Wednesday, January 21, 2009
Death Of A Party
And so my favourite venue in London, the Astoria, closed last week. It may even already have been demolished by now, making way for the new Crossrail station at Tottenham Court Road. The day after the final party on the 15th, I wandered down to take some snaps for posterity. There were maybe five or six others standing with me on Charing Cross Road doing exactly the same thing.
Which tells you what a special place it's been for the past 30 odd years. I remember my gran telling me that she and my grandad used to go there long before it was converted to a music venue. And i really liked that connection across the generations. I'd think about them being in the same space years before, as I negotiated the sweaty throng.
My first London gig was there, back when I was 16. Placebo, supported by AC Acoustics and Deus. A great gig, combined with the excitement of being out in the centre of London with my mates, has made it one of the most memorable nights of my life. Since then I've seen a whole plethora of artists there, including Blur during their 6 night residency, Elbow, Coldplay, Ms Dynamite, Idlewild, Noel Gallagher, Ash, Roni Size & Reprazent and loads more I can't remember. Only last year I managed to catch MGMT, Florence and the Machine, Black Kids and Ladyhawke there.
Also going is the Astoria 2, known for a while as the Mean Fiddler, the Astoria's baby sister next door. Fond memories of seeing the likes of Black Keys, Blood Red Shoes, Rolo Tomassi and even the mighty Foo Fighters there. And plenty of blurry nights at Push and Frog too. Great little venue. And also on the same block, basement club Metro shares their fate, where I've had my eardrums trashed by ludicrously loud ska and northern soul on more than one occasion.
Although it's the bands and the fans that make a night truly special, the venue has a big part to play. And the Astoria and LA2 were amongst the best in London. It's a cruel irony that whilst there's a huge resurgence in live music in this country, we seem to be losing lots of London venues lately: The Hammersmith Palais closed a few years back, The End is about to shut, Turnmills closed last year and the Highbury Garage has been awol for some time. I sincerely hope it returns.
But the Astoria was always my favourite. Where I hoped my favourite bands would play, and I prayed I could get tickets before they sold out. A proper loud, dirty, independent(ish) gig venue in the heart of the West End. I'll really miss it, and I know I'm not the only one.
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