Followers of my Facebook page or Instagram feed will know that a regular feature is ‘On this day…’ when I will typically post a gig ticket from a show that I attended or another musical memory from my lifetime.
On this day in 2016 I went to see The Cure at the Manchester Arena (perhaps better known as the Manchester Evening News arena or the ‘MEN’). I commented that, whilst I am a fan of The Cure (and this was incredibly the first time I’d seen them live) I’m definitely NOT a fan of large arena-type venues such as the MEN. Unfortunately some of our favourite bands get too big to play smaller venues or they tour so infrequently that we find ourselves reluctantly buying tickets to the nearest ‘dome’ to see our idols. I just find that they generally lack any real atmosphere, the sound gets lost in the huge space and, unless you’re lucky enough to get tickets near the front your view is usually crap and you are forced to watch the show on the big screens (might as well watch it on the telly!). The same could be said of festivals but I don’t share that view. The whole festival experience is far more than just seeing a band up close and I love it. I will however always take an intimately sweaty basement bar over a massive indoor arena any day of the week.
This got me thinking. None of us have been to a gig for a while (cheers Covid) and many of our live music venues (and artists) have struggled financially during the pandemic. Sadly some of these venues won’t survive if this thing goes on for much longer. This makes me really sad and I can’t wait until we can give them our support again and see our heroes in our favourite dive bar. Here’s a very small selection of my favourite live music venues (past and present).
Rock City, Nottingham
The ‘daddy’ of live music venues in the UK in my opinion. I may be a little biased because I grew up in Nottingham and spent much of my gig-going life at Rock City, especially during the 80s and 90s. I’ve lived in the North-West since 2007 so get fewer opportunities to go to ‘City’ these days but it still feels the same as it did back in the day and remains my favourite venue despite having Liverpool and Manchester on my doorstep – home to some of the UK’s most iconic and legendary clubs and bars.
O2 Apollo, Manchester
Despite it’s 3500 capacity the venue manages to retain its intimate feel. It attracts some of the larger acts because of its size but never feels too big? The queue for the bar can be a pain in the arse (especially if you drop your pint after queuing for it for half an hour like I did at Interpol in 2018!) but its worth it for the sound, the view and the atmosphere. The Mancs love a good gig…
Described by Gigwise as a “classic sweatbox of a venue” this is a fairly new place but one of Manchester’s best. Tucked away under the railway arches opposite The Ritz on Whitworth Street (another great venue) it also has a great bar and kitchen attached. Small but perfectly formed…
Soup Kitchen, Manchester
One of many great venues in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. A dark and dingy basement underneath a bar/kitchen where the paint is peeling off the walls and one of those places where you find yourself locating the fire escape before the gig starts but it is a cracking little club with a superb atmosphere. Love it here.
The Kazimier, Liverpool
Quirky little ‘theatre’ style venue in Liverpool – arguably the ‘home’ of UK music since that little-known four-piece beat combo became popular in the 60s (the name escapes me). Sadly the Kazimier shut its doors in 2016 so I’m glad I got to visit it a couple of times before it closed.
Albert Hall, Manchester
A former Methodist Chapel on Peter Street – opposite the Free Trade Hall where the world and it’s wife (and Mick Hucknall) supposedly witnessed the Sex Pistols legendary gig in June 1976. But I digress! The second floor of the Albert Hall sat empty from 1969 until it was turned into a live music venue in 2014. Stained glass windows, bars running along each side and the perfect size to get up close and personal with the band. Can’t wait to get back here…
The Shipping Forecast, Liverpool
We spent a lot of time in Liverpool during the late 2000s/early 2010s when both of my stepsons were based there and their band at the time Picture Book gigged a lot around the city’s venues. ‘The Hold’ – the Shipping Forecast’s basement bar was one of the many great little venues we saw them at. Others included Bumper, Mello Mello, Alma De Cuba, Heebie Jeebies, Zanzibar and finally The Magnet (RIP) – a venue where they could quite easily have been the ‘resident band’ for a time – they played there so often. Happy days.
These are just a few. I’ve not mentioned The Rescue Rooms (Nottingham), The Bodega Social (Nottingham), Deaf Institute (Manchester), DeMontfort Hall (Leicester) or The Academy (both Liverpool and Manchester). I also acknowledge that my favourite venues are largely based around the cities where I have lived. There’s obviously loads more legendary venues around the UK that I’ve not visited. The 100 Club (London), The Brixton Academy (London), King Tuts Wah Wah Hut (Glasgow), Club Ifor Bach (Cardiff), Brudenell Social Club (Leeds), Barrowlands (Glasgow) and Thekla (the former cargo ship moored in Bristol docks) all spring to mind.
Where have I seen bands over the years?
See some of my old gig tickets HERE