Real Music: Real Music Venues
“Yeah, tonight we’re at the Enormo-dome”
To see a stadium rock show is a singularly impressive thing. The sheer scale of the production is dominating, massive speaker stacks hung from high scaffolds, stage lights strung in between steel-trussing like packs of the wicked witch’s flying monkeys. Vast screens show scenes choreographed to the necessarily loud music.
For days and often weeks both before and after a show of this scale an army of local and touring crew are on-site to build the stage, erect the towers and prepare the field. Unloading tens of trucks of equipment, completing the build and then after only a few hours, tearing it all down again, back into the fleet of trucks and off to the next Enormo-Dome or Mega–Bowl. Millions of people worldwide spend their hard-earned money on expensive tickets to such spectacles year in and year out. So they must be great right?
Let’s just look at that for a moment in the cold light of day. In exchange for an often obscene amount of ticket money. A long motorway drive to the overpriced car park of a soulless behemoth can be expected. To see the ‘star’ appear either as a moving dot on a distant stage or as a larger-than-life occupant of a huge screen. A cheaper and more satisfying alternative is to go and see an act in a venue where the band are so close that you can smell them, altogether a much more real experience. Real music in a real venue.
Small Venues: The roar of the greasepaint and the smell of the crowd
In the annals of Rock ‘n’ Roll history there are written the sacred names of a few small venues, all ordained and made saintly. Some gone some remain with us. These places of ‘worship’ are made so by tear-away kids, searching for something new, for a place and time to call their own. When they do so, things about them flourish.
Here are four of those sacrosanct places.
The 100 Club – 100 Oxford Street, London, England.
Perhaps the most iconic small music venue in London The 100 Club has for over 70 years been the hub of live music and popular culture across times and genres. Originally named The Feldman Swing Club it opens its doors to the public on 24th October 1942 entertaining ‘over-paid, over-sexed and over-here’ American G.I.s with the hottest Swing Jazz as they caroused with young English ladies. The name was changed to The 100 Club in 1964 and in its time it has been a surrogate home to London youth culture throughout a British Jazz Boom, the invention of Skiffle, the British Blues Explosion and of course Punk.
The list of famous names that have played the 100 Club goes on and on, in fact, it is probably easier just to say ‘everybody’. Preserved on the walls are hundreds of photographs spanning its rich and diverse story. If you get the chance to go to a gig there make sure to arrive early and study the complete history of modern music channelled through one glorious room.
CBGB OMFUG – CBGB’s Manhattan, New York, USA.
Country Blue-Grass Blues Other Music For Uplifting Gormandizers.
An odd title for a venue, yet somehow fitting for a club synonymous with Punk music and things avant-garde. More often known as CBGBs the club opened in 1973 and soon became the home of New York Punk. The Ramones, Patti Smith and Blondie all cut their teeth on the hazardous stage of CBGBs.
The clubs name and iconic logo is now commonly seen worn on always scruffy and always black T-shirts by punk kids too young to remember the day it finally closed its doors in 2006.
The demise of CBGBs is a clear example of the nature of gentrification. Here’s how it works. Young artists, musicians and creatives looking for cheap accommodation and workspace, they find areas full of life and character but unfashionable and cheap to rent. They bring with them a certain ‘cool’. Coffee shops, bars and pop-up venues open to cater for the new inhabitants. That brings with it more ‘cool’, the area becomes fashionable so the rents rise. The artists, musicians and creatives move on or are forced to search again for cheaper rents. The area becomes a sanitized memory of what it once was. Where CBGBs once stood is now a luxury apartment block surrounded by chain restaurants and stores.
The Cavern Club and Erics Club – Matthew Street, Liverpool, England
Matthew Street in the hard northern English City of Liverpool is home to two legendary music venues that occupy opposite basement lots a little way up the short city centre street. The two doors facing each other across a street that has seen The Beatles and The Ramones amongst other famous names ponder its cobbles.
The Cavern Club opened as a Jazz club in 1957 and later Blues was allowed on the bill and eventually with some convincing the venue began catering for a burgeoning young appetite for ‘Beat’ music and Rock ‘n’Roll. By far the most famous ‘Beat-group’ to take the stage at The Cavern is The Beatles although a plethora groups that played the Cavern went on to great international success. The club shut in 1973 and has since been re-built re-opened as part venue part homage.
Three years later In 1976 Erics Club opened its doors and in the subsequent years, it appears that ‘everybody’ in the north of England played there. Punk, new wave and British dance music can all claim a seat at Eric’s.
“See you at the Club!”
In this modern youtube age of instant gratification and endless google searching it is easy to forget what these small music venues meant to their inhabitants and frequenters. They were a place to gather, that’s an actual place, not a virtual one. They were a place to discover and exchange ideas on music and fashion and on life. A place to be different and a place to be the same.
What happens to the small venue now is anybody’s guess but history shows that the kids will find somewhere to do something and sometimes those kids, that somewhere and that something is a recipe for the magical.
Written by: R. Vee – 2018