Whether you’re new to Bristol or not, we thought we’d tell you about some of the best venues the city has to offer. We’re not counting the big players like the O2 or Colston Hall (soon to be renamed) – you already know about them – but here are five of the great mid-size/smaller venues that you definitely need to check out!
1. The Lanes
Officially the coolest bowling alley in Bristol (at least, we think so), The Lanes has also recently become a hot spot for seeing some of the best up-and-coming local bands. Right in the centre of town, The Lanes is a guaranteed good night out and every band we’ve seen here (including BIMM bands Chay Snowdon, and The Delinquents) have really drawn a crowd. Plus, with Jon the Mod spinning records into the early hours, there’s no doubt this venue knows how to throw a party. We’d really recommend checking this place out asap.
2. The Louisiana
Known to locals as The Loui, this place is a permanent resident of the Bristol venue hall of fame. Acts such as Placebo, Super Furry Animals, The Scissor Sisters, Florence and the Machine, Coldplay, and Muse have all played here, and so many more. This venue has an incredible history and is still a family-run place that likes to showcase local talent whenever they can. A staple venue in both Dot to Dot and Harbourside festivals, they house bands on each floor (including a quirky little basement which you can hire out for free!). You not a true Bristolian gig-goer until you’ve gone here!
This place used to be known as Start the Bus (RIP) but even as Hy-Brasil it’s still a great little venue right in the centre of town. It’s got a trendy feel about it and is always a buzzing hub in the evenings and at the weekends. Most, if not all, events here are free to attend which no doubt makes it more popular with us students. They also do great burgers here (2-4-1 on Tuesdays!) so getting some food here whilst watching the music is highly recommended!
4. The Fleece
Like The Loui, this venue has been around for a while and has hosted some massive names like Oasis, Radiohead, and The White Stripes. It’s a significant place in Bristol’s music history and you can really feel that once you’re inside its walls. Its décor is unlike any other venue in the city, with many poles running from ceiling to floor throughout which may restrict the audience’s view slightly but also makes the room unique. Nowadays it’s thought that The Fleece puts on gigs of somewhat heavier music but they also have their fair share of great cover bands and local showcases. Club nights here are always a good time too and they are the home to the popular Propaganda night (every Saturday!). A visit to this venue is a must if you’re new to the area.
We couldn’t complete this list without mentioning Thekla! This place really is the mothership and is growing in popularity at a rate of knots (pardon the pun). The location, size, and look of this venue all get A*s from us, and BIMM clearly love it too as they hold many of their mid-term/end of term gigs here. If you hadn’t gathered already, Thekla is a boat… she’s not the only boat venue in Bristol but she is the best. This is a popular venue for both rising stars and established artists, and so far this year acts like Will Joseph Cook, Declan McKenna, Lewis Watson, The Lemon Twigs, The Sherlocks, and Kate Nash have all performed here. Thekla gigs are always a hit with audiences and artists alike, and being on the boat is a great experience. Club nights here are fun too although hearing drunk people exclaim “omg we’re on a boat!” does begin to grate on you after a while… ‘Thekla Thursdays’ are huge with locals and freshers so be prepared to wait in a lengthy queue. As a music venue though, it’s ace,and will be essential to the Bristol scene for a long time to come.
We thought some other venues deserved a quick mention, like Mr Wolf’s of St Nicholas Street. Not a huge place but this room fills up quick and is always a popular stop on a weekend night out. Acts playing here will get you grooving and maybe a bit sweaty but it’s all good fun. Also, Blue Lagoon on Gloucester Road – it’s always busy from Thursday night onwards and if you’re looking for some regular paid gigs this is the place to go to.
The list could go on and on but… we’ll let you explore the rest of Bristol’s music venues for yourself. Go and enjoy!