I always try to support the Oxfam Oxjam events where young musicians come together for free to create an enjoyable night out, and where all proceeds go to Oxfam. This year’s main Leeds October event saw 4 venues participate including at Leeds Santiago Bar. I took the chance to suss out the place as a music venue.
The Grand Arcade
The Santiago Bar is located in Grand Arcade, one of the grand Victorian Arcades in Leeds; this Arcade is a little off the main drag and away and up the hill from its more famous Arcade brothers in the Leeds Victorian Quarter located closer into town where the buzz of Harvey Nicholls has created a rather swanky and expensive experience.
The Grand Arcade dates from 1897, and it has been recently refurbished (as has its rather fabulous and huge clock) and it has something of a trendy independent bohemian air where you can find shops selling the likes of beard oil, home ware, men’s wear, and a few other bars, cafes and coffee shops. We do occasionally go into Santiago Bar even when there isn’t live music ongoing.
The bar itself is downstairs and divided into two and dissected by a steep staircase leading to the music area upstairs. One half of the downstairs bar is wooden plank flooring and tables and chairs, and the other half has the bar and a bit of high seating.
The bar has a nice relaxed slightly grungy hipster/student vibe and it sells a good range of drinks away from the standard big business Euro/Aus fizz. The real ale is keg and quite pricy at around £4.40 a pint (although fairly standard priced for real ale in a trendy Leeds city centre bar). I usually pay a bit less in my universe of Huddersfield, but of course my town doesn’t have the buzz vibe of a city.
The music area was upstairs, up the said steep steps. The first few steps are without a hand rail, and with my elderly legs and beer laden blood, I just felt a little unsteady carrying 2 pints up the steps without support. It’s not a venue to get silly drunk.
Upstairs there was a bar albeit unstaffed and un-operated. The band stood just a few feet away on the floor so there was a great connection with the music. The sound was good, and I enjoyed the vibe of the bar. On the slight downside, the entrance porch to the upstairs gig area protruded into the room, so if the venue is busy then you would really get little more view than a wall. There were perhaps 20 punters in the room, and with the space for the travelling bands coats, instruments and carrying cases, it already felt fairly cosy. With 50 people the place would feel rather rammed.
Santiago Bar is a great little venue with good sounds and a chance to get up close and personal to your guitar hero. Good beer but be careful with those rather steep and tricky steps. If it’s going to be a busy night, make sure you get there early to avoid standing in the door way with a wall 5 inches from your face.