Brighton’s live music venue the Blind Tiger is to close on Monday after local authorities backed noise complaints from a neighbour. Here’s why I’ll mourn another music venue crushed by the small-minded.
This is the story of how I became the Boy From the Blind Tiger.
Almost exactly a year ago today I stepped off the train in Brighton and made my way to the Great Escape festival, the annual schmorgasbord of live bands held in gig venues large and small across my favourite seaside town. I’d spent the previous weekend in Liverpool at a similar festival, Sound City, watching bands I had never heard of in bars and clubs I hadn’t visited for years, reconnecting with the place I’d grown up in a way that surprised and delighted me. I was hoping to do the same in Brighton, a town I could see myself one day settling down in.
The first two venues I visited were already full. Seriously! But I wasn’t put off. I resolved to stop into the next venue I saw… and I set off with a spring in my step, with the sure feeling that something unexpected and wonderful is always just around the next corner at The Great Escape — a feeling I associate with the town of Brighton itself, in fact.
Just around the next corner, the next venue I saw was the Blind Tiger.
What happened next was indeed both unexpected and wonderful. A Canadian showcase was being held there, with bands from across Canada playing, several making their first trip to these shores. I noticed that stood next to me was a very pretty girl. When the band finished, I uncharacteristically turned to this pretty girl and began to chat with her.
She was amazing. She was a scientist from Canada working at Brighton university. She’d come to the Blind Tiger straight from yoga to see the bands from her home, but being new in town she was at the festival on her own. We talked for so long the next band came on and played, and then the next. We spent the day together watching band after band, then the whole weekend. And a few days later I went back to Brighton for the pretty girl to take me to see Jeffrey Lewis — and with perfect symmetry, the show was at the Blind Tiger. It was one of the most idiosyncratic, joyous, memorable shows I’ve ever seen.
So that’s how I fell in love with the Blind Tiger, and I’ve only been there twice. I can only imagine how music fans who live in Brighton feel about it.
Sadly, the pretty girl was only in this country for a few weeks, so for that short time we saw each other as much as possible. She had to go back to Canada to med school, and I have my job and my family and my life here. But those few weeks were unbelievable. We still keep in touch. It was the best holiday romance I’ve ever had, even if I wasn’t the one on holiday.
And it all started in the Blind Tiger.
Now the Blind Tiger is closing because a neighbour keeps complaining about the noise. Apparently they moved into a flat directly above a music venue, and started complaining about the noise. The local authorities have sided with the neighbour’s egregious complaint, and the venue has run out of options. The Blind Tiger closes on Monday.
My first reaction was to turn up and throw rocks at the neighbour’s window. But I don’t know their circumstances. Maybe they’d love to move. Maybe they can’t afford to. Thanks to today’s housing market, I can’t really afford to live where I live, but because of the enormous deposits required by chiselling letting agents I can’t afford to move either. I feel some sympathy for someone whose home, their place of peace and sanctuary, is pounded by noise every night. But then I come back to the question of why the hell they moved in there in the fucking first place.
This isn’t the first music venue to be broken on the wheel of the housing market, unfriendly neighbours and bureaucratic indifference. Like music fans in every town and city, I’ve loved and lost. The Liverpool Lomax wasn’t the first place I saw a live band, but it was the first place I learned that other people loved the stuff I loved, that in my love for music I was part of something bigger. The Astoria, LA2 and Metro, where I spent many a night standing in the footprints of countless music lovers before me, were all sacrificed on the altar of Crossrail. Look, I embrace change; maybe one day as an older man when I’m travelling at 200 miles per hour through the countryside, carving 20 minutes off my journey to Slough or whatever the hell it is that Crossrail does, I’ll smile gently at my youthful folly and decide that yes, things are better now.
Hell, maybe each time I pass the former home of The Gaff, an ace little psychobilly joint on the Holloway Road, I’ll think yes, things are better now — this country absolutely needed another fucking Costa Coffee.
In these times of austerity and fear and the perpetual white noise of war and horror overseas, as bigots and toadying money-grubbing nobodies carve up the country, music is important. People coming from around the world to sing for you, so you can stand with your friends and strangers and drink with them and sing your hearts out together — that’s important. OK, I know, it’s not famine or civil war, but every music venue crushed by the small-minded is worth mourning.
So I’ll mourn the Blind Tiger, disappearing not with a roar but with a whimper.
It may have taken yet another dent, but I still cherish that sure feeling that something unexpected and wonderful is just around the corner. And at least, to that pretty girl, I’ll always be the Boy From the Blind Tiger.