Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Leeds venues

Apart from Le Phono and The Warehouse, the main venues for gigs in the City were Leeds Uni and Leeds Poly, although the rather run-down Brannagan’s catered for the dying embers of the punk movement (Vice Squad, G.B.H., UK Subs et al), the tired aircraft hangar of Queens Hall could cater for big gigs and the Fforde Green was used by John Keenan for lesser touring acts. Whilst the Poly only had its cavernous Students’ Union hall, with its echoey acoustics and soulless feel, to host bands, the University’s union building hosted three venues. The main hall was the Refectory, basically the respectable student and staff self-service restaurant serving glorified school meals and salads during the day, but transformed into a rather unconvincing venue in the evening. The balcony added some atmosphere, and also gave more extrovert performers like Bono and Lux Interior somewhere to climb up to during the inevitable “look at me !” phases of their gigs. The sisters didn’t play here until their first major(in every sense) tour, in May ’84, returning subsequently for future tours and indeed anniversary gigs in 1991 and 2001. The second hall, the Riley Smith, was the main debating hall of the university and home of the weekly political bearpit, the OGM (ordinary general meeting), where party hacks of the future lined up to take on the all-powerful SWP. The Riley Smith was where the Who had played thie legendary “Live in Leeds” LP set, and the purple drape curtains either side of the stage certainly seemed to help the acoustics. The RSH was the scene of my first Sisters gig in October 1982, and may also have been the venue for their two listed 1981 gigs (before my time in Leeds), although they are more likely to have taken place in the dreaded Extension bar, the “disco”/bar extension built onto the back of the sturdy brick Union building in the 70s and which was all angles, steps and supporting buttresses as the land fell away down the hill. The acoustics and soundlines were terrible in here, but it was where new bands were expected to play, those who would draw around only on or two hundred revellers. I witnessed some great performances here (one by The Godfathers stands out), but most bands really struggled to create any kind of vibe. With venues like these, it's amazing that anything of note came from the city.

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