Death of the Great British Toilet Music Venue
In the past fews years, we've seen many of the best small, dirty music venues dropping like flies. It seems the recession combined with the constant drive for redevelopment and building budget supermarkets is knocking through these places like the Roman legion. In Brighton where I live, first there was The Pressure Point and then, most loved of all, The Freebutt. In London, there's been the closure of the Electric Ballroom, The Astoria, and possibly the 100 Club, once called "the finest rock'n'roll club in the world".
When I was a teenager playing in Rock bands and going to gigs, these places had a strange and mysterious allure. Blacked out, strange-smelling, and plastered with the legacy of a thousand gigs from the past 50 years, local bands could get gigs and play on the same stage as the legends, and every once in a while you could see one of your heros playing a lo-key show, because they too had a fondness for these small underground venues.
It used to be the if you started a band and you wanted to move your way up the band foodchain, you made your demos, went flyering like a Jehovah's witness, and tried to start building your name. This was always easier the shitter the town that you lived in. Everywhere had at least it’s one known hotspot that touring bands play on their way through, and for kids in that town it was basically the only place to go if you wanted to watch a band on Friday night, as opposed to heading to Wetherspoon.
So for travelling bands, these crappy towns were the best: you can turn up and knowing that nearly everyone into your kind of music would turn purely out of live music starvation.
In a place like Brighton it’s very different. Any night of the week, if you are a band and you have a gig, you are up against maybe a hundred competing events, many of them gigs and club nights. And people are overrun with average live music, so they definitely won’t turn up unless they have a reason to believe your gig will be special.
This is a because any gig can be great if the atmosphere is there. I have fond memories of watching really crap local bands in my home town where the energy of the audience made it special. The kids can make it a great gig because they really want to have a good time, and there just weren’t many opportunities to jump around to loud music.
It seems like live music in general is suffering in a big way, with a bias towards the big commercially owner venues like the legions of O2 thisses or thats, where you can maybe see X Factor contenders or Justin Bieber.
It doesn’t seem like any new small venues like these are being opened, so if you are in a band or an independent music lover, I’d say start fight to support these places while you can.