Rock City – Live Bands Find A New Home

Image courtesy of Rock City
Image courtesy of Rock City


After the unfortunate and sad demise of the legendary Blue Room as the town`s jewel in the crown for local live music, it left all music fans and bands alike wondering what to do and where to go next. Blackpool was left with very little to offer in the way of suitable and viable venues for live bands to perform and a void was created. That was until a team of visionary people grasped the opportunity to shake things up and get the town back on the map as a place to see bands play. The Blackpool Music Festival, held last month, sparked a hopeful revival and although it was the first of its kind to be staged in the town, the revolution began in earnest.

The festival`s legacy and aim was to create an awareness that live music wasn’t going to die easily and without a fight. So, from this we are seeing a continuation, but even more so, a determination to succeed. This weekend saw the opening of Blackpool`s latest offering as a place for live bands to perform, in the very aptly named Rock City on Chapel Street. Formerly The Stanley Arms, (now owned by Ma Kelly`s) Mick Sugden saw an opportunity to carry on the success of the Blackpool Music Festival and thus provide a suitable replacement for the Blue Room. A tall order maybe, but with a belief that this can be successfully achieved, the new venue opened its doors last Friday night. Every weekend this month and beyond will see a fabulous line up of local bands.

With a stonking opening line up of the charismatic De Palma supported by the fantastically talented young local band Belvadere, it was a great way to introduce the music loving Blackpool public to a sparkly new place to do their stuff!  Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to make it to the opening salvo, but from all accounts it went rather well. A decent enough opening crowd saw a brilliant night`s live entertainment and with a free entrance policy, it proved to be a great option.

Now, there usually tends to be a musical brainchild to help out behind such ventures, if only to offer support and advice. In securing the services and skills of Salford Music Festival genius Ed Blaney in helping launch the venue, it turned out to be a masterstroke. Ed will be the first to admit that he has a huge affection for Blackpool and of course its live music scene. He was a prominent figure and a key organiser of the Blackpool Music Festival and this gave him the taste to carry on to the next stage. He saw that the town needed to continue the success of the festival and acted immediately. So he was the chief instigator sourcing and booking the bands throughout the whole of November. And let’s face it, he didn’t do too shabby a job! Not only that, he now provides constant support on the sound desk to all the bands every weekend as well as providing some rather dapper tunes in between sets. Such dedicated people are hard to come by and we are lucky to have him here.

I visited the venue for my first look on Saturday night. Strangely enough, I`d never actually ever stepped through the doors ever before, so it was a fine introduction to the old Stanley Arms, but in its new guise. My first impression was one of surprise, if I`m honest. It was a lot bigger than I thought and perfect for live music. It boasts very good facilities and even, dare I say, a well covered indoor smoking area away from the main area! The stage layout was big enough to hold a good sized band and in a great position in the venue. A spacious bar area and plenty of seating if required made me instantly think that if supported well, this could well be the very answer to the problem that was created when the Blue Room sadly closed its doors for the last time. But (and this is a big `but`) this venue absolutely needs the backing a support of the town`s live music loving public. It needs a big response and most of all it needs numbers through the doors.

Easier said than done I know and a big ask maybe. But I believe strongly that Rock City has every chance of succeeding, if they get things right. How do they do that? Well firstly, in my opinion, it’s very important to get quality bands booked covering all genres, then hold nights where new upcoming talent can showcase their talent, as well as the more established artists. Keep bar prices reasonable in a time of austerity, hold student nights, maybe open mic nights, promotion events etc. But more importantly strive to become the best the town has to offer. Like I`ve already said, it’s a big ask, but I believe more than achievable. Bands need somewhere to play and Rock City needs the bands.

So, on my first foray, I caught the excellent band The Cobras, who played two energetic sets filled with brilliant familiar ditties from across the 60`s, 70`s and 80`s. The highlight for me was the finely executed `Psycho Killer` which is a classic Talking Heads number. The Cobras managed to nail it perfectly and had the enthusiastic crowd, in good numbers, singing along. Some even taking to the dance floor in front of the stage to show their appreciation. It was very entertaining stuff, a good night’s work, and the sound was spot on through a very good P.A. system ably manned by Ed and Scott Slattery. The support on the night came from Zebra X, a rock duo made up of Colette Nelson and Sebastian Orain, who warmed up the crowd nicely and Colette even promised me that they would attempt to incorporate a Blondie number into a future set!

Briefly getting back to Ed Blaney, before I wrap up this review. His philosophy and view is to give the Rock City stage to upcoming local original bands in some capacity and I share that view entirely. As some may know, or not know, I firmly believe that bands trying to get on the live circuit need somewhere to showcase their work. So by offering support slots alongside the more established bands at this venue, this at least gives them the opportunity to play and get their name out there. And surely that will bode well for the health and well being of the local music scene and for bands attempting to make the breakthrough. Not only that, many bands getting these slots have large followings, so that in turn should bring good numbers through the venue doors. And for free entry in a central location, basically, everyone is a winner!

I`ll finish this review off by issuing a plea. Please try to do your very best to support this venue, because many were loathed and perplexed by the sudden closure of the much lauded Blue Room. Many felt lost and let down, abandoned and without a place to play. Now there is the chance to put that right and from any past mistakes made, hopefully lessons can and will be learned. I`m sure a place such as Rock City can cement its name as a great place to play and a place to hang out and lets be honest about it, we need a venue like this to help keep the live music scene both vibrant and alive.

Rock City. A new venue and another chance to shine. Long may it live, prosper and grow.


Image courtesy of Rock City
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    Blackpool based self-confessed music fanatic involved in the local music scene around the Fylde and particularly passionate about promoting and assisting new upcoming bands and artists breaking through.

  • Show Comments (10)

  • Uncle Nobby

    I have to ask did the author of this article ever actually watch any bands at the Blue Room?
    What made the Blue Room so popular and so good is it was a chance for people to see decent local original material bands as opposed to the second rate covers bands every other venue in Blackpool has to offer.
    Rock City is merely another venue for these covers bands to play and in my eyes (and I think in many others) this will certainly not be any sort of replacement for the blue room.
    The bands that are playing here can be seen in Blackpool every week and the same old bands playing Blackpool every week is exactly what is destroying the local music scene.

    • Steve Guest

      Thanks for your response to the article. Although respectfully, I do think your opinion is doing a disservice to the very hard working cover bands who provide fantastic entertainment and bring people through the doors. My opinion is that there has to be a balance. I think Rock City may get it right by providing a platform for original bands alongside the more established cover bands.

      As a fledgling venture it has to start somewhere and gauge opinion and reaction. I totally agree with you about original bands being given every chance to play. If you read the article through again I have gone to lengths to stress how vital and important this is. I did frequent the Blue Room on many occasion and it provided a brilliant platform for original artists. And I cant see any reason why Rock City can’t do the same. Like I did say, its a tough ask..but it can be done. The venue has to build a name and a brand first and then build on that further with the suggestions I pointed out quite clearly.

      On the opening night we had one of( if not the) most promising young original bands in the area at the moment in Belvadere perform live. I remain very confident that they, along with many other such talented bands, will be playing Rock City on a regular basis and with good attendences

      I for one will be pushing for original bands to be given that chance. With the brilliant original bands we have coming through at this moment in time, I think its a no brainer that they will be offered the opportunity. If they are not then it will be a lost opportunity for the venue and a bad move in my opinion.

      And lastly, if I know Ed Blaney like I think I do, he will put every ounce of effort into attempting to get the original bands onto the Rock City stage at some point. Because like me, he knows that for live music to survive in the town our rising stars must be given that chance.

      For now, Rock City deserves to be given the chance to see what it can deliver before being written off as just another cover band venue.

  • Jon Bamborough

    Did you actually read the article?

    The thrust of it is that here we have a venue willing to invest in local bands. I wouldn’t call De Palma or The Cobras second rate on any day of the week and I’d be willing to bet that you wouldn’t either using your real name.

    Rock City are giving bands a platform , and paying them too! Most of the headline acts will be playing covers because, guess what, thats what the paying public want to see. They get the chance to throw in a couple of their own songs too. But, and here is where it gets interesting, they are also allowing support bands to play and are paying them too!!!! These support bands can play their own stuff or covers, whatever they want.

  • Steve Guest

    And I did forget to point out that if you look at the gig listing for this month, in support of the main acts (as it currently stands) are Belvadere, April Keen, Laura Catlow and The Ebeneze. All of which are fantastic local ORIGINAL musicians.

    Its totally about striking the balance.

  • David Dykes

    Uncle Nobby, Jon and Steve have nailed on the head here, Rock City won’t just be a cover band venue, and if you actually spent the time to go waych some of these “Cover Bands” you will see that there is a lot more to them than you originally think.

    A new band is not going to go down as well on a Saturday night in a Pub in Blackpool if they play their own original stuff all night, they have to play to the audience, show them they know their craft and can do the song as good if not better than the original, so the “Cover Bands” trawl the circuits trying to garner a following and they will put in their own original music where they think it’s appropriate.

    I can’t think of one band I have watched that I could call exclusively a “Cover Band”.

    Keep up the good work Jon, and Ed, and thank you for the excellent write up Steve, ignore the detractors, Blackpool Rock City is on it’s way up!!

  • Uncle Nobby

    I just don’t see what this place has to offer that any other place has had to offer.
    People had plenty of chance to get off their backsides and support local at The Blue Room, West Coast Rock Cafe, The Cedar Tavern, The Tache, The Music Hall Tavern, Riffs and many other places which either no longer exist or pretty much never put bands on any more.

    What makes you think they are suddenly going to do that just to see the same acts they can see play a week later at Uncle Toms, Royal Oak, Gillespies, The Hop etc but at a venue even further out of town than the venues that already shut down?

    Also I was unaware there was a pecking order in place where original material bands can’t have their own gig unless they have established themselves supporting covers bands.
    So if i wanna make it big in Blackpool I may as well give up writing my own material then and just head out and buy a load of tab books and get learning some covers.

  • Ryan Mangnall

    Hey Steve, We’d love to play here!!!!

  • HRC

    There are loads of venues for ‘rock bands’ in Blackpool , where do artist who fit outside this music genre go to play? I believe Blackpool needs not another rock venue but somewhere that offers a more wide variety of genres!

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    Steve Guest

    I would strongly suggest that if you are a skeptical musician hiding behind a veil of anonymity, tell us about your band and your work and maybe the organisers and the venue could help you out! Just a thought.

    As for genres, I think the current November line up covers stuff right across the board, not just Rock.

    It is just the name chosen for the venue.

  • Jon Bamborough

    Hey Uncle Nobby, that pecking order is called market forces. If you provide a product that people like wether it is original or covers then there will be a market for it. However, sometimes, some musicians may truly believe that their stuff is amazing and unique, they may be encouraged by their pals telling them it’s great but that doesn’t mean everyone wants to hear it. There has to be some compromise. BTW HRC, there are venues that allow all genres to play like The Galleon Bar and The Cedar Tavern. Also, West Coast is available for hire if you so confident your band is great, hire the place, put on a gig and let’s see what happens. Some of the most successful acts started out that way.

    A few years ago, I put AAAK on at The Galleon in front of a dozen or so people. This year they have done over a dozen European stadiums supporting Red Hot Chilli Peppers and The Pixies.

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