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Venues, Let's Talk About Small Bars and Clubs

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Not sure this tread will go anywhere. Just looking for comments from folks that play in what I believe you guys would call "Pub Level Bands" and we call " Bar Bands".

It's actually funny, when I talk to my older buddies back in Jerseys and say;

[i]"Yeah, I'm working this weekend. Were playing The Rock House, Rooters, The Up & Under ect".[/i] You know, venue names where a guy could conjure an image of a high end gig.

Take this weekend, the pic is where we pulled up to to load in. Any of you guys play places that look like this?

Don't get me wrong, in the Summer we get our share of Fair and Festival work but our bread and butter are bar /club shows.

Most will tell me; [i]"Blue, you're lucky you have work, a lot of us don't." [/i]

I;m looking for any comments or stories from guys that play bars on a weekly basis. Humor is always welcomed.

Blue

Edited by blue

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There is a great little venue only a couple of miles from me in the Birmingham suburbs. It's called The Tower of Song. It's just an old industrial office building converted into a little room with a bar. You could probably get 80 people in there max.
It smells a bit damp and it can get quite chilly in winter as they don't put the heating on much.
I've been going to a blues jam there lately. They have some great 'pub bands' on, but the evening always starts off with a bit of a jam that anyone can join in.
Happily it is on a small industrial estate between a petrol station and a pub, so with luck there won't be a load of gentrified flats going up in the vicinity, attracting residents who eventually conspire to get the venue closed down (as has happened all too often in Birmingham)
I've had great fun there, both joining in and watching other bands. I've seen some great local talent and also top notch artists such as the estimable Steve Lawson.
I don't suppose anyone makes much money out of it. Sometimes there is a modest entrance fee, other times they just pass round a hat. People seem to play mostly for the love of it. Also the punters are usually very appreciative as they are proper music lovers too.
It's a great place and long may it continue :-)

Edited by seashell

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[quote name='seashell' timestamp='1414439893' post='2589338']
Also the punters are usually very appreciative as they are proper music lovers too.[/quote]

Very cool. The engaged, responsive, appreciative crowd. That's what's happening. I mean, what good is a cool fancy venue with a non-responsive, ignorant crowd? Over here it's particularly tough for those of us in 70s style rock/blues bands.

I swear one night a guy that looked to be about 21 came up to the band while we were performing pointing at us in amazement. It was like he was in a museum and we were something from the past. I don't really think he knew what we were or what we were doing. Tell me that's not a said statement on the current status of live rock.

Blue

Edited by blue

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[quote name='seashell' timestamp='1414439893' post='2589338'] Also the punters are usually very appreciative as they are proper music lovers too.
It's a great place and long may it continue :-)[/quote]

Nice!, crowds that [i]"get it".[/i]

Any you guys that play in rock/blues band play these venues and all the young 20 somethings huddle as far away from the band as possible and act like you don't exist?

Now I'm on a rant.

I took my younger girl friend on 2 separate occasions to see some live female blues/rock acts. Samantha Fish and a few weeks later Anna Popovic at the same venue.

She loved it but she asked the same question at both shows. [i]"This is great, how come there are only old people here, young people would love this stuff."[/i]

My response, [i]"Really, then where are they?"[/i]

Blue

Edited by blue

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I have to say that most (though by no means all) of the punters and musos at Tower of Song are middle aged. I think that's fine. There are plenty of other places around for younger people to go to. It's great to have somewhere to go where you know you'll fit right in.
I'm not a total old git, and some of my best friends are much younger than me. But sometimes it's just a relief to hang out with people whose terms of reference are the same
For instance, last week there was a toast to the memory of Alvin Stardust. I would imagine most younger people wouldn't have heard of him.
I think venues shouldn't ignore the older punters. There are a lot of us about, and most of us can afford to spend money on a pint or two.

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Over winter I play a couple of pubs in Edinburgh, we do lot of different stuff so Bruno Mars and Magic! along with MJ and The Police. The crowd is almost entirely 20 somethings and generally they are very appreciative. I think being in our 20s helps as we know what classic songs people our age are aware of.

