'First looks' are initial sneak peeks at a new venue. Unlike reviews, which are strictly anonymous and paid for by Time Out, 'first looks' may be based on press trips or other non-anonymous visits.
What is it? The Bricks is a new small jazz venue in the basement of the Shoukai Bojun complex near Lily’s American Diner and XL bar, which, given the clamp down on Sanlitun bars by building walls in front of them recently, we hope can give us more positive associations with rectangular concrete blocks.
What's it like? 'Wow, it’s just like the jazz bar in La La Land!' exclaimed one local customer at the
venue during our visit. Well, kind of. The atmosphere is certainly designed to reflect the romanticised ideal of a classic US jazz joint as seen in that film, with leather chairs, waiters in bowties and low lighting, but Ryan Gosling’s character Seb would probably demand a bit more oomph from the music. The resident band is The Alley Cats, and their brief is to provide hotel bar-style jazz to sip wine to rather than brass-parping jam explorations to leap up and start flailing around to.
While the much larger Blue Note venue in Qianmen gets the big-name international touring jazz acts, and the authentically dusty East Shore by Houhai lake has a rotating cast of hyper-talented players on stage, The Bricks seems pitched as a solid halfway house: a smooth date-friendly bar in which the drinks are as important as the tunes, rather than one for jazz obsessives.
The Alley Cats play Wednesday to Saturday, with a piano player covering Monday and Tuesday and no live music on Sundays, although the bar is still open. They’re going for exclusivity – there is a VIP room,
a membership scheme is going to be introduced and the best tables have minimum spends.
We say Even if you don’t want to spend big, sitting at the back and mellowing with a glass of wine with jazz
on tap at The Bricks is an enjoyable experience in an environment that is a touch more relaxed than nearby Parlor bar, which also hosts jazz. And, unlike many bars in the area, this place doesn’t have a massive brick wall in front of it.