MCR Live write up from Mal Lingard & Andy Graham from TWANG for Independent Venue Week
INDEPENDENT VENUE WEEK:
BARROW UNDERGROUND MUSIC SOCIETY
Our hometown isn’t really a cool place; you won’t find Barrow-In-Furness rising to the top of any lists of desirable places to live, or people’s favoured cultural retreats. And that’s fine: Andy and I are not the types of people to pour scorn over our hometown. Quite the contrary, in fact; we love its little idiosyncrasies and every slightly weird thing that goes down, which leads me nicely on to independent venue Barrow Underground Music Society. Or BUMS, as it’s more commonly known, chosen by us to celebrate Independent Venue Week.
To find a band or happening house night, we count ourselves amongst a small group of local promoters who just don’t know the meaning of ‘flogging a dead horse’. As a collective, we beat our brains out to bring in bands and put on nights in Barrow-in-Furness, with some spectacular success matched with some equally spectacular failures. But it’s all good fun, even when you have cold beads of sweat running down your forehead praying for ticket sales to pass the break-even mark. So when we heard on the grapevine that there was a small venue being opened in our favourite local studio space, we wondered if it was one of those vicious small town rumours that spread like wildfire with no sound basis whatsoever. To our delight, it turned out to be true. Founders and good friends of ours Rob Dunphy and Graham Newby (Dj Gripper) are two people who are about as close to establishment as Rip Van Winkle was, but somehow they managed to persuade our notoriously difficult local council to give them a licence for the venue. And my god, what a job they have done.
From the outside, the venue appears to be just a door in a wall, down a nondescript street with terraced houses on one side and industrial buildings with the lights off on the other. No sign. No lights. Just a door in a wall. The best times are when it’s pumping in there and raining heavily outside – you can be stood outside for a good fifteen minutes before anyone hears your desperate pounding. And when they finally do, it tends to be someone you know; ”What are you stood out here in the rain for?”
Once you finally get into the venue, it’s surreal. Its low dim red lights are usually provided by candles and there are sofas as far as the eye can see in the bar area with coffee tables for your drinks. The beauty of the sofas is that sometimes you have to squeeze up next to people you don’t know just to get a seat, and you end up blathering away for a good hour or so. An assortment of random decor is littered around the venue, but it works. It reminds me of a New York loft style party but in Barrow-In-Furness, the exact polar opposite of the big apple.
The other room is the space where the DJs and bands reside. Same decor: candles, sofas, sofas, and more sofas. The stage is a few carpets laid down, just like your archetypal band practice space. I have seen some amazing bands here, sat on a sofa like I’m in the comfort of my own front room. Case in point was watching Sound of the Sirens there. Just to warm me to the theme, I watched their sell out gig to thousands of people at Canterbury Cathedral and, literally twenty-five minutes later, was sat on a sofa having a chat with them. It’s immediate and intimate; no barrier exists between band and audience and it’s a great experience.
There’s plenty of people from our own town who still don’t know where BUMS is and that makes it feel exclusive. It’s a masterstroke and a venue like no other, not even in cities. We hold a residency there now and get to play indie vibes and remixes to our hearts content which, to our utter surprise, is going down really well. We love it, we didn’t think it was possible for a venue to survive in our town but it’s not just surviving, it’s flourishing. They also have hip hop nights on, Aim and Dr Syntax just two leading names in the field to play there. They let us book indie acts and put on some cracking house nights, too; Dj Opolopoa recent visitor. They are getting massive names on which is great, and us two especially are very happy that renegades like Rob and Gripper exist.
We quizzed Gripper a bit about the venue and here’s what he said:
“We wanted to create a membership club that brings a little bit of exclusivity to what we do. The people that attend will already know what we’re about, and will be enjoying a varied cross-section of music that you wouldn’t normally find on your doorstep. Yes, people will be paying similar prices, maybe even a little bit more than what they might pay in places like Manchester to see these guests, but without having to travel there or pay for a hotel.”
You can find more of the venues we’re featuring as Part of Independent Venue Week here.