At Get Around Glasgow, we’re simple folk, we like beer and we like music. This means that we like venues that deliver beer and music. Not all venues that offer these elements are of the same high standard, so when we find one that we like, we like to spend as much time there as possible.

This means that we’ve spent plenty of time in Bar Bloc over the years and when we heard that the bar was closing down for a refurbishment, we were intrigued. Sometimes in Glasgow this can be code for closing down, as the “closed for refurbishment” signs in the window of Peckhams on Glassford Street indicate, but this isn’t the case here. Bar Bloc will be open in the first week of September and we caught up with Chris from the bar to learn more about what the venue has in store.

Hi Chris, first of all, when is the re-opening date?
HI. Well we have our full public re-opening weekend on Sept 5th and 6th. The 5th features Stuart Braithwaite of Mogwai performing a DJ set and the 6th sees electro act Roman Nose teaming up with Dirty Marc for our monthly Deathkill 4000 night.

Both of these are preceded by a “soft-launch” invitational event for staff, friends, associates, all of whom will be plied with free food from the new menu, complimentary drinks and live performances by three of our favourite Scottish solo acts. But unless you plan to kill someone and steal their skin, you will already know if you are going to that one.

Is there a big change in the venue?
Well, we made the toilets less of a HAZMAT issue and we filled in the bite marks on all the tables. Basically, we restructured the interior to be a little more practical for a busy bar. To try and avoid bottle-necks when the place is packed. We also improved the utilities and layout so it a more pleasing environment for diners and revellers.

Behind the scenes we also took the opportunity to improve the facilities for bands, DJs etc. The audio visual stuff is much better. The sound system is now a match for any comparatively sized venue. We have been gradually progressing in those avenues for the last 4 years. This was just a great chance to take a bigger leap forward.

Bar Bloc Glasgow

Bar Bloc Glasgow

Do you expect any grumbles from regulars about the new look?
Yeah, I expect the people who enjoyed broken toilet seats and mould to be furious.

Are you able to announce what events are lined up for the grand reopening?
There are lots of events. See above. September in general is very strong during the Fresher’s period. It is up there with our December line-up. I am particularly happy that bands we have worked with via the label, such as Campfires In Winter, Felix Champion, So Many Animal Calls, will be making appearances.

The venue is well known for the amount of free gigs and clubs – will this continue after the refit?
Yeah , in fact we have now dropped the £2 post-midnight riff-raff-deterrent door charge at weekends too. We are now full-time free-time.

Do you think the free entry element is important to what you offer?
Absolutely. Sadly the culture of music has changed to the point where bands now have to persuade people to come and see them – practically beg in some cases. We allow a risk-free chance to see new music. We are adapting to the new musical economy.

It is an especially advantageous model for young touring acts out-with the mainstream who can’t pay for thousands of pounds worth of advertising coaxing people to their shows. As long as we maintain a high standard, people will come to see what we offer because they trust us and, even if they hate it, they didn’t waste any money. It’s not ideal. It limits what we can give bands and I wish we could pay twice what we do but frankly we can sit about lamenting the state of the music industry, which is gradually devouring itself, or we can try find a way to exist and encourage/support bands in this scary new financial reality.

You’re not just a gig venue and bar, you’ve a great reputation for meals and deals – will there be any changes to the food side of the venue?
Yeah the food menu has been evolving at a Lamarckian rate for the last year and that shows no sign of slowing. The kitchen team is strong and the ideas are flowing. Having seen the new menu I can say it is full of some of the most innovative bar food in the city as well as continuing with the weekly offers that have made the place so busy.

One thing I’ve found about Bloc is that you seem to cater for lots of different music genres on your various nights – was this a conscious decision or was it stumbled upon?
In my opinion, it is short-sighted and self-indulgent to book a narrow spectrum of styles. We want to be an inclusive venue, not an exclusive one. Cliques are for assholes. The more people that visit us from across the board the better and the more artistic cross-pollenation that encourages the better. A lot of people have been turned onto bands and even genres in Bloc that they might never have touched otherwise. The free entry aspect plays a big part in that mind-expansion too.

The only thing that is important is that the standard, across styles, is maintained and that means I have to leave my own prejudices at the door when booking. Well… most of them….

If someone has never been to Bloc before, what club nights would you recommend coming along to and seeing what the place has to offer?
It’s probably not wise to pick favourites. Clearly I hold all the nights to a high standard and all are doing well. Personally my favourite DJ is Dirty Marc, who runs Deathkill 4000 on the first Saturday of every month. He’s got a lot of experience and his combination of styles (mixing Shellac with Ice Cube and Black Sabbath into Kavinsky) is at times simply inspired. His periodic live acts tend to be truly innovative too. REPEATERand TariboWest have proven to be consistent and ambitious live events since their arrival. For a pure mad rammy, Fantastic Man always leaves footprints on the ceiling. For something more traditional, the folks of Blas Collective, on Mondays, are stars of the Celtic Connections circuit and the entire vibe of that night is chilled and rather terrific.

Any highlights or moments the bar is particularly proud of over the years?
The big names that drop in usually leave a mark, such as Clutch, which was obscenely excellent. Scott from Frightened Rabbit once tanned 3 Balkans (88% vodka) as well as half a bottle of his favourite whisky before climbing around the tables of a capacity room for a December acoustic set few will forget. Likewise, We Are Scientists, Marmaduke Duke, Twin Atlantic, Twilight Sad, Admiral Fallow and more have all dropped in for wild secret shows.

For me though, my personal favourite shows tend to be the underground bands from Europe like Electric Electric, Marvin, Sheik Anorak, Adebisi Shank and so on. Also I don’t think there has been a better performance at Bloc than those by The Cosmic Dead, Adam Stafford, Vcheka, Vasquez or United Fruit.

Given that you offer food/drink, live music and club nights – do you feel you are in competition with all the bars and pubs in the local area or do you feel you are a bit more specialist?
We are in competition with any chain restaurant, generic bar or cynical exploiter of the local music scene. By contrast, we are in cooperation with all of the other wonderful independent restaurants and bars, including Nice N Sleazy, Mono, Stereo, 13th Note, PivoPivo, The Roxy and Flying Duck to name but a few.

The PAWS and We Are Scientists show in July caused quite a stir – how did that come about?
It came about thanks in no small part to our friend and unemployed Elvis Costello impersonator Bryan McGarvey of the pop band Jackhammers. But it was only possible because the guys from PAWS are thoroughly decent folks to deal with and totally mindful of where they came from in the tradition of all of the best DIY acts. They played at BLOC on the way up and, now that they are doing well, they were more than happy to come back for an intimate night of screaming and musical bludgeoning.

We Are Scientists are friends of PAWS (and really very nice people too) and, when Phil and Co mentioned it to them, were delighted at the opportunity to play a frantic, feral, emotional show inches away from the people who love them most. Those fans will never forget that experience and it was our privilege to give them those memories.

Any major plans for the rest of the year?
Absolutely. The gig diary is looking epic. I know what shows are coming and it is our best close to a year since the bar began hosting music. December will be something special. We are also releasing a series of compilations through our record label around the time of the reopening and into late Autumn featuring some of the great acts we have worked with. That will be a real pleasure.

What are your hopes for the future?
Converge. I absolutely will get those noisy bastards to play in this bar if it kills me.