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[quote name='seashell' timestamp='1414444455' post='2589418']
But sometimes it's just a relief to hang out with people whose terms of reference are the same[/quote]

I like where your heads at Sea Shell.

Here's another one, we play[i] "Sunshine Of Your Love"[/i]. Our lead guitarist, she's 29 ok. I was playing "Sunshine Of Your Love" in 1968 in my parents garage with my band. Thing is, she plays the song, but that's where it ends. I not only play it, I get and understand [i]"Sunshine Of Your Love"[/i] at a much more granular level. Get what I'm saying?

I mean, I can play just about any rock song but when you really understand the song and the time period it represents, well, it doesn't hurt.

Don't get me wrong, I don't want to fault anyone based on when they were born and what music they had access to.

Blue

Edited by blue

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[quote name='bassist_lewis' timestamp='1414445297' post='2589432']
Over winter I play a couple of pubs in Edinburgh, we do lot of different stuff so Bruno Mars and Magic! along with MJ and The Police.
[/quote]

That's not even close to the music I'm talking about. I'm talking about blues/rock from the 60's and early 70s ( Hendrix, Cream, Mountain, Yard Birds, Mayall ,Peter Green)

And I bet my definition of classics is a bit different than someone in their 20s.

Blue

Edited by blue

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[quote name='bassist_lewis' timestamp='1414445297' post='2589432']
I think being in our 20s helps as we know what classic songs people our age are aware of.
[/quote]

I'm curious, what would those classics be?

blue

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Most of the gigs I`m doing at the moment are to people the same sort of age as myself - 40s to 50s - as that`s the audience that grew up with the 2nd wave of punk. The ages sometimes drop to 30s but very rare there are people younger than that. But even when I was doing covers - admittedly still punk - mostly the people in the venues were those sort of ages. And not just when we were playing. I`d often go to those venues to see other types of bands and it was still generally 35+ most times.

I think Seashell is right - the "older" punters can afford a pint or two, probably the kids have left home and now they can go out, listen to music that was around when they were young, and enjoy themselves. That seems to be the theme in most of the places I go to when chatting to people. Doesn`t aply to me though, no kids to leave home, and am on the wagon.

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As much as I love big venues, festivals and functions (okay, not so much love there, but the money's decent!), I've always had a soft spot for playing in small pubs, clubs and bars. Some are also a pain in the arse, notably due to landlords wanting live music, and then complaining that it's too loud, or that the speakers are pointing at the bar, when the other option is at the wall, etc etc. But there're some crackers too!

I think my favourite gig I did was in Wakefield at a place called Harry's Bar. It's tiny, I didn't even take my amp in it was that small! We turned up as a trio with a Bose L1 PA, which was plentiful loud enough, everyone in the room enjoyed it and go for the atmosphere and music, and there were no issues at all. Plus, I was packed up in less than 5 minutes, and my position whilst playing / attempting backing vocals was right next to the bar :lol:

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[quote name='blue' timestamp='1414437592' post='2589291']
Not sure this tread will go anywhere. Just looking for comments from folks that play in what I believe you guys would call "Pub Level Bands" and we call " Bar Bands".

It's actually funny, when I talk to my older buddies back in Jerseys and say;

[i]"Yeah, I'm working this weekend. Were playing The Rock House, Rooters, The Up & Under ect".[/i] You know, venue names where a guy could conjure an image of a high end gig.

Take this weekend, the pic is where we pulled up to to load in. Any of you guys play places that look like this?

Don't get me wrong, in the Summer we get our share of Fair and Festival work but our bread and butter are bar /club shows.

Most will tell me; [i]"Blue, you're lucky you have work, a lot of us don't." [/i]

I;m looking for any comments or stories from guys that play bars on a weekly basis. Humor is always welcomed.

Blue
[/quote]

That looks like a cool place to pull up and play at!

As a regular pub gigging 'musician' (I use that term loosely) I would be stoked to pull up to a venue to see the black widows hanging around outside.

