Roxy: From Underground Venue to Cultural Epicenter
As the doors closed on Communism for Czechoslovakia in 1992, they swung wide open for a newly redefined nightlife in Prague. Venues like the now famous Roxy embodied the country’s new sense of freedom.
Roxy may have marked its 26th anniversary this October, but the club’s history goes back much further than that. Beginning in 1927, the building housed an upscale cinema and cultural space for Prague’s high society. Located in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, WWII brought an abrupt end to the area’s cultural life, and the building was vacant for a few years before being used as a state-run film school during the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic. After the Velvet Revolution and the subsequent collapse of the Communist regime the building fell into disrepair and was set to be demolished. However, the history of the building and the artistic aura it still possessed inspired Linhartova Nadace, or the Linhart Foundation, to use it as an impromptu concert venue.
Founded in 1987 by a group of architects and artists, the Foundation aims to inspire and support creative projects in order to foster the creation of art among younger generations and the general public as a whole. They created Roxy in 1992 as a run-down venue for underground hardcore and rock concerts. The space then evolved into a cultural epicenter that hosts the newest contemporaries of all types of music, from alternative and pop, to drum&bass and techno. The opening of the experimental space and café NoD, standing for No Dimension, in 1998 solidified Roxy’s status as one of Prague’s leading nightclubs and cultural hubs. Remembered as an integral part of Prague’s wild nineties, it is now a venue for those passionate about the connection between music and art, and all this relationship fosters.
The massive flood of 2002 nearly put Roxy’s artistic renaissance on hold, however, when the venue was devastatingly flooded up to the second floor and forced to close for a month. Three years later the venue was once again shut down, this time by the city, due to noise complaints from residents in the area and the Prague 1 mayor. “Roxy is a legendary place, you can feel the history,” says Daniel Bacho, Roxy’s PR director. “We always try to be one step ahead of the rest, even when you consider communication with our fans, loyalty is key.” This loyalty is what has kept one of Prague’s oldest clubs alive all these years – in both closings, loyal supporters of Roxy’s mission fought for its repairs and re-opening.
“Roxy is legendary not only as a venue in itself,” says Bacho. “But also in its attitude to music.” The previous Eastern Bloc countries tend to remain a few years behind when it comes to up-and-coming trends, including new musical artists. Roxy refuses to adhere to this stereotype. Instead, the Roxy team travels around Europe looking for acts to book that will bring the best of international music scenes right here to Prague. “Events happening in Berlin, London, Barcelona etc. – it’s all happening here as well, which is special for the middle of Europe,” says Bacho. “We invest in new artists and styles. It’s a gamble, but usually it’s worth it.” Just last month Roxy sponsored Belgian drum&bass artist Netsky to perform in a farmers’ market. This pop-up set gained over 250,000 views. It’s risks like this that put Roxy at the forefront of Prague’s alternative arts and nightlife scene.
The space itself has been renovated back to its pre-war glory. The Art Deco architecture of the 1920s cinema and its balcony were restored in effort to highlight and respect the history of the space, all while packing it full with new sound and modern culture. While NoD upstairs functions as an exhibition, theatre and lecture space, Roxy also doubles as a gallery with a rotating collection of paintings and sculptures on display throughout the actual concert venue. “Take the venue seriously as not just a club, but also a gallery space” says Bacho. “Walk around, sit for a while, you can feel it.”
Upcoming Program Highlights:
The last week of October marks Roxy’s 26th anniversary celebration, featuring UK punk rock band Slaves, techno pioneer Chris Liebing, and drum & bass legend High Contrast. In November Roxy will be hosting Grammy-nominated DJ/producer Todd Terry for the 20th anniversary of Climax, the longest running club night in the Czech Republic. L.A. electronic group The Glitch Mob and Grammy-nominated producer and owner of Toolroom Records Mark Knight are also headlining shows this month, along with bands Metric and Jungle. Check out roxy.cz for the full program!
Dlouhá 33, Prague 1