Our last issue addressed the strains our opening hours put on clubbing and underground culture. This month Freda Hughes looks at Dublin’s ‘bring your own beer’ (BYOB) venues and see what they have to offer the city’s music scene.
Promoters are always on the look out for a new venues and spaces to put on gigs. Casting a quick eye over the PA system, checking out what kind of desk they have and trying to gauge roughly how many dancing bodies could be squeezed into a room have often become a distraction when they’re out and about. These ‘distractions’ sometimes lead to on the spot conversations with the bar staff or management about opening hours, budgets and availability. Needless to say, oftentimes stiff opening hours and uptight policies can be a huge put off.
Punters like a powerful sound-system, reasonably priced booze and lax opening hours. Clean toilets, pleasant staff and a relaxed atmosphere are also considerable factors. It is rare to find a venue that ticks all of these boxes and doesn’t cost a fortune to rent. There are, of course, a few around the city, but the problem of over-saturation or ‘venue fatigue’ start to kick in when lots of promoters use the same spots on a regular basis.
Many of the venues around the city that host BYOB gigs are not strictly music venues at all. Some operate predominantly as gallery spaces, social centres and studios, but double up as gig spaces when the need arises. The Joinery, for example, opened in 2008 as a temporary work/gallery space. Its success has led to its continuation and diversification.
Miranda Driscoll describes it as a, ‘non-commercial multidisciplinary space for emerging artists and musicians’. She goes on to stress that collaboration between the gig and gallery space is essential and that their approach is very much hands-on and ‘DIY’ when it comes to both gigs and exhibitions.
Not unlike this, the Little Green Street Gallery also operates predominantly as a gallery and hosts some great BYOB gigs. Gary Devitt, Events Coordinator with We Are Emergence who run the space explained that, ‘LGSG was opened over a year ago to create an inner city space for emerging Irish artists. It’s a space for artists to share ideas, created from scratch by a set of like minded and creative individuals. We promote the space as a low cost non-commission gallery space, ideally only charging the basic costs (rental and upkeep) of the gallery to encourage all artists from every walk of life and artistic background a chance to display and sell their work.’
Block T, The Back Loft, Subground Fortythree, The Complex and The Shed all host a variety of events from exhibitions to gigs and also operate a BYOB policy at many of these events.
Two other interesting spaces operate on a slightly different basis.
Seomra Spraoi and the newer Supa Fast Building are run as social centres first and foremost. Seomra has been around a long time and has moved a few times over the years. It hosts political, cultural and activist events and occasionally puts on a gig to help raise money to stay afloat.
Tom from Supa Fast describes their space as, ‘open to everyone with no private space within the building. It operates on a kind of trust anarchy, meaning that you can do what you want once it doesn’t effect anyone else using the space. We expect everybody to be reasonable and respectful to each-other.’
Supa Fast has podcast facilities, a music and media room, office space and work spaces/benches. The folks involved are always open to new people and new ideas. They space is sustained and maintained by the money raised from their monthly BYOB pop up restaurant, which is a top notch gastronomical experience. As well as occasional weekend gigs, ‘Cine Fast’ is a monthly film screening where the film score is performed live by some of Dublin’s up and coming electronic artists on Thursdays at their Great Strand Street location.
Anyone rabble has talked to has found running gigs in BYOB spaces to be extraordinarily positive. The intimacy and informality that often characterises theses venues allows for a relaxed atmosphere and positive vibe to be easily established. There is something wonderful about the collectivity that often occurs at the very end of a night in one of these venues when punters, promoters and musicians alike all muck in and clean up.
The freedom from Diageo marketing, strict closing times and the pressurized atmosphere of the bar allow for more focus on the quality of the event. In a nutshell, at times pubs seems to suck the life and soul out of culture, whereas the BYOB atmosphere breathes new and refreshing life into the city’s already vibrant underground.