Inside Kiev’s Post-Revolution Wave of Underground Techno Raves

Heading east from Berlin, last summer I undertook a pilgrimage to Eastern Europe’s newly christened Techno Mecca. Deep amongst Kiev’s concrete forest of Soviet brutalism, a raw homegrown rave scene is putting down roots, thriving in a city that’s witnessed two separate revolutions in under ten years.

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Flying out #Ukraine

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For the countless Kievan youth born in the post-Soviet 90’s, the thundering techno can offer a weekend of absolution and escapism, insulating them from the crisis and conflict that’s ripped Europe’s largest country apart since the recent 2014 revolution. My last few days in the sprawling Ukrainian capital fell over a weekend and it rapidly became a rush to take advantage of the collapsed currency and a weekend full of raves before my uni term began.

A 15 minute, £1 uber ride away from central Maidan Square there’s an abandoned checkpoint in the Tatarka hills, barring entry to a small crumbling industrial complex in the midst of a wooded dell. Head through the checkpoint and into the factories you sense the vibrations of a serious sound system, deep in the belly of one of the surrounding delipidated buildings.

Here you’ll find the home of underground Techno club and centre of contemporary culture Closer, but also up in the loft –  Mezzanine. At the top of the graffiti scrawled staircase, its decaying post-industrial location fuses with a subdued, wooden barn reminiscent aesthetic, complemented by the strictly minimal selection of sounds. It’s the place to level out, have a few drinks and get your head right before heading downstairs.

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In contrast Closer is known for its raves that stretch from midnight Friday into hazy Monday afternoons. There’s plenty to explore; from the memorizing lights and natives competing to be Neukölln’s next top model in the main space, to the deep lit chill rooms and outside the sprawling, multilevel wooden veranda set amongst the Tatarka hills. At one point, in true Kievan style, a climb on to the spine of the crumbling factory’s sheet metal roof became a legit spot to take in the morning air.

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Permanently settling in 2014 following nomadic roots,  Closer has survived recent court battles with the local authorities, continuing to operate and thrive under the ethos of “bringing people closer with music”.  After ending up there a few times, you observe that the place really starts to create a distinct vibe and come into its own about 5/6 in the morning . It’s no surprise that the Friday to Monday, any hour techno produces its own resonating gravitational pull, attracting those that consider no sleep and endless after parties a perfectly reasonable weekend pursuit. Sleeping is cheating.

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morning love

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“During the revolution of 2013-14 all our nightlife stopped, and I realised I miss good parties,” says DJ,  promoter and Cxema founder Slava Lepsheev. “I also saw that this whole new amazing generation emerged, and they have nowhere to go.”

Since Cxema (pronounced Skhema) emerged in 2014, it rapidly gained a reputation beyond Kiev. Translating as scheme or gamble, the night is the result of communication and collaboration amongst a range of creative young Kievans, including architects, designers, artists and art critics.

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#cxema #latespaces

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These various cultural mediums are linked together under guiding mutual preferences for: “spacious dance floors, best local musicians and DJs, quality sound”,  rather than commercial profitability. This allows Cxema to retain its raw and authentic vibe, even after featuring in the likes of VICE and it’s fashion and music subsidiaries i-D + THUMP, it’s non-commercial approach and focus on providing a unique space of fresh freedoms mean Cxema is still an underground night.

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For Kievan locals born in the 90’s growing up to the sounds of techno, there’s a soaring demand for massive events amongst this Post-Soviet generation, with Cxema carving its own niche in the vacuous nightlife void that’s stalked Kiev following the revolution.

There’s no shortage of locations in post-industrial Kiev vying to host raves capable of meeting this demand. Cxema is held roughly every 6 weeks, keeping it fresh by switching to whatever semi-legit location’s available, bouncing from office blocks, to garages, factories and old cinemas. This is necessary to avoid being shut down, with Closer recently under threat of closure following a series of police raids. Due considerably to the high levels of moral panic raves generate amongst the staunchly conservative elements of Ukrainian society.

