Heads Down: A Eulogy For the Woodside Social Club

Feature by Roddy Wallace | 23 Jul 2009
  • The Woodside - 'another day, another night'

The dusk sky above Glasgow’s West End was last month bisected by a dark, funereal streak: Superfly, erstwhile 'epicentre of bohemian psyche-cool', revved up its soul-powered engines and took flight, once and for all, from the Woodside Social Club in Glasgow.

For one hundred Saturday nights, the Woody has opened its doors and its ever-welcoming arms to embrace an eclectic mix of glistening revellers. Playing a mix of soul, funk, classic rock and indie, Superfly has always been a party night with its heart firmly in the right place: the dancefloor. And although the night itself is set for a wee flit across hillhead to the Hetherington Research Club, it leaves its spiritual home to a familiar fate. Accordingly, as the developers circle like vultures, it seems only fitting to dedicate a ‘heads down’ homage to this singular, irreplaceable venue.

Eulogies are always difficult – they should be. Partly, this comes from the impossibility of pointing a finger at just exactly what it is that makes a person, or place, unique and worthy of adoration. And partly, it is this pointing process in itself which is fraught, bound up as it is with the revisiting of memories, of stories, of people. It is with mixed emotions, then, that I jab my finger in the direction of a few of the qualities that endeared the woody so warmly to me.

To talk of the Woodside’s warm endearments seems apt. For the collective sensory memory of nights held there must surely be of that sweltering heat, product of the pulsating dancefloor and the frenetic bob of its denizens. I loved the noble uselessness of the solitary floor fan to the right of the wee stage – an ineffectual underdog in a venue embroiled in its own losing battle.

The throb of the heat, the volume of the music, the bustle of the floor: all these combined, at their best, to give an impression of bacchanalian chaos. Yet underpinning this was always a quiet, dignified civility. The bouncer presence was always minimal: often one specific gent, a smile peeking perpetually through his beard. The bar arrangement, too, seemed somehow democratic – a partition between the body of the club and the bar encouraged the crowd seamlessly into a serpentine queue. One-behind-the-other, no shoving here, please.

Not for our Woodside Social. A social club is nowt, naturally, without the folk that socialise. Because of its location, tucked away from the main after-hour hubs of the city, the Woody welcomed a discerning, deliberate crowd, intent on a specific type of club experience. It is perhaps this commonality that I’ll miss the most – on certain nights you could believe that this place was here for you, and you for it.

The perception of belonging, of shared purpose, manifested itself in the care with which the nights were put on; whether it was the wall projections and the flyers of Superfly, or the pamphlets, badges and playlists of the National Pop League, the labour, love and nurture behind the club nights inspired a loyal devotion and following, typified by NPL’s active web community (http://uk.groups.yahoo.com/group/nationalpopleague).

My fond, residual memory of the last Superfly will be of a specific 2am tableau: a trio of ‘one-more-tune’ stragglers, shining with sweat and genuflecting at that solitary floor fan on the stage, putting the ‘messy’ in ‘messianic’. MJ’s Earth Song sprung grubbily into mind, entirely unwelcomed yet somehow fitting. Michael Jackson and Glasgow’s Woodside Social Club. Two icons of their time, two lives affected by factors outwith their control, two untimely demises. Still: I know which passing I’ll mourn more personally.