Voyeur puts a gilded gat to the dome of conventionality and pulls the trigger.
I refuse to be so cliché as to begin this article with an intro along the lines of “Websters defines (insert pseudo-obscure phrase here) as…” In this case, the “pseudo-obscure phrase”” would be voyeur, or, for our purposes, San Diego’s newest, and arguably soon-to-be-notorious venue by the same name (except, with a capital “V”, of course).
And in truth, no introduction could be more apropos for a bar/club which prides itself on being the proverbial black sheep amongst the flock of cookie-cutter downtown watering holes and haunts.
From the ground up, Voyeur screams (quite literally, I might add; as when there isn’t a house/electro DJ on the decks, industrial is the musical genre of preference) goth elegant. Now, I haven’t a clue if such a style/decor even exists, but if it doesn’t, Voyeur officially birthed it during the soft opening in June.
A near life-size horse lamp (yes, you read correctly; and yes, you do indeed need to see if first-hand to understand my words) fixes its gaze upon patrons as they enter what bears absolutely zero resemblance to its former self (Ole Madrid), but instead serves to conjure reminiscences of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. Images of skulls and eerie Renaissance paintings decorate the walls, while a cornice adorned with gilded skulls encircles the main room above the bar/lounge area.
Behind the bar are television screens projecting live video feeds captured by a series of strategically-placed lipstick cams… And thus the name of the venue begins to materialize. Similar cameras surround the DJ booth.
“We got the concept off a Radiohead show, when Thom Yorke came to San Diego,” noted Johnny Shockey, Voyeur co-owner. “He had all of these lipstick cams around him, and we’re aiming for the same idea. It’s kind of like spying, and incorporating the whole voyeur concept.”
Head upstairs to the mezzanine, and another expansive bar awaits revelers beneath a trio of elegant chandeliers. Venture the opposite direction, across the shattered (a recent addition, according to Shockey, as he said he felt it “looked better that way”) plexiglass floor, past the oversized mirror and into what seems to be, for lack of a better phrase, a den of iniquity.
Red leather furniture with bullet shell fasteners occupies the perimeter, while a burlesque stage complete with vintage lighting and DJ booth takes center stage. Sconces crafted of golden 9mm’s accentuate the furnishings.
And that’s merely the half of it. The other 50 percent of the venue (and Shockey’s pride and joy) lies behind closed doors; not to be revealed until Voyeur’s official Unveiling Party on Friday, July 10.
For lack of a better term, consider the nightclub side of Voyeur the business end of a loaded gun, or sconce, for that matter. Not to divulge too much, but the sound system is incomparable, and the lighting… well, allow Shockey to explain:
“It was inspired by a Daft Punk show. And I was thinking to myself while watching them, ‘Why hasn’t someone actually done this in a club, where it creates this out-of-control environment, but a controlled chaos.’ I’ve been to a lot of great shows that were like that. There’s not too many venues out there that have been able to create and maintain that. And the way to do that is through your sound and visuals.”
Having been one of the lucky few to experience the sights and sounds first-hand, I have only to say, “Holy f%$&in’ s#$t!” Profundity aside, this is, and will undoubtedly be the nightclub by which all others are judged.
And don’t expect Lady Gaga to be blaring from the rafters, either. Clearly, Voyeur isn’t your garden-variety venue, so it’s only fitting the music should follow suit.
“We’re kind of punk rock/industrial/electronic,” Shockey remarked. “There are a lot of people in San Diego that love that stuff. The way I look at it, if you love Coachella, you’ll love what we’re doing.
“We’re bringing a lot of names to town that either haven’t been here before or are very obscure. I think we’ll be bridging that gap between what’s mainstream and what’s newly-introduced to San Diego. Ultimately, we just want to be something different and new.”
And thus far, the venue has been just that — both unique and innovative — without even incorporating its secret weapon. The response Shockey has received has been nothing short of flattering.
“We’ve had amazing feedback,” he said. “The thing that puts a smile on our face is most people saying, ‘Wow, this is just so different. This is a little bit more New York, it’s a little bit more this, it’s a little bit more that.’ That’s what you want to hear, because at the end of the day, you just want people to have choices when they come to San Diego, when they come downtown. It’s an amazing city, with amazing weather… it should also have amazing nightlife. At the end of the day, if someone walks out of here and goes, ‘What the f%$k was that?!’, then we accomplished our goal.”
Discover the new Voyeur on Fifth Avenue in Gaslamp.
Photos by Bradley Schweit