A matter of monotony

Feature article written for a University assignment

A matter of monotony: the search for Bournemouth’s alternative music scene

With an abundance of popular nightclubs and trendy bars Bournemouth doesn’t fail to provide its mainstream loving students and tourists with a promising night out. But is it falling short when it comes to catering for those with more alternative tastes.

It’s crowded, hot and the queue for the bar seems never ending. You know this place of by heart; you know how it will go. You ignore the pervy gaze the chav in the trainers is throwing your way and the chat up lines from the creepy old guy in the corner. Stumbling across towards the dance floor you push past the swarms of top-shop-clad girls in six-inch heels. They somehow manage to drench you in vodka lemonade (diet of course) whilst making you feel like it’s your fault – but you aren’t giving up the fight yet.

You’ve already spent more money than you intended, feel the morning’s headache creeping in and know you have to be up at nine am tomorrow for Uni but even all this would be bearable if it weren’t for the music. Endless mainstream chart songs play over and over again. Tinchy Strider, some JLS followed by a helping of Taio Cruz. You know the set nearly song for song and whilst you like it the appeal has been lost after hearing it for the 200th time. As a student at Bournemouth University I can assure you this scenario is familiar.

Bournemouth doesn’t fail in offering its many students cheap club nights. You can head out nearly any night of the week and expect to find bars and clubs that host cheesy pop and popular RnB, but when your nights out seem to merge into one you know a change of scene is needed. Now I’ll be the first to put my hands up and admit I love a good dance to some standard clubbing tunes. I’m not going to deny that some of my most memorable nights out have been at Bournemouth’s more typical student haunts such as Lava or Orange rooms. Neither will I assert a (pretentious) disdain towards mainstream music; It’s my guilty pleasure. But as a lover of alternative genres and live bands I was curious to see what else Bournemouth could offer.

Bournemouth’s town centre is jam packed with clubs and bars, some of which dedicate specific nights to different genres of music. The popular venue Dusk till Dawn hosts ‘Big in Japan’ every Thursday playing the best of electro, old/nu disco and techno. Popular with AUCB kids don’t let the dark ‘basement’ interior of the club put you off, it actually adds to the atmosphere and the music. Just up the road you can find more indie, electro and dubstep nights being held at student union The Old Fire Station, but I was disappointed to find out how frequent the nights occurred. The hugely popular events ‘We Are Your Friends’ and ‘Dubnium’ held once monthly only. However more efforts seem to be being made with the introduction of ‘Milk’ the latest weekly addition to The Old Fire Station. A night dedicated to indie and rock playing everything from The Strokes and Maximo Park to Rage Against the Machine.

Despite the clubs attempts at accommodating to a more alternative taste, venues offering live music seem to be dwindling. The Gander and Metrapole used to host an array of live bands but have recently been replaced with a branch from the well-known chain pub Whetherspoons. More discouragingly a recent revelation has been made to demolish much-loved punk venue Sound Circus (formerly The Villa) to make way for (another) hotel. Tony Grey, long time resident of Bournemouth said with regards to this news “The town already has very few venues catering for alternative music, this would be another nail in the coffin for any potential cultural growth here.” Similarly current student Geo Willis felt that Bournemouth “doesn’t cater for the whole gamut of sub-genres, it’s a bit rubbish only having a few places to choose from.”

However there are a few saving graces to the dire music scene of present. Bournemouth’s recently refurbished 02 Academy is playing host to part of Slam Dunk By The Sea this summer headlined by New Found Glory, Four Year Strong and Set Your Goals. Welsh rock band Lost Prophets are also set to play this April. Close by Bournemouth’s International Centre (BIC) try to weave in some heavier music between their usual theatre productions and mainstream pop tours. I was working recently behind the bar at the BIC when British indie rock group Kasabian performed. It was an understatement to say the crowd were enjoying themselves. The energy coming from the main stage was phenomenal and when sweat covered fans came panting to the bar to pause for some water they sang nothing but praises for the band.

In addition to these larger venues Ibar also plays host to some well-known and undiscovered talent. As one of the few independent bars in Bournemouth live bands go down a storm, whether its Electro, Punk, Metal or something more off the wall. Music fanatic Charlie Keating recently saw hard-core punk group ‘The computers’ at Ibar. “It was £7.25, which I thought was quite expensive and would probably put a lot of people off, considering not many people have heard of the band.” However she was pleased to get out and go to something a bit different. When asked about the Bournemouth clubbing scene she said: “We usually end up going to the same clubs that play the same music, Its always a fun night when your with good friends but I feel I miss out on going to gigs around this area.” When asked what could be done to improve the situation Charlie felt more venues needed to dedicate nights to live music “It would be great to see more new talent out there but we need somewhere to see it first. They need to advertise bands more, perhaps online to spread the word that there are places to go and listen to some quality music.”

It appears Bournemouth’s alternative music scene, while maybe not extinct, is certainly endangered. With the majority of clubs playing commercial chart music to please the crowds it seems those with more niche tastes aren’t catered for. With much loved venues on their way out and no plans to provide more live music, those like me with a partiality for something a bit different will just have to keep looking. In the mean time check out The Cellar bar in Boscombe which offers six nights of live music a week. 60 Million Postcards and Buffalo Bar, both quirky independent bars, also offer a chilled atmosphere and some great music. Don’t forget to check the listings for the 02 Academy and the BIC so you don’t miss any of the great bands that appear there.

It seems then that there are places to go if you fancy a bit of punk, rock or even acoustic. However you have to search thoroughly just to find a good venue or night. With monotonous music pumped out of every club around Bournemouth needs to put some effort into nurturing the growth of its alternative music scene.

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