Published on August 6th, 2014 | by James Hallett26
6 of the best places for live music in Reading
Reading has a strong music heritage and the town has hosted some of the biggest names in the business. In addition to the world-renowned Reading Festival, it is home to a thriving local unsigned scene. Here, we look at some of the best places to catch a gig.
1. The Oakford Social Club
The Oakford Social Club on Blagrave Street is probably the first place to start. Since opening its doors for the first time in 2006, it has put on hundreds of shows, with all manner of bands taking to the stage. The bar’s neon sign on the back wall is as much a local scene staple as the warm beer on the rider.
It is the home of the BBC Introducing band night and Dave Maul has just taken over the booking side of things: “The BBC Intro night at the Oakford has been going since May 2009 – It’s a pub where you can enjoy bands and Djs for free, homemade food including our famed burgers, two pub gardens, a late night drink and plenty of seating so you can chat with your mates.”
BBC Introducing is a free weekly event, every Wednesday from 8pm.
2. The Rising Sun Arts Centre
The Rising Sun Arts Centre is the archetypal rock’n’roll venue. Hidden away at the top end of the town centre on Silver Street, it has been a fixture of the local scene for over twenty-five years. Entirely volunteer run, bands such as Bloc Party and The Cribs have graced the cosy, lounge-esque room in years gone by.
Sid Siddle has been promoting there for the past eleven years: “The Rising Sun Arts Centre really works. Firstly, because of the volunteers – they’re unpaid but they totally believe in DIY culture. Secondly, because the punters want to be there, rather than just thinking they should be there. It is not a cool-poser-£4 a pint place. It is very much a one off, very punk rock although it does give a fuck.”
You can catch Sid and his Club Velocity night on Saturday 16th August with performances from Damien Passmore and The Loveable Fraudsters, The Franklys and Lake of Kings from 8pm. Tickets are priced at £5.
3. The Purple Turtle
The Purple Turtle on Gun Street is steeped in local history, becoming a mainstay for many revelers during their nights out. It has also been home to many local bands throughout the years, whether downstairs in the bunker-like cellar or the relative heady heights of the upstairs stage. The bar has recently had a total refurb and the addition of a permanent lighting rig and PA system will literally be music to many ears.
The Purple Turtle has just announced a series of free shows, curated by local acts over the next few months. Shoals will be wrapping up their stint on Tuesday 12th August with performances from Digo, Adam & Elvis, Artclassink and a DJ set from Shoals themselves.
The Facebar is fairly well hidden in Ambrose Place, sandwiched between Chatham Street and the Oxford Road. It has been the home of the slightly heavier genres of the local music scene over the years and the venue has hosted an array of touring bands, as well as the local unsigned variety. Boasting two rooms, the Blue room holds 175 people and the larger Red room has a capacity of 300.
Bones from Wicked Boy Promotions has been putting shows on there since 2006 and has seen over 1500 bands pass through the doors: “They started out very eclectic, in fact we initially built our reputation on putting on diverse nights. Then over the years, as we took on more and more shows (soon going up to 3-4 a month), we began to be able to be more selective and put on more genre-based nights.”
The next Wicked Boy Promotions event takes place on 15th, 16th & 17th August under the guise of WICKEDfest, with 24 bands playing over the weekend. There will also be comic, clothing and food stalls. Wristbands are £7 per day or £15 for the whole weekend in advance and they are available from the venue.
5. The Global Cafe
For a more relaxed vibe, head to the Global Cafe on London Street. It puts on various nights throughout the week from unsigned band nights through to popular DJ nights and a hugely successful open mic night. It has been the home for the world music scene over the years and with the larger RISC Centre situated upstairs it has hosted many of the unsigned scene’s biggest bands.
You can catch Fleur Stevenson hosting her Jazz Singers Night on Tuesday 19th August. Fleur herself will be performing with award-winning jazz pianist Chris Neill from 9pm. Entrance to the show is free.
6. The Fox & Hounds
The tiny pub in Caversham may seem like a left-field entry on the list, but the consistently strong line ups over the past couple of years have made the pub an essential night for gig-goers. Situated on Gosbrook Road in the village just outside the town centre, it has staged many sweaty nights and is always packed to the rafters.
Liam O’Bey has been promoting there since 2012: “It’s like a piano bar kind of vibe with real ales on tap.”
He may be a man of few words, but he certainly knows how to book a show. The music is taking a break over the summer, but will be returning this September.
What places should be included in part 2? Let us know in the comments.