Kitchener’s in Braamfontein, which dates back to the early 1900s and is widely regarded as Johannesburg’s oldest pub, is a trendy Jozi joint that prides itself on having a progressive and varied music policy.
We chat to Riaan Botha – Music Curator and Event Designer to find out more about the venue, music they play and why it is important for Kitchener’s to have a SAMRO venue license.
Question: Tell us about your venue, Kitchener’s. How did it come about?
Answer: The owner, Andrew the DJ, was famous for his house parties, where he could play the music he wanted to play, music that he didn’t really hear out there much. He started throwing pop-up parties at old pubs around Johannesburg, and when he got to Kitchener’s it was an instant fit.
At that time the space was only being run as a pub during the day, so Andrew started throwing parties at night. He quit his job in advertising and, in time, bought out the previous owners and took over the trade, Mondays to Sundays. KCB (Kitchener’s Carvery Bar) evolved into a venue that attracts people from all over.
I was involved since the very beginning, from the very first party he threw there. We have always had similar mindsets when it comes to music, so it’s been an easy/good fit from the start.
KCB soon became an “Andrew the DJ and Broaden a New Sound project”. My job with Broaden a New Sound is to book and curate the music, events and promoters for the venue. We have been going strong for pretty much nine years now, dancing on Lord Kitchener’s grave ever since.
Q: What makes this space so special, and what can people expect when coming to your venue?
A: What makes the venue so special is that since the very beginning, it’s always been about catering for pretty much everyone – no dress code, no preconceptions, come as you are. More discerning and adventurous listeners, who prefer or love music that they don’t get to hear on the radio or out much in SA, have also found a home with us. There is so much amazing music out there, we didn’t want to limit things and end up sounding the same as everywhere else. It’s quite a rare feat and we are blessed that we haven’t had to sell out!
We pride ourselves on having the most progressive and varied music policy out there, with some of the best DJs in the country and, often, from overseas too. We also have one of the best-sounding dance floors in SA, powered by a world-class Martin Audio system. So people can expect a mixed and open-minded crowd thanks to the eclectic music policy, amazing sound that won’t leave your ears ringing the next day, and a dance floor that cooks with the most relevant and timeless selections in the world.
Q: What is the vibe like at your joint – what kind of music can one expect to jam to? Do you host live performances?
A: The vibe has always been very relaxed and real, with a good energy – often different, exciting and quite unique.
Since Braamfontein became popular over the last few years and quite chaotic at times, we have been making a concerted effort to make it as safe a space as possible, especially for women and the LGBTQI+ community, who often face violence and unsafety in this city, especially at night. We host a monthly pro-femme night which nurtures femme artists and which we use as a training ground to create tools and policies that our security and management can use throughout to support femme and marginalised individuals.
We enforce capacity limits so we can keep the vibe as nice as possible, and offer a flexible door policy. It’s a nice little bubble in Braam.
Music wise, you can expect a good balance of underground and familiar music. We work with a fantastic selection of promoters who embrace our music policy. There’s always a wide variety of music in a week and often on a single night, depending on the party. We host a wide range of talent, from big household names and internationally renowned local acts to the best forward-thinking and underground DJs, and producers in the world.
We also make an effort to cater for more African music than Americanised music and prefer hosting events that have multiple genres being played on a night. Our in-house nights especially have a nice complement of genres.
We do host some live performances, but weekends it’s mostly all about dancing since we don’t have much space to cater for full-on bands when it’s super busy. We actually have a second sound system lined out in our foyer, so when the main dance floor is full, a dance floor often starts up in the foyer too.
Back in the day it was easier to accommodate bands, but these days, being much busier, it’s become trickier. But again, we try to cater for all kinds of music so we fit in live performances where we can. It’s worth noting that we do host more live electronic acts since that’s much easier to accommodate with the limited space available. The last Thursday of every month, however, is dedicated to live music where we host live bands on the main floor, and we have a second dance floor with DJs the whole night in the foyer. We will be curating open mic sessions later this year on Saturday afternoons, so aspiring artists should stay tuned.
Q: Kitchener’s is a licensed SAMRO member. What is the significance of this for the musicians who play at your venue?
A: By being a SAMRO member, we are contributing to the music scene in SA in our own little way and, even if it’s just on a small scale, we’re helping local artists grow.
Q: Does Kitchener’s provide a platform for new and up-and-coming artists to showcase their music and talent?
A: We have always tried to provide a platform for new artists, especially the ones who are a bit too left-field or maybe misunderstood by the average listener/crowd. By offering a platform for more underground and up-and-coming artists, coming from a more nurturing instead of a greedy side of the music industry, we have been able to give artists access to an open-minded crowd that would be hard to reach in most places. We have seen many an exciting and fresh talents cut their teeth in our space.
Q: Where can people find out more information or line-ups for the venue?
A: The best way is to subscribe to our events on Facebook.
Our listings and our calendar section get updated on a regular basis. We are also on Twitter and Instagram under the same handle, @barkitcheners.