Anyone listening to Muse’s Muscle Museum would be forgiven for raising an eyebrow at the lyric “I have played in every toilet”. Rather than a reference to the extremes a band might go to for exposure, the words are an affectionate nod to the string of independent music venues in the UK, known as the “toilet circuit”.
Named after latrine-turned-venue, the Tunbridge Wells Forum, grassroots places like these have played a crucial role in the development of British music, providing a platform for live performance experience. From Richmond’s Crawdaddy Club, where the Rolling Stones got their first residency in 1963, King Tut’s in Glasgow, where Oasis were first signed in 1993, to more contemporary artists like Adele and Ed Sheeran, the network of small venues has been the bedrock from which the next stadium-filler might emerge.
The People’s History of Pop continues to unearth incredible stories of first gigs, spontaneous backstage trips and sweaty all nighters. More often than not the scene for these memories is set in the shuddering basements of independent venues.
Lindsay Gregory remembers her favourite hangout as a 15-year-old punk in 1973.
“Our local town Retford in Nottinghamshire had this tiny music venue called Retford Porterhouse where pretty much every punk band that ever existed played, from The Damned, Buzzcocks, The Slits… A bunch of us went every week without fail, drank cider and blackcurrant and pogoed until the band finished and then carried on dancing on the stage until we were thrown out.”
“Nottingham Rock City is the greatest music venue in the world,” says Britpop fan Alan Holland. “I spent my formative years there seeing all the greats – Oasis, Shed Seven, Supergrass, The Charlatans, The Bluetones. Everyone played there, and have continued to do so since.”
Since 2007, London has lost 35% of its grassroots music venues and this is a trend being seen across the country. In places where there is just one alternative music venue, they are of huge importance in that area, whilst also providing the first step on the ladder for many aspiring musicians.
Independent Venue Week, which launches this Monday, will celebrate the places that made those memories and raise awareness of grassroots venues by hosting a weeklong series of gigs. BBC Radio 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq will tour five cities around the UK, shining a light on the alternative music scene in each area and getting the latest on the best new local bands coming through the ranks.
This year they are collaborating with PHOP to re-discover some of our most memorable gigs on the alternative circuit. Explore what people have uploaded so far here.
To share memories of your favourite venue, visit www.phop.co.uk or email firstname.lastname@example.org