In my three years living here, my taste in soirées has evolved from 'broke international student' to 'ready for a gentleman' to 'I just need my girls to have a good time,' to 'I'm classy but I'll flirt with you because classy bars are expensive' and finally to 'I share Netflix with my boyfriend, peace out!'
This means I've slowly worked my way through every club, pub, and hole-in-the-wall sweat box worth going to. Using my expert opinion, I will attempt to provide a comprehensive guide on what to do at night in Singapore (for the people who are not still clinging desperately to the sinking it's-the-ship-fest that is Tinder). My esteemed expertise, of course, is due to the fact that a.) I'm usually the poster-child for sobriety and b.) according to pop culture, being black means I know what's good, Miley.
I've decided to break this down into clubs and bars, the latter of which you can find in my next post. I also can't forget the notorious party houses (they call themselves a myriad of things, but I'm sticking with 'party houses' because the only rules I abide by are my own... and Joanne the Scammer's). So as to be impartial, I've listed them alphabetically. As Sadie Saxton would say, 'mhmmm you're welcome.'
So much for impartiality. What can I say, I've genuinely never been disappointed by any event that has come out Oliver Osbourne's signature bald head. I don't need even need to explain this again, just read my article on their pool parties and go. I also don't know how anyone can be a hater, because he's one of the most down-to-earth performers I've ever met (chill enough for me to consider him a homie even though our communication mainly consists of yelling niceties at each other over house beats). If he's DJing somewhere, just go. It can be hard to stay up to date on every event, however, because Oliver is like the head of a neatly-bearded octopus, and ETTF seems to be just one of his legs (delightful imagery, huh?). There's also Sorry Not Sorry, Tech Quiero, collaboration events, and his own solo acts at various clubs throughout the region, so you just have to try your best to keep up.
Who can talk about Sunshine Nation these days without a nostalgic sigh? With their back-to back events and the new opening of Don Ho, anyone even remotely friendly with Alex and Bernhard can see how hard they're working to make Sunshine Nation a mainstay in Singapore. However, it has come at the cost of their beloved underground reputation. Where once we may have flocked to their block parties and electro balls, nowadays the Garden Beats, Noon to Moons and even their dabble in Wonderfruit seems a bit too... mainstream. I can't write this without rolling my eyes at my hipster behaviour, but if the shoe fits, I suppose you wear it out until you can hardly take it anymore. I think many of us long-time fans are waiting to see the outcome of this transition period - are they gonna pull a Green Day and eventually fade into obscurity, or pull a Coldplay and become a feel good drug for the masses? Only 'early-bird' time will tell.
I don't know too much about this shadowy overlord-sounding party house-cum-night club. The general consensus seems to be that you either love it to the depths of your soul, or you stand there in the dark, awkwardly two-stepping for an hour to a track that never seems to end. The Council is what I always recommend to any friends who love the Berlin techno scene, because the ones who do will swear that it's the closest thing you can get in Singapore. I've been to about two events, but I have yet to visit their mysterious sounding Headquarters, a club they opened mid-last year. So far, I can say with a fair amount of confidence that it's not bad, but not my vibe. However, ask someone with a neck tattoo and a good understanding of what techno really is, and they will always point you in the direction of The Council.
Debauchery, thy name is sluttica. This two-level sweat box is like the hymen of Singapore clubs; you have to do it once. And hopefully never again. This club contains more sweaty French twenty-something-year-olds per square metre than there probably were at the storming of the Bastille. Much like the birds of the wild, these men have their own courting rituals that involve flapping and head-bobbing along to a beat only they seem to be able to detect in the song. These rambunctious youths are all hoping their moves will be convincing enough to empress the brightly coloured local birds tottering by in respect-worthy platform heels. Because all the ladies know, if you're dressed up glam and lookin' for a white man, Attica is the place to go.
Vibe: if I tell you, it'll spoil the fun. *evil cackle*
Bang Bang is the Regina George of nightclubs in Singapore. It's expensive to get in (unless you're a model), it reaches astounding heights of classy-trashiness, and everyone loves to hate it but will still end up waiting in line at 3am to get in. Though I will be scorned for this from my esteemed colleagues over at You Don't Know Good Music (Pte. Ltd.), I kinda like it. Sometimes I like trashy. Sometimes I wear short-shorts and dance in the golden cage. I never said I was perfect.
I possess laughable abilities when it comes to staying awake past midnight. If I've mentally prepared myself for a late night of dancing until my feet transcend into the fourth dimension, then I'd better get my money's worth. I'm not going home until it's 4am, and I've had my fill of Swee Choon. We all know there's nothing that can trigger an existential crisis more than still being in Cato when the lights come on, so if I gotta bustle myself out at 2am, the only place to go is Bang Bang or someone's apartment. I tend not go to afterparties in apartments because the minute the vibe slows down, I'm comatose. What I need is a party bus to take me to Bang Bang so I can keep a steady nts nts nts pulsing through my veins. Yeah buddy, that's right! I'm a party bus girl. #keepitclassy2k17
Vibe: Strobe lights and Italian cologne. Questionable dance floor (in that it doesn't exist, it's genuinely designed like a giant board-game come to life. Try not to fall off the centre platform, because you'll likely fall onto a self-proclaimed 'Crazy Rich Asian' who drives his dad's car and will definitely get the only buff dude in his squad to beat your ass outside, bro. Unless you're sexy and drunk, then all is forgiven if you come sit over here, babe). Music: pop-trash. Unexpected appearances of stuffed mascots that must be avoided at all costs.
