Friday, 19 November 2010
How To Save The 100 Club...
Music fans were shocked at the announcement last month that the legendary 100 Club could close before Christmas if financial backers aren't found. The basement venue which has hosted live music since 1942 has seen rent raised by 45% in the last year and also faces crippling overheads of over £4,000 per month. Whilst it remains as popular as ever, the club is being forced to sacrifice 80% of its monthly revenue in an attempt to keep away creditors. Rather then being celebrated as one of most famous venues in London, it seems that the club is being punished for its success.
The site is one of a number of so called 'toilet venues' which have been forced to close in the past few years including London's Astoria and LA2, Manchester's The Music and the Cardiff Barfly. Brighton's Freebutt is also under threat after noise complaints from one local resident.
The main reason people are getting their knickers in a twist about the demise of these venues is that every closure means waving goodbye to a slice of musical history. Of course, that's not without its merits. The 100 Club has played host to more rock and roll legends than you've had hot dinners including Glenn Miller, The Rolling Stones, Oasis, Suede, B.B King, The Who, The Jam, Roxy Music and Metallica. The venue also became the unofficial home of punk after hosting the first ever festival dedicated to the genre in 1976. Over two days in the September of that year, the club opened its stage (and heart) to The Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Damned, The Buzzcocks, The Vibrators and Siouxsie and The Banshees. Pretty blimmin' impressive I think we can agree.
However, music is not a museum. Every true fan knows that it exists in hearts and minds as much as it does in bricks and mortar. Ask anyone who can sing along to every single word of a band's output (including unreleased B-sides) and they'll tell you that music is a personal experience that is not tied in with something as concrete as a building.
Rather than getting misty-eyed about the past, perhaps we should be opposing these closures on the grounds that they damage the future of live music in London and across the UK. The fact that these venues are threatened with closure is far sadder for the bands that are forming in bedrooms across the land right this moment than it is for a bloated former punk like Glen Matlock who wants to relive his glory days.
Getting rid of these smaller venues displaces a music scene which works from the bottom up. Every live band has to start somewhere, and that somewhere is a toilet venue. For bands, it's a rite of passage to play on a freezing cold night in a 20 capacity flea pit that's only half-full. It's how they bond, it's how people hear about them and it makes a great story for their autobiographies when they do eventually make it big. If smaller venues disappear, how are new bands supposed to get their break into the scene? Either they stay away entirely until they're big enough to play stadia, or they dissapear without a trace. Bad news either way for live music fans.
Perhaps we should look to LA for inspiration. America in general has been far better at protecting sites that form part of the nation's musical heritage, but the dudes at The Smell though have got it well and truly sorted. The venue, famous for launching the careers of No Age and Abe Vigoda, is run in the best DIY style possible. It's not for profit and the bands that play help with everything from lugging the amps to restocking the vegan café. A bit radical perhaps, but something needs to be done before toilet venues are flushed for good.