This Independent Venue Week, we’re running a series of features looking into the highs and lows of some of London’s most important small venues.
Each year Independent Venue Week, which runs from 29th January – 4th February this year, acts as a seven day celebration of small venues and those who own, run and work in them.
Each day during the week, we’ll be interviewing the people behind the day-to-day running of some of London’s most loved independent venues and delving into the highs and lows of running them. We’ll also be asking how best they feel they can be supported, both by those who go to gigs and by organisations, and looking into the challenges they face.
Today, we’re at The Lexington talking to booker Matty about his favourite things about the venue and what more needs to be done to save live music.
Hey Matty. What’s your favourite thing about The Lexington?
The sound! We bought the place bang on the financial crash and nobody would lend us money for a PA! So we had to scrape around on Ebay and ask friends that might know friends and ended up with something that was part of a rig touring plays – equivalent of one owner that only drove it on Sundays – and it sounds ACE.
What’s been your standout show at the venue?
I think probably Tame Impala years ago… It was one of those shows where everything comes together and the band are amazing and it sounds… Just like the record?! And you’re stood there marvelling at how they’re amazing musicians and dancing about and it’s note perfect.
It’s been pretty tough for a lot of venues over the past few years with rising business rates, threats of closure and more – but what would you say has been your biggest challenge?
Noise is the usual worry, both from people hanging about outside and trying to avoid the bands upsetting the neighbours. It’s something we have to constantly be thinking about and monitoring.
What do you think needs to be done to help music venues survive?
Given the changes to the size and nature of the [live] music industry and the number of other things people have competing for their time, venues probably had to end up closing or seriously thinking about their business. I think small, grassroots music venues have had to move away from being single use venues to becoming more of a lifestyle destination (bar, restaurant, music venue, club…) all under one roof, which a lot of sites aren’t really suited to sadly. Re: Agent of Change, that’s another step in the right direction and it will hopefully give some venues a better chance of surviving noise complaints.
Is there anything your average gig-goer can do to support local venues, besides just turning up to gigs?
Write a letter to councillors or planning people whenever something comes along that looks like it might be threatening. Turning up is the big one though!
“Noise is the usual worry – it’s something we have to constantly be thinking about.”
What’s your favourite venue?
Moth Club – booth seating and a bunch of old locals getting merry in the front.
Are there any common mistakes you feel venue owners make that hurt business?
Treat it as somewhere that a gig happens and nothing else.
Any stories of terrible bands over the years? Or are the 70’s cliches of rock’n’roll band behaviour extinct?
They’re usually pretty nice TBH. Not really had any serious divas!