15th February 2013
Sad news, readers - The Bull & Gate, that North London bastion of alternative rock and indiepop rumblings for over 30 years, will cease operating as a live venue on Saturday May 4th 2013. The entire building has been sold to the Youngs chain and will be closed for refurbishment. It is expected to reopen as a pub restaurant in the summer.
Since 1980 a small, slightly smelly, part of the Kentish Town Road has been a home-from-home for hundreds of young hopefuls seeking to make their way in the musical world. For the past 11,680-ish nights the Bull & Gate has put its balls on the line and the good, the bad and the most maddening of bands on its stage, aided by a perfectly aligned live room and a frankly excellent PA. It may not always have been pretty. But it was always pretty bloody interesting.
Promoting stalwarts Club Fandango took over the Bull & Gate diary on June 1st 2010. They brought with them the wholesome likes of mybandsbetterthanyourband, BBH, Steve Lamacqé─˘s Going Deaf For A Living, PRS, Amazing Radio, Killing Moon, Best Of Myspace, fierce pandaé─˘s Bamboooozled and AIM-endorsed Labelled With Love shows with record companies such as Xtra Mile, Too Pure, Idle Fret and Alcopop! Records. They have, frankly, been having fun, and had every intention of having much more fun until the news broke.
The irony is that having weathered the storm of free gigs and hipster swinging out of East London, having battled through five years of recession and having fought against the tide of depression rolling over the guitar-gripping side of the music industry throughout this decade the venue is going to be taken down by a gastropub. In the true tradition of modern communications we have set up a Facebook of condolence: please wend your weary way to www.facebook.com/clubfandango to leave your memories of good nights before we say goodnight to the old dear.
For Club Fandango the journey continues elsewhere: they were already launching a new monthly night with fierce panda at the Shacklewell Arms, starting on February 12th with Goldheart Assembly headlining. Then there are forthcoming shows at the Borderline with Dingus Khan (April 18th), the Scala with The Crookes (May 21st) and Islington Assembly Hall with Ultrasound (June 1st). There will be more groovy gigs in a variety of venues from the summer onwards, but for now they have three months remaining in the Bull & Gate diary, and they intend to make those three months a blast. We could bleat on about how unfair life is on the live circuit but, holding our pints high let us instead remember The Good Times and revisit the press release we wrote when we took over in 2010:
é─˙In these days of East London dominance ité─˘s perhaps difficult to remember that the Bull & Gate was once one of the shining lights on the new band circuit. Consider that for a while in the é─˛80s the Camden Falcon, Finsbury Parké─˘s Sir George Robey and the Bull & Gate were the cool places to play in North London. Then consider that neither of those other venues exist any more. And then consider that the Bull & Gate has bullishly spent the past three decades just beingé─Âthe Bull & Gate. Happily, this means that it never went out of fashion because for the people who loved going there it was never in fashion.
é─˙The bands we know about. From Blur to Bloc Party, from Mega City 4 to the Manic Street Preachers, from Carter USM to Keane and - of course - from Bum Gravy to Scrotum Clamp the Bull & Gate has nailed its (frequently dayglo) colours to the leftfield mast. Unbelievably, right at the end of the last century some bunch of chancers called Club Panda put on some bunch of badly-dressed indie hopefuls called Coldplay not once, but twice. Dare we point out that when Coldplay headlined the venue on April 1st 1999 to launch their debut é─˛Brothers And Sistersé─˘ single they were supported by Senseless Prayer, featuring one teenage Fyfe Dangerfield on vocals? é─˙Some people reckon Nirvana supported L7 here one night,é─¨ says another expert onlooker. Thaté─˘s how rumours start.
é─˙And, in a way, just as important as the bands were the punters. At its very best the Bull & Gate was a meeting point for the fraggle rockers, the indie shysters, the gothic dreamers, the popstarship troopers; it gave the loners a home and the hopeless a cause, because these people were part of Generation Vexed. And now the music industry is littered with those dreamers as the fraggle rockers and indie shysters grew up to become record company bosses, radio DJs, live agents, press officers, journalists and, of course, gig promoters.é─¨
Bull & Gaters everywhere, we salute you.
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