A CELEBRATION: Nottingham’s Rock City at 40

A CELEBRATION: Nottingham’s Rock City at 40

Nottingham’s Rock City has been heralded the best venue in the country, having not visited all of the venues in the country I can’t make comment on that being true but what I can say is the venue is the best venue I’ve been too. Every angle you stand or sit in the venue is never a bad one, plus the small two thousand odd capacity is neither too small or too big a audience. One further advantage was being a Nottingham lad I was able to experience it’s avenues in close quarters on many occasions.

With the venue now celebrating its 40th anniversary I thought I would share some of my memories of attending gigs at the venue, whilst not being a prolific attendee the gigs I attended always left a predominate memory of a great night. The first ever gig I went to was at Rock City in 1990 to see The Charlatans on their headline Some Friendly tour supported by Intastella. I was 15 at the time and to get in the venue me and my mates acquired fake NUS cards, which worked treat and we got in, drank whisky for the first time ever which was disgusting. Intastella as I remember got a load of abuse thrown their way, nonetheless dancer and Hacienda legend Little Ant took no notice, dancing his way throughout the set wearing a orange necklace.

The build up to the Charlatans made the hairs on the back of your neck stand on edge. Imperial 109 rumbled out the speakers before Tim Burgess and band mates made a triumphant entrance before ripping into The Only One I Know, I was slap bang in the middle of the mosh pit and it was heaving, pure adrenalin, no time to catch your breath all the way through the set. One further highlight I do remember was seeing drummer Jon Brookes smash the living daylights out of the drum kit, head down, shoulder length hair all over the place, sweating, just brilliant.

Another highlight was seeing Britpop darlings Oasis and Blur at the venue. The Oasis gig was them on verge of being a stadium band, the venue was at fever pitch, everyone wanting a piece of the band, Liam and Noel were playing up for all the cameras in the photo pit. This time I was situated on the balcony and had a birds eye view of the standing area bouncing like everyone was wearing springs on their shoes, Ocean Colour Scene supported on the night, no one knew their tunes at the time, I don’t remember playing anything recognisable, but I no doubt imagine they play stuff from the much lauded come back album Moseley Schoals.

Rare picture of Blur at Rock City 1994

The Blur gig was similarly billed as a big deal, I think part of the gig was broadcast live on BBC radio 1, Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley were devotees, the band were in fine form and I think premiering material from their forthcoming album at the time Park Life which ultimately propelled them into indie greatness. The night was also the start of Damon jumping into the crowd in the middle of Popscene. His new Londsdale t shirt was ripped to bits when he was eventually pulled out of the crowd by the infamously hard but Rock City bouncers.

Further gigs from back in the 1990’s I attended was Northside, I had one leg in a plaster cast due to breaking my anklre, but I still managed a few moves from the back of the venue whilst the few that were there were down the front. Primal Scream were savage when they played in the middle of the XTRMNTR tour, Mani and Throb were slashing out the chords, whilst when I saw The Brand New Heavies I attempted to pull of a fake leather yellow jacket, evidently you only look cool in that kind of attire if you’re up on stage, and not a skint dole claiming lurch at the time.

The most recent outings at the venue was to see a indie all dayer with Echo and the Bunnymen headlining, playing a set mostly of their greatest hits, Ian McCollouch smoked throughout, shouting out the orders to the backing band who followed his instructions to the letter. Finally probably the loudest gigs I’ve been to at the venue was De La Soul back in 2017, all the original members were there. I was and still am mostly familiar with their 3 Feet High and Rising era material, but was I was greeted with in the set was a mega mix of hip hop deep bass anthems, the bass sound that launched out the speakers was deafening, the whole venue shook, especially with the Posdnuos, Trugoy and Maseo leading the charge on stage.

I may have missed seeing Nirvana because I was skint, I definitely didn’t see The Cure all because I was out of touch with the music media of the time, however I ‘ve got to see some fantastic bands at the venue and I have some fabulous memories to boot. Thank you Rock City. I sincerely hope the venue does open again soon, it would be a true tragedy if the venue was to close due to the pandemic, hopefully the wise people in power in Nottingham will help keep this historic venue thriving once things get back to normal, until then cheers me’ duck!

Matt Mead

Matt Mead

Freelance writer who likes anything with heart and soul
Matt Mead

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