Nightlife in Brighton: the best clubs and gigs

by BrightonExpert

Brighton's club and music scene is varied, energetic and eccentric. You won't find many glossy superclubs here – but there are plenty of quirky little venues with jam-packed dancefloors.

The first thing to remember is that there’s no one-size-fits-all dress code in this party town. Retro-modern or classic grunge? Sharp suits, or shorts and flipflops? Disco dresses, or boas and tassels? Ethnic headwraps, or fluffy bunny ears? Brighton’s motley crew of live music fans and clubbers do it all. Recently, one venue even threw a Wardrobe Disasters night, with prizes for the worst-dressed "Charity Shop Mingers". Now. that’s a nice way to support the needy.

If new music is your thing, you’re in for a treat. Brighton is a particularly good place to track down the fresh, frothy and funky. Every other teenager you meet here claims to be in a band and the city even has its own rock academy, BIMM (Brighton Institute of Modern Music; www.bimm.co.uk). Each May, Brighton hosts The Great Escape (www.escapegreat.com), which bills itself as Europe’s leading new music festival.

Brighton venues tend to be both intimate and flexible. The beach bars along the Kings Road Arches west of Brighton Pier morph into clubs after dark, and several pubs which are mellow by day become live music or DJ venues by night. Early-evening entrance is sometimes free, especially midweek; standard rates are generally under £5 and even the biggest bashes rarely cost more than £15. Just one word of warning: tempers can sometimes flare up on West Street at weekends.

Here’s my pick of the best places to go out:

For chart and indie bands

Big names work the crowds at the Brighton Centre and at the three performance spaces which come under the umbrella of the Brighton Dome: the Dome Concert Hall, Corn Exchange and Pavilion Theatre. The top venues for indie bands are Komedia in the North Laine and Concorde 2, a classic, grungey hangout in a once-splendid Victorian pavilion on the Kemptown seafront. Bloc Party, The White Stripes and Kaiser Chiefs have all played here. Smaller gigs pop up in pubs throughout the week and are advertised locally.

For cabaret, burlesque and jazz

Great spots for a quirky night out include the Brighton Ballroom in Kemptown, a glamorous venue with an imaginative programme of costume parties and cabaret nights, attracting a grown-up, dressed-up crowd. The cellar bar at the Latest Music Bar hosts jazz, cabaret and acoustic sessions and has bags of atmosphere.

For house, garage, techno, hiphop and pop

The best of the more mainstream DJ hotspots are dotted along the seafront near the foot of Brighton Pier. Audio is currently the front runner for crowd-pleasing tunes and student-friendly party nights. The coolest clubs in the arches down on the beach are Life, Digital and The Honey Club. Revenge is the biggest and brashest of the cluster of gay clubs and bars just northeast of the pier.

For soul, funk, Latin and Motown

The tunnel-like Funky Buddha Lounge spins mellow tunes on Saturday nights; the Funky Fish Club has a great no-frills feel; and Casablanca is a relaxed little hideout where you can sample soul, funk and Motown.

Brighton’s best clubs and music venues

  • Audio - 10 Marine Parade, Brighton BN2 1TL; +44 1273 606906; www.audiobrighton.com
  • Brighton Ballroom - 83 St Georges Road, Kemptown, Brighton BN2 1EF; +44 1273 605879; www.brightonballroom.com
  • Brighton Centre - Kings Road, Brighton, BN1 2GR; +44 1273 290131; www.brightoncentre.co.uk
  • Brighton Dome - Church Street, Brighton BN1 1EE; +44 1273 709709; www.brightondome.org
  • Casablanca - 3 Middle Street, Brighton BN1 1AL; +44 1273 321817; www.casablancajazzclub.com
  • Concorde 2 - Madeira Drive, Brighton BN2 1EN; +44 1273 673311; www.concorde2.co.uk
  • Digital - 187 Kings Road Arches, Brighton BN1 1NB; +44 1273 227767; www.yourfutureisdigital.com/brighton
  • Funky Buddha Lounge - 169-170 Kings Road Arches, Brighton BN1 1NB; +44 1273 725541
  • Funky Fish Club - 19-23 Marine Parade, Brighton BN2 1TL; +44 7887 946158; www.funkyfishclub.co.uk
  • The Honey Club - 214 Kings Road Arches, Brighton BN1 1NB; +44 1273 202807; www.thehoneyclub.co.uk
  • Komedia - 44-47 Gardner Street, Brighton BN1 1UN; +44 845 293 8480; www.komedia.co.uk/brighton
  • Latest Music Bar - 14-17 Manchester Street, Brighton BN2 1TF; +44 1273 687171; www.thelatest.co.uk/musicbar
  • Life - 159-161 Kings Road Arches BN1 1NB; +44 1273 770505; www.drinkinbrighton.co.uk/life
  • Revenge - 32 Old Steine, Brighton BN1 1EL; +44 1273 606064; www.revenge.co.uk

More nightlife

Visit my overview on Brighton nightlife or read my other guides: Nightlife in Brighton: stage, street and screen culture and Nightlife in Brighton: perfect pints and creative cocktails.

Where to stay

For a full list of my recommendations on where to stay in Brighton, see Brighton Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Brighton.

BrightonExpert

My career as a travel writer for national newspapers, magazines and big-name guidebook companies takes me all over the world – trekking in the Congo Basin one month, café-hopping in Sydney the next – but there’s something about Brighton that keeps pulling me home. It’s now been my base for over ten years.

There's more about me on my website: www.emmagregg.com

My Brighton

The things I like best about Brighton – apart from its fantastic location, of course – are its quirkiness and its sense of fun. It’s easily the UK’s most colourful coastal city.

Where I always grab a coffee: My favourite rainy-day café is Redroaster on St James Street in Kemptown – the owners are fanatical about quality coffee, and it shows. When the sun’s out, you can’t beat The Meeting Place in Hove, a down-to-earth spot right next to the sparkling sea.

My favourite stroll: I adore Brighton’s open spaces and big skies. Best of all are the seafront promenade – glorious at any time of year – and the gigantic pebble beach.

Shopaholics beware: There’s always something new in the North Laine, the grid of streets southeast of the station. With rows of one-of-a-kind boutiques, vintage stores, gift shops and organic food suppliers, it’s the heart of bohemian Brighton, and thoroughly addictive.

The perfect pint: In a city that’s positively stuffed with good pubs, The Basketmakers Arms on Gloucester Road is one of the best – cosy, characterful and central, with great beer on tap.

The place to be seen: The Brighton Ballroom (formerly The Hanbury) on St George’s Road in Kemptown has reinvented itself as a wonderfully eccentric little music, cabaret and dance venue. It hosts everything from indie bands to 1930s-style jazz nights and saucy burlesque parties.

The most breathtaking view: On the sunniest, calmest days of summer, it’s great to head down to the beach for a swim. Strike out, turn around, and you see the Regency seafront stretched out like a ribbon. It has to be one of the most beautiful views in Britain.

Don’t leave without… treating yourself to a pile of luscious fish and chips on Brighton Pier.