Saturday night I donned my €1 Adidas jacket and headed over to the skeletal arch of the Podilskyi Metro Bridge,  construction began the same year I was born and it remains incomplete. This has to be the most dramatic of Cxema’s locations, a grimy, graffiti scrawled skatepark wedged deep under a motorway overpass. Once over the half pipe, the cavernous space becomes a kaleidoscopic whirl of wavey 90’s sportswear, an ocean that continues rhythmically heaving long after the suns risen and torched the serene waters of the oozing Dneiper outside.

Late in the morning when the Cxema crowds begin to disperse, many casually dismiss sleep and instead another after party at Closer entices those with the stamina to see Sunday through. Bearing in mind a Monday afternoon flight, I beat a lunchtime retreat from the Techno, seeking to regain some basic motor skills before my Sunday night motive – Keller Bar. Not far from Closer, it’s a tight, moody locale, with a capacity that can’t reach more than 150 people.

Arriving in such an out-of-the-way, intimate space as a bunch of gringo tourist on a Sunday night, you get the vibe you’ve crashed a private party. Later after a few conversations opened by Cxema chat and where to find other raves in Kiev, what I had first put down as cold stares turned out to be stern stoic facial experssions masking severe sleep deprivation, many had been on the sesh since Friday … but Sunday exposed the true techno zombies.

The perfect place to level out after a long weekend, the night was still gaining momentum when suddenly the music shutdown around 2 and everyone piled onto the terrace outside. I was left lost when fireworks started to illuminate the nights sky above me, till it was explained that it was a special night, someones birthday. Despite uni term and lectures looming just over the horizon, when the sound system roared back into life I half deluded myself into believing I could commit till close without severe repercussions for the London flight.

In the end I was rewarded, having left before dawn I still had time for one last gourmet meal, gorging on Georgian food and wine before contemplating my frayed nerves on that final flight home.

Exploring contempoary Kiev: Part -ONE –

Recent political events in Kiev are testimony to the freedom and self-determination Ukraine’s substantial younger generation want their nation’s sovereignty to symbolise. Within the last few years the city has witnessed a revolution, abruptly followed by a severe recession and the collapse of the nation’s currency.  Whilst visiting the sprawling Ukrainian capital, you are conscious of a prevailing innovative and creative energy, forged by recent events. This dynamic resilience and drive of individuals pursuing their potential gives contemporary Kiev its raw and authentic atmosphere. This continues to draw in many curious travellers, despite the harrowing conflict in the country’s eastern Donbass region.

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Kiev’s nightlife provides you with an oppurtunity to become more than just a passive onlooker and to freely integrate yourself in the city’s undercurrent. Proudly calling one of Europe’s largest cities home, Kiev’s younger generation have been galvanised by recent events and in the last couple of years the nightlife has distinctively transformed. From all night long raves heaving under broken bridges, to chic shisha bars evacuated out of war-torn Donetsk in the back of a truck, to a Kievan basement.Here’s the first part of my pick of where to explore contemporary Kiev’s iconic undercurrent.

Bar Spletni // Сплетни

A few years ago Spletni was a popular new Shisha bar start-up in Donetsk, but following the outbreak of civil war and the intensification of conflict in the region, the bar was forced to close down. Like many other former Donetsk residents, the owner left his war-torn native city for the capital. Embodying the resilience and innovation that defines much of Ukraine’s younger generation,the young owner sensed an oppurtunity. Speltni was ambitiously dragged back to life,by loading lock,stock and barrel into the back of a truck and relocating, to a similar underground space in Kiev.

Now centrally located across the road from the magnificent Taras Shevchenko University, Spletni employs many former Donetsk residents, whilst others nostalgic for home find spots to relax here. The vaulted underground setting and the smoke rising from the various flavoured shisha embers, interact to create a perfumed and almost sweet cloudy atmosphere. Spaces are allocated for comfortably chilling and enjoying some shisha and drinks, ideal when you want to recuperate after a hectic day or a long night. You even see the owner park himself in a comfy chair in the late evening, perch his mac on his lap and starting to blast away on some shisha too.


Rapidly gaining an international reputation, back in the spring of 2016 this music and arts space emerged from a landmark court battle with a local prosecutor victorious, permanently cementing their position amongst the apex of Kiev’s contemporary nightlife. Consequently the venue is host to many major homegrown and international names. Found in a former Soviet industrial complex, Closer occupies a floor of a former textile factory and some of the forest that has colonised the decaying site. Alongside its role as a club, the same space is home to lectures, regular jazz evenings, workshops, film screenings, plus fashion and contemporary art exhibitions.

