Review: Experimenting With Cocaine

16 January 2013

There’s just no way to write this review without talking about the name. We really wish there was.


That’s the name of the club. Somebody made a terrible mistake. We’ll leave it at that.

But looking past that disaster, we find a venue that – despite some teething problems – shows serious promise. Cocaine isn’t a big room venue like blueFROG, or a cozy hang-out-cum-party-spot in the vein of T.L.R. More importantly, it isn’t one of the batch of generic new venues like Raasta or Verve that seem to exist merely because somebody saw an opportunity to sell drinks to undiscerning party kids. Cocaine is an intimate clubbing space that’s not afraid to take risks with innovative acts.

Most of that credit goes to B.L.O.T’s Gaurav Malaker, who’s in charge of Cocaine’s programming. He’s distinguished Cocaine from the pack by bringing us artists like Heems, Frame/Frame, Madboy/Mink and Djuma Soundsystem. In the interest of full disclosure, we should probably mention that Wild City was also involved in some of these shows. But with all due respect to Gaurav, a big part of Cocaine’s potential is grounded in its small size. This is a club that can go for the kind of niche acts that aren’t able to fill many of Delhi’s bigger rooms.

Walking into Cocaine, one isn’t deceived by the promise of the club’s name. The interior seems distinctly kachcha, but in a fantastic way. The designer was probably going for something a bit more, well, “cool”. But the disastrous detours taken on the way to a poorly conceived conception of cool make for a far better result than he could have imagined. Walking through the door, you find a black and grey interior with brushed metal and more bluelights than could ever be justified. Welcome back to the cocaine 80s. In fact, looking carefully at the bar, you’re confronted by the impression that you’re not at a real bar, but merely at a film set that was put together to be taken apart the following week. This may sound like an indictment. It’s not. It’s the perfect setting to get trashed and shake it.

And even if you’re not up for shaking it, Cocaine might well shake you. The club has been augmenting its own sound system with rented equipment for event nights. They haven’t skimped on the bass output. If they keep it up, the sound will continue blowing many smaller Delhi venues out of the water.

For those lost in the river of bass, the club’s rooftop terrace creates space for a bit of fresh air – or smoke - as you like it. It’s not the season for outside partying, but we’re looking forward to pre-party snacks once the fog burns off. Shockingly, the venue’s food is far better than merely edible.

But not all is well with Charlie. We like the size, the sounds, and the look. We’re less enthused by the management style and layout. Advertised promotions have been conveniently forgotten during events. Ostensibly free entry has been transmogrified into a cover midway through an act. The variety of booze on offer isn’t as wide as we’d hope. Credit cards haven’t been accepted, but we hear this should be sorted shortly now that all licensing issues have been resolved.

Cocaine’s biggest problem, unlike the ones above, might be one it can’t fix. Two large structural pillars break up the dance floor. One partially blocks the DJ booth. It’s not a disaster, but it definitely doesn’t help.

With some reservations, we like Cocaine. If the club manages to keep up the interesting acts, cultivate a regular crowd, and sort out its operational hiccups, it has the potential to be one of Delhi’s more interesting venues. If not, there’s plenty of space in the graveyard of clubs that could have been. If the management pushes just right, we may make the switch from recreational users to addicts.

Sorry. We couldn’t resist.

**Upcoming gigs in January, a quiet month for the club, include Midival Punditz and BLOT! on 18 Jan, Djuma Soundsystem on 19 Jan and Shaa'ir & Func on 30 Jan. More information on these events and others happening across the country can be found on our events page here**


Words: Kerry Harwin



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