Becoming one with Hive: an international student’s experience

Student bars all over the world have the same, distinctive smell. It’s a delicately concocted, potent mixture of spilled Magners, sweat, Jägerbombs, liberally applied cologne, old vomit and disappointment. Hive, the infamous Edinburgh haunt of students and adults who should know better, is no different.  

It was Tolstoy who first said all good clubs are alike, but that each bad club is unhappy in its own way. In an effort to test this theory and understand its seemingly eternal appeal, your correspondent recently visited Hive as a veteran of student clubs all over the world, but a novice to the charms of this particular institution.  

First up: the queue. Perhaps it was foolish to visit in the first few weeks of the semester, when everyone can still pretend they’re on holidays and go out every night of the week, but queueing for twenty minutes to get in does provide a good opportunity to get to know your fellow students. For most of them, this is the end of the line: a place to come when they couldn’t afford any more cocktails at Liquid Rooms or just didn’t want to listen to their new flatmates bang on about their History of Art degree anymore.   

Inside, the club bears a strong resemblance to a small, humid terrarium. Coming from Australia, where every building in the country has air-conditioning, it’s a shock to the senses to suddenly find yourself in the tropics with no ventilation. However, pushing your way past sweaty dancers grinding against each other to eventually get to the bar is made worth it by the cheap drinks on offer. The one-pound shots, in particular, provide an opportunity to make some truly memorable moments that you definitely won’t remember and bond with the new best friends you met in the toilets.  

It is a truth universally acknowledged that any student club must play, at some point in the night, The Killers’ seminal noughties anthem ‘Mr Brightside’. When those first iconic riffs come over the loudspeaker, you can forget all about that sixth tequila shot (which you knew was a bad idea anyway) and the fact that the girl you fancy is getting off with someone else in the corner, because this is your moment. Gather your friends, form a circle and jump around wildly while singing the chorus loudly and off-key.  

When the song is finished, everyone is dehydrated and needs to find some relief from the heat, so off they go, en masse, out into the smoking area. This is an excellent place to have a barely-audible conversation with a random friend of a friend about how the world “just needs more love, man”, shouting at each other over the din. By this point, you’ve probably lost your friends and most of your money: a situation that calls for some greasy food and then bed. If you’re lucky, you’ll find your group at Kebab Mahal, and they’ll help you stagger home, wake up your flatmates and then crash into bed.   

So far, Hive seems to be just another sticky, crowded dive joint, with a predictable (though admittedly genius) playlist. Why, then, has it endured for so long? Surely generations of late-night Edinburgh clubbers can’t be wrong? It definitely can’t be the surly staff or the ‘ambience’. Perhaps it’s because it’s one of those rare places where your inhibitions can be completely lost: everyone else is sweaty and dancing like a loon, so you might as well too. Here you can yell the lyrics to your favourite early ‘00s bangers without fear of embarrassment. Maybe it’s just that it’s really cheap. However, it goes a little further than that. It’s a place to take your friends and celebrate being young; it’s a place to forget about the six readings you were meant to do for your tutorial tomorrow morning; it’s a place to lose yourself. Because in Hive, we are all one.  

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