For the last few years the final week of January has seen The Met come alive for big-name gigs as part of the festival of grassroots music that is Independent Venue Week.
It’s a time when we welcome back old friends and cram in first-timers drawn by 2 nights of sold-out gigs that have included Richard Hawley, Slow Readers Club and Turin Brakes and packed shows with international acts like Della Mae and Chatham County Line.
It’s become the weekend of the year when we welcome the most number of people to our little venue. In 2020 over 1300 came for 6 gigs in 4 days. But for 2021 the venue is closed to the public.
To mark the week, we asked our long-serving Events Manager, Nathan Berry, to share what makes IVW so special…he didn’t let us down.
My friend Steve once suggested to me, that ‘people, are people people’. At first I thought, what a fantastically peculiar phrase, you know; classic Steve. Then I recalled watching The Beatles anthology documentary back in the 90’s, where John Lennon mentions in an interview of getting chufty pants over using the word ‘please’ twice, consecutively in the song title, Please Please Me. I can see why he would’ve; it is after all, quite…pleasing. Of course James Brown had some years earlier had already pleaded ‘Please, Please, Please’, in the song ‘Please, Please, Please’ but hey, this isn’t Top-Trumps and if it is, well I’m not playing.
Was Steve actually referring to Depeche Mode’s industrial-pop song People are People? He does sometimes get confused with songs, especially the lyrics. For years he was singing ‘livin’ la Vida loca’ instead of ‘love in an elevator’ to the Aerosmith song Love in an Elevator. An easy mistake to make, try singing it for yourself. See what I mean? In any case, I’m quite sure that Aerosmith were most certainly livin’ la Vida loca that Ricky Martin so vigorously describes to us. The crazy life.
To be perfectly honest I’m feeling a teensy bit like I’m living the crazy life now or perhaps more like going loco and not, sadly, down in Acapulco, but right here, at my kitchen table.
No. I think what Steve was suggesting, was that in fact, people really are people people. Oh crikey, let me try again.
We’re all missing people right now, aren’t we?
When I was asked to write a blog for Independent Venue Week, I found myself thinking, just what was it about those gigs that made them so special, so standout? Where did that buzz come from? What made the venue feel like it had a pulse, like it could break free of its foundations and start stamping its feet in time to Richard Hawley singing Tonight the Streets Are Ours? The answer I discovered, was people. People people.
The Met is too quiet these days; the floors are too polished, the seats too empty and no one’s emailing me about the lack of legroom in between the rows (it’s a sore-point, don’t ask). And so I think back. I swipe back, through the archive footage in my mind and remember the artists, the audiences and the staff that made those gigs what they were. Bloody brilliant!
It’s all the usual lovely faces coming through the door, the ‘hello, how are you’s’, the handshakes (remember those?), the hugs, high-fives and fist bumps. The ones that can’t wait to tell you about this new band they’ve seen and do I think they’ll ever come to The Met? It’s the catch ups about last week’s gigs or last night’s gig for the die-hard. The ones that can’t believe so and so is playing here tonight in their hometown, in their venue! And the ones that saw me in Tesco near the tea & biscuits (guilty). It’s these people, these loyal supporters of the arts, who make every shift a pleasure to work.
And it’s all the new faces. Loads of ‘em! They’re all brimming with excitement; they want to know all about the history of the building, the organization and how long I’ve worked here (and I’ve been saying the same number of years… for years). The ones who’ll make new friends here, new partners maybe and the ones who are just happy to be around people of a similar mind and passion. The ones that never knew we existed and are amazed that we do. It’s when meeting and chatting to these folks that I feel even more proud of who we are, what we do and how we do it. Especially when at the end of the evening they’ll say ‘We’ll definitely be back!’
That’s what Independent Venue Week is all about I reckon; a chance to celebrate our selves, along with all the other venues up and down the country. You really do feel that that sense of community which has grown here, expanding to join a much larger network, a much larger community and it’s another way in which these gigs are always so meaningful.
If you’ve been to The Met (and I’m guessing most of you have), you’ll know what a wonderful set-up we have here in the old Derby Hall with the performances spaces, restaurant and bars, recording studio, workshop spaces and such. But ultimately what makes this venue what it is, is people. It’s the staff team, the family that work here. The friendships and camaraderie here make even the hardest and longest shifts, seem fun. It’s probably why you lot have such a jolly old time when you visit come to think of it. I’ve always felt privileged doing what I do. It’s afforded me some really joyous experiences and there’s never a dull a moment I can tell you.
And so in this Independent Venue Week, though we cannot be together to celebrate, I raise my glass to all those people people I’ve been blessed to meet and work with through the years. Cheers to you.
(main image: Nathan with Shaun, Missy, Sara & Tilly – some of our favourite people, staff at The Met for IVW 2019)
On The Road with Independent Venue Week
Check out Richard Hawley and The Met making an appearance in Independent Venue Week’s official documentary, fronted by Radiohead’s Philip Selway.