Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Where to go to make noise

Earlier this week, I wrote – again – about The Smell, the all-ages Los Angeles venue which has produced a raft of great acts like Health, No Age, Mika Miko and Abe Vigoda. Most cities have had their equivalent venue …

Wed, Sep 10, 2008, 13:13

   

Earlier this week, I wrote – again – about The Smell, the all-ages Los Angeles venue which has produced a raft of great acts like Health, No Age, Mika Miko and Abe Vigoda. Most cities have had their equivalent venue or space – somewhere you’ll find new bands and acts coming together and getting the sounds they’re hearing on their heads down on tape. It could be a rehearsal room or a studio, but usually, it’s a live venue like The Smell, a sleazy dive where all that really matters is what’s happening on the stage and how the audience reacts. A thriving venue equals a thriving scene equals a lot of very interesting bands.

I’ve also written before about the lack of such a venue in the city I currently call home. Yes, there are venues in Dublin city-centre, but these are commercial and more worried about the bar-take than anything else. Any potentially interesting space in the city-centre has been turned into a Spar with an apartment block on top. There are some occasional bright sparks – The Shed on Foley Street comes to mind – but these are few and far between. There simply isn’t a space in the city-centre where bands who may potentially get to make interesting sounds can work it all out in front of an audience of their peers.

And yeah, these bands do exist. Call me an optimist but I refuse to believe that there are not some potentially amazing bands out there. I’m not talking about those bands we already know about who are already playing gigs and recording tracks – believe me, the vast majority of them are not great – but a bunch of kids who are now beginning to throw shapes and believe they can make sounds that they genuinely believe no-one else has made before. They could always rehearse away in a garage or garden-shed, but they need to have an audience in front of them to really get to the heart of what they’re doing.

The problem is that the place for this audience to experience those raw live shows has always been a kip of a venue in the city-centre. That class of venue is just not there any more. Indeed, even the nature of a city-centre has changed. In Dublin, it has become a residental space which throws up issues of its own, as Frank McDonald’s piece in today’s paper, for example, shows.

Some questions to ensure that I’m not just talking to myself here. Are these spaces now in the burbs or exurbs or is it the case that these spaces don’t even exist any more? Have we become so in thrall to the plush, large venues that we’re over the need for crummy spaces where anything could literally happen? Are new bands content to play in pubs where the venue owner or booker wants to hear a ringing cash-till and not a sound never heard before? And is this story repeated in other cities and towns around the country?