The Belgrave Music Hall and Canteen is approaching its second birthday and alongside these jubilations, the team behind the established venue have even more reason to celebrate with the birth of a sibling venue, Headrow House. Little more than a few hundred yards down the road – and as the name may suggest – just off The Headrow, Headrow House offers a vast array of entertainment. Right from the off and in a fraternally competitive manner, Headrow House’s selection of bars, food and events seriously challenges the Belgrave’s reputable catalogue.
With venues like The Cockpit and Carpe Diem closing within the last year the team behind both the Belgrave and Headrow House are clearly doing something right. This appears to be largely attributable to their ability to stack layers of entertainment. Through combining art, food, drink and music the Belgrave has attracted Leeds’ custom with great success and Headrow House looks to be accelerating this multi-dimensional platform. Boasting four floors, Headrow House has made fantastic use of the old mill which sits behind one of Leeds’ busiest streets. With several bars, a beer hall, a restaurant, a live music venue and multiple outdoor terraces, the building caters to a huge collection of needs. With an art and performance space on the top floor, the opening of The Brunswick just across the road from the Belgrave only a couple of weeks ago highlights a similar trend in demands; people want more than just a bar or music venue.
Upon arriving at Headrow House on its first Friday of service people were queuing outside in their numbers; a healthy sign for any launch evening and credit to a successful promotional campaign. With a select number of ‘invites’ and social media accounts that date back over 3 months, those queuing held an air of anticipation which was exacerbated by the promoters’ disclosure that the doors were going to be open half an hour late. Almost as a token of mutual loyalty, the organisers handed out cans of Five Points Pale to everyone that stood outside, a generous gesture which only heightened excitement levels.
While part of the Belgrave’s beauty lies in its mish-mash of benches and lumpy sofas, Headrow House’s beer hall is clean-shaven and suave, sporting a wall of logs and potted ferns. The beer hall also houses the North of England’s first Pilsner Urquell tank and early entrants were tempted to try the Czech beer with free drinks vouchers. While a high standard of quality had clearly been taken to the decor, the same approach had obviously been taken with their products. Alongside the fantastic Pilsner, fridges were filled with a great selection of world beers.
While the beer hall looked fantastic, large parts of Headrow House were unfinished. Both the Redondo Beach roof terrace and the Event Space remained closed until a little later on in the evening and finishing touches to toilets and corridor spaces still needed completing. However, this did nothing to take away from the energy of the evening and as different sections of the old mill opened, they filled quickly with curious customers.
As a 150 capacity venue, the Event Space filled particularly quickly as people were enticed into the room by the stage’s backlit visuals and hundreds of balloons. Taking to the stage for the opening evening were Ghost Culture and East India Youth. Both acts kept the energy in the room high with their synth-heavy sets laying a base for more delicate vocal lines to surface and performances being complemented by a minimalistic light show which saw fading and flaring light bulbs pulse along with the music. While the performances were certainly enjoyable and accompanied the party-like vibe of the evening, it was a slight shame that the Event Room didn’t showcase its capacities as a venue for a full band to perform in. With both Ghost Culture and East India Youth both falling within the one-man-band category, it would have been interesting to see the interactions of a band in the space especially considering some of the great bands that the venue have scheduled for Beacons Metro festival.
Despite a slightly narrow musical approach and the fact that lots remained both unfinished and unfurnished, Headrow House’s launch evening was a real success. With generosity in the form of free food, plenty of free drinks and lots to see throughout the evening, the building highlighted its potential as a hub of entertainment. If anything, the fact that the building was not completely finished for its launch night may have worked to its advantage in the next few weeks, with visitors wanting to come back and see the end result of a work in progress. Alongside a fantastic roster of events that run up to the New Year and the opening of its restaurant, Ox Club, set for mid October, the launch of the Headrow House certainly gave people reason to return.
David Campbell Olson