Luckily we've had some great gigs over the years, far more positive experiences than negative, but I have played pubs where there are more people in the band than watching. One particular gig will always stick in my mind- playing to just one man and his dog- and halfway through the first set he gets up and leaves.

Pubs in the UK are nowhere near as cool as bars in the US.

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Play quite a lot of bike rallies, biker parties, clubhouse events, probably my favourite kind gig.
Always fantastic fun.
Never any problems getting paid.
Never had any issues with the crowd.
The gigs do have a tendency to stretch waaaay beyond the normal 2x60 minutes, but what the hey, they're enjoying it, we're enjoying it :)

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Agree with Cameltoe, most of the pubs we play around here (south west) are attended by the same folks, week in /out and are generally in their 40's and upwards. We do play some younger crowd pubs but tend to go down like the proverbial lead balloon.
The only similar venue we have played to the one in the picture is at a motorcycle clubhouse in Plymouth that shall remain annonymous, but who were a lovely bunch of blokes and nothing like the image they like to portray!
The bars in the US certainly look more rock n roll than the dog and ducks around here!

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[quote name='blue' timestamp='1414442805' post='2589388']

I took my younger girl friend on 2 separate occasions to see some live female blues/rock acts.
[/quote]

Does this mean that you also have an older girlfriend, or have we been separated by a common language?

:)

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[quote name='blue' timestamp='1414442805' post='2589388']

Any you guys that play in rock/blues band play these venues and all the young 20 somethings huddle as far away from the band as possible and act like you don't exist?

[/quote]

Unfortunately unless the said 20 year olds are 'into' live rock/indie music, then most of them are only interested in seeing this horrendous auto tuned new R&B crap or all this XFactor garbage.

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I don't know whether this is completely relevant but I think there may be increase in recognition of classic rock among younger folks around here thanks to the fact that we have a pretty successful local radio station specialising in classic rock. This may be completely unlinked though..

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I wonder whether the rise of 'clubbing' and DJs as performers in their own right has been significant in eroding the live music scene these days?

My memory may be selective, but I don't remember 'clubbing' being such a big thing back in the 70s. I recall 'discos' though I was never drawn to them and would always prefer live music.

Plus, it was more necessary to actively seek out music when I were a lad. We've previously discussed the thrill of buying a new album and then spending the rest of the weekend just listening to it, but these days pretty much everything is available instantly online, usually for free, including band info and video performances. Music is simply not such a big deal these days because of its easy availability, so why would the current generation bother to go to 'dingy dives' to watch a live band when there are so many other ways of accessing what they want to hear - whereas all us 'oldies' do it out of habit and, perhaps, for the nostalgia of remembering our youth.

Times change and people change with them.

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[quote name='flyfisher' timestamp='1414492007' post='2589711']
... so why would the current generation bother to go to 'dingy dives' to watch a live band when there are so many other ways of accessing what they want to hear ...
[/quote]

Because it's always been at least as much about fashion as about the music.

If you don't go to the "right" dingy dives, then you'll neither see nor be seen.

Edited by Happy Jack

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Fair point, among those 'dingy dive' goers, but the question is why are such places in decline these days compared to places like Ministry of Sound?

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It depends on the venue and the style of music as to the age of the audience...

We played a gig at a studios in East London last saturday night as one of three bands all playing original music, one classic style rock, one shoe gazy type stuff and us (folky rocky type stuff) a good 60 odd people watching and I was definitely amongst the oldest there at 32...

The studio puts on these nights (essentially gigs) every month and they are invaribly well attended... however... all those attending, whilst young, are active musicians themselves (who reherse at the studio) and so have an interest in music. Of the gigs we've played at regular music venues the younger folk generally have absolutely zero interest in live music.

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I'd say the scene down here in the south is decent but the live music lovers tend to be older and they
keep the places viable.
I have always been of the opnion that there are too many places putting on live music and so we pick
out 5 or 6 pubs we will do a year and they tend to be the better pubs (IMO )..with an audience we want to relate to
and with the chance of ok money. They are also our shop window as we aren't keen on bookings straight off the
website.
Some of the pubs have a subsidised music fund to pay for bands but ironically the better paying bars are less
concerned with an out and out band rosta that they have cultivated...they are just concerned with keeping passing trade
so the audience may or may not stay for the duration..and you will get people coming and going. Mostly sea-side towns tend
to work like this. Why..? not sure as the playing time tends to be 2x45mins and end by 12:00.

