Looking to book your own tour or for the perfect place to catch your next gig? Ahead of Independent Venue Week we share which UK venues get our pulse racing.
Posted: 25 January 2019
Independent Venue Week kicks off on Monday and we wanted to raise a glass (or plastic pint pot) to the hundreds of small music venues dotted around the UK. It’s these venues where artists test their mettle in front of a live audience, as well as providing fans with the opportunity to get up close with bands that one day could go on to play stadiums and festival main stages. As the backbone of the live music scene and setting for thousands of memorable nights, we wanted to celebrate our favourite venues taking part in Independent Venue Week’s 6th year.
Originally built in 1820 this Grade II listed pub has hosted a real variety of music over the years, from Basement Jaxx to Norman Jay to Ed Sheeran and all sorts in between. It’s established itself as a rite of passage for local up and comers and even played host to Birmingham legends UB40’s first ever gig back in 1979. Dig a little deeper and it’s the absolute monster sound system and sound technicians that have truly cemented the Hare & Hounds as Birmingham’s place to be.
Tucked away into the Brighton railway arches the Green Door Store is a hidden delight. Hosting a mix of emerging bands and entertaining club nights, the 250-capacity venue is pretty no frills with exposed Victorian brickwork and a pokey bar. Considering the room is decidedly lo-fi the sound is impressively crisp and the atmosphere always electric.
The Thekla is great because it’s a boat.
It’s in a lovely part of Bristol just a short walk from the main hustle and bustle and has always supported live music from up and coming bands to smaller international touring acts. It provides a unique space for people to enjoy live music and even once sported a genuine Banksy work of art on its hull.
Image courtesy of Robert Powell
Tiny, raucous and loud. Sneaky Pete’s is basically one small, grungy room with a bar running along one side with a low stage at the end, letting you get up close and personal with your new favourite band. Expect a wall of noise, a lack of elbow room and no beer on tap, but miraculously the venue is all the better for it and ensures an unforgettable gig.
Image courtesy of Nick Stewart
Combining comedy, club nights and live music across 3 floors, Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach has been a hangout for the city’s community since 1983. With an alumni boasting The Strokes, The Killers, Wolf Alice, Foals, Skrillex, and thousands more on their way to bigger things, it’s easy to see how this local social club has developed into a Cardiff institution by championing all sorts of breakthrough talent.
Since opening in 2002 the all-in-one café/bar/venue Mono has been well ahead of the game. Despite an odd shaped room and limited PA system it’s become the heart and soul of the city’s independent music and arts community. Offering home-cooked vegan food, one of the best drinks selections to be found in the city (including an in-house microbrewery), and even an independent record store on the top floor, Mono means much more to Glasgow than just a space for live music.
When you think of the stereotypical old-school working men’s club, Brudenell Social Club is exactly what springs to mind, but come gig nights and this Yorkshire institution transforms into a truly magical place. Known for showcasing a wide mix of both up-and-coming bands and the acts that first inspired them, Brudenell has become a firm favourite due to its substantial sound system, community spirit and very reasonably priced drinks. Expect an evening that’s rowdy, raucous and an absolute riot… but in all the right ways.
The Shacklewell Arms has become a staple venue to find the next indie artist that’s just about to breakthrough, and in particular discover those who have generated a buzz in the USA and are now testing the waters in the UK.
With a fully functioning pub serving a wide range of beer and snacks at the front, and a truly peculiar stage set up at the back it’s instantly clear this isn’t a typical venue. The drummer is often hidden in an alcove and the low stage means it can be difficult to see what’s happening, but the charm of the venue and constantly impressive line up singles Shacklewell Arms out as one of the capital's finest.
MOTH Club, or ‘The General Browning Memorable Order of Tin Hats Club’ to give it its proper name, was already a well-known London working mens club ahead of a 2015 revamp. Since then however the glittering ceiling and iconic shimmering curtain coupled with wildly eclectic line-ups have established it as one of London’s most recognisable venues. Be it the Kooks, Lady Gaga or the next big thing performing, it’s got the crown of the most glam venue in the UK.
The Craufurd Arms is a classic Victorian pub that has been revamped for a new generation of live music fans. Boasting a wide mix of DJ’s alongside wild club nights and rowdy gigs, expect to see local artists alongside bigger bands, offering homegrown talent the chance to showcase what they can do. On top of this the PA system is second to none and the Craufurd arms is run by a great bunch of technicians and music fans to boot.
Image courtesy of Neil McCarty
Hip canteen upstairs contrasted with a small and dingy venue downstairs. But that’s criminally mis-selling this Northern Quarter venue. This venue takes the performer’s energy and traps it in a pokey basement along with a spell-bound audience of 200 music lovers. If you were to list everything that shouldn’t work as a venue the Soup Kitchen pretty much ticks all the boxes, but against all odds it somehow has a charm and vibrancy that isn’t replicated in any other venue in the city.
Since opening its doors in 1999, the Cellar has made a name for itself by hosting artists on their way to the big time. Foals, Supergrass, The Cure, and hundreds of other well-known names have all graced its stage, but when faced with closure last year, the Cellar in Oxford was dramatically saved after a fundraising campaign managed to raise £80,000 to pay for changes to the building. If this doesn’t prove that the last real independent gig venue in Oxford is absolutely loved by hordes of music devotees and is the perfect spot to catch your next gig, then nothing will.
Originally a storage space in WW2, the Wedgewood Rooms has been known for its live music and comedy since 1992. Boasting a list of famous performers from years gone by that could arguably put any other venue in the world to shame, The Wedge has history etched deep into the walls. Look through past line ups and you’ll find Oasis, Pulp, Muse, Buzzcocks, Biffy Clyro, Primal Scream, Kasabian and many more putting Southsea on the map. Step into the Wedgewood Rooms today and you can expect to see bands that will have just as much impact in the coming years.
Another venue with a hitlist of past performers so strong that if they were all put together on a festival bill, would easily be the best festival line up of all time. With 25 years of history now under their belt, the Sugarmill strikes a perfect balance of intimate yet exciting, as well as managing to squeeze a balcony in that’s perfect for crowd surfing.