THE MIXMAG ASIA CLUBBING GUIDE: SINGAPOREby May 31, 2023
SINGAPORE’S SUBTERRANEAN HOTSPOTS AT YOUR FINGER TIPS
WORDS: MIXMAG ASIA CREW & MENGZY 15 // MAY 2023
For a relatively small country, Singapore has a surprisingly wide range of high-quality venues for clubbers in 2023. Granted, things have not been easy in the past few years. The pandemic hit Singapore hard, with DJs not being allowed to practice their craft and earn a living when bars and clubs closed for over two years between 2020 and 2022. Unsurprisingly, the government’s strict Covid measures meant that many stalwarts of the scene — venues like Canvas, Telok Ayer Arts Club and White Label sadly did not survive.
Thankfully, others did and they have been joined by exciting new spaces that emerged and are thriving in the new, post-pandemic paradigm. Among these are smaller, gastronomic-focused spaces that care as much about music as they do about food, as well as pop-up event spaces, serving promoters and collectives old and new to continue to rebuild the scene. Housed in diverse settings from traditional shophouses to sandy beachfronts, rooftops and more, the venues in this guide represent the top choices when it comes to clubbing in Singapore.
One of Singapore’s premiere underground venues, Headquarters and its sister space, Upstairs, have been going strong since 2016 and 2017 respectively. Occupying both floors of a shophouse on Boat Quay, Headquarters’ ground floor programming focuses on techno while bookings at Upstairs reflect a more flexible music policy that also embraces house and disco.
HQ, as it is otherwise known, employs an effective less-is-more approach to design that clubbers will remember long after they’ve left the venue: the downstairs DJ booth is locked in a large metal cage and the only light source illuminating the dancefloor is a (now iconic) roving red laser. The venue is a revolving door for local and international talent that is curated by HQ co-founder Clement Chin’s hospitality and events company, Thugshop.
Just ten minutes away on foot from Headquarters is Tuff Club, which is touted by Thugshop as Singapore’s first pop-up venue. Opened in 2018, Tuff’s dancefloor sits under a constellation of different-sized disco balls that lend the now-permanent club an instantly-recognisable look.
A favourite to host big-name international acts to the city, the last six months alone have seen Interplanetary Criminal, Krystal Klear and Zimmer perform, while pre-Covid appearances include Peggy Gou and Digital.
Music, food, drinks, and design: Offtrack delivers a top-tier experience on all fronts. Opened in January 2022, Offtrack is an intimate music-centric bar located on North Canal Road that transitions from relaxed gastronomic vibes in early evening to rammed house party energy by closing.
The interior, designed by Darker Than Wax co-founder Dean Chew, is absolutely gorgeous, incorporating mid-century modern aesthetics while respecting its traditional shophouse setting. Open from 5 pm to midnight on Mondays through Saturdays, guests can enjoy pan-Asian fusion bites while grooving to Darker Than Wax and Ice Cream Sundays-curated selectors spinning behind a stunning showcase DJ booth.
From the outside, iKi (short for Ikigai Izakaya) may not seem like much: to the untrained eye, it looks like just another commercial bar on the fringe of Singapore’s Boat Quay bar district. But, for seasoned clubbers and music heads, this venue goes way back. Formerly inhabited by Home Club and Canvas, the space where iKi now stands has had a long and storied history in the city’s dance and indie music scenes that dates back nearly two decades.
iKi boasts a cavernous space with high ceilings that serves as a blank canvas allowing the izakaya to transform into a dance club with a capacity of up to 200 people. The venue is a staple for local crews, such as Revision Music, Strange Weather, and Darker Than Wax, to stage events.
International DJs that have graced iKi’s decks in the last year include Tim Reaper, Mr. Ho, and Sébastien Léger – not to mention an upcoming appearance from Sasha slated for May 18.
HAW PAR VILLA
Looking for a surreal outdoor rave experience in Singapore? Look no further than Haw Par Villa. Founded in 1937 by Aw Boon Haw and Aw Boon Par (the brothers who created Tiger Balm), Haw Par Villa been open to the public as a theme park since the former’s death in the mid-1950s.
Populated by thousands of statues and sculptures depicting Chinese mythology alongside traditional Chinese architecture, Haw Par Villa is notorious for its depictions of hell, torture, and psychedelic dioramas of legends. The park has, in more recent years, become a popular destination for pop-up dance events and raves due to its ability to host upwards of 400 pax. Look to the ‘Events’ section on Haw Par’s official website for more information on upcoming parties there.
Possibly Singapore’s most Instagrammable venue, Cherry Discotheque is “aesthetic”, as the kids say these days. Drenched in 80s vibes, Cherry has quirky neon lighting that demarcates the club’s different zones, which include its “Kitchen” and “Cherry Hall” rooms. Another signature of the 300-capacity venue is its black and white chequered floors that have survived its recent post-pandemic makeover.
