A 200-capacity basement club under Max’s Bar on Glasgow’s Queen Street, La Cheetah has become one of four or five must-mention clubs in any worthwhile precis of the Glasgow scene, and right now it has the distinct look of a place that’s taking things up a notch. La Cheetah has always had excellent bookings and underground appeal, but with a major, design-led refurbishment completed earlier this year and a steady rise in the number of bookings capable of making you do an impressed double-take, things are looking particularly bright just now.
As Grahame Ward, booker and PR head of an operation is at pains to stress, it is very much a team effort. La Cheetah has come an awfully long way in the seven years since it changed owners. “Back then it was a function room basically,” he says. “As time went on though, we realised people in Glasgow were enjoying smaller places for clubbing, so we thought we should respond to that as best we could.”
That meant gradually adding such fripperies as a DJ booth - my main memory of La Cheetah’s Twisted Wheel incarnation was a riotous label night from the Numbers’ sub-label Dress 2 Sweat sometime in the mid-00s that featured a young Zomby playing with his equipment set up on a rickety table. Ward’s relationship with the place grew in tandem, firstly as promoter of the Stay Plastic and Tribute nights, and then as the club’s in-house booker.
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“There’s a lot of the most underground, under-exposed music you can imagine going on down there, but you also get people like Moodymann and Theo Parrish coming who would usually be somewhere far bigger,” he says. “That’s possible because Dario Bernardi, La Cheetah’s owner puts a lot of money he could otherwise pocket back into booking these guys. Theo Parrish has played three times and the first one of those was one of the main nights that put us on the map. That was the first one that sold out really quickly - people were talking about it for weeks afterwards.
Early this year the team decided the time was finally right to close La Cheetah for a refurbishment that had long been in the planning. Shaun Murphy - a perennial presence at the club as well as Hudson Mohawke’s main visuals man - redesigned the space “from start to finish”, with a new lighting rig and a specially tuned Funktion One soundsystem the club’s other most notable new fixtures. Much of the actual building work was personally done by Bernardi and Dom, one of the club’s resident DJs. “It’s really nice that it’s been built from scratch by people who know La Cheetah inside out rather than just getting some builders in and trying to get them to do things the way we’d like,” Ward says.
Though the club reopened in triumphant style a couple of weeks later in the company of Joy Orbison, Ward admits it was only recently that they finally put the finishing touches to the refurb. In fact, the moment came just in time for last weekend’s RBMA weekend tie-in seventh birthday party, which found New York’s Mister Saturday Night playing all night upstairs.
With some of Glasgow’s best nights (Partial, Missing Persons Club and We Should Hang Out More among them) calling La Cheetah home these days, and a so-far-unnamed in-house record label launching sometime around Christmas, exciting developments are still coming thick and fast. And then there are the new big-ticket residencies the club has planned for next year. In typical promoter style, Ward excitedly tells me all about them before hurriedly calling back a while later to say they actually have to remain a secret for now. Fair enough, though hopefully it won’t be too much of a spoiler if I reveal that none of them are people you’d expect to find playing on a wobbly table.
DJ Deeon and Nightwave play at Nightrave at La Cheetah on Saturday, October 22.