Just like the addresses of 10 and 7-15 Mathew Street, and the nearby 3 Parr Street, 4-5 Wolstenholme Square will forever be remembered as a cornerstone of Liverpool’s music heritage, its impact indelibly inked on to the city’s creative soul. The Cavern, Eric’s and Nation will still dominate the popular history of Liverpool’s ‘great’ clubs, but, for those who’ve experienced it, THE KAZIMIER will be more than just a fond memory. The Wolstenholme Square venue may not have incubated anything as internationally renowned as the Beatles, The Bunnymen or Cream, but its trend for hosting and nurturing weirdly fantastic nights has become the stuff of legend, and has been the catalyst for the ambitions of the city’s resurgent creative culture over the past seven years. The Kaz may be nearing its curtain call, but the effect of the collective around the club will be felt for many years to come.
In a statement issued in April 2015 by the team behind the club, it was announced that The Kazimier would be closing its doors for the final time on New Year’s Day 2016. After discussions with Elliott Group – the developer behind the proposed multi-million pound redevelopment of Wolstenholme Square – time was called on the seven-year Kazimier journey. In the statement the group noted that the club has “grown to infinitely more than a building”, an admission that it’s not so much the bricks and mortar of the venue itself that make The Kaz special, but more the diverse range of people and ideas that have inspired (and been inspired by) the happenings within its walls. The octagonal wooden floor, scuffed staircases and low stage have never been the sleekest, but have always been part of the place’s charm. After years of heavy use from packed-out gigs and nights, The Kaz is looking slightly jaded, but its character feels richer than ever, with each event leaking some of its own memory into the building’s walls. And even amid the wear and tear the club still shows the traits of the team’s attention to detail: the iconic sign, bannister spindles painted with unique motifs, the faded grandeur of the upstairs absinthe bar. When the lights are down and the room is full, the club takes on a life of its own, and can bring so many different experiences to so many different people.
Everyone who’s been to The Kazimier has their own view on what it is: in the eyes of the beholder it can be a dingy rave club or a sweaty gig venue; a sartorial speakeasy or a medieval Germanic carnival. This versatility has undoubtedly been one of The Kaz’s biggest assets, giving rise to so many different experiences. But what do the group behind the venue think of it?
“It’s always been something that’s difficult to quantify ourselves. Originally, we just wanted somewhere to put on events – but not just events, something that reflected our own individual artistic practice,” explains Sam Crombie, one of The Kazimier’s founder members and core creative team. Crombie, alongside brother Loz, has had a hand in many of the club’s most defining moments as a member of The Kaz’s house band Dogshow. The techno dancehall duo, aided by unseen third member Venya Krutikov on insane lighting/visual duties, have been the centrepiece at almost all of the collective’s own shows, taking the idea of performance to new levels by embracing weird theatrics, weirder outfits, and even a treadmill drum kit. “Aside from buildings and shows, it’s also a multi-faceted conglomeration of people that we’ve worked with,” continues Crombie on his view of what the idea of The Kazimier constitutes. “I see it more as a map rather than an organisation or a building… this interconnecting three-dimensional map.”
“When you boil it down, it’s basically a community centre!” laughs Liam Naughton, the de facto manager and spokesperson of the Kazimier collective (which comprises founder members Mike Lill and Laura Brownhill alongside Krutikov and the Crombie brothers), who oversees all the projects that fall under the Kazimier banner. There are a wealth of strands tied up in the group’s work that relate to different projects – sister venue and bar The Kazimier Garden on Seel Street, large-scale project-cum-installation Atalonia, regular themed events Krunk Fiesta and Kronos, Kazimier Records, and now the Invisible Wind Factory – but for most people the club will be remembered as a gig venue, but not just any old one. Though it doesn’t have the expansive production capability that a venue like the O2 Academy has, what The Kaz has in spades is charm, and the ability to make the punter feel as important as the performer. There’s a democratic equality to the space that means you’re at the same level as the performers when you first walk in, and with no barrier between the crowd and the stage it creates an intensely personal setting. This makes for a great place to absorb all aspects of a performance, but it’s still up to the observer to take whatever they want from it.
“I met a girl recently and she said to me ‘Oh, you work at The Kazimier – that’s the best drum ‘n’ bass club in the country!’ Woah!” says Naughton as he reflects on the various bits of praise they’ve received over the years. “I’d never think of [the club] like that. But all she’d ever known of it is Eat Your Greens nights. It takes so many different shapes depending on who you ask. It could be anything.”
