Radiohead’s Colin Greenwood knows a thing or two about the importance of independent venues. Since the band formed almost 30 years ago (!) they’ve played live relentlessly from intimate pubs to massive stadiums. But it was the gigs in smaller settings around the UK that led to, in Greenwood’s words, “some of the best times of our musical lives” and his decision to become an ambassador for Independent Venue Week (January 28 – February 2). As part of his role he’s curating a night at The Jericho Tavern on February 1 with Glass Animals and others. In an email Q&A Greenwood told us about the early days of Radiohead gigs, why independent venues are so important to British music, and what Radiohead are up to in 2014. He also (massively excitingly) sent us a picture of the first ever Radiohead gig poster (above).
NME: What do you remember about Radiohead’s first gig at the Jericho Tavern?
Colin Greenwood: Our first gig at the Jericho Tavern was in 1986 at Club Avocado (see the poster). The ‘Mystery Group’ and ‘The Yellowy Blue Roof Men’ also on the bill were, in fact, the same band. We were called ‘On A Friday’ at that time. You’ll see on the poster it says “Oxford NEEDS live music” It wasn’t just Oxford!
In terms of the setlist there was nothing on it we play now (hear an On A Friday song below). It was planned for a while and we’d rehearsed in the village halls of Southern Oxfordshire. They were as important to our success as the gigs at independent venues we went on to play. Before the show I’d been drinking a six-pack of beer in Wellington Park with Raz (Peterson), the sax player at that point, and probably finished said six pack afterwards. The beer went down very well. The gig did too.
NME: Which other Radiohead gigs at independent venues stand out?
CG: In 1992 we went on the road and played lots of indie gigs, supporting The Frank And Walters and The Sultans of Ping FC. We played ‘Creep’ for the first time to seven people at the Princess Charlotte in Leicester (The head of Parlophone happened to be in the crowd – Ed). The volume, excitement and intensity of playing a small gig made them all have stand out moments, with the audience right in your face.
NME: What are your stand out memories of other gigs at independent venues?
CG: I remember seeing Slowdive at the Zodiac in Oxford, and surfing on their white waves of sound. Also a very young Supergrass, then called the Jennifers, tearing up the Jericho Tavern.
NME: Which other independent venues would Radiohead like to play?
CG: I’d play anywhere that would have us and offer a nice deli platter and some cold beer afterwards.
NME: Any plans for Radiohead to play live this year?
CG: Not so far, but the 2012 King of Limbs tour was a blast.
NME: How’s working on the new album going?
CG: We’re having some quiet time, waiting for the snowdrops and crocuses to emerge.
NME: How can music fans support independent venues?
CG: By going to gigs, blogging gig reviews, starting bands, putting on bands and generally having a good time with your mates.
NME: What did you particularly choose Glass Animals and the other bands on your bill?
CG: I liked the fact that they’re all excellent in different ways.
NME: Recently small venues have been threatened by noise restrictions. The Night And Day cafe in Manchester is facing this specific threat at the moment. Why is it important that smaller venues stay open?
CG: We didn’t play Night and Day but I hope it stays open. Local gigs should be the beating heart of a community. It’s important because small venues offer local artists the chance to practise their music in public, and a space where people can witness and be inspired by touring bands when they come to town. Everyone has to start somewhere, and your local gig is place to go to see the next White Stripes, the next Strokes, the next big adventure about to begin.