Legends Newcastle: Dark Side of the Toon?

Originally published on Durham University Rock Society’s website as part of a guide to the local music scene.

Even to the most conservative of student clubbers, Durham’s limited nightlife can eventually become just a little too cozy and familiar, with apparently little to choose between the sticky floors and sleazy pop of Klute, Loveshack and Studio.  For the dedicated headbanger, the problem is amplified: while Full Collapse provides an unbeatable alternative student dance floor, a fortnight can seem a very long time to wait for a chance to appease those rock and metal cravings, and despite various efforts over the last few years to hold rock nights in Durham’s more mainstream dance venues, the slack has yet to be successfully picked up.  What to do, then, when your dancing shoes (or stomping boots, in most cases) come a-calling, and Durham draws a blank?  Do what the locals do – get yourself to Newcastle!

Simply wandering around Newcastle’s city centre by day, it is evident that there is a far more prevalent rock scene than in Durham, from funky (and overpriced) boutique shops offering band tees and corsetry, to the angsty teens who populate ‘The Green’ with their dyed black hair and oversized headphones.  Surely, then, this crowd must be provided for in terms of nightlife?  In actual fact, while Newcastle’s live music scene is vibrant and well provided for, with three major venues and countless live music bars and pubs, there remains only a single dedicated rock, metal and alternative music club.  This club is Legends.  Having made do with Durham’s smaller rock scene for two years, I felt it was finally time to investigate, so with a trusty companion at my side and Doc Martens on my feet, I headed out into the chaos of Newcastle on a Saturday night.

For the Newcastle virgins amongst you, travel from Durham and back by night is simple enough as long as you plan ahead – while regular and inexpensive trains run from Durham to Newcastle throughout the evening, the service returning to Durham ends at 11:30.  Unless you want to leave before the party’s even started, your best bet is to return home via the night buses running from Pilgrim Street (just round the corner from Legends) until 3:15AM (yes, that’s right, 3:15.  People outside of Durham really do stay out that long!).  The night bus costs around £4, which seems a worthy sacrifice in return for five hours’ more rock.  Legends is easily located from the rail station, being directly across the road from Newcastle’s Theatre Royal, just down the road from the central Grey Monument and 15 minutes’ walk from the station.

This particular escapade of mine was during the summer, a couple of weeks before Newcastle’s own students returned to town, thus I cannot speak too generally about the kind of crowd encountered on that fateful night, but the general picture was of a complete range of age groups all out on the town together.  While at first the sight of drunken 40-somethings in miniskirts and killer heels (and that’s just the men) can be a little overwhelming, unless one is going out purely for the sake of pulling, within the confines of Legends the diversity in age groups lends itself to the laid-back rock atmosphere.  Once inside the club, we encountered grizzled old men in well-loved leather, nubile young ladies in PVC, and everything in between.  For anyone looking for an escape from the Durham student bubble, this place is a godsend.

Inside, Legends is pretty much what-you-see-is-what-you-get, with no real decoration or gimmicks to detract from the music.  There are two dance floors, with three bars between them, and a confusing upstairs ‘chill-out’ room, which I stumbled into briefly to find some brutal looking metalheads playing what seemed to be bingo.  The main dance floor was constantly buzzing throughout the night, and featured a crowd-pleasing blend of pop punk, classic rock, heavy metal, and industrial metal.  When the heavy blend began to feel a little samey, we visited the lower floor, which boasted a mind-boggling mix of 50’s rock’n’roll medleys, cheesy pop, big band music, and Propane Nightmares.  I’m sure that there’s a target audience for that kind of mix, but for the life of me, I’ve yet to find it.  Nonetheless, for those who are tired of full-on moshing and craving a no-strings-attached boogie, the back room provides an amusing alternative.

Money-wise, the majority of the cost is in terms of travel in and out of Newcastle, as Saturday nights at Legends have free entry until 10PM (this in itself generating a pleasant crowd of regulars, who treat the place as a convenient place for a few drinks and some good music, rather than a real ‘clubbing scene’ venue) and £5 after 10.  While the cost of travel means that Legends may not be accessible as a regular haunt for Durham students, the easy-going atmosphere and varied clientele make this place a real break from the norm for those seeking an occasional break from the cheese and banter of student nightlife.

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