CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

A Lavelle playing field for independent venues

16 January, 2020 — By Róisín Gadelrab

James Lavelle will play at Independent Venue Week on January 31

THEY are the places we would hang out in when first we discovered live music as teenagers.

From dive bars to pub backroom stages, artsy folk venues to angsty death-metal mosh hovels, the independent music scene was the setting for early memories, encounters and discoveries of up-and-coming bands whose names would give new purpose to our maths compasses, as we scratched their logos onto our schoolbooks.

Their makeshift merch’ tables were a chance to pick up a signed copy of our band of the moment’s latest release and there was always the possibility that the objects of our admiration might hang around afterwards for a chat, photo, or even better, to join us on our boozy night out.

There was the chance of the unpredictable, a surprise set from an act whose crowds had swelled far past a small-venue capacity, an unexpected cover, some thrilling riffing or jamming, or just a one-off magical set that would live on in our memories many years later.

These are the reasons we still love those bands of our formative years, and why we go back to those small venues today, for the chance to be there when that one tune hits the perfect frequency, captures our imaginations or comes out with such poetry that the words become our own and we know we are on to something special before the rest of the world catches on.

Today, many venues are under threat from rising rents, the stay-at-home Netflix and music download culture, encroaching development, complaints from short-sighted neighbours who didn’t notice the world-famous music venue next door when they moved in, and many, many other reasons.

Anna Calvi

Still, the passion for running these places does not die easily and there will hopefully always be a constant flow of those who understand their beauty and unpredictable nature.

In Camden, we have a high concentration of these venues. Such is their rich history that they are not overlooked when the likes of Camden Rocks Festival, or Camden Crawl in its heyday, begin the annual venue scramble to distribute their line-ups across the borough – and here, the concentration of special venues is high.

The Dublin Castle’s heritage is much-debated, as is the Hawley Arms.

The Social, which found itself under threat last year, has fought back with a vengeance.

There are so many more, in Camden, Islington and Westminster, that we cannot name them all here. So all hail the efforts to highlight these places, to support them with love and to stop them falling off the face of the Earth. Causes such as the Music Venues Trust’s Fightback – with its associated fundraising lager – are one of the big annual events working to raise money to support venues under threat.

And then there is Independent Venue Week, taking over 230 venues across the country, putting on bands, raising awareness and drawing in crowds to remind people what these places are all about and to keep the cause going.

This year’s event takes place between January 27 and February 2, and features the likes of James Lavelle, Anna Calvi, BC Camplight, Frank Turner, and many more.

The line-up is extensive but the listings we have to date for our closest venues are as follows:

January 28: Suntrap, Aces & Eights; All Ears Avow + Floorboards, 229.

January 29: Ugly + Social Contract, The Social.

January 30: Lower Dens, The Dome.

January 31: James Lavelle, Jay Carder and Steel Worker, The Social; Rich Ragany & The Digressions + Boss Caine + Ben Marsden (The Spangles), Aces & Eights.

February 1: Black Helium + Magic Moss + Zonama, Aces & Eights.

February 2: Couples + Franky’s Evil Party + Lambrini Girls, The Dublin Castle.

• See www.independentvenueweek.com for more information and further announcements.

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