Clare Cellars

JAKE ALDON-FALCONER reviews the first Clare Cellars of the term, and the special sense of sacrilege that comes from dancing in a crypt.

Clare Clare Cellars fat poppadaddys Fez review underground

Clare Cellars, Friday January 21st Entry: £4 before 11; £5 after, Pint: £2.10


The unholy trinity of Cambridge nightlife is a slow-burning frustration. Fast forward half a term and listening to the same people moaning about the same clubs begins to piss me off. With this in mind, armed with a sense of optimism, I headed down to Clare Cellars last Friday.

Clare JCR is quite literally a cellar split into a bar and dance area. It’s very plush with leather sofas and smart lighting, but the comfort doesn’t eliminate that strange sense of sacrilege  you can only get from dancing in a crypt. Especially when the crypt is dark and empty, save for one solitary support DJ at the back.

This was the scene when I descended the stairs at 22:30. It remained like this until midnight and when student George Duckworth handed over his (rather unappreciated) set there can only have been two other people in the room. The DJ for the night was Fat Poppadaddys, (also known as Fat Popps; Fat daddy; or his real name, Pete), a resident at Fez who describes himself as ‘an eclectic mix’ of Indie, Reggae, Funk and any other genre you can think of.

In the bar, things were (very slowly) beginning to warm up, and a few of the angular haircuts and denim shirts you might expect at Kambar were beginning to mingle. They hit the dance floor (seeking safety in numbers) and the DJ started promisingly with James Blake’s melodic cmyk and a Jamie XX remix of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep. As the night went on, a selection of Indie and Hip Hop classics edged perilously close to cheese with Rihanna and a well-received Teenage Dirtbag.

Eventually, numbers did grow, and by closing time Fat Popps seemed comfortable enough to release some dubstep and jungle into the increasingly energetic crowd. Unfortunately, however, the atmosphere in the cellars never quite gathered the same humid intensity of its Amazonian counterpart, and the energy level remained relatively low.

Ultimately though, I had come wanting to have a good time, and I got one. It required a little positive thinking – the music wasn’t exceptional by any means although you didn’t have to be absolutely hammered to enjoy yourself. I felt alone in wanting to appreciate the music, and in fairness perhaps I was wrong to want to: after all it was a sociable and enjoyable evening regardless.  But, it didn’t compare with the live artists of previous ents (such as Last Japan, or Spectrasoul at Emma Ents) in terms of musical appreciation.

It goes to show that college ents are often simply better than the standard clubs, and cost no more. They may be alternative, but they’re definitely not as exclusive as you might think.