Coffee shop by day, electronic hotspot by night?Emily Lawson-Todd with permission for Varsity

The windows are steamed up beneath the curling Dale’s Brewery sign and the music blasts past the smokers at the door into the quiet street. But this isn’t another Cambridge club. The beats are softer, the patrons not so urgent. Inside, friends, couples, and families chat, drinking coffee, cocktails, and beer, eating cakes and baba ganoush. There’s a bit of synth funk lifting above the insistent electronic beat, somehow turning the pulse introspective. There’s a child playing on a handheld gaming console. The queue for the toilet is kind.

Every Friday night, Hot Numbers on Gwydir Street illuminates their neon ‘HOT NUMBERS LIVE’ sign and hosts local DJs for Roll On, a chilled electronic music night that stands apart from the clubs and the pubs.

“Roll On offers an accessible social space that brings folks together under the glowing red lights.”

“It’s the sort of thing I wanted to come to, but didn’t exist,” said Sam Cooke, the architect behind the event. He approached his friend Simon Fraser, who owns Hot Numbers, with a vision that Simon was eager to support. Hot Numbers used to host music nights and events three times a week before the pandemic. This offered a way back in, but Simon didn’t want to go halfway. He was very particular about “getting the sound right,” so brought in industrial speakers for ample fidelity and depth. And he called back in some old friends.

Steve Smith was the original Hot Numbers coffee roaster, from back when the roastery was on Gwydir St, where the deck is now. He’s based in London, but comes back up regularly to try out a mellower mix of vinyls and digital music. “It’s great being able to play this kind of stuff from our collection, where people are chilled out and relaxed and can enjoy it in a non-intimidating environment.”

Sam, Steve, and Simon all wear black t-shirts, with Steve and Simon boasting not-quite-matching flat caps. But the uniform isn’t universal — there’s a lot of denim, Lucy & Yak dungarees, and leather. There’s no one kind of Roll On fan; for those imbibing or vibing sober, Roll On offers an accessible social space that brings folks together under the glowing red lights.

“If you love electronic music and want a bit of a different atmosphere than a pub, there’s really nowhere else for it.”

While Roll On definitely calls back to earlier Hot Numbers nightlife, it is not exclusively for those friends; it’s open to anyone who is serious about the music. Student DJ Joe Garvey (@gravy.e_) finds support and community from the team behind Roll On. He loves experimental music like Floating Points, and tries to encourage audiences to stretch their musical expectations by playing two decks at once, one with a more traditional lineup of deep house and garage, and minimalistic and polyrhythmic jazz on the other.

Joe feels limited by DJ-ing for university events, and appreciates the more casual music-centred crowd at the Roll On sessions he plays every month. “As much as I love a good rave, it’s not for everyone. If you love electronic music and want a bit of a different atmosphere than a pub, there’s really nowhere else for it.”


Mountain View

A very Cambridge Valentines

Hot Numbers offers a lot more than just excellent coffee; it provides a generous space to connect and try new sounds and flavours. Matt Cresswell, an Economics Student at Pembroke, loved his first Roll On evening and plans to come back to more. “As well as bopping along to the music, it was a really nice opportunity to catch up with friends, and I discovered an appreciation for French 75 cocktails.”

Even if music nights aren’t your vibe, a broader calendar of events are returning to Gwydir St; Drink and Draw will run the third Wednesday of every month starting in March. There may even be a daytime musical party out at the roastery in Shepreth in late Spring.

Although at times, Roll On can get a bit too loud to chat properly, you can still try, or simply listen to the music. If you hear a new favourite track that Shazam can’t help you identify, the DJs are very friendly and will certainly help you out. Roll On runs every Friday from 1800-2300, and more details can be found on their Instagram (@rollonlive).