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On music spaces

October 15, 2012

Really strong playing from Trish Clowes’ Tangent quartet at the BeBop club – a fine band. Come the interval, the leader stepped out for some fresh air. We just stepped out.

Not because the music wasn’t great. Departing was partly due to Friday night fatigue (I do wish they might start earlier). But it was also because, really, the venue is inadequate. We do spend a lot of time at St George’s, which is hard to match, but the tatty old back room at Bear seems to have got (even) more uncomfortable. It is good to see fifty people down there, but that’s really too many. Many of the chairs are unfit for use. And although the sound is fine, sightlines are poor for such a small room. No ventilation, nowhere to put a drink, and plenty of noise from the pub all make it more of an endurance test than a pleasurable place to hear music. Goodness knows what it is like to play there.

Does this deserve an extended moan? Every now and again, perhaps. I’ve long since stopped worrying about having enough good music to hear in Bristol. But the state of venues is a bugbear. I just wish there were a few more places where the playing space was as good as the quality of playing deserves. The Coronation Tap often has fine bands booked but, truth to tell, is pretty terrible as well. I suppose it has atmosphere, in a beery/cidery sort of way, but it has little other comfort to offer…   and at least the Bear has a serviceable piano.

Small gigs in small bars will go on forever. And the BeBop club as an institution is, of course, a wonderful thing and should be cherished. But surely, somewhere in the City, it might find a new space, with a little more room – perhaps even daring to charge a few quid more? The question gains force from the all too brief life of the Future Inns jazz club, which was beautifully appointed, but probably charged a bit too much.

Alternatively, maybe even entering fantasyland, I could imagine another, enthusiast run club, setting its sights somewhere between the BeBop Club and Future Inns. That would mean: a bit more room; a decent piano; and maybe a really good band once a month, rather than dates every week. Cheltenham Jazz Club seem to manage something like this. These days, it might even be crowdfunded, perhaps? If anyone ever wants to try and plot such a rash venture, I’d be happy to join in! Meanwhile, there’s something quite good on down at the BeBop club this week. (sigh).

p.s. Mike Collins, sensible chap, has reviewed the actual gig, rather than the venue. He liked it.

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