Friday, 28 November 2008

Transport For London - Building a Bypass for Music

I was gutted to hear that THREE of my favourite venues all got a cyanide pill in the post today. Transport For London have issued The Astoria, The Astoria 2 and The Blow Up Metro Club with compulsory purchase orders, and all three must cease trading on 20th January (Oh and a Merry Christmas to you too TFL).

It's hard enough as it is to find 'proper' music venues these days, without three being trashed in one fail swoop. But there must be a good reason for it surely? Oh there is... Soon Tottenham Court Road tube station will have a much bigger and nicer entrance. Great.

I've been a big fan of the Metro Club since it was brought out of moth balls by Blow Up in 2001. Since then it's become one of the most important, independent 'grass roots' venues on the circuit (honest to goodness original new acts for a few measly quid), giving some of today's biggest indie names a foot on the ladder in the process.... The Kaiser Chiefs, Maximo Park, I Like Trains, New Young Pony Club, The Zutons, Babyshambles, The Killers, Black Mountain, The Pigeon Detectives, Bloc Party, The Kings of Leon, Mika, The Bravery, The Darkness, The Duke Spirit, The Editors, The Feeling, The Scissor Sisters, Futureheads and many more all played early gigs there.

It would have been easy to turn the Metro into a lazy 'tribute act' venue, filling it night after night with Abba, Bowie and Blondie-alikes. But the people behind the Metro are real music fans, and have been promoting new acts just about every night of the week for the last 7 years. Time Out magazine even voted it their 'Venue of the Year' in 2003.

The Astoria is also a great size venue, it's 2000 capacity just right for those bands who are breaking through. Built on the site of a pickle factory, the Astoria cinema was opened in 1927. In 1976 it was converted for theatrical use and has remained one of London's best 'middle-sized' venues to this day.

The sweaty, atmospheric, dark and dingy venue is an endangered species, and if we are not careful, our ONLY options will soon be plastic, soul-less corporate hell holes like the O2 and Wembley, constantly regurgitating Elton John, Mariah Carey and Celine Dion. And what venues will be left for new talent to cut their teeth? Like they always say, you don't miss it till it's gone.

Good luck to everyone involved at these 3 venues, especially those at the Metro, you will be sorely missed. I look forward to seeing you create an even better venue in the future.

Read the Metro Clubs statement on their closure here

Piley

UPDATE:
There has been a lot of press reaction to the forced closure of these venues. Particularly interesting is the article published on Music Week. Check out the 'comments' section where someone has implies that Transport for London are using the Crossrail Act without actually having the funding in place for Crossrail. Read the full Music Week article here

Links to other press reaction here

10 comments:

rockmother said...

I'm so pleased you wrote about this Piley. I feel a genuine lurch of sadness every time I walk past The Astoria which is most days as I work around the corner from it. I like it's shitty posters and crude red plastic letters on the strip lighting front. I love it dark sticky-carpetted fusty smelling interior. It's a proper venue. I have never been to the O2 but it sounds like a shopping mall. Wembley is shit and the Roundhouse has been gentrified. The Astoria has always reminded me of The Rainbow at Finsbury Park (now no more). Will there be any real venues left at this rate? I walked past the 100 Club today which is my all time most favourite venue ever and had a worry moment - you just so know it is going to be turned into an English language school or something before long. Sad.

Piley said...

Thanks RM. Know exactly what you mean about the Astoria, it feels homely don't it?! I have such fond memories of nights out there, the stinky sticky carpet, the run down (always closed) box office inside the door... love it!

I felt much the same about Camden too. I loved the ramshackle, slightly faded glory of it all, THAT was what people liked about it. It was a bit different. Now the council are busy turning it into a carbon copy of every other f'in high street, with nice posh glass buildings and stuff. Councils really don't get it do they?

Piley

Planet Mondo said...

I'm gutted, about truly gutted about Blow Up and with both of us having that personal connection with the Club P,and knowing all the hard work that goes into keeping it going, find the whole bloody thing sickening - more so as I'd guess the reason behind all this probably has something to do with bloody Olympics no doubt - great, better access to TCR to station for 4 weeks, but a great club lost for ever. I was band enough went the WAG went..

