Electronic Destination Kingdom Nightclub Rises Again

Dance music venue reopens off Red River after abrupt 2018 shutter

The audience for Super Flu at Kingdom Nightclub on Sept. 16 (photo by John Anderson)

With a new location in Downtown's Red River Cultural District, Kingdom Nightclub has risen from the ashes of an abrupt 2018 lockout. Previously established as a destination for high-profile EDM, house, and techno acts on East Fifth, Kingdom reopened last month at 505 E. Seventh. Doubling its past capacity, the club set up in the former site of event space and South by Southwest venue Ironwood Hall.

Opening night saw surprise sets from native Texas son Matthew Dear and Yoshitoshi label boss Sharam. The evening sold out on the strength of a few sincere and anti-cool promotional videos of venue owner Garrett Boyd petting his adopted chihuahua George, followed by a digital business card announcing the August 27 kickoff as "Night One." Fans texted a listed phone number to request a link to purchase tickets.

"People think they have to be cool to be into techno. No one is that cool. I wanted to show people that I don't have to wear a blouse and put on eyeliner. You don't have to sniff palo santo every morning to be into this," Boyd told the Chronicle, underplaying Kingdom's former status as a world-class nightclub.

Opened in 2011, Kingdom's original Fifth Street location closed alongside Ethics Music Lounge in a contentious 2018 lockout. Both music hubs found their locks changed by new landlord World Class Capital Group, owned by embattled real estate tycoon Nate Paul. When Kingdom shuttered, Boyd was down – recovering from a divorce and a health scare that he says nearly killed him. RealMusic Events, the booking team he worked with for many years, departed to far East Austin to work on their own huge electronic club – the Concourse Project – which opened last year. Boyd fell off the radar, keeping his eye on a new space as far back as 2015. He now operates Kingdom with his brother Justin.

Promised as an until-5am celebration, the club's first night ended unexpectedly after a fantastic techno set from Dear around 3:30am, when police arrived regarding an issue with the setup at the door. Afterward, the DJ/producer posted a glowing review on Instagram: "There aren't very many clubs of passion left in this world, and especially in America. I felt that energy at the old Kingdom and could only imagine what the new venue would be ... Last night moved me." In a comment on the post, performer Sharam lamented the missed after-hours tag, or back-to-back DJ sets, he and Dear had planned.

The new spot utilizes the alley entrance between Neches and Red River, past the food trucks across the street from Chess Club and Barbarella, and near a few unexpectedly cheerful murals. A capacity of 600 roughly doubles that of the original Kingdom, made to appear even larger with four muscular lighting trusses shooting beams of color across the floor, rosettes onto the walls, and LED strips over the floor. During a tour of the space ahead of the opening, Boyd said the layer cake of visual effects was inspired by spaces as varied as the Amsterdam Dance Event festival, Blade Runner, and a cool women's clothing boutique in Atlanta.

"I opened the first Kingdom with two weeks of lead time, and then I had to live with it that way for 10 years," said Boyd, a onetime doorman at Sixth Street's shuttered Barcelona Nightclub.

A curved roof of wooden pieces will remind fans of the undulating ceiling at the old club, though nothing was salvaged from the space Paul so unceremoniously took over – save for the grills of a few speakers, now mounted above the DJ booth, which fans can peer down on from the terrace above. Beneath, Boyd showed off the green room, snapping his fingers to prove the space is acoustically dead, or perfect for someone preparing a set. Over the bar, a giant, creamy-hued stone slab, which Boyd specified as honey onyx, glowed like a salt lamp. The owner described a sunrise effect when the room is pitch-dark and the lights are brought up slowly. About that palo santo, Boyd said he prefers a bottle of Le Labo's popular Santal to scent the club.

He's already been the opening act a few nights at Kingdom, fulfilling a years-held dream to play his own club again. On the musical front, Boyd's personal tastes grew from a love of the Global Underground series of live DJ mixes, especially from artists like John Digweed, Sasha, and Nick Warren. The Kingdom calendar thus far has been full of international headliners: Germany's Super Flu and Italy's Undercatt representing melodic techno, fellow Germans Frankey & Sandrino with heady tech house, and Corrupt UK with bass house from, naturally, the UK. Australian drum 'n' bass outfit Pendulum (Oct. 14) and Detroit's Planet E boss Carl Craig (Nov. 4) fill out the growing calendar.

There's still no place to sit while you club on the main floor at Kingdom, short of buying a bottle or hiking up to the over-booth terrace. You'll have to wait until the liquor-free after-hours to get free run of the sectioned-off benches lining the club – à la the original Kingdom – so come prepared to dance or die.

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