I’m listening to the Upstairs at the Mermaid podcast, on episode 2 of 4 and it’s bringing back some awesome memories of The Mermaid in Birmingham which was a very run down Victorian pub ran by an asian family in the late 1980’s.
My first visit there I would have been about 17 and went to see Briar who pulled out and didn’t play, instead Motherfuckers From Mars played, and completely blew my mind. From that Saturday in 1986 or 1987 (I forget) I went to every gig I could there (The Mermaid) and saw Napalm Death countless times supporting many, many great bands. The emerging Crust Hardcore U.K. scene thrived here. Communities in the falling apart upstairs foyer / corridor. People selling fanzines, people asleep on the floor amidst wild levels of noise. No security, peaceful vibe of the kindred, literally forging a music scene at will together, almost by accident.
Heresy, Attitude Adjustment, Chumawamba, Conflict, Anti-Sect, Circle Jerks, Amebix, Electro Hippies, Gaye Bylers On Acid, Head of David, D.R.I., The Stupids… I could go on, but The Mermaid was about the scene and it fitted this venue just perfectly, like respect paid back for allowing this just to happen.
Rarely paid over £1 to get in and the promoter who knew us by sight and would let 6 or 7 of me and my mates in for a fiver.
Worth checking the podcast if you get time and surely my all-time favourite music venue, for this could never happen again, or could it?
The original Riverside in Newcastle
Probably The Black Box in Belfast.
Lovely place, small and very versatile for any kind of gig, loud or quiet, seated or standing. Also my favourite comedy venue.
The only thing I’d change about it would be that I’d add an extra cubicle in the toilets.
Another vote for Newcastle Riverside and the role it played in my formative musical years.
Probably The Portland Arms, Cambridge or The Cavern, Exeter.
It’s the Barrowlands, but with a honourable mention: I really miss the Captain’s Rest.
Admittedly I’m viewing it through tinted specs, but I was a near-regular in there in my first few years in Glasgow and saw some brilliant bands in that basement sweatbox.
Exeter Cavern or Bath Moles
The boat race Cambridge (RIP) prob about a 250 ish capacity black painted scuzz pit, but used to go a couple of times a week mainly having bunked off school. Just saw some incredible bands here. Super furry animals and bis joint tour, Truman’s water, Bob tilton, placebo, Urusei yatsura, gorkys zygotic mynci, but there was usually something I’d want to see a couple of times a week, and due to my neurotic nature I’d reserve tickets only to find out I was the only one on the list…still wear some of the crappy merch I picked up to this day
Also for the scrapes me and my friends got into getting to the train station in time for the last train (spent a couple of nights sleeping in the bushes outside having phoned my parents to say I was ‘staying at a friends’ ) usually smashed on cheap lager
Just one of those non chain venues that are so thin on the ground nowadays (although the Portland arms is decent it’s not quite the same) but it’s probably more indicative of how the bottom has fell out of touring viability for that up and coming tier of band
I feel old now
Might be showing my age here but The Boardwalk in Manchester.
Not for acoustics but you can’t beat OLT Rivierenhof in Antwerp for atmosphere
Future Yard, by some distance
Empire is probably the ‘nicer’ venue but less versatile and loses points for feeling overcrowded sometimes and the bar location (and VERY noisy bar staff) being poor.
Haha yeah during Richard Dawson in the Empire I was impressed at how absolutely silent the crowd were but you could hear every single clinking glass from behind the bar and every creak of the door in the corner as they came in and out
Aye it was an acoustic gig specifically I was thinking of where the Barr staff must have been having a contest to see how hard the could throw glass bottles in a bin and make them smash.
Pretty sure the band actually asked them to stop.
Really like bars where there’s a bit of a disconnect between bar and gig space.Thee Deers Head is nice for that, Workman’s in Dublin too.
Yeah, Black Box bar staff are very good at being quiet though. Undefeated.
Another vote for the Brudenell