A long time ago in a gay scene far, far away…
Gay clubs came in just 2 shapes, tacky pop-house parties and hard hi-octane dance clubs. All that changed when popstarz launched itself on London and the world…
Popstarz started in May 1995 at the now demolished Paradise club in Islington with two rooms, the smaller room played 80’s pop and the main room played Indie. Despite the Britpop explosion in the charts nobody expected a gay club focusing on the likes of Nirvana, Blur, Radiohead and Pulp was going to be a success, especially since there was to be a ‘house’ tune in sight, but from the opening night there were queues around the block and popstarz and the gay indie scene exploded.
After 9 months popstarz moved to the Hanover Grand off Regent Street and by now it’s success couldn’t be ignored, ID magazine, The Face, Time Out and the rest of the UK press wrote regular articles on the phenomenon that was popstarz and soon there were visits from the likes of Morrissey, Siouxsie Sioux, and Mick Jagger to name a few.
But popstarz never courted celebrity attention, the number one people were the punters – the ‘popstarz population’ who become devoted followers of the night and it’s festival appearances. Wherever popstarz went the crowd followed. Next stop was The Leisure Lounge in Holborn and here the likes of Noel Galligher, Keith (The Prodigy), Boy George, Karen (Bananrama), Alexander McQueen (amongst others) could be seen rubbing shoulders with London club kids all dancing to the latest indie hits. Outgrowing the Leisure Lounge popstarz took up residency at the newly re-launched Paradise Club which had been transformed into The Complex, a four roomed venue.
As always Indie took pride of place in the main room, pop took the second room, the smallest room became a ‘Big Beat’ room (no house just innovative electro) and in the velvety lounge upstairs popstarz continued to lead the way in gay club innovation and became the first gay club to start playing a new underground sound called RnB. It would be years before RnB became the global success it is today and before any other gay clubs got in on the act.
By now popstarz was in high demand at festivals like Gay Pride, Summer Rites, Mardi Gras and straight events like after show parties for bands including Blur, Pulp, Suede, The Pet Shop Boys, and product launches and other events – something the popstarz team still do to this day.
The next move took popstarz to The Scala in King Cross and three rooms of fun; Indie (in the main room of course) RnB and pop. Here popstarz began introducing huge live bands to it’s nights and there were many memorable live shows from the likes of; Peaches, C.S.S, Goldfrapp, Electric 6, Skin (Skunk Anansie), We Are Scientists, Chicks On Speed, Le Tigre, Maximo Park, Mika (twice), Dragonette, Calvin Harris, The Scissor Sisters and The Dandy Warhols to name a few. And big name stars came to DJ including Brett Anderson (Suede), Brian Molko (Placebo) and Kele (Bloc Party). Famous faces who came down for a boogie at this time include The Pet Shop Boys, Mika, The Scissors Sisters, The Feeling, Elton John, Kelly Osbourne, Neve Campbell, Katie Price (Jordan), Graham Coxon (Blur) and Courtney Love.
During it’s run at the Scala popstarz continued to be a regular on the festival circuit and hosted it’s own indie stage at Mardi Gras joined by acts that included, Suede, Goldfrapp, 80s Matchbox B Line Disaster, EMF, Gene, Rialto, Gay Dad and Yeah Yeah Yeahs. After 8 years it was time for a change and the club headed into the West End at Sin (opposite the Astoria) in the centre of town for the first time. Here for just a year (when the building was taken down to make way for the Tottenham Court road tube expansion) there were many memorable nights, including a special pop DJ set from Swedish star Robyn and live performances from Alphabeat and Gossip.
The popstarz team stayed in town after Sin and moved a few hundred metres up the road to fabulous world famous venue The Den (Formerly The End) where it currently resides with three rooms of tunes, Indie, Pop and RnB. Famous faces include the new Spiderman Andrew Garfield, Ana Matronic (The Scissor Sisters), Will Young, Brian Molko, Hollywood Director Bryan Singer, TV Presenters Brian Dowling and Gail Porter, Actress Kirsten Dunst and the comedian Alan Carr.
Each year a new group of gay indie kids (and their straight friends) claims popstarz as it own, joining the thousands of others who love popstarz, the club has gone from strength to strength and we’d like to thank the ‘popstarz population’ for making it so special. Stay tuned there’s plenty more to come!