Brighton’s live music venues: an R.I.P. round-up

The news broke today that the Freebutt will no longer be able to operate commercially as a live music venue. Head over here to read their official statement; the gist is that they need £20,000 for the required soundproofing, which they don’t have, and the council have reduced the limiter to 95db which is too low for amplified music. They’ve shut the venue as making £20k from live acoustic music doesn’t seem feasible.

(The Penthouse above the ‘butt will be still be running, though, so do keep heading there. It’s a scrappy little bar that I’m still really fond of, and it has some cool esoteric DJ nights.)

This rapidly follows confirmation that The Providence is being sold by the Barracuda chain, quite likely to Tesco. Make of that what you will; it’s been pointed out that several other Tesco branches are about 5 minutes walk away, and there are already 11 Tesco shops in Brighton (plus there’s the one they’re considering building in Lewes Road too). I wasn’t hugely fond of the Providence as a pub but the sound was decent enough and some long-standing promoters put on a lot of shows there.

In the last month we’ve also heard news that The Engine Room has been closed. No official statements have been released as far as I’m aware, although the word on the street is that there just wasn’t enough money for some payment or another. Anyone reading this got the facts? [UPDATE: minutes after I posted this, an article popped up on the local paper’s website explaining that the venue is up for sale. Balls!]

And of course earlier this year came the end of the Hobgoblin, a genuine Brighton punk rock and metal institution, which despite eking a few more months of life after its initial closure late in 2009 has been bought by another chain. They’re currently in the process of entirely revamping it; initial rumour was that it was being turned into a gastro pub (ah yes, no shortage of those in Brighton) although its new exterior paintjob does still tout “live music” as a feature. It seems unlikely that they’ll want to play host to the same D.I.Y. promoters and touring bands as in the past, though.

Several years back the Pressure Point was sold to a developer following a lack of interest from purchasers who wanted to keep it running as a venue. It’s since been converted into a hostel with a bar. The Brighton Gloucester / Barfly remains closed and unused following Barfly / MAMA’s abortive attempt to break into the local music scene around the same time. I assume they still own it and may intend to reopen it in brighter economic times.

The saddest thing is that most of the venues that have bitten the dust were the ones doing the most to support relatively unknown outfits, small touring bands, local groups and musicians and so on.


On the positive side of things the Hydrant (was the Hare & Hounds) is making a huge and laudable push into supporting local music with both a large upstairs function room for shows and regular gigs in the downstairs pub as well. Then there’s Hector’s House which seems to have picked up a lot of the punk and metal shows the Hob would once have hosted – and good on them, speaking personally it’s greatly preferable to the student drum ‘n bass crowd I remember from 5 years ago! Finally one of my current favourite venues, the Prince Albert, is also keeping on rocking – and their P.A. is one of the best I’ve heard in a small venue.

And of course there are other venues like Jamthe Greenhouse EffectAudio and larger venues like the Concorde 2. So live music in Brighton has taken some major blows, but there are still plenty of places to go and play.

If you’re involved with a local venue, whether as an owner or a promoter, please get in touch via email or the comments below. I’d like to do a round-up of venues in a separate post in the near future, and counteract some of this bad news with a reminder of how Brighton still has a lot to offer!

4 Responses to “Brighton’s live music venues: an R.I.P. round-up”
  1. MIke says:

    Good summary Shaun. It sometimes takes a bit of reminding as to what venues are still operating and what others have come along more recently. I think the one thing I personally miss along with some of these deceased venues, is the promoting of their gigs via posters and flyers etc. Although I’m sure the council has more to do with that than promoter laziness.

  2. Shaun CG says:

    Hey Mike, cool to hear from you. We still need to go for a few pints don’t we…

    Yeah, it was a major blow to small-scale Brighton’s promoters. I always try and look through the collections of flyers pubs and venues have stashed here and there but it’s not quite the same.

    If I remember correctly one of the arguments for the change was the discarded flyers strewn all over the streets, particularly the North Laine. But of course there are still plenty of flyers dropped all over the place because the big clubs can afford to pay the council’s fees… and I bet a lot of people just throw away those 15 flyers all about breakbeat nights along the seafront!

  3. Jack Lucan says:

    Put in this context it is quite a blow to the brighton music scene.
    Freebutt wasn’t the greatest venue but certainly presented some of the best bands in particular those promoted through o.i.b. records. If they can fin alternative venues for the high-quality acts they bring to town (like Health at Audio) it could even be an improvement.
    Im curious as to how this affects shows booked there for coming months that im looking forward to.

  4. Shaun CG says:

    Aye, I had found myself going to less shows there as the promoters working with the ‘butt were covering esoterica that often didn’t interest me – but I was glad it was being put on. And who didn’t hate that goddamn pillar? But still, I’ve got more fond memories of shows at the Freebutt than I can count.

    No word as yet on the upcoming shows – I guess the relevant promoters will be working on that…