As a task for Phi Yan Zek, we were asked to select 3 venues, ideally ones that we had played at and write an assessment for each of them while considering the following criteria;
- Capacity (standing/seated)
- Financial arrangements
- Social kudos/reputation
I went through the venues I have played and selected the following three.
- The Victoria – Birmingham — http://www.thevictoriabirmingham.co.uk/ — http://independent-birmingham.co.uk/the-victoria/ —
- The Slade Rooms – Wolverhampton –http://www.wolvescivic.co.uk/-/venues/52/slade-rooms —
- The Sunflower Lounge – Birmingham — http://thesunflowerlounge.com/ —
I played all 3 of these venues with my band Ivory Wave, and will try to attach videos of all three onto each of the separate assessments.
This was our first headline concert:
To begin with I will discuss accessibility. The venue is located upstairs at the pub, up a narrow, marginally crooked flight of stairs. There is no lift, no access for the disabled and loading in the gear needed for a headline gig (full drum kit, sample pad, stands, drum mats etc) was very difficult. Below is a photo of the stairs up from the entrance to the upstairs venue. These also became busy when the gig was happening, causing congestion.
Moving on to sound and acoustics, this is where the venue began to suffer. Due to its small size, powerful PA and the odd shape of the room itself the sound was slightly muddy and was difficult to balance. The venue’s personal sound technician was situated at the back of the room opposite the stage and after mixing the live sound over a two song soundcheck had a even live sound. The drums, particularly cymbals, were the most prominent due to the size of the venue. Below is a photo of the stage; a small area, but we managed to fit a 5 piece band with a fair amount of equipment onto it comfortably.
View and layout come up next, and as is evident from the photo above the view of the stage is good from all parts of the room. The stage is offset to the left of the room, with a bar in the back right hand corner and the main entrance to the right of the stage, visible in the photo. The entrance caused issues as people trying to enter the room would be forced to move through people already present/watching the music as it was going on. The low stage (about a foot and a half high) meant you could feel the connection to the audience.
The capacity is advertised as 100 people (standing) and doesn’t have seated areas. During our concert there were roughly 80-90 people present and the room felt full although not uncomfortably so. Issues I could see with this would be in an emergency there would be one limited exit, and no designated fire exits as such.
The financial arrangements for the gig were as follows. The gig was put on my Baddass Boogies — https://www.facebook.com/baddiesboogieacoustic/ — a promotions company who hire the venue, sort out the financial side of the gig and what is left for you to do is sell tickets. Essentially this is a Pay-to-Play type of arrangement as any money we make from the gig will come directly from the tickets we personally sell. So not ticket sales, no pay…
The Victoria, or the ‘old vic’ as it is commonly referred to has a good reputation for hosting the upcoming Birmingham bands. Aside from the music it is well established as a individual/alternative pub with its themes and decor all matching the aesthetics that any band would fit. The kudos it has received over the years has resulted in it creating a well rounded rapport for music lovers across Birmingham.
The Slade Rooms
This was another headline concert:
— http://www.wolvescivic.co.uk/-/show-details/103563/amped-ivory-wave-angry-lennox-guests — http://www.wolvescivic.co.uk/-/venues/52/slade-rooms —
Access to this venue was a vast improvement over The Victoria. Disabled parking is available in Broad Street car park, Railway Street car park and Fryer Street car park. All of these are within 100 meters of the venue. Access to the venue is through the front doors which have a few steps, however, if alternative access is needed, there is door with ramped access to the rear of the venue. There is disabled access to all floors of the venue as well as toilets. This rear access is where the band loads in, flat and easy to carry all the gear through.
Acoustically the venue was very good, being larger and more suited to cope with a loud live band. The sound technician again was good, having experience at the venue itself was able to deal with and correct the technical problems that arose during soundchecks. The quality of the PA and the monitoring was high, allowing us to hear everything while onstage and also allowing the audience a loud, yet clear and well defined version of our live sound. As is evident from the video (filmed from behind the barriers), the balance behind the front of house was tinny and dominated by the drums yet in front of them was a full true sound.
Due to the large capacity, 550 people standing is advertised on the website, the layout and view were good from the majority of the space. However, in packed concerts like the one above the pillars dotted around the room become problematic, causing an obstruction for some of the audience. The stage is high, about 3 feet off the ground, and there are barriers and a pit between the crowd and the stage itself. This adds to the professional feel of the venue, whilst slightly detaching the band from engaging as fully with the crowd.
The social arrangements were the same as mentioned above about The Victoria, although through a different management company this time. Sadly, due to the distance from our home town of Birmingham we did not manage to sell many tickets and this caused problems with the promoters; to the point of them questioning if they should let us continue to play or not. This is the sad reality of concerts at this level and reflects the unsigned music scene as a whole.
Socially, the venue has good kudos, with a wide variety of acts such as Alien Ant Farm and many others performing there. But it sits in the shadow of its larger sister venues, the 3000 capacity Civic Hall and the 1134 capacity Wulfrun Hall; all of which fall under the blanket name of the “Wolvescivic”.
The Sunflower Lounge
We have played multiple gigs here as a band;
— http://thesunflowerlounge.com/event/semantics-2/ — http://birmingham.carpediem.cd/events/1015424-broncho-hankks-ivory-wave-the-sunflower-lounge-at-the-sunflower-lounge/ —
The access to this venue is somewhere inbetween The Victoria and The Slade Rooms, for artists and bands there is a stair case leading straight from the street down to the underground venue. This is wide enough to comfortably carry heavy gear down. When the events start the door at the top of these stairs is locked so the venue is only accessible through the pub upstairs, this allows them to have age control as they will have to pass the bouncers on the door as well as control the entry with tickets on the door. There is no disabled access or disabled toilets.
The sound and acoustics at the venue are very good considering the size of the venue. The video above is captured on a phone and from this you can tell how well balanced the sound is out front. The monitoring on stage on the other hand is appalling. I use an in-ear monitoring system so by having an output from the desk ran to me I circumvented this problem.
The view and layout is good as the room is more or less square, with a bar along the back wall so the audience can see the whole stage from more or less any place in the room. The photo above is taken from the stairs running up the right hand side of the venue and the speaker stack below the photographers logo presents the main problem as this can obstruct the view of people stood close to it. The stage being low, about a foot off the ground gives a good means of interaction with the crowd. It is however the only way on and off the stage so band changeovers can get messy and the crowd in the room can cause issues. However, with the advertised capacity being 120 (not possible in my opinion) people always easily move to allow the sweaty rushing musicians to get through.
Financial arrangements were different with the concerts performed here. As we were supporting signed touring bands we were given a link to sell tickets online and a list to get people discounted tickets on the door but we were not expected or required to sell the tickets as we had been previously. This gave a much more relaxed and ready feeling for the concert itself as we had no pressure to pester people and ask them to come along.
The kudos surrounding The Sunflower Lounge is massive, with a wide variety of indie and unsigned acts playing there alongside bigger signed names in the music industry. The feeling at the gig is always positive, one of the few places I have personally played where it feels as though there is a genuine attitude of music lovers and enthusiasts gathering to appreciate as opposed to people wanting to sing along to Wonderwall and get drunk. It comes as a very welcome relief..