the best venue in town. Epigram was there to see it all.

By Nick Richards, Second Year Philosophy

Family birthday parties are often a strange affair. It’s one of the few times a year that a group of people that happen to share some sort of DNA are obliged to turn up and attempt to be amicable for a few hours. Unless your family happens to be composed of young, creative Bristol types gazing longingly at art whilst comparing the relative merits of Detroit Techno and Chicago House, then Strange Brew’s Third Birthday would’ve been an unrecognisable family event. Instead, it was a gathering for people who were linked by their interest in local music, art and enterprise.

Anyone who has visited Strange Brew before will testify to the warm sense of community you get when you step under its 1970’s roof into the main room. Ben from Slab Publishing, sat contently behind a table with his girlfriend’s lithograph prints all around him (Elena Hartley, based at Jamaica St. Studios), summed it up perfectly - ‘a well needed place to do things’.

A surrogate family if you will.

This event being a Sunday afternoon, the buzz was more reminiscent of a cafe in Neukolln than a gig space. Pushchairs, samosas (excellent) and zines surrounded the groups of tables in the middle. On one side of the room was a myriad of records from various independent sellers, with the other side hosting art and publication stands. In the corner was a long haired, vested DJ who looked a lot like Mall Grab spinning vinyl house records. The bustle of the quirky market was interspersed with bright and poppy statement art, as well as more industrial monochrome pieces.

Given the billing as a birthday party, I was slightly deflated by the lack of cake and bunting. This was quickly made up for by a glance up at the huge mirrorball dominating the ceiling, emphasising ‘party’ in a different sense.

I look over to one of the vinyl sellers (Longwell Records) and see a man looking startled with an Al Green record in his hand. I go over and join his conversation with the guy behind the desk. Physically based in Keynsham, between Bath and Bristol, Longwell Records started doing pop ups at various ‘super cool’ places, including making regular appearances at Strange Sundays. He asks us about University life before telling us he was kicked out of school for graffiti. In a thick West Country accent, he smiles and goes ‘I could be Banksy mind!’. I rifle through his broad collection of funk and soul records before settling on a Smokey Robinson album. I thank him and move on to further exploration.

Just beyond Mall Grab’s twin, who by this point had switched gears to relentless disco, was a stand for a zine called Birdfeed. Founded by school friends Hector and Herbie, it's a ‘publication and curation of music and art’. With Herbie based in London and Hector based in Bristol, they hope to create a platform/community for people with similar interests across the two wings of Birdfeed. They are also looking to expand into events, weekly blogs and even music release, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Overall, with such a genial selection of people and artists of all disciplines, the event was a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Interesting chatter abounded, appropriately soundtracked by warm dance music that didn’t dominate. It really felt like a wider celebration of Bristol’s forward thinking spirit, not just Strange Brew’s 3rd orbit around the sun.

As I walk out, I bump into the man with the Al Green record chuffing on a cigarette outside. I ask him what brought him here today. Without pause - ‘The vibes man’. He waved goodbye before heading back in, presumably for another samosa.

Featured Image: Nick Richards

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