In the last decade we have witnessed a scourge on our capital’s live
music venues. Much of the losses incurred have been the result of increased
rent prices forcing owners down alternative avenues in order to break even, or
out of business altogether. In recent years however, developments in transport
networks across London have shattered the cultural landscape of our West End.
I am speaking, of course, about the infamous and inimitable Denmark
Street. The Rolling Stones recorded their debut album at Regent Sound Studio in
‘64, Bowie regularly supped at the Gioconda, and the Sex Pistols rehearsed at
No. 6 in 1975-6. Tin Pan Alley’s historical credentials are unparalleled.
So how is it that Denmark Street today is boarded up and practically barren?
It is through the closure of places like the 12 Bar and the Intrepid Fox, not
to mention a number of music shops. The back of the north side of the street looks
like a shanty town on the edge of the apocalypse. This developers’ delight of a
metropolis construction site, with screaming black-and-yellow hazard signs, ever-present
cement mixers and empty cranes, is ripping the lifeblood out of our city’s
once-vibrant, cultural heart.
You could say that the writing was on the wall in 2007 when the Astoria
was bulldozed, or at least it was until the wall was torn down to make room for
a Crossrail forecourt, which is still unfinished. I have never seen the
intersection where Tottenham Court Road meets Charing Cross Road without the
tall, blue, wooden walls now synonymous with the junction.
The Fox was pushed out of its premises near Centre Point almost a year
ago but was left unoccupied for months before any work was done. Despite significant
(and ongoing) support for the 12 Bar, it enjoyed brief notoriety as a squat after
the original premises closed and the bar migrated north to Holloway Road, where
it thankfully still has live music.
As someone putting on music nights in London for up-and-coming artists,
it is becoming impossible to find, and keep, a venue. I’ve lost count of how
many are now, or will soon become, gastropubs or luxury apartments. Apparently,
an 800-seater arena is scheduled to go up somewhere near Denmark Street which
threatens us with a new place to ‘engage with brands’ in a very sinister, touch-screeny
Minority Report sort of way. But where will the young bands start out?
If it’s a question of ‘value’ then we must ask what we’re giving up and
how much we can possibly gain from another commuter route connecting east to
west. It may be advantageous (once completed) but can this benefit justify the
annihilation of a cultural legacy? Perhaps art and music are luxuries we can no
longer afford, whereas money for swanky flats and restaurants remains
prioritised. Whilst we cannot reverse what’s happening altogether, we can at least
support those venues that remain, and discuss and debate this issue in the hope
that the volume of our dialogue arrests its development before we lose everything.
BSTV was thrilled to present its opening band for June's 'Dark Summer' event at 12 Bar, Treasure Of
Woe. Only recently formed from musicians from The Love Me Tenders and Long Slow Dissolve, Treasure
of Woe is a startlingly unique two-piece of drums and guitars, that channel
swirling, epic instrumental passages with epic, Neubauten-esque industrial jams
and noise-work. Combining this with occasional moments of ambience, cut short
by heavy drone and genius sampling and effects, Treasure of Woe is an
intriguing and exciting project and BSTV hosted the band's first ever gig.