Underground clubs in Gothenburg
Where do you go for an insight into Gothenburg's underground rave scene? Well, there are few better people to talk to than Leyla, co-founder of Illegal Ground. For the last three years, her website has been giving tips on the best music and clubs in Gothenburg, including its buzzing underground parties.
It all started when Leyla was working with her friend Pernian, who nowadays covers the underground scene in Paris for IG. "I thought initially about doing a paper magazine and giving it away for free. But I spoke to a printing shop and they said it was 60.000 SEK... I was like, no, that's not going to work! We saw that the underground was booming and there was nobody covering it", and so she and Pernian stepped up to fill the void.
And Leyla has already seen some changes in the three years she's been reporting, "I think the underground scene is getting broader. Which is good, I think we should welcome everyone into it. It should be open for anyone." However, being open and welcoming is very different from being public. It would go against the very meaning of "underground" as Leyla explains, "I keep some nights out of it. Some of the arrangers I speak to don't want me to mention them. If it's a super small party for 150 people, I don't post about it. Not because there is a danger of attracting the wrong crowd or whatever, but maybe there would be too many people coming. Although... I don't know how much influence I have!" Then there are the occasions she's been asked to take a link down, "Everyone has been polite about it. It's not like I can keep it up and say: freedom of speech bro!"
The truth is that websites like IG offer a valuable point in the right direction. There is a surface layer of underground nights that can be freely promoted. Often, they'll have a public event page on Facebook – they're not making much of an effort to hide. To delve deeper into the underground scene takes more work, and if you're new to Gothenburg, it's not going to land in your lap, "It's really hard. You need to get to know people. It takes a lot of time – you have to work for it, if you want it!" Which kind of sounds like the way it should be: those with the interest will make the effort and be rewarded. And, personally, I like that it takes speaking to people, building human relationships, rather than hiding behind your phone to discover the depths of the scene.
Which brings us to the meaning of underground clubs, "If we're talking about Gothenburg, I would say that the main core of it, is that it's a place for people who really like underground music like techno or tech house, stuff that's not found in the main clubs because it's too edgy or... monotone. I don't know, people have a lot of opinions about this kind of music! There's definitely a big focus on the music and dancing. People gather round that." The conversation moves onto the sense of freedom at an underground party, a festival vibe, the care, responsibility and respect the crowd show to each other. It's not your average night on Avenyn. And neither is it difficult to see why people are drawn to it.
When asked about the best underground venues in Gothenburg, Leyla picks out the warehouse space used by Mythos (unfortunately now shutdown) as being one of her favourites in the city. Within the more official "white clubs", she describes the Gothenburg Film Studios as "awesome because you can customize it to do whatever you want, and it fits a lot people if you have a big act."
And while the venue is important, the music surely comes first. So, if you're looking for a great underground night, which Gothenburg-based DJs would Leyla recommend? She thinks for a moment, and gives the names: Magnus Nylander, Stina Francina, Frankie Statuto, Hannah Prescott. Then admits it's not always easy to know what to expect from a line-up, "There are so many genres and sub-genres, I would say the biggest here in Gothenburg are House, Techno and Tech-house. But if you are worried about the kind of music that is playing on a night, then you should SoundCloud the DJs". We touch on the ever-growing number of female DJ's in Gothenburg, something Leyla is really positive about, "A few years ago there were basically no female DJs playing. I don't know what happened but the revolution came and now there's usually at least one girl on the line-up".
But it's not just local DJs you see behind the decks in Gothenburg. In terms of international DJs playing here, most tend to come from Berlin or London. Leyla notes there has been a recent emergence of artists from Eastern European cities like, Kiev, too. So what do these international DJs make of playing in Gothenburg? "From what I have heard, from the ones I've spoken to, they really like the tight community they find here. And that comes from Gothenburg's size." Ah yes, Gothenburg's size. I've often thought that in many ways, including and beyond music, Gothenburg's size does hit a sweet spot – big enough to attract talent, established infrastructure, and yet, neither crowded/saturated nor spread over too large an area. Perhaps it's Gothenburg's size which explains why Leyla sees parallels between the underground scenes in Gothenburg and Malmö, "the communities in Malmö and Gothenburg are quite similar. If you go out in Malmö you'll see people from Gothenburg partying there. Arrangers move between the two. Because Stockholm is bigger, you need to travel further. And it means you have to pick a night and stay there."
And what could the future hold for Illegal Ground? Encouraging Leyla to dream a little, she says "I would love to cover London. I've been to a few great underground nights in London. Copenhagen would be nice. I don't have much insight into Oslo but I have heard their scene is awesome. Their regular clubs close at 2am and then they all go into the forest! It's about finding writers though, I can't be everywhere at once!"
And in the more tangible and near future, Leyla is also excited about her first Illegal Ground event in Gothenburg. In collaboration with Miilk, they will host a mid-week Open Decks night at HPKSM. It's an opportunity for DJs in Gothenburg to share their talent and a chance for all of us to enjoy a drink in the company of some underground beats.
Sounds like a winner.
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