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Podol.Tango.Goodbye.) Will miss you

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Above the central interior space are the clubs iconic and hypnotic, horizontal lights. Imbuing the dance floor with energy, there’s no shortage of people enthusiastically dancing through the night and next day There’s plenty of cotch spots set up in adjoining spaces, with an abundance of sofas. Outside a sublime multi-level wooden terrace, climbing the factory walls to the roof, is reminiscent of Berlin’s Spree side Der Visionaere, whilst the adjoining trails heading into the forest provide further spaces to explore. With a reputation locally that it starts picking up when the dawn starts breaking, most nights stretch into the next afternoon. Weekend long re-entry is a wise investment. Complimenting the clubs memorizing aesthetics and intrepid layout, you’re predominately surrounded by  young Kievan’s exploring expressions of individualism and independence that clubs like Closer ambitiously channel, creating a distinct and authentic vibe.

The first club I went to in Kiev, Closer set a high standard.

Rockfellow 210

Opening late this year and a couple of minutes walk from Maidan Square, is a space to recuperate with friends after a big night or base yourself in the early evening after exploring central Kiev. Inside and upstairs, a series of immersive rooms are the central feature of Rockfellow 210. Equipped with massive screens, sound systems and relaxed lounging spaces, you can also order food and drinks by knocking a massive red button by the door. These rooms vary in size, accommodating roughly 5 to 20 people, they’re rentable in 3 hour slots and are the perfect space to cotch and conserve your energy before heading out later.

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Наш зал "P" теперь Ваш 😉 Большой диван, который превращается в большой кинотеатр, где может удобно разместится 4 пары или 8 друзей, или одна пара и 2 бутылочки шампанского :)) Коротко: – это антикинотеатр на Михайловском переулке 10/2; – это самый уютный зал; – это трансляции, кино и не только; – это официант в твоем распоряжении. Бронируй свой зал заранее – тел. 099-2-210-210 пы.сы. ищи в сети фото и ИНФО о других залах 😉 #RF210 #rockfellow210 #пультМОЙ

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Beyond the immersive rooms and heading downstairs, the spacious basement bar and kitchen has a warm, welcoming aesthetic . Outside a serene terrace wraps itself  around the square building. Its got a relaxed and settled vibe, with tables retaining the same occupants long into the night. The terrace has been kitted out for the winter weather and there’s regularly someone mixing, with a chilled ambience the aim of the evening. Rockfellow 210’s anti-theater concept, allowing you to enjoy sports events and cinematic releases in a relaxed space with friends, is popular locally. On big match days evenings and weekends it can be struggle to secure a room.

 Hendrick’s bar

A cocktail bar with flawless attention to detail, Hendrick’s bar is  stashed away beneath the endlessly excellent establishment, that is True Burger. Head into True Burger, go past the toilets in the back and down some stairs, then give the buzzer a ring and wait for the staff to welcome you in. It’s a great location for peacefully getting in the mood for bigger things later on in the night with some friends or for having a few to wash down your delectable burger from upstairs.

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Great place, great people, great times!

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The bar’s menu has a wide range of particularly potent concoctions and despite Hendrick’s Prohibition era inspired aesthetic, many are served in heavy clay ceramic Tiki mugs, which I thoroughly endorse. It’s a well-known place locally and it can be hard to find a place to squeeze into on the weekends. With the seclusion the bars location provides, the people here are affable and you’d be hard pressed not be engaged in conversation soon after arrival.The musical selection here isn’t garish like you can find in similar cocktail bars, causally imbuing the surroundings with a relaxed atmosphere

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Fog cutter #licensetocreep

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Part TWO deviates from the clean-cut and chilled spaces explored here and heads down a path in search of a rawer aesthetic

For a taste of the sounds of contemporary Kiev check out LateSpace’s soundcloud

“The city of Kiev is an orchard. Kiev is a poet. Kiev is an epic. Kiev is history. Kiev is art.” – Alexander Dovzhenko

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