After hosting a series of seated and private events, Bristol’s newest cultural destination recently staged its first proper club night and in doing so showed its full potential.
Propyard in St Philips was previously a torpedo testing facility owned by the Ministry of Defence, and it has maintained its industrial feel after being taken on by a group of seven friends, who put pen to paper on a 10-year lease back in February.
Vast metal girders still run along the ceiling of the factory and cranes that were once used by the MOD loom above the bars. The outside area meanwhile is an expanse of concrete now home to a covered second stage, street food traders and, amusingly, the rocket replica reclaimed from former harbourside pop-up venue Outer Space.
Those who visited Propyard before its sudden temporary closure in August will no doubt have been impressed as they entered for the first time, and many will likely have wondered what it would be like attending a club night there. The answer, I’m sure they would agree, is absolutely fantastic. On Saturday night the venue welcomed a Club Blanco takeover which saw one of the most respected selectors in the UK scene – Joy Orbison – head up the main room for his first appearance in Bristol in five years.
He was joined by a raft of talent including Berlin-based house and techno favourite Evan Baggs, rising star GiGi FM, also from Berlin, and Club Blanco boss Chez de Milo. The second stage was headlined by Bahrainian duo Dar Disku, who have been making waves with their eclectic, high energy sets, with Billie George and Noods Radio favourite Millie Mckee in support.
Sam Watts, aka the DJ Maxxi Soundsytem, one of the seven people heading up the venue, told me on the night that the group want nights at Propyard to have a distinct Berlin feel, and they’ve definitely succeeded in doing that. The German capital is famed for its dimly-lit industrial clubs, with Yaam and the legendary Berghain being just two examples, and the imposing Propyard has shades of both. The production on the night was fairly stripped back with no lasers or gimmicks, letting the music do the talking and adding further to the Berlin vibe.
Before headliner Joy Orbison took to the decks at midnight, Dar Disku packed out the second stage outside as thousands of punters sporting eye-catching Halloween costumes passed through the gates on Feeder Road, and they delivered a memorable genre-spanning set which included a shedload of moments that had everyone singing along and throwing their arms in the air, not least Perfecto’s edit of Grace’s 1997 classic Not Over Yet.
The sound-system was first-rate and the atmosphere among the crowd was equally on point – and the same went for the main room inside, which is absolutely vast, meaning that despite all-but selling out, there was plenty of space to dance and roam around freely, with the bar conveniently placed at the back of the room.
Joy Orbison’s set was as eclectic and well constructed as you’d expect from a DJ of his acclaim, spanning a range of genres from house and techno to grime and jungle – and with the clocks going back on the night, it meant that when his stint behind the decks finished at 2am, it was actually 1am, which acted as a nice bonus for those looking to keep the party going.
If there was one slight downside to the night, it would be that there was no real seating area. Some covered benches next to the outside stage would have been appreciated for weary-legged ravers, who instead had to settle with squatting on gravel. An additional bar wouldn’t have gone a miss either, as at times it took a while to get served. But these grievances were not enough to take the shine off a truly memorable night.
Of course, Bristol already has one incredible sprawling warehouse late-night venue in Motion, located just a stone’s throw away, but there is certainly room for another, and those in attendance on Saturday night will surely be eagerly awaiting the next night at Propyard. The future for this multi-use space is incredibly exciting.
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