What is it that makes the UK's live music scene so incredible? In this week's NME we shine a spotlight on some of the courageous, inspiring and downright amazing small venues that form the grassroots of this ever thriving scene. To celebrate these small venues we've launched the second annual search for Britain's Best Small Venue in Association With JD Roots, so if you've not voted for your favourite yet, go and do it now.
Small venues mean something to all of us. Without them live music in Britain would never be the same again. Here's Johnny Marr, Peace, the NME team and more banging the drum for the ones they hold dearest. Pick up this week's mag for more..
This is the main venue around here. It's got so much heritage, If it wasn't for a venue like this, where it's 10 minutes down the road from your house, then I wouldn't have been able to come out and stand onstage and play songs for the first time
The Cluny is a brilliant small venue. If I ruled the world I'd make every venue have a mezzanine level. The Cluny doesn't have a mezzanine but it does have a raised bit. It also has loads of farm animals. What's with that? Sick venue
For me the Brudenell has always operated ousude all the obvious channels in Leeds. It's got its own thing going on and it's not sponsored by anything, it hasn't got a hidden agenda...everybody trusts Nathan
I've played there and I've been there as a member of the audience and the atmosphere is always very positive - there's a good vibe in there. You have to give credit to Nathan who runs it with a really good attitude. Everyone respects him and rightly so
From the outside it may look like the pub near the train station you’d be wise to steer clear of, but The Horn is one of the best of Hertfordshire’s limited live music hangouts. Locals Friendly Fires and Enter Shikari both cut their teeth in the boozer’s darkened backroom. Instead of the same old crusty crooners, The Horn’s Battle Of The Bands competitions and acoustic nights have genuine credibility, too. And, yeah, it may get regular visits from Rage Against The Machine covers bands, but there’s always the pool table and excellent beer.
One of my favourite venues is that massive boat in Bristol, Thekla. It's got a charming vibe and I think there were some fairy lights there last time. I went to a dub night there once and remember the water swell under the ship making our dance moves even goonier than they already were
Great acts, great room, looks like it was decorated by Del Boy. Great ales on tap, a snooker room (!) and no knobheads whatsoever. Wish every venue cared as much for its clientele as this one does
So many great nights in small venues to possibly name just the one so I'll go with a stand-out from recent years (and my local!). I've never been to a bad gig at Dingwalls. Whether it's Brooklyn hipster Twin Shadow or Mississippi rapper Big K.R.I.T., the small sweatbox has always been rammed whenever I've gone down. Whether you're throwing shapes on the floor or standing round the balcony it's impossible not to feel part of something special and intimate. And I saw one of the best gigs I've seen in recent years there last July – the day Haim signed to Polydor they played a packed-out boiling room to celebrate and even invited their parents onstage for a rendition of 'Mustang Sally'. I fell hard
I've still got a soft spot for Clwb Ifor Bach - or "the Welsh Club" - in Cardiff. A three-story venue a short wander from the Millennium Stadium, it was originally founded as a Welsh-language social club but I knew it best as somewhere to fall around drunk while listening to lots of really, really loud music. I've DJed there, promoted shows there, met girlfriends there, and, um, even got thrown out once, under slightly unfortunate circumstances. I saw The Strokes there on their first ever UK tour, and Animal Collective, and McLusky about 10 times, and Future Of The Left's first ever secret gig in front of about 20 people, and so, so many bands that I can't remember. And I haven't been for about three years. Really need to remedy that
What's your favourite small venue and why?
The search for Britain's Best Small Venue in Association with JD Roots is NME's annual campaign to support live music at a grassroots level. To vote and to tell us about your favourite, click here where you'll also find more info about JD Roots.