Tucked away on an anonymous stretch of City Road, you’re really not going to find East Bloc unless you’re looking for it - and the clientele probably like it that way. Run by Wayne Shires, maestro behind a number of iconic Vauxhall clubs, East Bloc looks to combine underground gay clubbing with an east London aesthetic and music policy, and largely succeeds.
Head downstairs into the main room and you’re greeted with Keith Haring-influenced artwork, dim lighting and a wall of heat. There’s no getting away from it – East Bloc gets very hot. The main room is a long, low-ceilinged rectangle with a neon-lit bar at the one end and a stage and DJ booth at the other. There are no seats and no frills, just smoke, lasers, strobes, a very loud sound system and a floor full of exuberant dancers pushing the air con way past its limit. On a packed summer night the walls and ceilings get wet with sweat, and this isn’t the place to keep your outfit pristine!
Off the main room things get a little labyrinthine – depending on how the various movable walls are positioned, sometimes there are two extra rooms, sometimes one, and sometimes none. While this can be disorienting, part of the venue’s charm lies in discovering a room you’d never come across, complete with sound system, DJ and dedicated ravers. There are also a few hidden alcoves dotted round the club with comfy sofas for those wanting respite from the dance floor.
East Bloc’s crowd is largely made up of gay men ranging in age from early 20s to late 30s, and a strong hedonistic streak runs through the crowd. With a welcoming, inclusive atmosphere, the focus is very much on music, partying and dancing rather than cruising – as such there are often girls and straight clubbers dotted between the muscles, pretty boys and trannies. Events tend to start slow and only really get going around 1am onwards – while the club is often empty at midnight, it isn’t unusual to see it heaving at six in the morning.
This is a DJ-led venue that seldom, if ever, has live acts. Generally the DJs are taken from the cream of London’s gay clubbing scene and veer towards house, disco, electro and techno, although there are also indie, pop and urban nights scattered through the month. On a Friday or Saturday the main room stays on the harder side of 4/4 beats while the back room focuses on party sounds, with forays into RnB and pop.
Drinks are priced pretty much how you’d expect for a venue in east London – around £4 for a drink, with the beers coming in cans rather than bottles, and a decent, if not ground-breaking, selection of spirits.
The Last Word
If you’re looking to sit down and have a long chat, then East Bloc’s probably not for you. However, if you’re out for a night of underground raving that captures the original, debauched spirit of house music, this club is heartily recommended.