This week between Monday 28 January and Sunday 3 February, the UK’s music scene will be taken over by Independent Venue Week.
IVW is the UK’s leading celebration of its independent music venues. These venues give upcoming artists some of their earliest experiences of playing in front of a crowd and music fans the chance to discover artists in an intimate and unique setting.
TickX has decided to celebrate these venues by awarding six venues across the UK our new Independent Venue Award. Each day this Independent Venue Week, we’ll chat with staff from each of the venues we’ve selected to explore the venue itself, highlight the work it does in its local music scene and look at the events it has in store this week.
Today’s winner is…
Today, our Independent Venue Award goes to the Louisiana in Bristol. This 140-capacity, family-run venue has been showcasing musicians for over 20 years and has become seen as a milestone venue for new bands undertaking national tours.
The venue has an illustrious list of previous visitors making it one of the must-stops for any music fan in the South West of England.
What is the Louisiana like?
The Louisiana began hosting events when a fire at the Bristol venue The Fleece in 1996 led local promoters to ask if they could use the Louisiana’s upstairs room instead. Within two weeks, the venue had hosted Placebo and Super Furry Animals, and built its own stage. It quickly became a home for upcoming DJs and club nights, including the Chemical Brothers.
Now the Louisiana is one of the biggest venues on the Bristol gig circuit and has been lucky enough to host acts such as Coldplay, Dua Lipa, Kasabian, Muse, The Strokes, The White Stripes, Mogwai, and Jose Gonzalez amongst many others.
To find more about the Louisiana, we spoke with Mig Schillace, head music booker at The Louisiana, to ask what makes it such a great place to catch a show.
How did you get involved with the Louisiana? What makes the venue special to you?
My family have been running The Louisiana for 32 years. I have been a musician since I was 15 years old, so music has always been a huge part of our family.
What’s the most memorable gig you’ve seen at the Louisiana?
Over the years, The Louisiana has been seen as a barometer for new bands. The first time The Scissor Sisters played here it was as support to a Bristol band, but by the third time we had to escort them to the stage so they wouldn’t get mobbed.
It was the same with Florence and the Machine, and The National – who first played here to 20 people and now they’re playing to 20,000. We’ve always been the first port of call for most new bands doing a national tour.
What role do you think venues like the Louisiana play in Bristol’s music scene and the wider music world?
While external promoters book the national bands that perform at The Louisiana, we make sure the venue is a platform for home grown talent. Lots of local acts approach us, and we try and give them slots as much as possible. If we believe a band has real talent we’ll try and support them as much as we can and recommend them for suitable national support slots and festivals too. We regularly have labels, agents & promoters asking us for tips on the best new music coming through the venue.
We always try to look after the bands that play here, local and national, which means they have a good time and want to come back time and time again. We start by giving an unknown act a chance, and then when they go on to become massive they still want to come back to play, even though we are a small venue.
It’s great being part of bigger, citywide events too. We’re a fringe venue at Bristol Harbour Festival, and last year the whole road was closed off as we had a jazz band playing outside and people were jiving in the sunshine. We are also one of the eight venues for Bristol’s Dot to Dot Festival every May, which sees the best new bands descend on the city and play back-to-back throughout the day. It’s a music marathon, and the atmosphere is incredible.
What impact does being involved with Independent Venue Week have on the venue?
IVW to us is about celebrating live music venues and helping raise awareness in the importance of grassroots venues as the foundation for the UK music industry.
Which events are you most looking forward to at the Louisiana this IVW and later this spring?
Dot To Dot Festival in May, and Heavy Lungs (playing on the Saturday of IVW).