Like any dependable friend, Canvas is a pretty solid choice when you have no other plans. This waterfront club is well known for its art and poetry events, which I have been fairly pleased to attend. Only a handful of people I know have strong opinions about Canvas, as there's about equal chance of having a fantastic night as there is in being slightly underwhelmed. For the most part, however, you're likely to find yourself comfortably 'whelmed' - neither overwhelmed nor underwhelmed, just exactly the amount of enjoyment one was hoping for.
Vibe: concrete walls and square ottomans. Music: eclectic. Mood: "idk, we could go to Canvas?" "... mmm... ah, yeah why not!"
Cato (now closed)
This was the safe haven for all the employees of You Don't Know Good Music (Inc.) once Kilo closed. I must give congratulations to Cato for having made it past their first year. I went there the first time when Figure It Out was trying to make it relevant (FIO is another party house that threw barbecues or something. You hardly hear from them, so who knows). Since then, it briefly became the new hang out of the I'm Cooler Than You But I Obviously Don't Try crew before settling into a comfortable crowd of eclectic socialites, expats in chinos and the occasional middle-ager. However, its short era has come to an end and the Chinatown club has officially closed its doors. It shall be fondly missed.
Vibe: exposed brick walls and leather couches that were specially commissioned by the Cooler Than You crew. Good music. Friendly bartenders.
Ugh, the effort.
Vibe: Empire State of Mind meets your uncle's birthday party. Go for the view, stay because it's too far to go anywhere else after all that effort.
My second weekend out marked my official return to Singapore, when I went to the newly opened Kilo for the first time. Before I even tell you about the club, I have to take a moment to appreciate whichever saint decided to open a food bar on the outside porch. I've personally never eaten there, but I just feel good knowing that the option is there for one of those days when I'm famished after clubbing. No. More. McDo.
The club itself makes me giddy with pleasure every time I walk in. The entry corridor has plants hanging from the ceiling, which just speaks to my heart on a spiritual level. I love plants more than cat ladies love cats. I would happily live alone with 27 plants, are you kidding me?! I digress.
In an attempt to emulate the iconic retro elevator and industrial loft-vibe of the old location, the new club is lined with collapsing metal gates and exposed concrete columns along the dance floor. The lighting is just low enough to make everyone seem more attractive without deceiving you into going home with a hobbit, and at times, a rectangle set into the ceiling will illuminate the dance floor in a mod Japaneon-pink light. For some weird reason, I've only ever seen it on Snapchat and never when I'm there, so I can't comment as to whether it's sexy or awkward, but good luck to anyone who's caught with drunk-face in bright lights.
The great thing about Kilo is that you'll always bump into someone you know, because no matter how much you say you won't, you're probably going to end up at Kilo. Be real, where else would you go?
Vibe: always a good time. Great decor (except for the random block of concrete between the bar and the dance floor, pls can you not).
Kyo (now closed)
I am of the firm opinion that the only acceptable night to go to Kyo is on a Thursday. On a Wednesday, you run the risk of finding a completely empty club that carries all the atmosphere of a prep school dance. On Friday and Saturday, it turns into a Berlin-techno smokehouse with a crowd that has become slightly off-putting over the years. Kyo on a Thursday, however, is a pretty good time. I've always found it full, with decent hip hop tracks and an ongoing game of beer-pong-in-the-dark.
Vibe: sensory overload - dark atmosphere, strobing lights and thick smoke that can make you feel cross-faded on a tilt-a-whirl. No-nonsense hostesses. After-work crowd on weekdays. Random roving crews of old people who may possibly give you their business cards.
Millenia? Million? Idk.
Vibe: Empty warehouse. Very big. Very far. Decor: Arab money meets an interior decorator's storefront window meets Ultra music festival. Vibe: slightly-awkward empty feeling of a high school dance. Could be good if there were enough people to make it look full. Trying to make a Sunday afternoon party thing happen, but if you're that close to Sentosa, you might as well go to TBC.
Refuge (now closed)
With graffiti lining the walls and more bucket hats per capita than you ever need to see, it is the most authentic hip-hop/funk venue you'd find in Singapore (rivalled only by Blu Jaz). There's something slightly endearing about watching a bunch of Asian dudes throw their best imitations of gang signs whilst bobbing along to old school hip hop. Refuge's previous location was a two-storey club on Circular Road with a rooftop deck and a lot of charm. Even when it was packed to the brim and the walls were sweating, it was my literal refuge when I've had enough of 'white people music.' I must not be the only one, as it probably has the highest concentration of black people in Singapore.
I haven't yet decided how I feel about their new location - the basement courtyard of Chijmes, under the shadow of a sparkling cathedral. Whilst I appreciate that I can walk across the room without every surface of my body feeling like a giant lint roller, I'm rather torn because there is now a corridor around the dance floor that's wider than the Green Mile. To be fair, my first time in the new location was a Friday night, which in Singapore is often treated as a highway rest stop between Thursday and Saturday. I'll have to go back on a more lively evening before I make my verdict.
Vibe: every Singaporean who's ever listened to Kendrick. Music: funk, hip hop and R&B.
Vibe: they moved location so who really knows anymore?
Let us all take a moment of silence to remember Club Street, whose death has affected us all.
Do you have some honest reviews about your favourite clubs in Singapore? Do you know a club that should really be on this list? Let me know in the comments down below!
Pepper & Söl
*edit: the first version of this article did not include Cato's closing.