In July, it was announced that the Talking Heads, one of Southampton’s key music venues was closing its doors due to business rates increasing, adding to the 35% of venues that have shut in the last decade. Initially a small pub on Portswood Road, the Talking Heads moved to a more central accessible venue at The Polygon in January 2016.
Smaller venues are being lost due to people complaining about noise levels, leading to them being turned into houses. Grassroots venues are an integral part of the local community. A packed out small venue can be a bands’ stand out point of their tour, creating a fun, sweaty atmosphere.
The closure saddened me. These venues are integral for up and coming bands to gain exposure, make a name for themselves to go on and do bigger things. Despite the unfortunate closure of the Talking Heads, the team will carry on running the 1865 venue, which is going from strength to strength.
A grassroots venue’s existence is essential to any band’s development because it is a way where they can find their feet on tours and embrace the feeling of playing in front of a crowd. It also enables them to build a connection with a fanbase through chatting to them at the merch table after a show, inspiring them to form bands.
The first band I saw there was the metalcore band Atilla in February 2015, where I was amazed at the intimacy and connection the band had with their fans, one fan even passing a joint to singer Chris “Fronz” Fronzak! It was the type of place where everyone could have a great time.
My favourite show at the original venue was when The Lovely Eggs played there in November 2015. It was brilliant because the intimate venue showed off the band’s raucous energy in spades, with plenty of stage banter and sweaty sing-alongs. At the new venue, the show that stood out to me the most was when While She Sleeps played to a sell out crowd. It felt like a violent bloody bubbling cauldron as the ceiling caved in and even singer Loz Taylor joined in with the crowd surfing and stage-diving. Both shows were a privilege to be at and in my opinion demonstrated why small venues still matter to a lot of people.
Bringing things back to the main event, the first band to open up proceedings were coldrain, coming all the way from Japan. The majority of their setlist consisted of songs from recent album ‘FATELESS’. The bands punchy, bouncy metalcore riffs get the crowd going, along with a hard energy coming from frontman Masato’s raspy throaty screams. The sing-along choruses are built for bigger arenas, warming things up nicely.
During the interval, I asked my friend Rob what his favourite gig at the Talking Heads was. He replied with the Miss May I show there back in January, with Fit for a King, Void of Vision, Currents and Deference supporting. He said this was because the bill had some top quality bands. He’s right, having also attended this show I can confirm that the combination of polyrhythmic riffs and crushing breakdowns melted our faces, as every band on this bill played their hearts out and put on a stunning show.
Volumes arrive on stage almost immediately, coming out to the Jurassic Park theme. “Where’s my fucking moshpit?” demands Gus Farias, and I responded by helping form one. There was another pit on the other side, and at points, both opened up like a gaping mouth in a mass eruption. The band brought a hell of a lot of energy. ‘Feels Good’ was colossal, the bouncy riffs and dual vocalist setup working well in the bands’ favour. I had hoped the band would play ‘Wormholes’ from their classic debut album, VIA. Sure enough, they did. Farias announced, “Let’s do this shit like the (LA) Lakers” and as soon as that iconic djent intro comes in, I am not exaggerating when I say that every person in this tiny venue from front to back was off their fucking feet! It was the perfect build-up to Crown the Empire’s set, Volumes exiting the stage to ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’ by Bon Jovi, confirming the positive atmosphere.
I must admit, I had some doubts about Crown the Empire. Since former unclean vocalist Dave Escamilla left the band back in 2016, I had felt that something was missing from their live show, and having heard recent bad reviews from people who had seen them; I was concerned that they wouldn’t deliver. I needn’t have worried. Crown the Empire covered all the stops in a tight performance that re-visited every part of their back catalogue. ‘Zero’ with its inescapably catchy chorus and ‘Millenia‘ were anthemic sing-alongs (the latter even featured a superb guitar solo from Brandon Hoover) while ‘Memories of a Broken Heart’ from their debut album ‘The Fallout’ showed the band’s diversity with brutal breakdowns.
The new songs ‘20/20’ and ‘what I am’ (the latter released during that week) went down exceptionally well, demonstrating how they have progressed into a band that can take on arenas. But the encore showed they haven’t forgotten their metalcore roots. The blisteringly heavy ‘Initiation’ got me so pumped up, it was one of the tracks I was very excited about hearing. The pit was carnage, and the curtain was brought down on the soaring ballad ‘Machines.’ A perfect send off to the Talking Heads, Leo’s voice was emotive, he was clearly enjoying himself, and with the crowd giving it their all right up to the final note, it showed how much the venue meant to those who attended.
With more small venues and spaces closing due to government threats, it is vital that they are kept alive. They play a massive role in the community, help bands earn their stripes in the live music circuit, and helps empower people enough to form bands.
Words by Ermis Madikopoulos