Independent Music Venues that I adore, and I know you will too
Through my last two posts, I have shared with you the reasons why I love going to gigs in independent music venues, I have spoken about the wonderful music community ensuring their survival, and have hopefully inspired you to visit to your local independent venues too.
For my last post in this series, I’d like to introduce you to some venues local to me that I absolutely adore.
This article is going to involve venues in South Wales, so if you are not from this area, think of this as your handy little guide to some independent venues in South Wales. Hopefully I can persuade you to pay us a visit sometime, and when you do it will be well worth you knowing where you should check out, for some amazing gigs and nightlife.
Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff
The venue that really takes the crown for me, is Cardiff’s Clwb Ifor Bach. Situated in the heart of Womanby Steet, a music hub in Cardiff, home to an array of similar music venues and bars. Clwb is a venue that I truly feel most comfortable and at home in, if I could only choose one venue to attend for the rest of my life, then this would be it. Clwb may be small in size, but they host mighty gigs. Brilliant artists perform here, including well-established musicians, as well as emerging talent. I have seen so many bands and have made some fantastic memories along the way. Clwb really holds a special place in my heart, by being the place that ignited my love for independent music venues.
The venue currently has two rooms, allowing gigs to be hosted both upstairs and downstairs. The downstairs room has a lush, cwtchy atmosphere. There isn’t a stage as such, rather a performing area, so bands are at floor-level which provides a wonderfully intimate gig-experience. This is really rare, and strips music back to it’s roots entirely, allowing bands to connect with their audiences on a much closer level. There are no barriers, or a gap between the crowd and the stage. This setup allows for some truly incredible moments.
The upstairs room at Clwb is a little bit larger, and is the main room for bands to perform in. This is the part of Clwb I have visited the most, and being honest I just love everything about it. From the exposed brickwork, to the layout. The room is the perfect size, so that you don’t have a bad view wherever you’re standing. There are no pillars or barriers blocking your view, and the room is the ideal width and height to be small and intimate, without being claustrophobic. The bar is in a separate room, which reduces the problem of noise often experienced in gigs. As a live music venue, Clwb Ifor Bach really is the reigning champion in my eyes, and I’m sure many others too.
Clwb is also set to expand in the future too, with recent rebranding suggesting this won’t be too far away. The venue plans to make use of the derelict building next door, with plans for a 500 capacity venue downstairs and a 300 capacity one upstairs. The 1980s venue we have all come to know and love a lot, is going to be changing, but hopefully its 21st century makeover will bring an even better era for our beloved Clwb Ifor Bach.
The Moon, Cardiff
The Moon is Cardiff’s pint sized music venue. Again, this venue can be found nestled amongst Womanby Street, opposite Clwb Ifor Bach. Here you will receive a warm welcome. The entrance is wrapped in cute fairy lights. As you make your way into the basement venue, in no way does it feel encroaching, instead bunting, string lights and colour decorate this vibrant venue. The Moon is tiny, but being so small gives the space a unique charm, with the stage nestled in the corner. A miniature venue, with a huge amount of charm.
The Moon is a space for emerging bands to showcase their talent. However, if you head downstairs in this venue then there are old gig posters plastered all over the walls, as if they were wallpaper. The posters show that some pretty well known bands such have all started out playing gigs here. The Moon has an incredible catalogue of very successful bands having began their very first tours here! Boasting that The Moon has been home to some renowned initial gigs, means that the venue clearly provides bands a wonderful platform to boost their musical careers. The posters themselves are incredible to behold. When I first visited the moon honestly I spent quite a bit of time just looking at all of them. Whoever came up with the idea of decorating the walls with these posters deserves a medal. It makes for incredibly cool decor, giving the moon a quirky individual style all whilst showcasing past gigs.
Decor aside, The Moon is also a brilliant venue to watch bands performing in. Again the size of the venue works in their favour and means there isn’t a bad place to stand in the room (minding the poles that support the ceiling of course). The bar is in the same place, however people tend to remain respectful when gigs are on from what I’ve seen, meaning that drinks being served doesn’t interfere with the music. I really enjoy watching bands perform in the venue, and The Moon is a wonderful little venue for music, certainly not one to be overlooked on your trip down Womanby Street.
The Globe, Cardiff
Located just outside of the City Centre of Cardiff, The Globe is a wonderfully unique music venue, although it may not be what you’d expect. The Globe is an old cinema, dating back to as early as 1914. Therefore as a music venue, it makes fantastic use of beautiful historical features. The stage is very grand, but also unkempt enough to provide an edgy-punk vibe. A lot of the original features within the room have also been kept and harnessed, despite the seating having been cleared, I expect the building has been mostly unchanged from what it would have been originally. It really is fascinating and brilliant to see The Globe standing proudly as a music venue. Of course the room is designed to enhance sound to an audience, so the purpose compliments the building perfectly well.
