Your inside source on student friendly entertainment.
Published September 12th 2011
The Weekend dilemma: Should you go to an imitation Irish sports pubs to have your $14 pint knocked out of your hand by an angry balding lad, or do you go to a slick neon club named after a smutty innuendo to get burst eardrums and a $20 fluorescent cocktail that tastes like David Beckham's cologne?
The answer is neither; let's go to The Exeter Hotel. Live bands that play real music, homely atmosphere and friendly service all combine to make this place hands down the best game in town. No matter how many times I come here it still feels like I've walked into a friend's home. The bartenders are warm and welcoming, there's always great music playing, and you almost always run into someone you know.
The place isn't "done up". Drawings and writing cover every surface, and it has a very natural thrown together atmosphere. This means that you never consider feeling uncomfortable about talking too loudly or spilling your drink all over the place.
Because of this, if you're having a fancy night in your cocktail dress the Exeter is probably not the best option. With gritty homeliness often comes genuine griminess, a drawback for some, but it's greatest appeal for many others. This appeal makes sense given that most Pubs are now like P.J. O'Brien's, the McDonald's of Irish pubs, where everything has been meticulously planned to look "authentic" and ends up looking like the set of a TV show.
There are live bands every weekend at The Exeter. These can range from the extraordinary, many international acts started here, to the downright terrible (they let my band play here once). Everyone gets a go, except for the Bon Jovi cover bands that are always creeping out of The Elephant just around the corner.
The only issue with live music at The Exeter is the sound set up. The place is not acoustically designed to sound good. Moreover, bands of more than three people struggle to fit into the little alcove that acts as a stage. This arrangement allows for intimacy with the performers, since you're literally close enough to get intimate with them, but it also means that if more than twenty people want to see the band then they will have to stand in the corridor and be in everyone's way.
Although it is cheaper than most clubs, The Exeter's recent surge in popularity has not only resulted in thick crowds of scenesters, but also an increase in prices. A jug of Coopers Sparkling Ale will now set you back $19, that is if it hasn't gone up again since last weekend.
The place is still packed every weekend though, and the reason is that the only alternatives are the aforementioned clubs and fast drink chains. Apart from the Unibar and the Grace Emily, there isn't really anywhere catered to young people who want a casual drink and a nice chat, so it's well worth braving the crowds and the prices to make this your new weekend home.
I've always had some great nights at the Exeter, although I haven't been there for a few years now. I love that it has such a laid back atmosphere, and that you can actually get a conversation in when you head there.