Newcastle boasts a number of fantastic independent music venues that, prior to lockdown, have been the location of many iconic performances. From the emerging to the established, these venues have hosted various local and national bands and artists, acting as the cultural epicentre of our local music scene.
Although coronavirus restrictions have caused a temporary closure of the North East’s favourite venues, there may be a light at the end of the tunnel. With the recent development and distribution of two vaccines, it seems as if we’re (hopefully) heading towards the tail end of the coronavirus pandemic, which is excellent news for our venues.
For now, however, we play the waiting game, but that doesn’t mean we should let our hopes down! In this article I will go over seven of the most notable independent live music venues that Newcastle has to offer. The following are a must-visit for gig-lovers (once the whole covid ordeal is over):
1. The Cluny
Kicking off the list is The Cluny. Located in a former flax spinning mill at the heart of Ouseburn, The Cluny is at the epicentre of Newcastle’s independent music scene.
The venue boasts a rather star-studded list of past performers, including The Vaccines, Mumford & Sons, Arctic Monkeys, Kate Nash, and Duffy. Despite this, however, The Cluny does not turn a blind eye to smaller and more local acts, having hosted a number of brilliant performances from several regional and emerging bands and soloists.
The 300 capacity live music venue is also home to a successful cafe and pub, the latter of which is a regular fixture in the top 100 list of World’s Best Bars.
Neighbouring The Cluny is the smaller and more intimate Cluny 2. Taken over by The Cluny in 2009, Cluny 2 is an 180 capacity theatre-style venue which is also suitable for theatre, comedy events, and lectures, as well as the usual gig.
Both Cluny venue spaces, and the main bar, are fully wheelchair accessible and available to hire for live music events, parties, meetings and private functions.
Located: 36 Lime Street, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2PQ
2. Think Tank?
Originally a pop-up venue in 2013, Think Tank? has now established itself as an iconic fixture in the local music scene. Finding a permanent home within Digital, which is located in Newcastle’s bustling city centre, the popular venue provides a platform for local talent and emerging touring acts from outside the region.
To date, the venue has hosted many notable bands and artists such as Wolf Alice, The 1975, Sam Fender, Peace, and Royal Blood, all of whom utilised the space during their early days.
Think Tank? is a little venue where big things happen. It offers smaller, more intimate and carefree performances from bands and artists who, in most cases, will soon sky-rocket into popularity, producing an air of unrepeatable exclusivity. From the way the stage is artfully decorated, to the inevitable mid-gig chaos, Think Tank? has a (rather Skins-esque) vibe very few venues can replicate.
Along with more widely-known indie acts, the venue has also seen superb performances from several local emerging bands including (but certainly not limited to): Lovejoy, Spilt Milk, and Fowl (pictured above).
In 2018 Think Tank? opened a smaller sister venue, Think Tank? Underground (pictured below), which is situated directly under the venue. Think Tank? Underground is already becoming a hotspot for local live music.
Located: Times Square, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 4EP
Located on Newcastle’s historic quayside, Riverside is arguably one of the North East’s most iconic live music venues. Formerly a fish market, the distinctive Grade II listed building is now used for nightlife and the arts.
The venue boasts past performances from wide range of world class acts, including: Courtney Love, Royal Blood, IDLES, The Zombies, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, and many more.
Having a maximum capacity of 1200, Riverside is the largest venue on the list. Although not technically ‘independent’ itself, the venue is more than happy to provide a space where an array of local and independent performers can showcase their talents.
Most parts of the venue (including the main floor) are wheelchair accessible, as the venue aims to make every visitor’s experience as comfortable and easy as possible.
Riverside is a popular nightspot with two rooms, an unbeatable atmosphere and unique decorative features, now complete with updated lighting and sound systems.
Located: Neptune House, 1 Close, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 3RQ
Bobik’s is an independent venue situated on the first floor of The Punch Bowl Hotel, Jesmond. The 60 capacity venue offers a range of live music performances, plays, cinema showings, art exhibitions, and stand up comedy gigs.
Being among the smallest venues on the list, Bobik’s is the perfect place for more intimate performances from smaller acoustic bands and soloists. That being said, however, the space does lend itself to indie and rock gigs, with local rock bands such as Swine Tax and Pit Pony being just two of the many acts lined up to (hopefully) perform at Bobik’s later this year.
Visitors of Bobik’s can make their way downstairs and enjoy a nice meal and beverage from The Punch Bowl Hotel’s popular bar and restaurant. Being located in Jesmond (the student Capital of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne) means that The Punch Bowl Hotel regularly boasts a bustling and lively atmosphere, which is usually a hit with visitors.
Located: 125 Jesmond Rd, Jesmond, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 1JY
5. The Globe
The Globe is a community-owned pub and venue located on Railway Street, just footsteps away from the well-known Utilita Arena. With the capacity of 150, The Globe offers a unique and relaxed atmosphere where visitors can enjoy live music and musicians can show-off their talents.
Bought by Jazz.Coop in 2014, The Globe is the first bar and music venue in the UK to be owned by a cooperative committed to music. Since then, the venue has welcomed a huge array of bands and soloists onto its stage. Acts such as POKE, 1919, No Fox, and Divine Intervention have all performed at The Globe in recent years.
The Globe also hosts events such as after-parties, disco nights, jazz nights, and charity fundraisers, as well as regular expert-led lessons in a wide range of skills and topics.
Along with the venue, The Globe is also home to a bar, where visitors can enjoy a beverage from their plentiful menu. The space is wheelchair accessible and available to hire for gigs, events, meetings, private functions and parties.
Located: 11 Railway St, Newcastle upon Tyne NE4 7AD
6. Little Buildings
Located on Stepney Bank, Little Buildings is a cozy venue that can comfortably hold up to 60 visitors. The space offers an intimate setting for performances from both emerging and established artists.
Being one of the smallest venues on the list, Little Buildings is a snug independent venue that is often praised for its highly individual and welcoming atmosphere. Although primarily hosting local bands and artists, the venue regularly attracts touring acts from all over the country with its distinct Geordie charm and friendly staff.
Bands such as Plastic Glass, Squarms, Waves of Dread, Post Rome and Fossway, along with many other local legends, have all graced the stage at Little Buildings.
Previously located on Ford Street, the venue is also home to a fully licensed bar, offering a range of both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Located: 3-5 Stepney Bank, Ouseburn, Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 2P
7. Star And Shadow Cinema
Star And Shadow Cinema is a volunteer-run establishment which homes four hire-able spaces, including a 80 capacity cinema and a 200 capacity venue.
Opened in 2006 and located opposite the City Stadium, Star And Shadow Cinema is a non-profit, community-driven organisation that holds strong independent values. Prior to the coronavirus outbreak, the space would regularly be the site of events, gigs and film screenings.
As far as live music is concerned, the 200 capacity venue is perfect for smaller bands trying to establish themselves in the local scene, since the space provides an outlet for anyone who wants to showcase their talents. Local bands such as Bellyfeel and Serfa have been among the many to perform at the venue.
Members of Star And Shadow can host events at the venue for free in return for regular voluntary work to help keep the place up and running.
Star And Shadow is also home to a vegetarian/vegan cafe selling toasted sandwiches, cake, coffee and all types of tea, all of which are sourced ethically.
Located: Warwick St, Newcastle upon Tyne NE2 1BB