Fightback! tickets went on sale at the earlybird price of £10 before any line-up was announced. About half the tickets sold out, and around 800 acts came forward to offer their services to play at the gig, which was set up by the Music Venue Trust as a protest against the recent astonishingly high number of closures of music venues around the country, mainly due to development.
The Roundhouse tried to pack as many artists as possible into the evening, making use of three venues – the Main Space, the middle floor bar (which was rammed) and the more intimate Sackler Space downstairs, where the quieter acts performed with staff on the door operating a ‘one in, one out’ policy. The only downside to the packed evening was that sets had to be kept relatively short to squeeze everyone in.
Many of the artists were relatively unknown, but then this was part of the idea for the Fightback!, in order to give young musicians who should be playing at the Bull & Gate (now closed) or Buffalo Bar (now closed), a chance to play before a sizeable audience (bigger venues like The Astoria have closed too). Most artists made some reference on stage to the dire situation: The Carnabys, who played a bouncy first act on on the main stage, announced their decision to donate profits of their new album pre-orders to the Trust. After sets by a soulful Jake Isaacs and then Ed Harcourt, it was the turn of Public Service Broadcasting, who managed to get their screens and assorted on-stage paraphernalia set up in record time. They drew a huge and enthusiastic crowd and played a powerful and enigmatic set with accompanying visuals.
Headlining the evening were Everything Everything, but we headed downstairs to watch The Leisure Society, who took the final slot at the Sackler Space. Vocalist Nick Hemming reminded us of London venues they have played which no longer exist, The Luminaire and the 12 Bar. The band played a beautiful set– warm, enveloping folk-influenced material. Mike Siddell (below, left) played violin on several tracks which added extra depth and richness to the compositions. A perfect end to the evening.
Even Paul McCartney has got on board with the bid to save our venues, with a message of support on the Music Venue Trust website. Paul was one of the six major artists who took part in a ‘festival’ of sorts called Desert Trip in California. The organisers started the event at 6pm. As Melinda Newman writes in Forbes magazine: The festival, held at the Empire Polo Grounds in Indio, CA, tried a new model. Instead of a full day of music with headliners at night, Desert Trip was all main course, no appetizers’. Another lost opportunity for young artists to gain exposure and play before an audience. I hope this model doesn’t take off.
Atomic Sunrise festival was held at The Roundhouse in 1970 featuring Genesis, David Bowie, Hawkwind and others. Footage on a BBC4 documentary of Genesis called Together and Apart, includes a few seconds of footage of people gathering around outside the building. It’s reassuring that, despite its ups and downs over the years, the Camden Roundhouse still flourishes as a music venue.