Friday, 21 December 2007

Review: Gazgolder (Газгольдер)

Opening Hours: Occasional
Category: Ultra-Exclusive
Feis Kontrol Rating: Ultra Tough- 5/5
Address: Nizhniy Susalniy per., 5
M: Kurskaya
Phone: +7 (985) 226 33 40

The almost mythical nightclub Gazgolder can be a refreshing break from the intensity of "glam" Moscow nightlife typified by Dyagilev, Opera, and especially Rai. While the club attracts some of the same crowd, the "typical" Gazgolder patron tends to think of themselves as more hardcore "old-school" Moscow nightlife denizens attracted more by the eclectic mix of DJ's and uber-chic design of the club, not to mention their insider knowledge of when the club will actually be open. (whether this is true or not you'll have to visit and judge for yourself!)

Gazgolder is located in the remains of an old gas distribution facility, nestled behind the Kursk railway station. The dilapidated circular red-brick gas storage towars and deserted broken-paned factory buildings surrounding Gazgolder (and it's oft-mistaken sister establishment Gazgallery) lend the setting an eerie disquieting aura, making you long for the warm glow of the lights and music emanating from the club's interior.

The first challenge you face should you wish to visit Gazgolder is finding out when it's open. Since early 2007 the club has officially been closed, but is regularly open on particular weekend nights (as well as occasional weeknights for semi-private events like most Moscow clubs), usually to showcase a visiting prominent DJ.

The second challenge is finding it. The club is not marked, and some nights there is no external evidence that there's actually a club at that address, although the recent demolition of an adjacent structure now leaves the main entrance exposed to the street.

The biggest challenge is its legendarily vicious feis kontrol. Although (unlike Krysha), the club doesn't work off a strict list, they act (and often say) as if they do. Here an edgier fashion ensemble may assist (as opposed to "who can wear the biggest designer logo" at Rai), and it definitely helps to know someone who's a regular. The often female feis kontrollers are highly efficient and pleas fall on deaf ears, so on the bright side there's rarely any line outside.

Once inside, the charm of Gazgolder becomes apparent. The club's decor is a raw red brick industrial space decorated with opulent furnishings, overstuffed couches, ornate mirrors, chandeliers, and carved tables. It's done extremely well, and creates an impression of more of a New York-style club than the excess of typical Moscow nightclubs. Like at it's frequently-compared cousin Krysha (the two share a similar crowd and penchant for illicit substances), Gazgolder eschews gogo dancers, stage performances, acrobats and paid models in favour of a more serious focus on the DJ and the typical electronica or house-type music that is most popular here. That said, the venue and crowd is certainly beautiful enough that you don't feel like you're missing anything.

The main room contains a number of couches and tables before it gives way to a large dancefloor (and conveniently-located mirror), behind which the DJ is housed on a stage-like recessed room.

It's easy to miss Gazgolder's other floors or it's outdoor courtyard, since access to both is hidden at the far end of the smaller room's bar. A narrow staircase leads to an upper floor, where a side room is often crowded with people looking for or taking part in various stimulants, acts of passion, or both. The main attic-like room at the end of the corridor is my favourite place in Gazgolder, a DJ spins a mellower but still danceable mix of tunes in an environment that is much more like a lounge-room than nightclub. Couches draped with devushki, and tables are scattered throughout the room, and a seemingly ad-hoc bar provides patrons with much-needed refreshment. The gabled roof with thick wooden beams reaching almost to the floor and the old wooden floorboards make this homely environment a great place to chill, meet new friends, or take a break from the downstairs craziness.

Gazgolder tends to get going early, if you turn up around midnight you generally won't be in an empty room, as at other clubs, and it often goes very late, although as mentioned previously, a lot of the patrons will make a trek to Krysha later in the evening.

The crowd itself is pretty friendly, but often slightly aloof with the smugness that they are the cultured, cool, and artsy crowd that wouldn't be seen dead at Dyagilev (despite that fact that you'll see them there the next evening), and protest that only Gazgolder, Krysha, Solyanka and Justo Bain Douche are worthy places to party in Moscow (you know who you are). As usual, if you can overlook or ignore this attitude, then there are some really interesting people here, and you're actually more likely to have a worthwhile conversation in Gazgolder than the Megaclubs, where people running around like dogs in heat in search of something to fuck are more likely to start humping each other on the dancefloor than communicate using something resembling words.

Aesthetically, the crowd is at once more homogeneous yet more diverse than at the megaclubs. The slightly older (men at least) average of late-twenties to mid-thirties mix has fewer of the super-old and super-young found elsewhere, and the mix of stunning models and young golden youth is supplemented by an artsier and (presumably) intelligentsia crowd that can be visually (and legitimately) entertaining.

My overall opinion is that Gazgolder is an excellent, if unpredictable venue (it can sometimes be largely empty). It makes a great alternative to the megaclubs (think of it as the "Winter Krysha"), and is also a great place to head if fell you're not quite up for the insanity of a megaclub.

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