Hidden Gems of Birmingham - Rainbow Venues



Scratch beneath the surface of our city and you'll find some real hidden gems. So we have set out to explore the best-kept secrets and unsung heroes of Birmingham. This week, Luke James ventures to Rainbow Venues...


The Rainbow Venues has been around for many years and has garnered something of a cult following. The venue, which celebrated its twelfth birthday in March, has hosted a range of artists across a number of genres throughout its history such as Annie Mac, PEACE, Jamie XX, Skepta, Mike Skinner, and many more. With its venues in and around The Custard Factory, The Rainbow Venues make up an integral part of Digbeth, an area often referred to as “the Shoreditch of Birmingham”.

After a discussion with my friends, we’d decided to go to a popular night event called 2:31. I’d been to The Bow once or twice before so I had a decent idea what to expect. What I’d forgotten was how truly grimy it was.

Don’t expect to see a sign.

Situated in the back streets of Digbeth, from the outside, Rainbow looks like just another abandoned building in the area. Aside from the booming music, and a mingling of people on the roof, you couldn’t tell it was a nightclub.

Whilst the term “Rainbow Venues” refers to over 11 separate venues owned by Bow Warehouse Ltd, it’s not strictly accurate. The 11 venues are merely a series of rooms spread out over four venues within walking distance, The Rainbow Pub, The Rainbow nightclub, Spotlight and a number of areas around The Custard factory. A night out usually means going to one of these four locations. My Nu Leng were on in The Rainbow Nightclub, which meant I’d most likely see Blackbox, Rooftop Terrace and perhaps The Warehouse.

Stepping in the queue you can immediately get a sense of the sort of night that you’ll have. This is a far cry from the shirts, shoes and dresses akin to a Saturday night on Broad Street. Instead people are dressed in t-shirts and jeans, some were wearing shorts and large amounts were dressed in vintage 90s sports-wear. After a very very thorough pat down I entered the nightclub into the first venue known as Blackbox.

Blackbox

Blackbox was the main room for the evening, hosting headlining DJ duo My Nu Leng. For some the night it was full, for most of the night it was packed to the rafters. The room was full of good vibes, even though it was fairly unpleasant to stand in at times. Getting served at the bar in here was a nightmare as it was the first bar that you come across, however as the night went on it became easier. The room itself is pretty much a Blackbox. With its exposed brick walls, unfinished floors and exposed metal décor, the room pays homage to the local area with this industrial feel. Although fleeting, my time in this room was probably the best.



Rooftop Terrace

The Rooftop Terrace is now probably my favourite place in The Rainbow Venues and is almost completely the opposite to the Blackbox room downstairs. The venue is kitted out with two bars, a dance floor, a number of sofa and cushioned seats and then a literal rooftop terrace with fantastic view of the Birmingham skyline. Two bars mean that getting served up there is never a hassle. As it is an open-air terrace, it is treated as a smoking area, which may put some off. However with the gorgeous view of Birmingham (I may be a tad biased as I’m from Birmingham) and the refreshing cool-air, this is definitely a very cool little spot to recharge your batteries during the evening.

Music

The Rainbow Venues is commonly the place to find many house artists, DJ’s, grime artists and up and coming bands. So if you prefer listening to Capital rather than BBC Radio 1Xtra, this may not be the place for you. House music isn’t really my forte so I found it difficult to differentiate between the DJs playing throughout the night. My Nu Leng actually had a different sound to the others and worked the crowd extremely well. Even I think the mood it creates is great. As someone who’s a bigger fan of hip-hop, RnB and grime, going to a place that plays house music is an interesting change of pace. Whilst I will agree that at times it is repetitive, it creates a completely different, much more relaxed and less “hype” atmosphere



Clientele

During my evening at Rainbow there was never a time where I felt intimidated or ever concerned that I might be in trouble. The strict pat-down on the door is enough to quell any raver’s fears of violence. The bouncers, whilst not constantly in sight, made regular patrols around the club. Everyone I met was extremely friendly, in fact I probably spent more time outside and around the venue talking to strangers and new friends, than inside enjoying the music and dancing. It was mostly full of young people, with virtually no one over the age of 30. The clientele practically screams youth culture.



Dress Code

Trainers everywhere

This is certainly not the place to be wearing Louboutins. This is the place to experiment with new outfits and pretty much wear whatever you want. A number of the people I went with ended up going into the rave in shorts. Vintage sports jackets seemed to be fairly popular, so if you’re concerned about fitting in pop down to COW or Urban Outfitters. Anything street-wear also seemed to be fairly popular, so think brands such as Palace, A Bathing Ape, Adidas, Nike and Kenzo. For girls I suggest either a tank top or an oversized vintage t-shirt with shorts or jeans or generally anything found in COW. For guys, you won’t stick out too much in jeans and any t-shirt found in Footasylum. It’s definitely the place to experiment though; I’m looking forward to planning my next outfit for Rainbow. I asked a number of people what they thought the dress code was for Rainbow and the overwhelming response was “Wavy Garms”.

Alcohol

Considering the décor and the feel that The Rainbow Venues try to put out, I feel that the drinks were overpriced. I didn’t see anyone drinking any spirits, shots or wine. This meant that for most of the night we drank the cider(£3.50), the cheapest option. However, I did notice that a large amount of people in the club had opted to drink water, which is something that the venue is aware of as a bottle cost £2.50.


Would I recommend it?

Absolutely yes. If you’re purely looking to go out, have a good time, and don’t care about keeping up appearances, this is the place for you.

CONCLUSION

The Rainbow Venues is probably the easiest, Saturday night out you’ll ever have and is a breath of fresh air for anyone fatigued by Arcadian or the Broad Street Strip of clubs in Birmingham. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I think everyone should go and experience it once. In my entire clubbing history I can say that I’ve never been to nightclub quite like The Rainbow Venues.

TL:DR

The Rainbow Venues if an 11-part venue that you probably won’t see all of until the second or third time you go. The nightclub is fuelled by youth culture and so is a very laid-back and yet galvanising night out. Worth a go if you’re purely looking to party and don’t care about looking good doing it.

Review written by SWOOPE content partner Luke James. 
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