SOS – Save Our Shitholes

So farewell Cardiff’s The Point, sucked into administration last week by spiralling soundproofing costs, another rock garrison lost to the punch of The Crunch. Never more shall we wince at your thimbles of house wine, taste the toxic sweat dripping from your ceiling or conduct hurried sex in your lavatories; soon, no doubt, there will be nothing but the slurp of latte and the drone of Alanis Morissette muzak where once we lost our minds to The Bluetones and Goldie Lookin Chain.

Save our toilets! The Point is the fourth UK rock venue to close in 2009; the indie world is currently being eroded at a rate of 1.33 venues a month. And personally I’m astonished at the lack of uproar. As the lights went out, the scaffolding went up and the bouncers headed off to take up their rightful posts thrashing confessions out of Guantanamo Bay inmates, the closing of the Astoria in January passed with about as much furious protest as the premiere of ‘Hotel For Dogs’.

Yes there was a Save The Astoria petition, but politicians only take any notice of petitions when they come written on paper absorbent enough for them to literally wipe their arses with. No, where the fuck was Bono chaining himself heroically to the ticket office grille? Why the hell weren’t Rage Against The Machine lying naked in front of bulldozers with ‘G-A-Y-R-I-P’ stencilled on their cocks?

I wanted to see music’s great and good firebombing the Crossrail offices to the massed rallying chant of “We are the angry mob!” But no, the destruction of an entire strata of the capital’s rock geology was marked with a Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly gig and a resigned city-wide shrug, like they’d just announced another 80 per cent rise in the congestion charge, a grand-a-year eyelid tax or another shaved monkey as Mayor.

In London, it appeared, we’re just too ground down by the greed of governmental commerce to ever stand up for ourselves and our culture. We made so little fuss that Boris probably thought we wanted another sodding Starbucks.

We capital-dwellers need to take some cues from the plucky placard-wielders of the Midlands. Not the ones out to wrestle a wrench from an Italian plumber in the name of borderline xenophobia, the ones fighting for their town’s musical heritage. The Leicester Charlotte went into administration in January but barely had its windows been shuttered when Kasabian stepped up to the plate, offering to do what they could to help the venue stay open.

That’s local venue support in vivid action right there, but there’s no point leaving it so late that you have to squeeze past the ‘Lidl Opening Soon!’ signs to play your rescue gig. At the first hint of a venue in crisis the bands who owe their careers to the place should be constantly in residence until the venue’s future is secure or the Bank Of England offer a £75billion bail-out plan. Announcing a monthful of dates with the words, “This is the last time you’ll ever see Keane at the Eastbourne Shitpit” should do the trick.

A lot to ask? Perhaps, but a lot is at stake. These mid-capacity step-up venues that cobweb the country are the lifeblood of the UK music scene, essential for bands to build a local following and get noticed beyond their provincial pub circuit. The more Points and Charlottes and Metros and Astorias that disappear, the greater the leap between pub and Academy, the thicker the glass ceiling for emerging bands.

Every closure is a deeper slash at our cultural jugular; the gap just got a whole lot bigger between the Cardiff Barfly and the Millennium Stadium. So what’s it to be, major rock bands, a fifth night at the O2 or a dozen or so gigs at the struggling venue that supported you back when you were shite? If you ask me, it’s payback time.

What I’ve Been Listening To:
Besides the frankly astounding cover of MGMT’s ‘Kids’ played only on Apps downloaded on to iPhones doing the YouTube rounds – incredibly accurate and not a lightsabre solo in sight – my week has been all about Metric’s brilliant new album ‘Fantasies’, a record so drenched in romance yet sporadically brutal and violent that it must have been written to soundtrack Vicky Cristina Basra.

Metric – Fantasies
Ghostcat – This Is A Bust
The Mentalist – Kids