Is Liverpool heading for musical silence?
With Liverpool’s music venues closing left, right and centre, you can’t help but wonder where on earth bands are going to play. With a musical heritage like the one we have, there are high expectations of what this place has to offer.
For those students returning to the city, you can’t miss the amount of venues that have closed over the past year. It’s hard not to notice that bands now skip out Liverpool on their tours, choosing to visit Manchester and then head south instead. Considering we are supposed to be living in 2008’s cultural capital of Europe, the city’s musical patience seems to be running thin.
It all began when The Masque announced its closure in November of last year. Ingrained in those floors are memories of nights that you can’t quite remember but you’re sure you had fun. Club nights had to up and leave, squashing into smaller venues that just don’t do them justice. The Arctic Monkeys have walked those halls, as well as a number of bands playing Sound City – a three day international music festival which last year included bands such as Mystery Jets, Michael Kiwanuka and The Temper Trap. Not only did The Masque host big name bands, it also supported those local bands that no one ever really heard of until they played a small mid-week gig.
MOJO was next to follow, unexpectedly announcing in January that they were to cease all live music, effective immediately. The bar wanted to move in a new direction but it seems this new direction is likely to get them very lost. MOJO was the home of Liverpool Music Week, a two week frenzy of free gigs, which last year included artists such as Benjamin Francis Leftwich, Summer Camp and Marcus Foster.
Following from The Masque and MOJO, Static Gallery suffered from a noise abatement order. Art gallery and creative space by day, the Static Gallery put on wonderfully weird and fantastical nights, especially at Halloween. Due to complaints from locals, the gallery lost their power to put on late-night music haunts. Three down, how many more can go?
Easter time saw the abrupt closure of one of Liverpool’s longest standing indie venues, Le Bateau. For the past ten years, students from all over the country have all spent at least one wonderfully drunken night flitting around this cracking little venue. Liquidation moved to Magnet which, as good as Magnet is, it’s not a venue that is able to step into the well-worn boots of Le Bateau.
Most recently, the news that the council may be forcing Mello Mello to close pretty much sees off what seems to be the only remaining independent music venue in Liverpool. Many local bands have set up camp in the basement of this veggie haven, which is a recording studio and rehearsal room rolled into one. To name but one, Liverpool based Stealing Sheep recorded their recent LP Into the Diamond Sun down there. Providing an inexpensive and interesting way to make a start in the musical world, without venues like this who knows how many bands would still be rolling around in the gloomy underworld.
There is something mesmerising about watching a band full of nerves and hope clambering up onto a tiny stage, tripping over their mic lead and then blowing you away with the most amazing vocals you’ve heard in months, the kind that make the table shudder and the candles quiver. Granted we still have the Echo Arena and the O2 Academy but how often will you see an unsigned band consisting of two humble guys and an accordion playing the main stage of the Echo? Small venues offer cheap tickets, intimate gigs and opportunities that you will never come across in bigger commercial venues.
Who knows how many more venues are going to fall off the mark. In the words of local architect Doug Clelland, a city ‘full of citizens without sound would be the most haunting of all’. Yet it seems that a gloomy musical silence is what Liverpool is rapidly sailing towards.