Thursday, 24 September 2009


Something potentially very exciting is happening in Oxford. Something that people seem to either not be talking about, or having a, probably sensible, 'let's-wait-and-see' attitude. I say people, I mean of course the people I know/hang out with/are into music and go to small gigs in Oxford.
The potentially exciting thing is that the Port Mahon on St Clements Street is re-opening. Not as a hotel/restaurant as was originally planned, but as a pub again. Refurbishments are happening as I type. The reason this is exciting is because I have been told that the people who will be running it plan to use the upstairs room as a venue, just as it was before the Port Mahon closed down.

This is an exciting rumour, and as far as I am aware it's still unconfirmed, because of the attitude there was towards the Port Mahon's venue room before. The attitude of 'We'll let you put on just about anything you like as long as people buy some drinks off us.'
This anything-goes attitude made the Port Mahon a sort of haven for experimental music in Oxford, led of course by the now seemingly defunct Permanent Vacation promoters, but also including gigs put on by Swiss Concrete, Poor Girl Noise, and the monthly Oxford free-jazz night. (Although their gigs were stopped by the Port Mahon due to the fact that hardly anyone who turned up to their gigs ever bought any drinks. Fair enough considering that it was free to hire the venue.)
The Port Mahon was a place you could see tiny, really obscure bands playing the kind of gigs you just don't get in Oxford now. To see a venue of that size and attitude return would be an excellent thing.
I'm not totally naïve tho.

I mean, yeah, I'm getting my hopes up, but I'm prepared for the fact that this might not happen. If the venue does re-open, there is no guarantee that it will be the place it was. Oxfordians only have to look at the Wheatsheaf to know how true that is.
The Wheatsheaf is another venue above/part of a pub in Oxford. The Wheatsheaf used to be a sweet little venue, attracting some fucking incredible gigs in it's heyday. Off the top of my head immediately comes the times I saw Part Chimp, Black Dice and Trans Am there, three absolutely phenomenal gigs. If I spent more time thinking about it, I could probably come up with many more.
But the Wheatsheaf closed it's venue. For a time there were no gigs there, and then it re-opened when the pub was under new management. Brilliant, we all thought, fucking sweet. The Wheatsheaf's back!
Only, it's not the Wheatsheaf it used to be. It seems to be being treated as a slight inconvenience, decent & exciting gigs rarely get put on there now, (I can only think of two this year) and the venue itself isn't particularly pleasant to be in; a warm, sweaty, stuffy room in which you can almost feel the air, it's so thick. Maybe it was always a bit like that and it just wasn't a problem because of the gigs and atmosphere it had before. I don't know. Now it's a problem tho.
Anyway, the point of this isn't just to slag off the Wheatsheaf. It's to point out that getting excited about somewhere re-opening can often lead to disappointment. I'm well aware that the re-opening of the Port Mahon might turn out to be a big anti-climax as far as the venue is concerned, but maybe it won't be. Maybe we can get something different and interesting back into the local scene again. A bit of the variety that we once had, y'know? That is something worth getting excited about, I reckon.
After all, we can't solely rely on Vacuous Pop to put on good gigs.

P.S. Reading that last bit over again, I'm probably being harsh by not mentioning You! Me! Dancing! They do put on decent gigs, just mostly gigs by bands I'm not myself interested in. Although, they are putting on Ungdomskullen & BITCHES on Friday, which should be pretty fucking awesome.

1 comment:

schmemma said...

the wheatsheaf was always hot as far as i can remember..but that doesn't mean to say it wasn't good..

fingers crossed the port mahon will remain unchanged..