“Should I just tell you all about Indie Joze?” asked Kerry Ridge.
We said yes, and the story Kerry told us touched on everything that was good about Leeds in the nineties, and everything that was fun, and we wish those days were these days, because what Kerry told us can only have been a small part of it all, and can’t substitute — although in the telling, Kerry brings you close — for being there.
Indie Joze was a café bar in the Victoria Quarter that opened in 1992, when café bars were unknown in Leeds and the Victoria Quarter was a very different place to now. The roof had just been added, and the plan was to fill the new centre with independent retailers.
Kerry had just come back from the Redwoods of California, where after selling up his business he’d spent a year selling hot tubs in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz at the time was recovering from a severe earthquake, but also beginning an independent coffee culture, both of which required dedicated communities of people inspiring each other and working together.
“I came with a totally different trip of what I wanted to put into Leeds,” says Kerry. “There was nothing at all like it at the time. We were still stuck with a lot of the old bars, there was nothing that was like what I was trying to do. But it did start to encourage other independents to come along, people like Cuban Heels, Mojo, the start of Call Lane with Oporto and Norman’s.”
Indie Joze showed its Californian influences in its decor, by John Metcalf, who would paint the walls through the night; “He said he could get a cosmic feed into my mind. We’d come in and there’d be red circles all over, and he’d just say that the music had got pretty mad about 4am”; its Amsterdam influences in the expensive swingtop bottles of Grolsch and dishes of Dutch Fries; and Kerry’s influence in the jukebox, in the atmosphere, and everything else that made Indie Joze, Indie Joze.
“It was a chill place,” says Kerry, although it was in a part of Leeds that had no chill; Kerry remembers, one Christmas morning, a barstool crashing through the window of the Nag’s Head pub, onto Vicar Lane. “That big glass roof was like a safety feature. There was just a different noise, your shoulders dropped and everything just relaxed as you walked in.”
And you’d want to stay there all day.
“The Euros in ‘96, when France played Spain, was probably one of the best days I’ve ever witnessed in Leeds, similar to the Tour de France,” says Kerry. “There was such an energy.”
The game at Elland Road finished 0-0, and both sets of fans made for Indie Joze. England played Scotland that day too, and while the barstools were flying on Boar Lane, in Victoria Quarter, “We closed the top doors. Inside, there was French, there was Spanish, everything was going off. It was beautiful, all day, til midnight. I always remember this French supporter coming up and saying, ‘Bad result for Spain, bad result for France, but a great day for Indie Joze!’”
There were so many days like that. Indie Joze was at the centre of the independent retail scene; Strand, Accent, Hip, Occi, Flannels were all on the doorstop, and their staff and customers would come; and the club scene, and everyone from The Gallery, Back to Basics, Vague, Up Yer Ronson, they’d all come too. Then there was the Duchess of York by the back door, getting all the bands.
“The jukebox had its own mind, but it was full of what I call the heritage of music: The Doors, Dylan, The Byrds, it was very West Coast influenced. That was mixing with the club scene, that was totally different; it was an eclectic mix, but something happened.
“I always remember, a band called Buffalo Tom played at The Duchess and they came in, and a couple of those lads were from Santa Cruz. And one of them says, ‘Fuck me, this is more Santa Cruz than Santa Cruz!’ And that was it. That was it in one; ‘Thank you.’”
That tale reminded Kerry of the time G. Love, who years earlier had played The Duchess, diverted en route to a gig at the Irish Centre to play an acoustic set at Indie Joze; after asking Kerry if it would be okay. “He told me he’d never done anything like it before,” says Kerry. “Then he played for an hour and a half.”
He probably didn’t want to leave. An afternoon at Indie’s, trying to decide where to go that night, would become a night at Indie’s, because why would you want to go anywhere else?
“Little times like that, little energies like that, that you got from having something that people…” Kerry pauses. “Loved.”
Indie’s came to an end; all things do, and it had to. But we’re less interested in hearing that part of the story, now. Because why would you ever want love to end?
Originally published in The City Talking: Fashion