World music? House music? Jazz? Melanie Lee goes for a tour around the latest one-stop club hub in Singapore—St James Power Station.
Clubbing in Singapore, like everything else in this country, is rather efficient. There are clubbing districts like Mohammed Sultan Road and Boat Quay with an astonishing variety of clubs and bars. However, St James Power Station, which opened late last year, takes the cake by housing nine different clubs in a cool 60,000 square feet heritage building. Bar hopping has never been made easier, especially with a one-time entry fee that gains visitors access to all nine clubs.
Converting a 1927 building that was formerly Singapore’s first coal-powered station into a clubbing powerhouse was the brainchild of businessmen Dennis Foo and Andrew Ing, who had already established popular discotheques such as Europa and Zouk respectively. It took two years, S$40 million and around 300 staff to get St James running in September 2006. Since then, business has been roaring, as seen during my visit, where queues were snaking at every club’s entrance from 11pm onwards. Its distinctiveness, besides the unique décor of each club, is the focus on live entertainment, with the presence of resident bands in most of the clubs. According to its press release, “a lot of PMEBs (professionals, managers, executives and businessmen) are no longer interested in strutting their stuff on the dance floor. Having a drink and grooving to a live band are more suited to their tastes.”
This is evidently the case when I step into the first club at the main entrance, Movida. Meaning “party” in Cuban street slang, this world music bar was pulsating with the catchy rhythms of a Paraguay band accompanied by two sultry Latin females writhing to the music and a hunky Ricky Martin look-alike rousing the crowds in a distinctly South American accent. “It’s party time and we want everybody to start dancing fast!” The crowds are already bobbing their heads enthusiastically to the music. Our guide, Mary yells into my ear that by 1am, there would be conga lines and waitresses prancing on the tabletops. Funky.
The next club I’m brought to is the quieter and more spacious Gallery Bar on the upper level. It’s a nice transition to sit on the plush sofas enjoying the chilled-out lounge music under soothing blue-tinged lighting. Its surrounding glass panels mean that we get a nice bird’s eye view of the clubs downstairs, and it looks like the crowds are all building up. Cheryl, the publicity manager, confides that this is her favourite part of St James, especially when she feels like she needs a break from the hoards of visitors. Interestingly enough, the people here do appear more contemplative and sedate.
On the same level is the Bellini Room tucked in the corner, the smallest club in St James but an extremely popular one for jazz lovers because of the seven piece band, that belts out big band, swing and jazz ala Duke Ellington. There’s a nostalgic 1950’s Rat Pack feel to this place, with its vintage floral wallpaper and shop house windows. Like Movida, Bellini Room is designed by Argentinean Ernesto Bedmar, who successfully creates a place that exudes a classic jazzy glamour. A waiter with a black jacket and white tie serves me their signature Bellini cocktail, and as I sit back and enjoy the old ditties, I can almost imagine the crowd as characters from an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. Definitely a most charming place to hang out, especially if you are feeling a little nostalgic.
My last stop is a huge contrast to Bellini’s – Powerhouse, also the hugest club at St James, spanning over 10, 000 square feet and five storeys high. There is a distinctively industrial, urban feel to this place, with specially commissioned graffiti by a UK visual artist. DJs play dance music alongside special lighting technology and occasional aerialists swing acrobatically above the visitors. Part disco, part circus, part laser show, Powerhouse is the ideal playground for the more youthful party animals.
There are still many more clubs that I did not get a chance to explore – such as Dragonfly (with immensely popular Chinese bands), Mono (a Karaoke bar) The Boiler Room (Rock and R&B music), The Lobby (broadcasting live sports matches) and Peppermint Park (an outdoor bar with swings). If you intend to spend the whole night there, there’s also the Station Kitchen, a three-in-one restaurant that opens till 5am to appease any growling tummies after an energetic night of partying. Given how music is such a personal taste, I love how St James Power Station has created the perfect social solution of housing distinctive music clubs all in one place to satisfy everyone. Now that is powerful indeed.
St James Power Station
3 Sentosa Gateway
Tel: +65 6270 7676