Similar to your Camden thing I feel the same about Kings Road and Kensington Mkt..

Complete corporate stamp out of any cultural history - Kensington Mkt's now a sports shop - Kings has lost some of it's best sites to - legendary Chelsea Drugstore (now a McDonalds ), Mary Quant's first shop (now a pasty company ) and The Pheasantry home to a load of sixties bohemians (now a Pizza Express )

Anonymous said...

Pathetic isn't it ?, i mean why after all these years does the station need a bigger , nicer front ??. Seen many a classic gig at both Astoria and 2 seen a few corkers at Metro with your good self Piley. I'm as annoyed as every one else, once again culture goes down the toilet in favour of commerce and bullshit. I hate THE MAN !!!!!. Lets hope alternative venues are found and the music continues.It's sad but typical of the times we live in and the wankers who run our country. Tossers.

Carl.

marmiteboy said...

It really is a bunch of arse this. All three venues have brought a hell of a lot of pleasure to an awful lot of pleasure. and what's more all three are still massively popular. Only last week I walked past The Astoria and saw hoards of Rancid fans queuing up hours before th egig started.

Decent sized venues (i.e. those where you can see the band) are fast disappering up some coporate twats arse and it angers me that Transport for London have given so little notice about this to people trying to run a business and provide entertainment for music fans.

Shame on them.

Piley said...

Great comments everyone, cheers.

The thing that really pisses me off, is that councils, MP's any twats in charge really, don't 'get it', yet they really think that they do. When we see a crumbly, smelly old venue or market, we see 'personality' 'atmosphere' 'character' stuff like that. These twats just see, well a crumbly smelly old venue or market I guess, and think "i know how to make this better..." Yeah yeah.

When it was first announced that these venues would have to go (the final 'get out' date was only announced yesterday) Ken Livingston said they would build a new venue somewhere on the complex. Now I'm not a gambling man, but I'd wager a few quid that if it does happen, it will almost certainly be shit. 4 walls a roof and a stage does not a venue make. And you can bet your life none of the poor people involved in the 3 venues being demolished will be asked to run it either.

Piley

Piley said...

oh by the way, describing the clientele at the Astoria as "rancid" was a bit rough Marmite ;-)

P

Col said...

And here's a good word about the O2arena. I took my family there last Christmas to see High School Musical on Ice. Here's what I found. The cabbie at Waterloo station had never heard of it, let alone could find it! So obviously nobody had ever visited it when it was the dreaded 'Dome'. When we arrived I was amazed. There is a tube station on site serving it so I could have saved the £35.00 cab ride. Inside there were retaurants, bars and concession stalls galore all around the arena. The arena itself is superb. Really good comfortable seating and not a shitty seat in the house when it comes to viewing the stage at a gig etc. The sound system is fantastic, and from what I learned after the Stones played there - the sound of any venue in London. My experience of the O2 was not souless. I'd go so far as to say that it was a real pleasure to go there. My only quibble is that it is on the wrong side of London for it to be easy for me to be able to acess it as easily as I'd like. Wembly Arena is a shit hole by comparison. No, sorry, it's just a shit hole. Yeah it's a total drag when 'classic' old venues fall off the face of the earth such as did the original Marquee Club. But that's rock n' roll folklore for you. I haven't been to the Marquee since it was knocked into a latter day Quaglinos, and my old dad would be turing ing in his grave if he knew how is favorite London eatery had turned out. The thing is, music clubs need to be knocked down every so often to allow new venues for the younger generation to inherit. Otherwise we'd all still be hanging out in the same places looking like a bunch of right old saddos who have never moved on. Otherwise I'd still be propped up at the bar in the Marquee and drinking Tequilla Sunsets like some character in a twisted alter life scenario. Learn to embrace change mate because if there is one certainty in life outside of death and taxes it's change.

Furtheron said...

I'm going to miss The Astoria - scene of great gigs by Marillion, Alter Bridge and many others.

I used to work right opposite in that statue to corporate growth CentrePoint and often walk past when heading to Denmark Street.

It'll be missed. I wish there was another way.

Heff said...

Interesting post. The Astoria looks like it may be held together purely by mold these days, lol.