We spoke to North East legends Field Music around Newcastle’s hubs of live music, and why they need to be saved. Long term advocates for the protection of venues, Field Music are integral to the voices of cultural survival.
When playing certain venues, are you conscious of bands that have graced its stage before? And does this affect how it feels to play at such venue?
Yes, although it wouldn’t have an affect on the performance itself. It does add something to the time spent around the venue before a show and it gives us something to chat about with the audience in between songs – a town’s audience are usually pretty knowledgeable about who has played their venues.
If you were to choose one venue, that you played at have visited to be protected. What would that venue be? What are your memories of ‘x’ venue? And what is the most important aspect of the venue that you would protect?
The Cluny in Newcastle upon Tyne. It feels like such a central part of Tyne and Wear’s music and cultural community – indeed a good few of Newcastle’s cultural businesses moved into the Ouseburn area because of the magnetic draw of the Cluny. Some of my best memories of the place are all-day festival events which happened in the mid 00s when it really felt like the North East’s music scene was exploding with vibrancy and that there was a real sense of connection between bands and audiences. It’s been a thriving business so the way it needs to be protected really is against frivolous noise complaints from nearby residential apartments, which again were only built nearby because of the cultural capital the Cluny itself had brought there.
What are the attributes of these buildings that are significant? i.e graffiti on dressing room walls.
Most of the notable venues I can think of have their own unique arrangement between stage and viewing areas. At the Cluny, for instance, the ceiling is vaulted and the stage is quite narrow and high so the lower audience area feels tight and sweaty, whereas the raised audience area still has great views but you can view the gig with a bit of detachment. The main room at Brudenell Social Club in Leeds has a stage right in the corner and tiered viewing areas for the audience so everyone has a great view and everyone feels very close. Most of the venues I care about are not just big black box rooms.
Music scenes: Do you feel that scenes are important for towns and cities to embrace and to remember? and how do you feel the legacy of starting out in a different city would have influenced your sound?
Great bands tend to come out of a local music ecosystem which allows them, or forces them, to be innovative – either in how they sound or how they function. We had three major strands in Sunderland affecting us – 1) very little infrastructure (so we had to make our own), 2) a dominant music culture which was fixated on the laddish aspects of Britpop (which made us determined to do something completely different), 3) a small group of like-minded, awkward friends who’s skills and interests complemented ours (Barry Hyde from the Futureheads and his dad’s massive wayward record collection, This Ain’t Vegas’s links to DIY culture in Leeds and love of US-based DIY record labels etc.) That combination of things wouldn’t have happened in another town – not even in Newcastle.
How do you feel a venue supports your fans connect to one another during your shows?
I don’t think there’s anything specific beyond the atmosphere, the feel of a place. When, as a band, you find the venues which really work for you, it’s because the audience for your band is made up of just the sort of people who want to hang out in a particular venue.
Do you feel venues form communities and what venue symbolises this?
They certainly do for the reasons above. And for me The Cluny in Newcastle, The Brudenell Social Club in Leeds, Nice n’ Sleazy’s in Glasgow, The Trades Club in Hebden Bridge are all great examples of venues where this happens.
What do you feel are the benefits and downsides of listing and protecting a music venue?
The obvious potential downside is that it might stop a venue from being a vibrant, contemporary thing and becomes preserved – a historical footnote rather than a focus for current cultural happenings. The benefit would be that venues might continue to exist even as they attract development to their areas which would threaten their existence.