Design aside, Cherry nonetheless maintains a robust music programme across its two rooms that can run from Wednesdays through Sundays featuring local crews, such as all-female collective ATTAGIRL!, and regional acts, like the Chinese trap group Higher Brothers and Hong Kong-Shanghai collective Yeti Out.
Powered by Thugshop, the same company behind Headquarters and Tuff Club, MDLR doesn’t function as a regular club or bar per se: MDLR is a new, strictly pop-up venue at 62 Cecil Street that is open to the community’s promoters.
So far, crews that have used the 500-capacity space include Kings of Bass, which recently hosted a Hospitality Records event with Unglued headlining, while Thugshop itself has presented Anjunadeep and XXL series there that have seen heavy hitters like Jody Wisternoff and Dixon perform.
Wild Pearl stands out as the most unusual venue on this list. Music studio by day and DIY club by night, Wild Pearl started out as a space for founders Christopher Shearmon and Andy Lines to host friends for private parties.
Then, after Singapore opened up post-pandemic, the momentum Wild Pearl had built encouraged the duo to open the space to the BYOB-friendly public (yes, you have to bring your own drinks). If you’re looking for a stripped-down-no-bs affair surrounded by people who are truly there for the music, Wild Pearl is the place for you.
CÉ LA VI
It’s a bar, restaurant and nightclub, but CÉ LA VI’s biggest selling point is arguably its incredible panoramic views overlooking the city from the top of the Marina Bay Sands casino complex. Once you’ve taken in the rooftop, however, the indoor club is where the party’s really at – but don’t worry, there’s still floor-to-ceiling windows lining the entire dancefloor, so the view doesn’t go to waste!
CÉ LA VI regularly supplements its regular diet of EDM with more diverse bookings which has included acts like A-Trak, Jazzy Jeff, and an unforgettable episode of Cercle featuring The Martinez Brothers, to name a few.
MOONSTONE BAR AT AMOY
Cosy and casual, the MOONSTONE Bar at Amoy is tucked away in the heart of China Town while being a stone’s throw away from Boat Quay – should one wish to continue a night of partying past closing… Serving delicious cocktails and creative global fusion dishes, MOONSTONE is the type of haunt where you might be surprised to find a DJ and a pair of decks, but you’d better believe it!
Amid the quirky décor and vintage furniture, you can expect all kinds of genres and vibes from nu disco and house to hip hop, funk and even bass – such as a forthcoming appearance by Madame X there later this month.
TANJONG BEACH CLUB
Now in its fourteenth year, Tanjong Beach Club has become something of a local institution since its 2010 launch. Nestled in the resort area of Sentosa, Tanjong Beach Club – or TBC – enjoys beachfront access and brings the best of both worlds in its design with a sleek wooden deck and infinity pool facing sand and sea.
TBC is a staple venue for many of the city’s veteran DJs, some of whom enjoy residences there, spinning a wide range of genres on Fridays through Sundays. The club can be enjoyed from day to night and doubles as a restaurant serving seafood and classics with a twist.
POTATO HEAD SINGAPORE
Encapsulated by the iconic heritage shop-house infrastructure that is nascent of buildings on Keong Saik Road is Potato Head Singapore. The four-floor private abode offers a refined haven for the city’s illustrious creative community and serves as a go-to spot for discerning music heads. Upon entering, one is greeted by the gourmet burger establishment, Three Buns. Ascend to the second level and discover the relaxing ambience of the living room, where one can indulge amid a serene, table-service setting.
Then there’s Studio 1939 on the third floor — an opulent drinking lounge designed for those seeking a decadent and intimate experience, coupled with a refined rotation of Singapore’s tastemakers dropping a range of house and disco grooves. The intimate rooftop garden is the pièce de résistance — an open-air bar that transports you to a lush, tropical escape from the bustle a few floors below. The alfresco atmosphere is soundtracked by an array of laidback, Balearic and disco-tinged beats, with programming being led by local stalwart, Sivanesh.
RUMOURS BEACH CLUB
After 21 years in Bali, Rumours Beach Club underwent a serious revamping of its brand and set up a new home on the (artificially) exotic shores of Siloso Beach on Sentosa Island. Think palm trees and their monumental silhouettes, breezy beach vibes, a decadent infinity pool (plus two more pools) and a sensational view for a cinematic magic hour.
Having spent many years in Bali, Music Director Matty Wainwright curates and programmes RBC’s solar-driven soundtrack, blending everything from soulful and Balearic grooves to blistering disco. In between regular international guest DJs, the city’s more adept selectors can be found blending tempos and moods on the weekends to a finely tuned Funktion-One system. RBC also keeps a mindful eye on its sustainability and wellness practices — from recycling workshops for guests to take home their new, handcrafted products to music-driven fitness and yoga classes for gaining extra strength and balance to hold those delicate cocktails.
Mengzy is Mixmag Asia’s Music Culture Columnist, follow her on Instagram.