A long overdue look at York’s live music scene and some of its principle players.
Whenever I think of York’s music scene, a preponderance of quality gig venues is most definitely not the first thing that springs to mind, ‘folk night’ down the local or the odd impromptu recital maybe, but quality gig venues? I’m sceptical at best. With Leeds and Manchester not too far away, many bands will miss out York completely when venturing north hawking their latest wares.
This bleak assessment has begun to change however as I have scratched beneath the surface of York’s famously touristy façade, admittedly it hasn’t taken that much scratching. Most people even vaguely acquainted with York’s nightlife will most likely have heard of Fibber’s and The Duchess, but after that people will invariably draw a blank. For a city of York’s size, you feel certain that the ‘scene’ must go beyond this and with the recent re-opening of the Barbican centre, I’ve decided to have a little look at what else is out there.
Situated on Gillygate, one of the main drags into the city centre, Stereo is unassuming and easily missed from the outside. Once inside, the back room opens onto a fairly spacious 120 capacity event room. The size makes it equally amenable to hosting local bands and upcoming touring acts alike. In the past, Stereo has welcomed bands of the ilk of Glasvegas, Everything Everything, Grammatics, UK Subs and many more.
Opened over ten years ago, Basement is a bit of an all-purpose art space for a multitude of performances and nights. The frequency of gigs they put on means it’s impossible to leave them off any list of live music venues in York. Its subterranean setting, teamed with a capacity of only 100, makes it a really cosy and intimate venue. It’s also excellent for getting closer to the acts and you really feel part of the gig (you’re virtually onstage anyway).
Undeniably the most established of York’s music venues, Fibbers has been around forever (since 1992 actually but who’s counting?) and in that time has ushered some illustrious guests through their doors (Kasabian, Bloc Party, Arctic Monkeys). Granted they may not have been quite so illustrious at the time but where’s the fun in trawling through your gig guide if every chart-topping turn from Radio 1’s playlist is just waiting to fall into your lap?
Soaring like a phoenix out of the flames of what was Stonebow Snooker club and situated directly above Fibbers, The Duchess opened its doors four years ago. Since then its success has shown that there is definitely room enough for both venues in the city, credit for this must go to their bookers whose ceaseless search for interesting, inviting, intriguing and invigorating sounds means you can never second-guess who or what might be just around the corner.
When it finally closed its doors in 2006, the people of York hardly mourned the loss of a ‘premier concert venue’ that never truly found its place in their hearts or minds. Five years, and one multi-million pound facelift, down the line and the Barbican is back. This time around, in the hands of international venue management firm SMG ltd. They really look like they mean business; some impressive acts have already been confirmed and some (including Morrissey and Shed Seven) have played to sell-out crowds . Perhaps this could be the shot in the arm that York’s live music scene has been crying out for; a bigger capacity means bigger revenues, bigger acts and hence bigger reputation. Hopefully this could result in a trickle-down effect that will benefit the smaller venues too.
You’ve heard about the venues; now see what they’ve got to offer. Some upcoming gigs worth looking out for;
Henry Cluney (ex of Stiff Little Fingers) @ Stereo Wednesday the 27th of July
Chris Helme (Former Seahorses frontman and Basement favourite) @ Basement Friday the 15th of July
CSS @ Fibbers Monday the 29th of August
Ash @ The Duchess Monday the 25th of July
Gary Numan @ The Barbican Friday the 22nd of July