Monday, 22 February 2016

20/2/2016 Healthy Junkies & Bubblegum Screw @ The Unicorn

I've not really been to any proper gigs this year as finances are pretty tight back in 'Dark Towers' at the moment. However, this gig was free and it was only £3.50 for a pint of Old Speckled Hen - plus I knew the bands would be good. Things didn't get off to a good start at my end as I missed my train by a matter of seconds. It was half an hour until the next one, and there was a pub only yards from the station so... This was potentially a recipe for disaster, but against all the odds I made it back to the station in time for the next train - which was of course late! If only the previous train had been late instead then I would have got to The Unicorn in time to see new band I Destroy - I hear they were worth seeing too. I'd already missed PollyPikPocketz who I'd enjoyed seeing previously at this venue.

So I eventually arrive at The Unicorn in time to see Bubblegum Screw.
I've seen this band quite a few times over the years, and it seems to be a different lineup virtually every time I've seen them. Frontman Mark Thorn is the only constant in the band - a more Jaggeresque ball of energy you are never likely to see. It's dirty punky rock 'n' roll all the way, with a strong New York influence. The rhythm section are tight, and the new lead guitarist sounds great while also having a really cool Sleaze/Glam/Punk look - definite star quality there - he's certainly going to keep Mark on his (pointy snakeskin) toes! Bubblgum Screw have some memorable songs and it's good to see them again.

Last but certainly not least it's time for Healthy Junkies to take to the stage to close their monthly club at this Camden venue.
Tonight is the launch party for the band's new album Box of Chaos and the place is pretty full. Something else that is new is the bass player as Dave Renegade has left the band. The new guy certainly plays well, but looks a bit like he's just going through the motions - maybe he needs more time to fit in.
Healthy Junkies continue with their knack for writing catchy songs and 'Just A Fool' is a good example from the new album. Three albums in and the band continue to refine their sound as well as their stage presence.
This band continue to build on their fanbase by constantly gigging and adding new songs to their repertoire of Glam/Pop/Grunge/Punk tunage - their hard work is starting to pay off.

Sunday, 7 February 2016

Goodbye 12 Bar Club...

Not only have we been losing our rock stars at an alarming rate over the last month or so, but we continue to lose well known music venues too. This week we lost the world famous 12 Bar Club. This tiny but iconic venue was originally in Denmark Street AKA Tin Pan Alley - the heart of London's West End and also (once) the music business. The original 12 Bar Club was one of London's most intimate music venues with a capacity of only 150 and a totally unique character of it's own. It was very reasonably priced, both on the door and at the bar - especially considering it's West End location. It was a popular watering hole as well as a music venue - patronised by many well known musicians and media types and well as countless lesser known musos. It was a friendly place where everyone seemed to know each other, and if you became a regular they soon knew you too. It had a special vibe and atmosphere all of it's own and it oozed rock 'n' roll. Not that it didn't support other styles of music too - countless punk bands played on it's tiny stage, as did countless singer/songwriters - some of whom have since become household names.

Unfortunately the dreaded Crossrail and associated developments spelt the end of the 12 Bar Club in it's original venue - another of many well known music venues in the immediate area to succumb to planning blight and corporate greed - The Astoria, LA2, Metro, SIN and the Intrepid Fox - all within a hundred yards or so and all gone.

It seemed all was not lost. The Intrepid Fox moved (again) and took over former landmark the Archway Tavern at the far north end of Holloway Road. In early 2015 the 12 Bar Club also moved to Holloway Road - things were looking promising. The new venue was a former pub and much roomier. Some people moaned about it lacking the character and atmosphere of the former venue, but that was unique to that building and can never be replicated anywhere else. The new place had more floors, an extra bar and far better views of the stage from both upstairs and downstairs. Lots more room on the stage too. Some people still didn't like it, but I suspect they were mainly the people who lived nearer central London and found the old venue easier to get to - which is understandable. Personally, the new location was better for me - easier and cheaper to get to from North London - and still get home from late at night. It didn't have the character of the old place, but that was never going to happen wherever they moved the club to. I liked the new place - it was a more suitable music venue and there was loads more room. They put the beer prices up a lot though - I didn't like that at all. You'd expect cheaper bar prices in Holloway Road than the West End.

However, after a promising start changes were afoot. Changes in management with the departure of 'Barnet Mark' - who had always been a big supporter of punk and rock 'n' roll, and changes in music policy.... Depending on your point of view, the changes in music policy were either a sign of desperation or the final nails in the coffin. Although the 12 Bar Club has always supported a wide range of live music, it was known to many on on the underground music scene as a stronghold of rock 'n' roll and punk - the club's regular clientelle and staff reflected this. However, the loss of Barnet Mark coincided with a noticeable change in music policy - rock 'n' roll was (mostly) out and 'metal' was in. This did not go down well with many of the old regular supporters of the club....

Very suddenly (although not surprisingly to some) this week the 12 Bar Club closed. On Tuesday morning the club was on Twitter talking about taking bookings for forthcoming events. Around nine hours later on Twitter they announced the club was shutting. Immediately. Apparently the landlords had taken the lease back and that afternoon the place was boarded up.

Maybe the new music policy failed to save the venue, or maybe it was the nail in the coffin that finished it off? I feel there are distinct parallels between the Intrepid Fox and the 12 Bar Club. Both were sited literally a stones throw from each other around one end of Denmark Street, and both had to leave their premises either directly or indirectly due to the infamous Crossrail project and it's associated upheavals. First the Intrepid Fox and then the 12 Bar Club were forced out of the West End and moved North to the Holloway Road area. The Intrepid Fox had already moved away from being a more general rock/rock 'n' roll hangout to a far more niche 'metal' place. By the time it moved to Archway it was a 'metal' pub - most it's old crowd had become disenchanted with the pub's new direction and didn't follow it North along with the few hardcore metal regulars. The following year the 'metal' Intrepid Fox at Archway closed and the pub is now being converted into a French restaurant. The 12 Bar Club don't seem to have learned the lessons from the Intrepid Fox, and now only a year after moving from the West End to Holloway they have also chosen to focus narrowly on 'metal' instead of more general rock 'n' roll - and they too have paid the price and been forced to close.