Independent Venue Week Part Three – Liverpool and Leeds

In the third instalment of our homage to independent venues, we continue our journey north to Liverpool and Leeds for a brew or two and a chat to local bands, Forever Cult and The Cheap Thrills.

The Cheap Thrills

If you haven’t caught our first two posts about Independent Venue week so far this week (where have you been, guys?) you can catch up on all the fun with our Continents interview here and our chat with Camp Stag here.

There’s no time to be resting on your laurels though, with yet more shows coming in this week, including pit-stops in Bristol and Belfast tomorrow night, with Wyynonna Ryder hitting up the Louisiana (details here) and Go Wolf taking to the Oh Yeah Music centre (details here).

However, we’ll be paying special attention to a couple of shows in particular. Thursday sees The Red Suns, Go Fiasco take to the famous Zanzibar (details here), with Leeds getting their celebration on Friday, with an Allusondrugs show at the Library (details here). We caught up with bands appearing on both bills (Liverpudlians The Cheap Thrills and Leeds-based Forever Cult), but first – here’s the opinion of Zanzibar owner on the biggest issue that needs to be tackled in small venues.

At grassroots level, bands tend to play too often and too many “promoters” organise too many pointless shows, where there is no audience. Hence – venues struggle to survive. It can also be argued that rooms in pubs and bars that are also used for bands to play are also a factor in the demise of the venue whose sole purpose is to host live events.

Here’s what the fresh faced artists had to say, who haven’t yet spent 17 years in the firing line…

What role do local independent venues play in your local music scene/atmosphere?

The Cheap Thrills: A massive role. Independent venues like The Zanzi provides new upcoming bands with a spotlight for artists to perform.  It’s got one of the best sound systems in the city, so it’s always great to play there.

Forever Cult: Without independent venues, Huddersfield’s music scene wouldn’t  even exist. When you’re in a smaller town with no commercial venues, it’s a good opportunity for bands to support the nights and showcase their music in a thriving student town.

How important are venues of this size and with an independent ethos to you as an up-and-coming band, both locally and nationally?

TCT: It’s always a pleasure dealing with promoters in the Zanzibar, as they understand the need for bands to be able to make a bit of money off their shows, providing you put the work in, without doing all this buying tickets jargon that a lot of larger national promoters do. This allows bands to put money back in the band to pay for some recording, etc. Nationally, venues understand that a band from out of town won’t be pulling in hundreds of people but will still put them on the line up but lower on the bill, so then bands can go out to other city’s and play some gigs on some different soil.

FC: Well, some of the greatest gigs I’ve ever seen are the national artists playing in a smaller space. I’ve seen Frank Turner and Wild Beasts at a nightclub called The Loft in Castleford which was a 250 capacity and it was amazing. As well as catching Two Door Cinema Club at Selby Town hall with 6 other people. It was so long ago, they still played with a drum machine! I think we’ll always support independent venues as they’re the places that are giving us opportunities to play new cities.

And how about the importance of playing live in the development of your band and your fanbase in the early part of your career?

TCT: Our first gig was actually in The Zanzibar. We were young and probably sounded terrible but we got given an opportunity to perform on a proper stage with proper gear, about a hundred people turned up and it propelled us forward allowing the band to get some great opportunities such as playing IVW.

FC: We personally, LOVE playing live. You can’t replicate the energy and spontaneous nature of playing live on record. Like we all thrive from turning up and playing our music to new people. We travel to our gigs via trains and lifts so it’s always an adventure. So far, fingers crossed we haven’t been stranded anywhere. Hopefully it won’t be somewhere too hellish when it eventually happens.

Are there any specific independent venues that have been particularly important/influential for you and your band that you’d give a special shout out to?

TCT: The Zanzibar!

FC: For us, Brudenell Social Club is one of my favourite venues in Leeds and I really hope I get the chance to play it one day. It’s just so cool, there’s always a crowd there and the beer is top notch too!  The 360 club gig is our biggest date so far as a band and we’re extremely proud to be flying the flag for Leeds as part of IVW. We’ll be doing everything we can to make it special.

What difficulties do these venues face in your area?

FC: Bar 1:22 and The Parish in Huddersfield are the main sources of good gigs for us. It’s frustrating to see these venues putting on quality gigs week in, week out and very few people turning up. I understand that Huddersfield is a student town, but the students manage to make their way to the expensive nightclubs and spend silly money on drinks, when in reality, these gigs are supporting local bands, independent business owners and without people coming to gigs and spending cash, they won’t stay open.

Do have have any special memories of shows you’ve seen or played in such a venue? Any loveable imperfections in your local indie that you wouldn’t find in a corporate sponsored cavern?

TCT: I’m glad the corporate sponsored Cavern [Ed: the famous Liverpool venue] point has been raised. The Cavern is just a place for tourists, if your a genuine band outside of Liverpool looking for a venue to play in, avoid the Cavern. You will just be greeted by national Promoters asking you to buy 50 tickets off them for you to sell. That place isn’t helping any up and coming bands out. We had an EP launch last year in the Zanzibar and it was a special  milestone for The Cheap Thrills returning to the venue we had our first gig in. Older and a lot better.

FC: Playing a packed gig at The Parish for our EP launch was pretty special. We really saw everything come together as a band there for the first time. Our finest moment in our careers. The loveable thing about Huddersfield gigs are the random drunks that turn up and dig your music. It’s so fun meeting new people and them sharing their love for your music.

How will you be celebrating Independent Venue Week? Join in the conversation by following us on Twitter at @songkick.


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