Nightclubs come and go

November 24, 2016
The once popular Cactus night club in Portmore, St. Catherine.
Quad nightclub in New Kingston.
In this 1962 photo, Miss Jamaica entrants undergo rigorous training in modelling at classes held at the Glass Bucket Club on Wednesday and Friday evening. The contest takes place at the end of July in time for the winner to take part in the independence celebrations. From left the entrants are: Patricia Ritch, Marcia Nation, Nolia Skipton, Marlene Murray, Joy Reid, Doreen Turner, Violet and Ruby McGhoo (twins).
Patrons having fun at Dutty Fridaze held at Assylum Night Club on Friday September 19, 2008.
Part of the audience at last year's Guinness Sounds of Greatness battle between SK International and Pink Panther at Mas Camp, National Stadium gounds, St Andrew.
Ninja Man (right) and Beenie Man in combination at Mirage in 1995.

As a nation with an unquenchable drive to produce its own music (which it also has an insatiable appetite for), Jamaicans need places to party to their own sounds - plus the many imported songs that find favour, of course.

That makes nightclubs essential, especially for those who do not appreciate the open-air ambience and earthy atmosphere of dancehalls. Many have come and most have gone (including the dedicated dancehall club Famous in Portmore), leaving current hotspots like Fiction, the Deck and Waterfalls among the few that are currently standing.

Those are in Kingston, where there has been an especially high concentration of nightclubs, although there are hotspots likes Jim's HQ in Gutters, St Elizabeth, and Acropolis in Montego Bay, among the famous names.

It is natural, then, that in recalling some great nightclubs of times past, Kingston gets the lion's share.

Among them are the Sombrero on Molynes Road, below its intersection with Waltham Park Road (going towards Washington Boulevard). As The Gleaner reported previously, there is now a grey wall where the Sombrero once was.

Jasper Adams, once a regular at the night spot, described it as "one of the premier dancehalls for bands, live music. If you capture the image of the dance-hall in London at the time, you get an idea of what it was like."

And bass guitar player Jackie Jackson noted how "dark and nice" the club was.

On the slopes outside urbanised St Andrew, heading towards Stony Hill, was Peyton Place, which has since housed a home for the elderly and convalescent. Sharing its name with a popular television show was not an accident, and in 2006 The Sunday Gleaner reported that as the nightclub had "... an expansive wooden dance floor and a verandah on two sides of the upper floor of the one-storey building, Peyton Place was tailor-made for dancing and for 'cooling out'."

The Glass Bucket in Half-Way Tree fulfilled its longs-tanding uptown-downtown meeting (or dividing) spot role as one of the venues where ska was taken to an uptown audience from its downtown roots at Chocomo Lawn in west Kingston.

Keith Lyn, once a member of Byron Keith Lyn, once a member of Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, told The Sunday Gleaner in 2009 that along with Sombrero and UWI, Glass Bucket was one of the places where his song Jamaica Ska was included in the band spreading the music across social divides.

Out in east Kingston, there was another place where the ska sound found root in a way that could not be more authentic, as The Skatalites played at the Bournemouth. The bathing club, where there is a swimming pool, is now separated from the community by Michael Manley Boulevard, which cuts through the road which once made it a natural part of Rockfort.

In more recent times, there have been the Cactus in Portmore, a hub of 1990s dancehall, close to where Ken's Wildflower still has a strong presence; Mirage, at Sovereign Centre, was reputedly the largest nightclub in the English-speaking Caribbean during its brief run. Some visuals remain, as the video for Richie Stephens and Bounty Killer's remake of Maniac was shot there.

The Mas Camp has found a new home at National Stadium, the previous venue on Oxford Road now part of the ATL Automotives set-up.

New Kingston is the site of many a nightclub which has fallen by the wayside. Godfathers had its time, as did Asylum (which became The Building and is now Triple Century), with The Quad just around the corner.

And on that Kingston Hip Strip there still remains a venue which combines the outdoor ambience of a dancehall and the enclosed characteristic of a nightclub - Escape 24/7.

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