Fans of Arcade Empire were relieved when the popular Pretoria live music venue opened its doors after relocating in July. The re-opening consisted of two free shows and saw bands such as Van Coke Kartel, Taxi Violence, Isochronous and Wrestlerish playing to an audience of 1 800 people on the first night. On the second night, electro artists like Hyphen, Mix ‘n’ Blend, Hugs on Drugs and Doctor Khumalo take to the stage.

“I think we proved something epic,” said owner and founder of Arcade Empire, Robert Pereira.

“We were closed for about three weeks, which gave people enough time to miss what we do. At the end of the day it made a difference, I think, having a free show with those four acts in a venue that we have pimped up to a great standard with an awesome sound system that we put in. It just couldn’t fail. It just couldn’t.”

Despite a successful re-opening, Arcade Empire ran into more than a few problems on the first night. “We had a big problem with the municipality. We didn’t have electricity for the whole of the first weekend so we ran on generators. Connecting the DB boards to the generators was quite a mission so our power went on at 19:15, when there were about 200 people in the venue. We only started stocking the bars at 19:30,” said Pereira.

The venue, which was previously located on the corner of Hans Strijdom and the N4 Highway, is now situated in The Highway Street, opposite The Grove Mall in Equestria. “It’s perfect for what we are trying to do. It’s something that we can mould into the whole arcade theme, which I think we have done very well,” said Pereira.

With foosball tables, arcade games and the Super Mario Brothers painted on the walls, the massive new space has definitely set the bar high for live music venues in Gauteng.

“We’ve always had this dream about opening a venue that’s an arcade theme. We all love the Mario Brothers vibes and the Space Invader vibes. When we first started with the concept of a bigger venue, we literally had a month to come up with the whole concept about what’s going to be behind it,” said Pereira. “We knew we wanted to do shows, we knew we wanted to have big DJs [and] big productions but we didn’t know what the theme of the venue was going to be. We wanted to get loads of arcade games in the previous venue but we couldn’t really cater for that and they’re a bit tough to get hold of but over here we can cater for it perfectly.”

Does the Arcade Empire team plan on expanding the brand in the future? “More venues? Not anytime soon,” said a smiling Pereira. “I feel this is something unique and it’s not something that you want to abuse. It has to become something that is unique to Pretoria.”

Photos: Eleanor Harding

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