“For all the different groups that come to the shows, it’s their space and they can relate to it,” adds Krutikov. “I think it’s quite nice that the club can be this vessel, in some way, for all these different things. I really like the way it can be a home to so many different groups simultaneously.”
“I think the best way to describe it is this,” chips in Naughton. “The Kronos is the club – an intergalactic, time-travelling venue. Captain Kronos is the personification of that.”
Some shows in the club will live longer in the memory than most; over the years, Sound City, Liverpool Music Week, Abandon Silence, Ten Bands Ten Minutes, Festival Bombarda, Speakeasy, FestEVOL and dozens of local promoters have all called The Kaz home at some point, giving rise to some legendary gigs: Seun Kuti & Egypt 80, The XX, Fucked Up, Ghostface Killah, Young Fathers, Sleaford Mods, Battles, KRS-One… the list could go on and on.
My own memory of the club will always carry the imprint of Ariel Pink, Fat White Family v The Growlers, Factory Floor and Gruff Rhys and his surf boards. One of my abiding memories of The Kazimier actually comes from the first gig I attended there, when I was hanging around at the end of the night in search of one final can of Red Stripe. Just after they ushered me out, the last staff member out reached up and unscrewed the sign above the door, and stuffed it away in the shadows before locking up. It was almost as if, by removing the sign, the club itself melted back into the brickwork; the patch of wall became a nondescript patch of wall again, with not a clue remaining as to the magic that could happen behind the door.
As the team and venue gear up for its final, thrilling hurrah – New Year’s Eve’s Escape To Planet Kronos extravaganza, it feels quite apt to look back at the collective’s very first event in 2008, Reconstruct. The show was billed as “the first chapter in a series of one-off thematic events that are located between a mechanical past and an electronic future”. As Crombie elaborates, this event served as their canvas, a place to dream up a world that drew together all of the group’s varied expertise in lighting, sound, set design and performance. “A lot of the narratives to the shows were complex, but they weren’t the key to them. Reconstruct was just about reconstructing an imaginary past to this building of The Kazimier. We were free to do whatever we wanted with it then.”
“For Atalonia, one of the bylines for it was ‘A world within a world’. In some ways a lot of the shows adhered to that,” agrees Krutikov. “The audience was invited to suspend their disbelief – whether or not they did, or were comfortable doing so, was down to us and the show.”
This delightfully weird world-creating ethos has been in full flow since, entering terms like Factum Libero, Imperium, Karneval, The Fantascopic Fair, Kostrubonkos and, most memorably, Krunk, into the lexicon of Liverpool gig-goers. For all this, and the legacy the collective have created, they don’t seem bitter at being shunted out of their home by the impending development – but you do get the feeling it’s more because it would be futile to fight against the inevitable expansion of the city’s commercial sprawl.
“It’s key that it ends in a way that it’s not soured by a battle or leaves a bitterness,” says Crombie. “It’s had its time – and it could have gone on for longer. Change is sometimes difficult to see the benefit of while it’s happening around you. The club going will also provide an opportunity for someone else to fill that gap. It’s part of a changing time in the city, anyway.”
The city is most definitely the richer for The Kazimier’s presence, but the time has come to move on. Communities and cities have always developed over time, and nostalgia should never be a reason to prevent evolution, even if sometimes it feels difficult to stomach. “There’s a certain memory attached to the building which will disappear, and that is sad,” agrees Krutikov. “I don’t think there’ll be another place in the city centre that’s built on such a lack of commercial focus, and built around people rather than business, essentially,” adds Crombie. “It may well leave groups a bit more disparate.”
Where the city goes from here is open, but then it was a similar situation that this group of people found when they moved here seven years ago. Great things don’t last forever, and that’s part of what makes them great. For the Kazimier collective as a whole, the shell may be changing, but the spectacular vision and daring appetite for more thrills and spills lives on.
“The club definitely is a serious heartbeat of everything and things do kind of orbit around it,” says Naughton. “That building is ending, but it’s all marching on; it’s really like shedding a skin as opposed to losing a life. It’s just another chapter.”
The final show at The Kazimier is Escape To Planet Kronos, which takes place on 31st December. There will also be a Kazimier Shopping Emporium called Arkade in the club on 6th December, where you’ll be able to buy exclusive Kazimier merchandise and memorabilia. For tickets and all other listings go to thekazimier.co.uk.