Music in Nottingham

Fans of every kind of music can find recordings and performances of their favourite style in the city of Nottingham.   There are record shops and venues devoted to traditional folk songs, vocal and choir music, chamber music and classical music, and much more.   In recent decades, however, a thriving local music scene has nurtured local bands in modern rock and roll, pop, R&B and hip-hop music, and many sub-genres from punk to Goth to industrial. 

A good barometer of the local scene is the website and magazine run by LeftLion, self-proclaimed reviewers and promoters of Nottingham Culture.  The folks at LeftLion also put on two band showcases every month, and sometimes bigger shows like the 2006 Drop In The Ocean show which raised money for Southeast Asia, as well as providing up-to-date events calendars for all of the local bands and venues:

The largest performing spaces for big touring acts are the Nottingham Royal Concert Hall and the Nottingham Arena (a space which doubles as the National Ice Centre when not hosting concerts).   Both can hold thousands of people, and have been the site of some of the biggest shows in the Nottinghamshire region.

For local music, though, Rock City and its sisters are the backbone of the  Nottingham music scene.  Rock City has hosted many big names from outside the city, and almost all of the best local bands as well, either in the main club or one of its smaller sister clubs, The Rescue Rooms, The Social, and Stealth.

Rock City, founded in 1982, has a large (and recently refurbished) Main Room with an elevated stage, bars at the sides and a big balcony at the back, which has been the venue of choice for a huge number of Nottingham performers.  Two smaller rooms downstairs are called The Rig and The Basement.  The Rig is mainly an area for socializing, but The Basement has a small stage and seats, with a great little sound system.  In the last year, the club has hosted performers such as Simple Minds, Staind, Pitchshifter, Less Than Jake, Killing Joke, Towers Of London, Panic! At the Disco, Sisters of Mercy, Jason Mraz, Echo and the Bunnymen, Deftones, Lost Prophets, and, of course, a host of unsigned hopefuls and tribute bands.

Rock City’s spin-off venue, The Rescue Rooms, is a bar, a nightclub, and a smaller stage for independent and alternative music covering a wide diversity of styles.   Past performers include Soledad Brothers, Stereolab, Keane, The Zutons, and local acts like The Magic Heroes and Six by Seven.

Next to The Rescue Rooms is the newer club Stealth, which focuses on the darker side of modern music.  DJ and club nights, and sometimes live acts, touch on nihilistic, futuristic electro clash, punk/funk and grinding garage rock.

A lighter sound can be found at The Social, where the music played in the upstairs bar tends toward nostalgic, melodramatic, folk-flavored independent bands.

Outside of the Rock City orbit are the independent Junktion 7 in Canning Circus, catering to the university crowd with comfortable seating and straight-ahead rock music.  It has held performances by Arctic Monkeys, LA Guns, Mike Peters, and many more.

The Old Angel in Hockley Village is another venerable club, this one tilted more towards the metal and hardcore sounds, with some of the bands crossing over towards emo and industrial.

For pure dance music -- modern techno, drum ‘n’ bass, hip-hop, breaks ‘n’ beats, and so on --  the underground Bomb in Bridlesmith Gate is a dark maze of overwhelming sounds and movement.

In the 1970s, the biggest venue in the city was the Nottingham Boat Club, which started hosting live jazz music in 1962 to raise funds for the boating club.  The musical performances quickly became popular and the Boat Club soon added blues, soul, and rock music as well. Jimi Hendrix, