Venue, Venue, Venue

I’m sure you know the feeling you get when you hear that a place you sometimes frequent is being ‘modernised’ or ‘upgraded’? We all expect the worst when we hear those words don’t we and often for very good reasons too?

Well, I recently went to a gig at the recently refurbished Carlisle pub, in Hastings. I’d heard good things about the changes that had been made, so I thought I’d check it out for myself.

My first thought as I walked through the door was “Wow, this is different”, but in a good way.

For those of you who haven’t been there since the changes, The Carlisle has been transformed. The pub now has the look of a ‘proper’ music venue, complete with a decent sized stage, something the place was really crying out for. This is topped off by some decent stage lighting and a real ‘soundman’.

The bar area has been transformed as well and for the better in my humble opinion. It’s still The Carlisle and recognisably so, which is also a good thing for all who use the pub. But, it’s the way that the pub seems to have put live music centre stage that is the really gratifying aspect for me.

For both a musician and for a lover of live music, it’s always good to see a venue recognise the added value that comes from treating both groups of people with respect.

Speaking to some of the musicians playing The Carlisle that night, it was obvious that they appreciated the changes too. After all, if the stage, sound, lighting and ambience of a venue are all good, then it follows that the actual gig is likely to be better for all concerned as well. This applies to all bands, regardless of whether they’re playing their own music, or someone else’s.

A band reacts and even seems to come alive when they play on a stage, with lighting etc. The stage doesn’t even have to be that big for this to happen. A stage has an effect on both the musicians and the audience alike. It makes it seem more like a ‘real’ gig for both sides, something that can make a big difference on how an evening/gig goes.

I know that I’m generally biased towards original music, but even so there are local pubs/venues that I tend to steer clear of because I know that the live music experience there is probably not going to be very good, for various reasons.

I do realise that pubs are primarily there to serve beer and therefore have certain priorities and I respect that. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why players of original music tend to play, or be booked to play, in places that are more like a venue than a pub? After all, original music generally demands that closer attention is paid to it.

I’ve been to gigs in pubs where the band has been seen as an annoyance by at least some of the customers. I’ve even known of bands being asked to turn the volume down, not because of noise restrictions, but because customers want to talk. That makes me shudder.

So, it’s good to see a pub like The Carlisle, which has always been a big supporter of live music, fully recognise this and change things around to reflect it. Well done to all concerned. Hopefully, this will lead to an increase in the amount of bands being booked to play original music there?

If that becomes the case and I certainly hope it does, this comes at a time when the live original music scene is really starting to look up in Hastings. After The Carlisle, we also have the re-opening of The Crypt to look forward to in 2013.

This year also saw the opening of The Printworks, in Claremont, another venue that takes its music very seriously. And let’s not forget other music based venues such as Flairz, Brass Monkey & the Tubman that have all been around for a while now. I know the Tubman doesn’t actually have a stage, but they do take their music very seriously in there.

All of this makes me increasingly optimistic about the future of live original music in the Hastings area.

Decent venues alone don’t create great music. But, they do give aspiring local talent a stage to play on and a place to be seen and heard. That, coupled with the fact that both they and their music is seen to be being taken seriously by the venues, might just inspire those musicians and give them that shot of confidence they may well need to keep going.

Let’s hope so.

Andy Gunton

PS: An honourable mention must be made to the Marina Fountain, in St Leonards, which does have a stage. I know that they tend to concentrate on booking cover bands, but music has always played a huge part at the pub and it is taken seriously by both Stevie and her regulars. Long may that continue.

Hopefully i haven’t left out anyone else that deserves a mention.

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2 comments on “Venue, Venue, Venue

  1. Green Wyvern on said:

    Well said. It was also my first time watching and photographing a band play the renovated Carlisle. The stage lighting made it possible for me to shoot without flash, something I prefer to do as it can be off-putting to the musicians otherwise. The sound was good and it was possible to see the band from quite a large area of the pub.

    • Thank you sir. Good point about the fans view of the band on the stage. That’s another very good reason for having a stage in the first place, so the fans can actually see who they’ve come to watch.

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