phone mail2 facebook twitter play whatsapp
The Changing Face of Bristol’s Music Scene

The Changing Face of Bristol’s Music Scene

13 March 2018 | Viktoria Roskams

Change is what makes cities. It makes them vibrant, exciting places to live, a foil to sleepy countryside villages. But when it comes to culture, we rely on things staying the same long enough to become rooted, to be designated a crucial must-see or must-do, to cement themselves in a city’s cultural core. It’s why ‘culture’ gets bandied around with words like ‘history’ and ‘tradition’ – it takes time to build up.

A music scene having a changing face is no bad thing. To remain exciting, music relies on new blood, shocks and scandals, and handing over the flame of innovation to future generations. Equally, however, the flame can only flicker in a well-established scene, which is why the recent threats to Bristol’s music venues are an important issue.


Image Credit: Bristol Post

The past couple of years have seen many venues closing down, and many more threatened with closure. Most recently, the Bierkeller closed its doors for good, with the owners of the site planning new, probably residential, developments. This is a blow to the city’s history, as the venue had played host to legendary alternative bands such as The Fall, Pixies, Stone Roses, PJ Harvey, Nirvana, and Lush. Into the new millennium, it remained a high-profile venue, featuring Arctic Monkeys, Biffy Clyro, Sleaford Mods, and Royal Blood. A similar novelty belongs to iconic venue Thekla, the boat moored on the dock near Queen’s Square.  

However, the selling-point of a gig on a boat hasn’t enshrined Thekla as an untouchable part of the city’s culture. In November 2017 the #savethekla campaign was launched on Twitter, as it was reported that residential developments planned nearby meant potential tussles with local council over noise complaints.

If a moored ship isn’t safe from the possibility of extinction, can any onshore venue be? The answer appears to be no – The Fleece, another independent venue whose website boasts past giggers such as Radiohead, Queens of the Stone Age, and Muse, and Fiddlers are similarly not immune, with talks of developments near both. They remain open for now – new government laws, passed in January, aim to protect music venues from noise complaints – but it’s clear there’s a sticking-point here. Which is more important to the city: its musical heritage and variety of places to hear live music, or building more and more flats?


Image Credit: Bristol Post

For those fully immersed in the Bristol music scene, potential closures are a big deal. No real scene can be fostered in chain venues that could crop up in any city. Beyond the individuality of bands and genres, venues themselves can have such a wealth of idiosyncrasies – whether that’s being on a boat or just having a particularly good bar – that mean a scene is just as much about its physical location as its music. When in a city it can be easy to feel that you might as well be living anywhere: shopping centres can be near-indistinguishable, and restaurants, cafés, buses, trains, can all be of a monotonous piece. To feel you’re getting to the heart of what makes a city individual, you need to scratch below that surface. If cities like Bristol are left with only cookie-cutter venues, there’s not going to be much below that surface. Culture ought to be a present part of a city, not just part of its history.

Tell us what you think

You may also like

An Interview with Kate Nash

An Interview with Kate Nash

Harrow-born artist Kate Nash burst onto the music scene back in 2005 after uploading her music to Myspace. Having caught the attention of producers and…

A Music Lovers Guide to Leeds

A Music Lovers Guide to Leeds

When it comes to thriving and varied music scenes, Leeds is up there with the best of ‘em. The West Yorkshire city has birthed and bought…

Halloween Entertainment at Blenheim Palace

Halloween Entertainment at Blenheim Palace

Looking for something to do this October Half-Term? Head to Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire for a fantastic family day out!

24 Hours in Exeter

24 Hours in Exeter

Often overlooked, Devon’s capital is one of the country’s hidden gems. Situated on the River Exe in southwest England, and surrounded by rolling countryside, Exeter dates…

Top 5 Roasts in Dover

Top 5 Roasts in Dover

Right on the edge of the Garden of England, Dover is a coastal town affluent in gorgeous, scenic walks, but sadly not that many places…

Independence of Vision: ‘Bomberg’ at Pallant House Gallery

Independence of Vision: ‘Bomberg’ at Pallant House Gallery

Revered as one of the greatest artists of the 20th Century, David Bomberg’s work has, for too long, been neglected. However, in Pallant House Gallery’s major…

Much Ado About Nothing at the Rondo

Much Ado About Nothing at the Rondo

Shakespeare’s classic comedy comes to the Rondo this November.

A Weekend Away in Deal

A Weekend Away in Deal

Tucked away in Kent, right on the coast, is Deal. A seaside town easy to get to from London, full of sea waves and small…

Top 5 Music Cafes and Bars in England

Top 5 Music Cafes and Bars in England

There’s nothing better than discovering your new favourite music venue…unless that venue also happens to serve up some top-notch grub. We have decided to compile a…

A Guide to the Best Pancakes in Bristol

A Guide to the Best Pancakes in Bristol

Good news everybody! As we transition from the gloomy post-holiday month of January and into the shortest month of the year, there’s finally something for all…

Most popular

The Cowboy Philosopher: An Interview with Wilson Dixon

The Cowboy Philosopher: An Interview with Wilson Dixon

We chat to “Cowboy Philosopher” Wilson Dixon ahead of his UK tour this summer!
Puppy Love: UK Dog Shows and Events

Puppy Love: UK Dog Shows and Events

This summer, every dog can have his day with our round up of shows and events dedicated to man’s best friend.
What to See at Oxford’s Offbeat Festival

What to See at Oxford’s Offbeat Festival

Try something out of your comfort zone at Oxford’s festival for brand new theatre, comedy and dance!
“Local, but of national quality”: An Interview with Vicki Hargreaves

“Local, but of national quality”: An Interview with Vicki Hargreaves

We chat with Creative Programme Producer Vicki Hargreaves ahead of Eastleigh Unwrapped Festival!
Hereford Cathedral: A Hotbed of Medieval History

Hereford Cathedral: A Hotbed of Medieval History

It’s Magna Carta Day! Head to Hereford Cathedral for a glance at a revised version of King John’s “Great Charter”.
Win £50 of National Theatre Tokens!

Society of London Theatre - Win £50 of National Theatre Tokens!

Fund your next theatrical experience by winning £50 of National Theatre Tokens!
Britten’s War Requiem at York Minster

Britten’s War Requiem at York Minster

York Minster’s final concert of the season simultaneously marks the centenary of the conclusion of World War I with Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem.
Bristol’s Hidden Gems: Alternative places to watch the World Cup

Bristol’s Hidden Gems: Alternative places to watch the World Cup

Whether you’re a staunch supporter of your national team, or just fancy catching some of the action from the whopping 48 games on offer, here are our picks of some great spots to view the games in Bristol!
Win a Premium Wine Tasting!

Veeno The Italian Wine Café - Win a Premium Wine Tasting!

Win a premium wine tasting for two at Veeno The Italian Wine Café!
Win a Perfume Making Experience!

Virgin Experience Days - Win a Perfume Making Experience!

Win the chance to design your own signature scent at a perfume making class!

Your inbox deserves a little culture!