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New to Leeds: The Key Club

· Joseph Sheerin · Music

Out of the ashes of The Cockpit, there is a new Leeds music venue to cherish in the form of The Key Club.

As the dust has settled on the announcement that The Cockpit was to never again re-open its doors, it still feels like it’s a quite a loss for Leeds.

However, time to mourn needs to end at some point, and thankfully for those of punk or rock persuasions, our prayers have quickly been answered with The Key Club.

The guys behind the internationally renowned club night and festival of the same name, Slam Dunk, have used the sad demise of their former home as an opportunity to get out and stand on their own two feet.

One of those people is Todd Malloy, also known as JD, who is Slam Dunk’s Live Music Co-ordinator and he explained that the arrival of The Key Club is part of the domino effect that recent events have put in place.

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“The Key Club is a direct result of The Cockpit closing” he points out. “We at Slam Dunk have been working out of The Cockpit for years and with its demise we wanted to create a new home for rock shows and club nights in Leeds.”

It’s important to realise that the folk behind Slam Dunk aren’t stepping too far into the unknown. Their work over the past decade has seen them become the first name in pop punk and metal in the UK, from the club night that started out at The Cockpit, to the hugely anticipated three city festival they put on each summer.

As JD points out, it’s their passion that means they’ll take to running The Key Club with few issues. “I am really excited to keep the flag flying for the alternative scene in Leeds. Music has always been a passion of mine, probably my only one, and this really is a labour of love.” He told us, “I hope to see fresh-faced kids come through the door with as much excitement and enthusiasm as I did when I first arrived in Leeds. I hope this place feels like home to all the alternative music fans in the city, and even beyond.”

Part of that continuity means The Key Club will be bringing a few friends with them from the old days as well as some changes. Along with their own eponymous Tuesday night party moving there, so will everyone’s favourite indie disco The Garage on Saturdays alongside the introduction of Ignite, their Friday night shindig featuring the best of metal and classic rock.

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As JD remarks, being able to continue with these events that have become a big part of the city’s nightlife is a big deal. “It is an absolute honour to even be involved with these nights in the first place, especially as I am relatively new blood compared to some of my peers. To be able to keep them going at our own venue is fantastic.”

It is opening to add to and enhance what the existing Leeds music venues already offer. The Key Club has space for 250 people for gigs and 300 revellers on club nights meaning its intimacy will be playing into its favour, as will the sound system that JD promises “has to be heard to be believed.”

Coming through that sound system will be a slew of top talent over the forthcoming months. Already lined up for the rest of this year and early 2015 are the likes of The Defiled, The Maine and Blitz Kids, while JD already has some highlights to pick out when pushed.

“We have a great variety of shows coming up, so it really does depend on individual tastes” he says with a sense of impartiality. “I am excited to see both national and international, fresh talent coming through the doors. Personally I am looking forward to We Are The Ocean (UK) and Joyce Manor (USA), but please check out our full listings.”

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And while the line-up at The Key Club is already strong, their new residence, the former Beat Bar and Subculture venue on Merrion Street, is a big deal for Leeds for a number of other reasons.

Not only will it offer Merrion Centre another slice of diversity and contribute to the Arena/Northern Quarter growth that seems unstoppable right now, but it will also put paid to that ridiculous crowd funding campaign that insults the rest of Leeds’ music venues.

Yet, most importantly it shows off how well-placed Leeds is to recover from the sad demise of The Cockpit, with people willing to take on that mantle that’s been left at their closed up doorway.

If The Key Club can do that for as long, or even longer than The Cockpit did, then September 2014 will mark a turning point for music in Leeds that, though came out of sad news, showed everything will be alright in the end.

The Key Club, 66 Merrion Street, LS2 8LW.

Images copyright Jade Till Photography.