Nemesis To Go (nemesis_to_go) wrote,
Nemesis To Go
nemesis_to_go

Rock 'n' roll...a moveable feast

And talking of things closing down, as we were...it's last orders at the Bull & Gate, at least as a rock 'n' roll watering hole.

I'm sure this news will trigger the usual outbreak of woe over the alleged decline of the London live music circuit, which kicks off every time somewhere closes. But, in fact, I suspect the number of venues in London has remained pretty consistent over the years.

Sure, quite a few London venues have closed down - the Astoria, the Marquee (which has closed and re-opened many times, and still allegedly exists, although in a rather vague form), and now the Bull & Gate, to name but three.

But alongside those closures, quite a few new venues have opened up - the Troxy, XOYO, Hoxton Square Bar & Kitchen, to name three rough equivalents.

We also now have the Lexington, the Buffalo Bar, Power Lunches, the Underbelly - all venues that didn't exist just a few years ago. I could extend that list quite a bit if I sat here and thought about it (and if I could be arsed to do any more links).

I suspect that if you analysed venue closures/openings over X period of time, you'd probably find that the net quantity of venues in London remained roughly the same. They just shift around a bit, from area to area. There never seems to be a shortage of places for bands to play. Bands may find it difficult to get gigs for many reasons, but I've never heard "There aren't enough venues in London!" advanced as one of them.

It's interesting that when The Gaff on Holloway Road abruptly closed down (it's a Costa coffee bar now) all the gigs that had been booked in to the venue were instantly transferred to The Dome at Tuffnell Park - which had plenty of vacant space in its booking calendar. That suggests that instead of not enough venues, we might have too many. After all, if the Dome was standing (mostly) empty, that argues for an over-supply of venue capacity, not a shortage.

And yet the prophets of doom still predict the end of everything every time somewhere shuts up shop. Personally, whenever people complain about the live music circuit going downhill because all the venues are supposedly closing down, I always suspect what they really mean is merely "All the familiar venues that I know about are closing down."

Watch out for that in this case. I'm sure we'll see a bit of it.

I suppose the Bull & Gate's transformation into a gastropub illustrates the wider transformation of Kentish Town these days. It's no longer the cheap 'n' tatty place it was when the Bull & Gate first started putting bands on in the back room. These days, it's all going gentrified, and rock 'n' roll has to move on.

'Twas ever thus, of course. The main reason there are currently lots of venues in east London is because the area was recently one of London's down-at-heel zones, where rents were cheap, the council was keen for anyone to set up in business there, and all manner of basements and back rooms were just waiting for someone to install a PA and start up a gig venue. That's changing now - the area is now quite upmarket, and the venues have started migrating up the road to Dalston, which is still scruffy 'n' cheap. But after Dalston, where then?

Vice magazine reckons Peckham will be where it's at.

Hmm. South of the river, eh? We'll see!
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