Would the last pea in the Pod please turn out the lights?

Wed, Feb 15, 2012, 00:00

The Pod, Crawdaddy and Tripod are closing, making them the latest in a long line of Dublin venues that have glittered and gone, writes JIM CARROLL

DUBLIN MUSIC venues and clubs come and go with great frequency. The news that the Pod, Crawdaddy and Tripod complex on Harcourt Street is to close has naturally led to much online nostalgia about past clubs and gigs at the venues.

Of course, such fond reminiscing will be familiar to anyone who has ever recalled nights out in such long departed Dublin spots as the New Inn, The Underground, McGonagle’s or the TV Club.

Venues may close – longstanding Portobello venue the Lower Deck is also closing its doors to bands – and the names over the door may change, but the acts and clubs always find somewhere else to play eventually.

However, the closure of the Pod after a run of nearly 20 years in the club and live music business is worthy of note.

Opened in April 1993 on the site of the old Harcourt Street railway station, the original Pod’s decor and design elevated the club above its peers, while the tight, exclusive door policy was designed to ensure the club attracted the right clientele. Whether there was enough of “the right clientele” in the city at the time to keep a club specialising in happy, glammy house music in clover was open to question.

But the timing was right. Within 12 months of the Pod opening, clubs such as Rí-Rá and the Kitchen were launched. More clubs meant a higher profile for the sector, which brought more people out at night who wanted to see what all the fuss was about. The strict door policy at Pod was quietly put to one side and more punters invited to step inside.

Over the years, the club became one of a suite of venues on the site as Pod owner John Reynolds’s business interests moved from clubs to live music.

The venue was regularly altered and expanded. The 300-capacity Crawdaddy was added in 2004 (replacing the Chocolate Bar) and the 1,300 capacity Tripod opened in 2006 (replacing what had been the Red Box club and venue, which had been added in 1996).

The two live venues went hand-in-hand with Reynolds’s move into festivals with the Electric Picnic in 2004. While he had previously promoted the Homelands dance festival with Vince Power in the late 1990s, Reynolds took a big punt on expanding the company’s live interests.

It turned out to be a canny bet for a couple of years with the success of the Picnic, standalone outdoor shows by acts such as Leonard Cohen and busy nights at the Pod complex. However, the recession and credit crunch changed all that. The Electric Picnic is now co-owned by Reynolds and Festival Republic, the company controlled by Live Nation and Pod’s local rival MCD.

Meanwhile, the Pod venues were just not attracting enough of the acts or audiences required to make it viable to continue in business on Harcourt Street. There have been occasional event shows at Tripod in the past 12 months from Janelle Monáe, PiL, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Lykke Li, but the venues’ bookers were increasingly unable to compete with competitors for a steady stream of bankable acts.

Club nights and smaller shows in the Pod and Crawdaddy were not enough to make up the shortfall. There was nothing to compete with the old days when clubs such as Pogo and Powerbubble pulled in the crowds.

It is believed that the premises will now be let to the businesspeople behind Flannery’s pub on nearby Camden Street. The Pod name, though, won’t disappear. Reynolds will continue to promote shows in other venues (he is one of the co-owners of the Button Factory in the city) and has interests in festivals such as Body & Soul and Forbidden Fruit.