What can a venue mean to the bands and musicians that play there?
There’s an interesting relationship between the bands and the venues, especially considering the relationship between bands that have reached their fame through recorded music and the venues early in their career. The Doors residency at the Whisky a Go Go in California lasted a mere four months and yet has become central to the mythology of the band. Likewise, the Pink Floyd’s residency at the UFO club in London lasts a mere two months before being signed to EMI records and yet any biography of the band automatically references it.
The other side of this is that bands that are most known for their live performances, such as Phish or the Grateful Dead, rarely have specific venues feature heavily in their canon. Bob Dylan’s relationship to the Gaslight cafe and the Greenwich village folk scene in the early sixties is well documented, but by the time of the Neverending tour later on in his career, few venues are ever mentioned.
So clearly the importance of particular venues to particular musicians is one of them honing their craft (certainly in terms of performance, if not necessarily musically) before their appeal is mainstream. It should be noted however that these are not hard and fast rules, and very often there is mutually beneficial arrangement between band and venue to cultivate their importance early in the career. Very often the significance of a single band or even performance can cement a venue’s importance to the wider culture, the most notable example in Manchester being that of the Sex Pistol’s infamous gig at the Lesser Free Trade Hall on 4th of June 1976.
The significance of this performance has been exaggerated to the point that an entire book has been published on one single performance; but how does this happen, and what does it say about how these buildings can form parts of a shared identity? I’ll describe how this happens next time here on this blog.