Use it or loose it.... John Harris tells the story....

23rd February 2013

I have just read an article by John Harris on The Guardian web site and if you enjoy live music I encourage you to pop along there too.

John reports on the demise of what he terms the "toilet venues".

The name doesn't exactly endear itself to you, does it? But it is the name given to a disappearing genre of live music venues. Usually pubs with a small stage and small capacity of 100-250 maximum gig-goers.

The British musical scene is littered with major acts that developed and crafted their songs and stage persona in these often seedy and poorly supported back-street spaces. John lists many establishments that have now disappeared and mentions famous acts that emerged from the "toilet scene" including the Manic Street Preachers and The Vaccines. There are many, many more.

As a great supporter of live music I used to seek out the most obscure of these places whilst travelling the UK (in a previous life) before becoming a pro photog. I used to have a knack of finding live music wherever I stayed. Sometimes it was worth the effort - sometimes not. But it was always better than sitting alone in a hotel bar!

However even ten years ago I was becoming aware that venues were closing their doors to live bands. A couple of my regular haunts in Birmingham were Ronnie Scott's (now a Lap Dancing Club) - which meant the missus told me it was out-of-bounds ;-) There was also a pub just around the corner that was run, I think, by the Musical Guild. Also gone forever.
John Harris's article tells the story much better than I ever could, please take a look.

So how does Guernsey compare to 'the big wide world'?

Well we are doing pretty well I think.

The Fermain Tavern can certainly qualify as a "toilet venue" (no offence meant!) and is surely our premier live venue with a roll-call all the way up to Elton John. The 'Tav' is still offering a stage to the likes of the legendary Wilko Johnson and many other visiting acts and local bands.

Then we have the many 'pub' venues like the Thomas de la Rue, The White Hart, Blind O'Reilly's and The Dog House (edit: I must add the Cock & Bull to this list - otherwise known as 'my town office') who regularly open their doors to live music. There are also many less regular venues.

This leads me to the conclusion that Guernsey is very lucky to still have such a vibrant live scene.
But how long will it last? John's article tells how hard it can be for proprietors to justify devoting space to bands. We can all recall standing in a group of maybe ten people listening to a band.... this cannot reward the effort put in by the Landlord.

The responsibility lies with us, the live music lovers, to support what we have... if it disappears it will be gone forever and where will the next Manic Street Preachers or The Vaccines come from then?

The scary thought is that Simon Cowell thinks he has the answer!!

Follow this link to the article: