Apocalypse: How?

If you’ve been logging on to Facebook this week, you’d be forgiven for thinking the end-times are here. The wailing and gnashing of teeth from Blackpool’s alternative community has been prevalent to the point of distraction. Rumours have been flying left and right, centered on the uncertain fate of one of our most loved institutions: The Blue Room.

According to the twittering masses:

‘They are closing the pub and turning it into flats’ – No

‘They are only converting the practice rooms’ – No

‘They are keeping the pub open but stopping live music’ – No

‘They have sold it to Tesco and it’s going to be a convenience store. The pumps are running dry, the staff are being sold into slavery, earthquakes and meteor showers are forecast across the Fylde coast and Cthulhu has been sighted off North Pier.’

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Apocalypse.

Amongst all the hysteria, the one cold, hard fact is that tonight (Saturday 29 June) is to be the last ever night of live music at the Blue Room. Word has spread that the doors are closing and that there is never to be another game of wonky-pool played for stupid stakes. Billed as ‘Seven Shades of Punk’ and featuring some of Blackpool’s finest guitar monkeys, tonight was always going to be a bit special, so I figured I’d better get myself down there and take the opportunity to ask, ‘Where do we go from here?’

Right from the start, the news has filtered through to everyone that this is not a gimmick, this is not a joke or a publicity stunt, the Blue Room is really closing down. There’s denial in the air, a refusal to accept the truth, but the dancefloor is crammed with people determined to make sure that tonight goes down in legend. It’s ironic that right from the 7.30pm start, the bar is absolutely rammed with punters. I mean, seriously, wall-to-wall rammed; you can’t swing a cat in here. To try and write an objective article on a night like this is going to be nigh-on impossible. I have to level with you, right here and now, and say that the Blue Room, to me, has always been a bit of a temple, a solace and a place where I know that I can meet like-mined people, a place where I bump into filmmakers, graffiti artists, photographers, illustrators and, most importantly of all, musicians. For me, it defines alternative Blackpool. It’s going to be hard to say goodbye.

First up are Maggie Psycho. Usually the first band up would be greeted with casual disinterest but the bar’s packed as if the headliners are on. As a band, there’s a thick wall of noise, reminiscent of Soundgarden or similar 90’s Seattle bands. This isn’t a criticism, it’s a compliment. While the first song seems as if there’s a longing for a Delorean to turn up and whisk us all back to a time before the Stanley Arms was ever threatened with closure, the second song puts its foot firmly through any illusions that there’s any retrogressive grunge recidivists and reminds the whole establishment that we’re here to watch some balls-out 4/4 punk. By the time they leave the stage the venue’s firmly warmed-up for what’s obviously going to be a savage night.

Between bands I take the opportunity to hunt down some familiar faces and get their take on the whole shebang. Most of the comments, I have to admit, are unprintable, but there are plenty of homeless vocalists, hanging out at the front of the building, willing to give me their two-quid’s worth about the situation.

I found bar-fly Oz and CSOD musician, Liggot, as usual, hanging around amongst the nicotine addicts at the front door. As someone who has only lived in Blackpool for the past eight years, I was interested to hear their thoughts on the looming catastrophe.

“So, you guys have grown up around this place. What’s your favourite memory of the Blue Room?”

Oz: “The best thing I’ll remember about this place is walking-in, late, and seeing all my friends, waiting for me to turn up. It’s a place where people feel welcome, where we can shed our skins.  People laughing and letting-go; that’s what I’ll miss.”

“What about gigs? Where are you guys going to play, now that the Bluey’s gone?”

Liggot: “There’s only really 2 plans: the Cedar Tavern and West Coast.”

That’s the point really: everyone I’ve spoken to, whether vocalist, drummer, or punter, has been downbeat about the whole situation. No-one really has a concrete idea about where they are going to play next. It’s a pretty shitty situation and no-one’s got a plan go pull us all out of the muck.

Still, we all pile-in to see Dinosaurs are Shit Dragons tear the place apart. From this point on I have to admit it all gets a bit fuzzy. The place goes certifiably mental and the last thing I remember is seeing Barry Parkinson striking a messiah-pose, on top of the drum kit, as horrid, horrid feedback consumes the place.

From this point on, I remember nothing. It’s as it should be: a messy night to finish off the messiest venue Blackpool has ever had. As I write this I’m still recovering from the horrid misadventure of the whole thing. I’ll miss the place more than I could ever write, here’s hoping someone will step-in to save it.


Cover image courtesty of Marcus Bloom.

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