Clubbing at Optimo

First published in Muzik Magazine. Once again, Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap, I'm really, really sorry...

Bear in mind it’s a Sunday night, a ‘school night’ to all intents and purposes.  A night for polishing shoes, wrapping packed lunches in pieces of cling-film and watching The Muppet Show before bed.

It’s not traditionally a night for standing in a hot room and throwing yourself around to an unholy mix of House, Techno, John Lee Hooker, Negativland, and the ‘Duelling Banjos’ theme from hillbilly stalk ’n’ slash movie Deliverance.  Whoever thought that would work must be some kind of psycho themselves, no?

“Sunday nights in Glasgow used to be a pretty duff night to run an underground music night,” says aforementioned psycho, Jonnie Wilkes, one half of the promoter and DJ team for Optimo (Espacio). “Now we get four or five hundred people every week.”

Jonnie, softly-spoken and Northern Irish, runs Optimo with Keith McIvor, softly-spoken and Scottish.  As Twitch and Wilkes, they’re also its resident DJs.  Together they’ve taken the idea of Sunday clubbing in Scotland by the throat.

“Quite a lot of people have been barred by their bosses at work from coming to Optimo,” says Jonnie, with not a little pride. “You can’t access the website or the chatroom from the University computers anymore, either.”

The same glint appears in Keith’s eye: “A friend of mine works in a restaurant and in the staffroom there’s a sign saying all employees must NOT go to Optimo on a Sunday night. Excellent!”

Optimo (Espacio) isn’t the first club to set it off on a Sunday night.  Indeed, Sunday night clubs are traditionally more Bacchanalian than the rest of the week put together – something about the sheer obtuseness of it.  Nor is Optimo the first club ever to boast a truly diverse musical slate.  However, it could very well be one of the best clubs to combine those two elements.  For anyone with a big record collection, or who pre-dates dance music, or who’s ever had that same “wish there was a club that played MY music” midnight conversation, it’d be near-impossible to walk in and not have a ‘Momma, I’m home’-style epiphany.  Basically, hedonists with record collections love and will love Optimo, that in a nutshell is its charm.

And its reputation is clearly spreading.  The next day, as Muzik is nursing battered synapses and preparing for the journey home, a taxi driver asks us where we’ve been.

“I know it,” he says when we tell him. “I’ve just driven a load of lads to the airport going back to London.  They say they go there all the time…”  See?

For further proof, visit the club’s excellent website at, which provides the foundation for what’s clearly a growing musical community.  Here you’ll get a lesson in why The Slits’ version of Heard It Through The Grapevine knocks Marvin’s into a cocked hat; or get a look-see at the setlists and wonder quite how Twitch managed to mix Joy Division’s Transmission into I Sit On Acid by the Lords Of Acid followed by Nina Simone’s Feeling Good.

What goes on at an Optimo night is this: Jonnie and Keith (as Twitch and Wilkes)  get things going in the main room where they’ll beguile and befuddle for a couple of hours before letting a band have a go.  Tonight’s unusual – there are no bands – but normally you might expect to see, oh, ARE Weapons, Opel Bastards, DMX Krew, Daker & Grimser, Mad Professor, or maybe Peaches: bands of tha