Saturdays… to some they’re a bunch of ladies who gamely cover Depeche Mode numbers for charity
(I’ll stick my head over the parapet here and admit that I admire their pluck – I look forward to them
tackling “Blasphemous Rumours” or “Flies on the Windscreen”* at some point). It’s also the day
when the nation’s Dads drag their kids around Homebase and B&Q. It’s also the day when many
nervous football managers are preparing for the worst and consider updating their CV.
In my case it’s normally means sacrificing my lie-in in order to get to the washing machine before
everyone else, and while I wait a while for the washing to be done, it means listening to the wireless
for a bit.
Funnily enough, they were discussing small venues. A lot of people texted and tweeted about seeing
bands before they were famous in small clubs, pubs etc before they were famous. There was the
inevitable stories about someone’s band supporting The Jam or The Police or The Smiths and the
bovine excrement especially the guy who claimed to have seen Oasis play in Portsmouth in 1992 (For
the record Pete in Southsea, if you’re reading this, Noel was still a roadie for Inspiral Carpets at that
point! And they didn’t play south of the M6 till 1994)
Anyhow, it got on to a discussion of the problems facing small venues at the moment. A lot of
familiar stories about places struggling to keep going. Being involved with the Rising Sun it’s
something I know pretty well.
There’s a lot of people with their recession hats on, and it’s not going to be easy getting people
through the door. It doesn’t always help us, we get by on practically no subsidies or grants (unlike
the council-funded venue a bit further up the road) the revenue at the bar and our share from
whatever the promoters take at the door is pretty much what keeps us going. We’ve been a bit
fortunate in having some bumper nights since Xmas, but just because a bunch of people on facebook
say they’re going to turn up to a gig there’s no guarantee they actually will.
There’s part of me that tends to think “yeah, yeah, yeah, heard it all before”, but while these are
interesting times for the Rising Sun and our ilk, they’re dangerous ones as well. Increased petty
bureaucracy instigated by politicians of all persuasions who think that Sting is a bit radical and
of course, our old pal the recession to name just two problems. It doesn’t augur well for a lot of
It cuts wider than just the wailing of music fans, so easily fobbed off not just by the right-wing media
as inconsequential aesthetic fripperies, but also by a music press that seems intent on living in a Blue
Peter universe where it’s a monsoon of Technicolor and everything’s groovy and fab (or whatever it
is the kids say these days)
There may be no single Big Bad here, but it’s a problem all the same. British music doesn’t operate
on a top-down celebrity model. Our small size is our advantage; real talent can be harnessed from
any of our nowhere towns, and anybody can become a star. But they still need somewhere to start
Speaking from my own perspective there’s still a market for live music in small venues,
independently owned. Obviously it might be a blip but the increased foot traffic through our own
doors recently proves it. Not just that, but I’ll get plenty of emails in the Rising Sun inbox from bands
wanting to play here, or people interested in promoting.
I can understand why some people would rather save up for a festival or a couple of big gigs at
the O2 or Wembley, then that’s your choice, but seeing a bunch of ant-people somewhere in the
distance isn’t the only way to enjoy a band (It’s often the worst a lot of the time). Sometimes when
you can’t beat the intimacy of a little venue (especially a little venue just outside the centre of
Reading, run mostly by volunteers with a great range of organic beers… right that’s enough plugs)
Anyway, it’s time to get to the point if there’s a small venue in your town and you’ve got a spare
couple of quid, get yourself down there when you can! If you don’t think they’re putting on the kind
of stuff you like why not show a bit of guts and try a hand at promoting? Maybe seek out some like
minded souls, show a bit of collective action and club together to put bands on if you can’t do it all
on your own?
If you’re a budding musician and you’re not can’t hear any bands playing the kind of music you want
to hear and you know a few kindred spirits then get together, and start a band!! I know quite a few
people who’ve done it one or all of the above, they spend many a day tearing their hair out, but I
don’t think a single one of them regrets it (not too much anyhow)
Cos let’s face it, your little music venue(s) THEY NEED YOU!!
* Rumours that Cheryl Cole is covering “Barrel of a Gun” are unfounded, although Nicola Roberts
says she’s thinking of covering “Ice Machine”