I walk to the door, pay money, and enter. The outside world is a distant memory; the long day at work soon to be forgotten. I am greeted by others like myself; others who have found and discovered this oasis among the hustle and bustle of large shops, multi-chain restaurants and neon-clad nightclubs. Among this endless jungle of concrete and glass, tucked away, sits the modest, humble, live music venue.
There are no promotional billboards, no special offers and no loyalty card schemes, just a few band posters and a setting that oozes character.
It seems the walls themselves have silhouettes of past gig-goers within, those who have leaned against them in discussion of an act just seen. It is as if the venue is alive: its pulse the music from inside, its oxygen the gig-goers. The venue feels alive because those inside it feel alive.
Being a huge music fan, I never used to think twice about paying £40 to see the latest band who rolled into town, booking a ticket to stand at the back of a huge arena where half the gig would be spent watching a big screen.
But in reality, that arena is just one out of hundreds for the band, playing the same set they’ve already played hundreds of times. Despite being surrounded by thousands, the biggest of gigs can feel the most empty. Cue my decision to go in search of local music venues – and luckily, I struck gold.
Having now seen hundreds of unknown bands and singers who have blown me away completely, it begs the question ‘how are they only playing to a handful of people on a Tuesday night, yet just down the road some big-name ‘singer’ is charging £40 plus on a Friday for a bit of miming and dancing?’
Fact is, nothing beats the moment when you know you are witnessing something truly special in a small venue, and you have paid a mere £5 for the pleasure.
Eye-to-eye with the act on stage, able to feel every ounce of emotion pouring out in the song and the moment; the hairs on your arm stand up, the song reverberates around the intimate room and you become engulfed by a feeling of complete awe.
Were it not for small music venues I would never have heard the likes of Matt Anderson (a gentle giant with one of the most soulful voices), Malcolm Holcombe (a weathered singer songwriter with a voice that encapsulates love, life, loss and regret in a breath), or Sonic Boom Six (whose politically charged songs cross and create new genres with endless energy). These three are but three of hundreds.
Support your local music venues. Support those venues run by people who don’t do it for the money but for the love of music, for the nights when only 12 people turn up but they don’t care because those 12 listened to music that deserved to be heard. So turn off the laptop and stop watching YouTube, give your iPod a break and lose yourself in an evening of brilliant untapped music, in a brilliant venue, and for a brilliant reason.
Music keeps us alive; its beat fuelling the pulse of these independent venues.
Article by Martin Barker