Coming from the small seaside town of Hastings, one that has a constantly fluctuating music scene, there has always been some kind of hope that at least one local venue has the potential to bring in fairly reputable bands. Lately, that just doesn’t feel the case and it feels like the negative stance on smaller venues continues to grow. Are the “toilet scene” venues dying? Because it certainly feels like it is.
Until 2010, Hastings had The Crypt, a 200-capacity club that would have the kind of pull to bring in artists that might usually play academy size venues to a 1000 or more people. When that closed due to bankruptcy we had The Tubman, otherwise known as ‘The Tub’ to pick up most of the flack, often being the venue that would create the “next generation” of future stars. ROAM and Slaves are probably the biggest names to have set foot in the tiny corner pub in recent years.
Then the local authorities took away The Tub’s licence because the venue couldn’t afford to meet certain requirements set by the council. For the first time in seven years the music scene is Hastings feels doomed, I just can’t see another local venue having same pulling power.
While these events have sparked my own despair at the state of smaller venues. The Tub is just the latest casualty amongst hundreds of pubs each year that have to close for various reasons, usually money issues. Every month I see a new “save this pub” campaign on Facebook due to venues needing funds. Usually, this is to fix or refurbish the venue so that it meets council regulations. The attitude that many councils have towards venues is certainly damaging to them. It’s far from sympathetic. More often than not, if a council receives a complaint about a venue, then the venue receives a lot of not so needed aggravation.
The attitude that is possibly even more damaging though is the lack of people willing to go local shows. Ignoring musical cities such as Brighton, London, Manchester or Liverpool. Plenty of smaller locations struggle to entice their own communities. The attitude of supporting your friend’s bands is getting weaker as days go by. People aren’t willing to part way the few quid that would get them entry into a venue because it means an extra pint somewhere else. This continues further with the fact we have become lazier, there is a growing number of young adults who would rather sit in and watch Netflix instead of going out to discover a new performing artist. Sometimes I’m guilty of this too.
There are some saving points, you can look at the DIY punk scenes that come up with the likes of Manchester Punk Festival, Pie Race and Wotsit Called Fest and the incestuous relationship these promoters have in sharing similar lineups. Mammothfest to in its desire to push emerging artists. The bands are thriving harder than ever. But the venues are slowly drying up. To stop this drought, we need the risk-taking bar managers to bring back under age gigs, we need a generation of people willing to pump money into their own music scenes again. Take ownership and pride in what your town once had and build on it again.
Written by Mike Hall