The Nick Rayns LCR
by Jack Enright

It’s easy to take the LCR for granted. For most freshers a night out in its sweaty interiors quickly becomes a regular event, a drunken inauguration during
freshers’ week blossoming dimly into a series of fragmented nights, hazily strung together throughout the student years.


Photo: Union of UEA Students

However, just for now, forget the club nights complete with dubious themes and hit singles booming over a sweaty, bouncing dance floor, because the Nick Rayns LCR will only shine at its very best when employed as a music venue.

With a capacity of just over 1500, the site proves surprisingly intimate when you consider those who have previously graced its stage – U2, Manic Street Preachers, Red Hot Chilli Peppers and Coldplay to name just a few – and with bands such as Bastille, Sub Focus and Haim just around the corner, the LCR is certainly maintaining its reputation as a serious, heavyweight venue.

Alongside the healthily discounted drink prices on gig nights, the greatest appeal lies in its campus location and close proximity to the student union – arguably its chief strength against the other Norwich venues. Freshers take note, big names play here and you are within rolling distance of your beds – there is simply no excuse to miss out.

However, it must be said that besides roping in the aforementioned big bookings, there can at times be more than a faint whiff of nostalgia in its booking choices – reunion tours and tribute bands feature regularly – with costs for such tickets not always kind to those tight budgets. Just take a look at the Happy Mondays-Bummed 25th Anniversary Tour which, at £28, seems a somewhat hefty price to pay. That, and its rife oversell on tickets, being the two most serious weaknesses.

The Nick Rayns LCR fills a gap in the Norwich music scene. The Bicycle Shop, Open and Waterfront all have their various advantages, but really, if what you’re after is a great atmosphere, indecent amounts of dancing and to know the vast majority of those around you, then it really does tick every box.

And if you do fancy dancing the night away to some good old chart hits, then it’s free club entry for the rest of the night. Fun, as always, is guaranteed.

The Arts Centre
by Flo Evans

It’s a modest affair really – a renovated Anglo-Saxon church with 300 person capacity. You’ll get a well-pulled pint and some theatre, standup, and a bit of music. Actually, now you mention it, they have had a few folk in that you might have heard of. Oh, I don’t know… Nirvana, Oasis, Libertines, Manic Street Preahcers and Coldplay? Jack Dee popped in once, as did Noel Fielding.


Photo: The Swan House

This church is a uniquely striking venue, which can be admired for its perfect acoustics and theatrical, slightly gothic stone arches. The stage is constructed in the place of the old Altar, effortlessly translating this place of worship from the old religion of Christianity to the new religion of music.

The venue confidently and consistently books the artists that you need to talk about, and offers a vast array of genres. Last year saw such critically acclaimed acts as post-punk rockers Savages, as well as Lapalux, the only British artist signed to Flying Lotus’ prestigious Brainfeeder label. Attending a gig here will likely win you the chance of saying “I saw them before they were even on Jools Holland” for years to come.

It has the ability to be a roaring gig venue, a crisp and well behaved concert hall, or gloomy devil-may-care stand up venue. It even boasts a lovely, tranquil cafe that, come gig night, transforms into a nice little bar with an impressive selection of ciders and ales, perfect for pre-show drinks with company. This is without mentioning a gerat exhibition space and public use venue for anything from art fairs to classes and private parties.

The Arts Centre is that good-looking classmate at school that does everything well and isn’t trying too hard. The Arts Centre is left field and leather jacket wearing. After leaving the Arts Centre dripping with sweat, spilt beer, and with that dull ringing in your ears, you are much advised to seek refuge amongst kitschy furniture and generously measured cocktails in the Ten Bells Pub, which is just across the street.

If you’re looking for some quick and easy pre-gig nourishment, check out the Grosvenor Fish Bar which is just round the corner on Lower Goat Lane. The Birdcage, directly across from the chip shop, makes a great meeting point and pre-drink destination.

The Waterfront
by Jack Enright

Located on the opposite bank to the Riverside Entertainment Centre, The Waterfront may be a tad off the beaten track in terms of Norwich’s nightlife spots, but that certainly shouldn’t be enough to put you off. The Waterfront might sometimes be overshadowed by its big brother on campus, the LCR, but it’s very much a heavyweight venue in its own right.


Photo: Denis Gorbatov

The venue boasts a large 700-capacity room on the ground floor, and a smaller upstairs Studio room. The big bookings will usually play downstairs, but it’s worth keeping an eye on The Studio listings too – it’s a great place for catching small Norwich-based acts in their infancy.

The booking team at The Waterfront put together a great series of acts year after year, and this semester is no exception – with heavyweight names such as Peace, Local Natives and MSMR gracing the bill, it would be ignorant to pass off The Waterfront as any kind of LCR-Lite.

When it comes to regular clubnights, in fact, it’s easy to argue that The Waterfront has the edge. While the LCR may have by far the bigger, bolder nights, the playlist will inevitably be chart-heavy and entirely forgettable – The Waterfront, on the other hand, puts on a range of clubnights that cater for a few genres at a time. ‘Meltdown’ – the Waterfront’s flagship night – specialises in indie, rock and alternative dance music and runs every Saturday.

If you’re a fan of classic rock and metal, then the Metal Lust clubnight will cater for your needs on the third Saturday of the Month in the upstairs Studio. Meanwhile, The Wraith night showcases the best in alternative rock, metal and goth on the last Saturday of every month.

In terms of serious downsides to The Waterfront, there really isn’t too much to complain about. The soundsystem might not be as sharp as The Open’s crystal clear set-up, and if you are really splitting hairs then there’s a couple of awkwardly placed pillars in the main room, but nothing that can really take away from a great night out.

The Open
by Jack Enright

The Open can sometimes feel like the unloved middle child of the Norwich music scene when compared to the big, shiny LCR and the older, more chic vibe of the Arts Centre. This isn’t helped by the way things are run over there either – step through the doors on gig night and you are confronted by a phalanx of high-vis clad stewards, marshals and doorstaff, who proceed to make the gig feel slightly awkward by hanging around the entire night like anxious teachers at a school disco. It’s not all bad news by any means, however – the Open team actually have a knack for snagging some top musical talent just before they hit the big time.

This means you often get the chance to see some of tomorrow’s big names in a small venue, and if you’re lucky, they’ll be playing downstairs in the tiny, intimate Club Room. Add to the mix the recently installed sound system, which is arguably the best in Norwich, and the fact there is free tea and coffee available at the bar (for God knows what reason) and there are some serious plus points to offset any downsides.

The Bicycle Shop
by Rob Drury

You’d be forgiven for thinking the Bicycle Shop on St Benedict’s Street serves only coffee, cake and little birds on bicycles as you walk through the door. But step downstairs to the music room for a gig and you’ll find it serves up a whole other host of delights.

bicycle shop

Photo: Norwich Music

Whether perched on a stool by the small (but well-stocked) bar or lounging on a sofa by the stage, the tiny venue is perfect for chilled-out, intimate gigs.

Regardless of who’s playing, The Bicycle Shop is a must-visit gig venue for its relaxed atmosphere and tremendously hipster setting.