A different TT this week, in that it is not exactly about the bands themselves (although they do come into this). Instead, it is my favourite live venues to go and see bands at. I’ve been going to see live bands for over thirteen years now, and I’ve lost count of how many I’ve actually seen, or at how many venues (the last time I even tried to count was back at the end of 1999, and by that point, I’d already seen over 650 live bands. We are probably looking at two or three times that figure now). In that time I have been to many fantastic gigs, and many bad ones, too. There aren’t any set criteria for the best venues – there are memories attached to some, the best gigs I have ever seen at others, and others because they are simply great venues to see live music at.
/Tuesday Ten/031/Gig Venues
Other good venues I may not have covered (and yes, I know I haven’t covered Corp here!) – and the stories that go with them – would be great to hear. So here we go.
A quick explanation for new readers (hi there!): my Tuesday Ten series has been running since March 2007, and each month features at least ten new songs you should hear – and in between those monthly posts, I feature songs on a variety of subjects, with some of the songs featured coming from suggestion threads on Facebook.
Feel free to get involved with these – the more the merrier, and the breadth of suggestions that I get continues to astound. Otherwise, as usual, if you’ve got something you want me to hear, something I should be writing about, or even a gig I should be attending, e-mail me, or drop me a line on Facebook (details below).
/Brixton Academy, London
This is probably my favourite place to see live bands. This cavernous old theatre is an awesome venue, with a sound setup that is probably better than anywhere I have ever been, and it is difficult to get a bad view of the stage from anywhere in there. Oh, and I’ve seen a fair number of really great gigs here. Like the first time I saw Rammstein, and the week in October 1998 where I saw Mansun (in apparently their finest ever show), Placebo and Motorhead…
A venue under threat, at present, of redevelopment – mainly due to the pressing need to expand Tottenham Court Road station with the impending construction of the CrossRail scheme. It will be a damned shame to see it go, too: as a mid-sized venue in London the Astoria is great. Yes, it’s grimy, dark and the beer is dreadful, but as a gig venue it is fantastic. It’s been a long time since I saw bands there, but memories of the great gigs are undimmed. Like seeing The Orb, the Super Furry Animals on a Saturday lunchtime, Mogwai back in January 1997 when they were more in the mood to deafen everybody, an extraordinarily intense Deftones show a year later…and also downstairs at what used to be known as the LA2 I did my first ever music journalism job (reviewing downset – I can even remember the date, 29-Sep-96 – for the King’s student newspaper, ROAR), and also fatefully first saw VNV Nation support Cubanate in what must have been late 1999. A friend and I (somewhat famously now) agreed then that VNV “would never catch on”. Oh, how wrong we were…
/The Duchess Of York, Leeds
A long-departed venue – an early victim of the gentrification regeneration of Leeds city centre, the location now houses a Hugo Boss store – that was the classic small live venue. A busy “alternative” pub, with a large room that had a stage at the back, and has been the setting for many a legendary gig over the years (particularly an early visit of Nirvana to the UK). For me it will always be associated with seeing Girls Against Boys (for the first time) and Brainiac (for the only time) one midweek night in June 1996, that remains one of the top five gigs that I have ever seen.
/The Cockpit, Leeds
Not the greatest of live venues, all told, but this is here for it being the location of my first “club” gig – Whale supported by a-then-unsigned Placebo, way back in November 1995. It has also been a place I’ve been back to time and again to see various alt. bands, including Miocene, Dark Star Girls Against Boys, Six By Seven and most recently The Birthday Massacre – and while it isn’t in the greatest of locations, and gets frighteningly hot in the summer – I still enjoy seeing bands here.
/Manchester Academy complex
This 1really is a great venue. Well, really it’s four venues (nowadays Academy 1, 2, 3 and Club Academy, but in years past used to be Academy, the MDH and the Hop’n’Grape, as well as the Cellar Disco), but all of them are pretty good. I’ve mainly seen metal/punk bands there, I think, including Pitchshifter, Machine Head, Fear Factory, AFI, Killswitch Engage, and others, but I’ve seen VAST, Rico and even Skinny Puppy all in Academy 3. With it being part of the University, the drinks are cheap, even if the tickets often aren’t, and in the main it seems to be a well-run venue that has always been a pleasure to attend gigs at.
The third London venue in this list, this is a venue I seem to have been to more since I left London than when I was there! I only actually recall seeing Mercury Rev there while I was in London (although come to think of it, I think I saw Shack there during their brief period in the limelight), and since I’ve seen incredible gigs by both EinstÃ¼rzende Neubauten and Skinny Puppy, as well as Suicidal Tendencies, who weren’t so good. Like other venues of it’s size, the sound quality is already top-notch, and again viewpoints are always good (the enormous stage helps to make that easy). With Neubauten playing again there this year, I should be back soon…
Back a bit further north, to the grimy Rock City. This massive complex is great for gigs in either the big or small room, but all the most memorable ones have been in the larger room. Like Apoptygma Berzerk back in 2002, Henry Rollins doing his old Black Flag stuff as a WM3 benefit, and then MSI and Pitchshifter last year. Not quite so good for club nights – the music is somewhat predictable – but always worth a look for gigs. Particularly as in the main they are unusually punctual!
/The Leadmill, Sheffield
I’ve only been to the Leadmill a handful of times, and in those times I’ve seen 65daysofstatic, The Dresden Dolls and Gogol Bordello (as an aside – I didn’t even know Start Wearing Purple had a video!) – all awesomely good shows. In fact, I still haven’t seen a bad show there. The layout is a good one, too, with a really wide stage and reasonably shallow room to allow everyone better views. The deafeningly loud sound system helps to mask any sound deficiencies, too…
/Camden Palace, London
Or at least, as it was – nowadays it is known as KOKO. A wonderful venue – yet another multi-floored old theatre-style venue that London seems to be stuffed with – in my early University years in London (particularly ’96/’97) I was a regular visitor for gigs and in particular the Feet First club night on a Tuesday night, which always had interesting bands. If only I could remember most of them…!
This is an amazing club venue out in Ost Berlin (best description I can find about the place is here), built in an old industrial unit with some unusual features. Like the entrance booth and cloakroom being outside – not much fun in the depths of winter, when we were there – but the rooms themselves are well-sized. The best is the hall where we happened to see Ah Cama Sotz, with a stage that seemed to be about six feet high – and the cavernous ceiling helped the sound, too. I really need to go again…