Everyone has to start somewhere – even moon-roving crooners with a penchant for the absurd. Fifteen years ago today, an unknown group named Arctic Monkeys stepped on-stage at The Grapes pub in Sheffield and performed a set of covers (and two scrappy early numbers) that, to this day, remains a cornerstone of indie lore – the first ever show one of the world’s biggest and best bands.
Backing up recent album ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’‘s assertion that Alex Turner always “wanted to be one of The Strokes“, Arctic Monkeys’ first ever performance reportedly featured a lost-to-the-mists-of-time cover of a Casablancas and co. track; elsewhere, the baby-faced Monkeys opted to cover a selection of tracks from musical greats including Fatboy Slim, The White Stripes, The Undertones, The Beatles and Jimi Hendrix.
Most excitingly, though, the set opened with two early originals – the brilliantly-titled ‘Ravey Ravey Ravey Club’ (still only ever recorded as a demo), and the sole performance ever of ‘Curtains Closed’. Even more excitingly, one enterprising bootlegger recorded those two tracks, as well as a punked-up cover of Fatboy Slim’s ‘The Rockafeller Skank’. Check that out below the full setlist (via Setlist.fm).
- Ravey Ravey Ravey Club
- Curtains Closed
- The Rockafeller Skank (Fatboy Slim cover)
- Black Math (The White Stripes cover)
- I’m Only Sleeping (The Beatles cover)
- Teenage Kicks (The Undertones cover)
- Hotel Yorba (The White Stripes cover)
- Harmonic Generator (The Datsuns cover)
- Unknown The Vines cover
- Unknown The Strokes cover
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Some further info on the show: it turns out Alex Turner only did it cause he was trying to woo a girl. His intentions were “just to get to the end of the night and pull the bird that I fancied that I’d got to come down,” he told The Telegraph some years later. “But we had practiced so much beforehand, and it was a major deal just to go and play somewhere. I’d never been on a stage in my life before that. I don’t think I opened my eyes for the whole set. But that 25 minutes – wow.”
Reportedly earning just £27 from ticket sales for the show (not bad for a first outing), a visit to The Grapes remains an essential rite of passage for hardcore Monkeys fans – you can find it at 80 Trippet Ln in Sheffield, should you ever find yourself up that way, though sadly, its days as a live music venue are long since left behind.
“We didn’t know who they were,” admitted the sound engineer at the time, one Brian Ellis, in an interview with The Star in 2010. They were so young but you could tell they had a couple of elements that other younger bands didn’t have – the singer could sing and the drummer could drum.” Simple pleasures though they may be, a singer who could sing and a drummer who could drum would go on to inform one of British indie’s most legendary groups – one whose importance is only growing, some 15 years on.