There is a mindset of pub bands typically as apart from a few birthday parties they don't look beyond that gig so
the money is poor and they can't sell a ticket gig... This is because there is nothing from them that distinguishes a
pub gig and because people see them in pubs so often, why would they pay anything to see them?
The money a show can generate also determines what sort of show it is ..so also a catch 22 there, IMO.

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[quote name='CamdenRob' timestamp='1414496398' post='2589780']
Of the gigs we've played at regular music venues the younger folk generally have absolutely zero interest in live music.
[/quote]

I wonder if that's because they no longer get into the habit of going to live gigs? The decline of record sales and the rise in concert ticket prices might be a big factor in this.

I admit to going to fewer ticketed gigs these days, partly because I've seen many of the bands I like 'first time around' but mainly because I refuse to pay £100 for a ticket.

In the late 80s/ early 90s, I went to loads of Clapton's Royal Albert Hall concerts and paid about £25 a ticket for front stalls, mostly within five rows of the stage. I saw he has recently announced tickets for some upcoming RAH concerts but the tickets 'start' at £95, which means being up in the 'gods'. Even allowing for inflation, I reckon that's taking the pi$$.

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[quote name='blue' timestamp='1414442805' post='2589388']
Nice!, crowds that [i]"get it".[/i]

Any you guys that play in rock/blues band play these venues and all the young 20 somethings huddle as far away from the band as possible and act like you don't exist?

Now I'm on a rant.

I took my younger girl friend on 2 separate occasions to see some live female blues/rock acts. Samantha Fish and a few weeks later Anna Popovic at the same venue.

She loved it but she asked the same question at both shows. [i]"This is great, how come there are only old people here, young people would love this stuff."[/i]

My response, [i]"Really, then where are they?"[/i]

Blue
[/quote]


I'm sure you're well aware of the cultural differences either side of the pond. Especially with regards to drinking and going out culture.

Over this side of the pond you are free to drink from a younger age, and that has a social stigma attached to it. Though many of my friends are musicians and enjoy playing and seeing music live, they still have a hard time dealing with older people, especially people around our parents ages, and it is exactly those who frequent a pub and end up seeing the pub band play.

Though I live in/near a city that is only 7/8 miles long and around 4-5 miles wide, there is a HUGE number of inhabitants, with a very large university and student population to boot, making it the most densely populated city outside of London, this in itself leads to people finding a local pub and becoming a face in the crowd as it were, so as a young 18 year old who is fresh out on the lash, it can be quite daunting going to a pub that has a reputation for being "A faces pub" where the regulars don't tolerate, loud groups of students. As well many pubs here don't serve the cocktail type drinks that excite the newly free 18 year old gets excited for, so though you sometimes visit a pub on a Friday or Saturday when a pub band is playing, you don't often stay as chances are you'll run in to a mates parents or feel like you are being closely watched as you're a young group of people in a predominantly middle aged crowd, when you could instead be going to the night clubs that play sh*te music but attract all the people your own age.

On another note, I've been to jam nights in some of these locals pubs and have been given the cold shoulder because my playing made a more veteran player feel sh*te about himself because I play his childhood favourites better than he does, safe to say I'm no longer welcome at places where I've had this effect!

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[quote name='flyfisher' timestamp='1414504712' post='2589924']

In the late 80s/ early 90s, I went to loads of Clapton's Royal Albert Hall concerts and paid about £25 a ticket for front stalls, mostly within five rows of the stage. I saw he has recently announced tickets for some upcoming RAH concerts but the tickets 'start' at £95, which means being up in the 'gods'. Even allowing for inflation, I reckon that's taking the pi$$.
[/quote]

At the risk of appearing to be morbid, that's because the supply of Eric Clapton gigs is slowly but surely being eroded ... there are fewer of them left each year.

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