Don't Get Me Started: Save Our Sweatbox Venues!

A crowd at a concert with their arms raised in the air.
You'll miss live music when it's gone.

I read an infuriating statistic the other day. No, not the one about how many supermodels Mick Hucknall has shagged. Apparently, there are only 88 live music venues left in London. You’re more likely to come across a branch of Nando’s. And it’s only getting worse. It’s like one of those charity ads. A sticky-floored sweatbox closes its doors every time I click my fingers. Click. Click. Click.

British clubs were once the pride of these isles. The Marquee. The Ealing Club. Klooks Kleek. The Astoria. The 12 Bar. Those names hold a crackle of electricity, yet the buildings are silent, empty, mostly bulldozed or else turned into godawful karaoke clubs and city-boy cribs.

To a chinless MP or Crossrail suit, it’s hard to see this as any great loss: these buildings were smelly, shitty relics that Josef Fritzl wouldn’t keep a prisoner in. But to blues fans, they were a vital part of our heritage and should have been protected as ardently as any opera house.

But if the iconic clubs can’t survive, what hope is there for start-ups? And if those go down the pan, where are young bands going to cut their teeth? Take the clubs out of the equation and it’s like removing a rung from an already-rickety ladder – new acts simply can’t make the quantum leap from bedroom to stadium.

That’s where we come in. If you live near a crumbling subterranean shithole with dubious electrics, make a point of watching a band there once a month. Otherwise, you’ll only have yourself to blame when the only live ticket in town is Coldplay at the O2. Click. Click. Click…

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.