As if ‘the man’ hadn’t messed us around enough. Now he’s slapping our small venues with notices to keep the volume down. The nanny state being overbearing, or a way to push live music out of indie venues altogether?ALT-MU contributing writer, Alex Fraser, takes a closer look at the issue, discussing how small venues are continuing to be squeezed out of contention.
Every band worth their salt has played one of the many small venues in this most musical country. The Beatles had The Cavern in Liverpool and The Rolling Stones had The Marquee Club in London.
From The Gutter to The Stars
“Toilet Venues”, as they’re often known as, are where young bands cut their teeth and where great bands are born. Yes, they often smell like a metal-heads armpit, the floors can be sticky with beer and the toilets at some venues are sometimes completely unusable. But there’s nothing like seeing a band two feet from your face playing their hearts out while you chug back a cheap pint. So it’s no surprise that the recent spree of ‘Noise Abatement Notices’ being handed out to small venues all over the country, has been met with a great deal of anger and upset from local musicians and music fans alike.
The Night and Day Cafe in Manchester, The Fleece in Bristol and (closer to home for myself) The Blind Tiger Club in Brighton are the most recent casualties. I booked The Blind Tiger Club more than a few times to put on some of my favourite bands in Brighton. The building itself has been a venue since I moved here five years ago, and, to my knowledge, it was a live music venue a long time before that. It is my understanding that, earlier this year, a new resident bought and moved into one of the apartments above the building and has since forced the local authorities to serve the venue with a Noise Abatement Notice: A piece of legislature that has caused all three of these venues to shut down, sometimes following long and frustrating appeals to said authorities. I’m not going to get personal but it’s ridiculous that someone would move in directly above a live music venue and then complain to the extent it would be forced to close.
Problem & Solution
Fortunately there is something we can do to protect our live music venues, the nesting place of our indie music scene, the starting post for all runners in the great marathon of a music career: The Music Venue Trust have launched a new campaign, in the form of a HM Government petition to ensure that such valued centres of art and music in our community are kept safe from closure. I urge you to sign it. Not just if you enjoy unsigned and local bands. But if you value bands playing live music at all. The Blind Tiger Club was a home to me and my friends, my band and my friends bands, bands I loved and many more bands I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet or see play. It was a means of a living to promoters, sound engineers and bar staff . We need to be protecting such places, with legislation if nothing else.
Keep Live Music Loud
If you are thinking of moving to a new location, and there’s a music venue nearby, please consider a few simple truths: There’s no volume knob on an acoustic drum kit. We cannot turn down what we do, and we’re not going anywhere. You can sign the sign the petition here or find more about the Music Venue Trust here.
At ALT-MU we love it when people get behind a cause. Music is at the forefront for many of us, so please do share how live music is important to you with us on Twitter @altmumagazine #livemusic
Feature by Alex Fraser