My greatest gigs at the best music venue in Hampshire
Like most people, I am trying to adjust to my new routine working at home; shopping once a week; honing my staring-into-space skills and just generally getting through this crazy pandemic. As difficult as the current situation is for us all, my new anxiety is worrying which of my favourite local businesses will still be around when we all emerge from this hibernation.
The Wedgewood Rooms is very high on my list of those places that I really hope survive. It is an integral part of the Portsmouth music scene and on a personal note, an absolute cornerstone of my existence during my life in Pompey. For those not in the know, The Wedgewood Rooms is a music venue in the middle of Albert Road in Portsmouth- it is THE place to go for gigs; fundraisers; comedy nights; tribute acts; battle of the bands; club nights and just a bloody good night out. We need to ensure that venues like this are there for us when the world reopens so I have posted a link to the fundraising campaign at the bottom of this blog. For now, I will reminisce my favourite gigs that I saw at this amazing venue:
The Bluetones: 2006. One of my favourite Britpop-era bands and always a treat live. The Wedgewood Rooms was packed with an appreciative audience and the band were entertaining, engaging and obliging of all the gig goers who really wanted to hear Slight Return. Seeing a band like The Bluetones (and I have seen them quite a few times) is warm and affirming because you can’t really get any better an experience than being with your mates, listening to a great band play music you love. They were equally good in the slightly larger Portsmouth Pyramids venue which they played on their 20th Anniversary Jukebox Tour of 2015. Mark Morriss obviously has a thing for Portsmouth as he has also played the Eastney Cellars.
The Living End, 2017: One of my favourite rockabilly/punk bands, The Living End hail from down under and thus chances to see them in this side of the world are relatively scarce, particularly outside of festival season. I never recovered from missing their set when they opened for the Dropkick Murphys at Brixton Academy (06/07 ish) due to an ill-timed pre-gig chicken burger which meant I entered the venue only in time to see Chris Cheney leave the stage and all the house lights to come back up. Fast forward a decade and I finally got to see them in a much better venue, one where I would not be so far back as to be technically in a different post code. I was right at the front at the Wedgewood Rooms, close enough to the stage to be genuinely worried that Scott Owen’s double bass was going to slip from his fingers and hit me square in the face.
Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros: 2002. Well, this was just a dream come true. I was 16, an avid Clash fan who never thought I would get the chance to see my idol Joe Strummer live. I was practically hanging over the front barriers, trying to sing along obnoxiously loud in the hope that I would cement my rightful place at the gig as his biggest fan. Vivid memories of the night include a rousing rendition of Rudie Can’t Fail; arguing with a man in his 50s about whether I was allowed to like The Clash due to both my age and gender; and after missing out on the plectrums that were tossed into the crowd at the end of the encore, getting a much better result by being handed the SETLIST that was taped to the floor of the stage.
Slaves, Baby Strange and Crows: 2015. A pure belter of a show. Had never heard any of the bands before but a friend suggested we go and see what we think as there was a bit of a buzz about Slaves playing. The reason this show sticks out for me was because I discovered three new awesome bands. I enjoyed every minute of each set and it reminded me that you don’t have to listen to the same things you have been listening to for the last 15 years but can in fact, discover new music that you actually quite like. Baby Strange were the revelation of the night for me and I vowed to travel north and follow their tour around exotic and distant lands (Sheffield being one) to have the joy of seeing them again. I didn’t actually do that, but I did buy their album and when all this is over will be going to their homeland (Scotland) to fulfil this destiny.
Juliette Lewis and The Licks: 2006. I don’t remember much about the gig itself to be honest. What I DO remember is that I got Juliette’s autograph on a gig poster and she spelt my name wrong.
Hipshaker: Often, and throughout most of my Uni years. Even if I wasn’t seeing a specific band, the Wedgewood Rooms (or Wedge as we affectionately called it) was a natural destination on a weekend. Hipshaker was a 60s/Northern Soul themed club night put on monthly in the Wedge’s main room. It was incredibly popular and lots of fun. I experienced a lot there: some of my drunkest nights; snogs in the dark corners at the back of the room; my ill-advised attempts at dancing to any Motown classic; knowing that if ‘I am the Resurrection’ by the Stone Roses comes on it means the DJ needs the toilet as he can be safe in the knowledge that the song goes on for about 100 minutes if you let the funky instrumental bit play out.
Various other fundraisers; comedy clubs; club nights and general community musical happenings: I’ve been to the Wedgewood Rooms too many times to count. Fundraisers for the homeless; for women’s organisations; for anti-racism organisations. College Battle of the Bands. Comedy nights where some people made me laugh, some made me cringe, but I always had a good time with friends. Tribute acts to T-Rex and Oasis and the Rolling Stones. Going to see a friend’s band play; going to see someone I’ve never heard of; going because a friend fancies the barman; going because I’ve had a break up and wanna have a dance; going because we’ve finished at The Akash and need to boogie off our curry.
The Wedgewood Rooms has so many memories for me and many other people- please donate to the Save Our Venues Fund if you can.