The Globe is a fantastic gig environment, which gives you a cultural experience as an added bonus. Initially you feel the room is small when you walk in, but the space is very wide, which means you’re closer to the stage than you would be in a lot of other venues. The Globe also has a brilliant balcony area, which you can choose to watch bands from if you don’t feel like standing. This gives a vastly different viewpoint, not often found in many venues asides from arenas. Whereas on arena balconies you’d be metres away from the stage, but not in The Globe, as the balcony overlaps the standing area.
The Globe provides a mix of music and comedy, and is an eccentric, but wonderfully different music venue to pay a visit to. With an array of acts performing there, you never know shows The Globe is going to advertise next, and this adds an intriguing element that makes you keep your eye on who is going to be playing there. Following in the footsteps of Clwb and The Moon. The Globe also has an impressive list of acts who have previously performed there, and my guess is that there will be many more great names to come.
The Tramshed, Cardiff
The largest venue on my list is The Tramshed. However despite its medium size, this venue does not lose charm as an independent venue. I’ve been to a few gigs in The Tramshed now, and every time I’ve been blown away by the professional, quality of music delivered from this venue. From the sound to the stage, they really do have the art of delivering a live music performance spot on, regardless of whatever band graces the stage. That list is impressive enough by itself. I have stood at the barrier of Tramshed, and I have stood at the bar at the back of the room. Either location provided me with an equally as satisfying gig experience, which tells me this venue knows exactly what they are doing, with confidence.
The Tramshed is a cool, industrial space. It’s origins as a Tram Depot, mean it is exactly what it says on the tin. The outside of the venue is fascinating before you even step foot in the door, consisting of bright, red brickwork and semi-circular windows. The building itself dates back to 1902, and was categorised as a listed building in 1997. The Tramshed as we know it now, opened in 2015.
Hosting an array of gigs, with a large number of bands playing there. The Tramshed has quickly risen to become one of Cardiff’s finest music venues. As I’ve said their monthly range of gigs is seriously impressive, with the venue hosting a number of well-known musicians and bands, as well as tribute acts that are so convincing you’d swear they were the real thing. I’d also like to praise their marketing team, as whenever I’m looking up gigs at The Tramshed, there is always an organised list of who is playing there over the next few months available. Despite advances in social media, a lot of music venues do still just rely on posters, so for The Tramshed to be actively encouraging a larger audience in this way so efficiently, makes me realise how they have established themselves in the scene very successfully over a short time period. A huge well done to all of their staff!
The Bunkhouse, Swansea
Located in the city centre of Swansea, The Bunkhouse is a small, passionate independent music venue that packs a punch with the quality of music it delivers. The venue has only been open for just over a year, but has already been awarded ‘The Best Music Venue of 2019’ from the Swansea Bay Tourism Awards. The Bunkhouse has done incredibly well, and their staff should write the book on how to successfully launch a music venue from scratch. Welcoming emerging talent from Swansea and further afield, The Bunkhouse primarily provides a mixture of rock and indie music, but has a variety of genres on offer. It is a brilliant vibrant fast-paced music venue hosting some of Swansea‘s finest bands, along with a few more famous names thrown in.
As well as gigs, like many other venues on this list, The Bunkhouse is also home to club nights, following in the footsteps of Clwb and The Moon on this front. More excitedly though, The Bunkhouse also has even bigger plans up their sleeve. As their title suggests, a gig venue isn’t all we can expect from this vastly growing little music hub. The Bunkhouse, as their name suggests, also has plans to provide accommodation in their form of an upstairs hostel. This will provide accommodation for bands on tour, gig-goers or anyone wishing to stay at a reasonable price within Swansea city Centre. If this wasn’t enough, The Bunkhouse also announced recently that below their music venue and bar, lies a basement spanning the entire floor length of their existing bar and music venue. The Bunkhouse have obtained planning permission to convert this space into a 500-capacity music venue, which will enable them to host even bigger gigs.
The question is, which will they do first? The Bunkhouse may be a small venue now, but their sights for the future are very huge indeed.
I hope you’ve enjoyed discovering a little bit more about some of my favourite Independent Music Venues in the South Wales music scene. I’d like to thank you as always for taking the time to read my writing, and I hope I’ve inspired you to pay a visit to your nearest music hub. Independent venues, wherever they may be across the UK, all host a fantastic range of gigs from incredible emerging acts. If you have a particular venue that you adore, please let me know. I’m always looking to broaden my music horizons! I have trips to Bristol and Bath coming up in March, so any suggestions are warmly welcome!
Writing this series ‘Indepedent Venues: The Heart of Music’ has been incredibly meaningful to me. I’m passionate about attending and in turn supporting Independent Venues, and along with many others, I hope to strive to do all that I can to ensure their survival. These venues are all so unique, and full of character. They are run by passionate music lovers, and adored by fans and bands alike. A fundamental core of any music scene. With all of us continuing to show our love and dedication for them, I hope they will remain with us forever.
You can read the other two parts of this post series here: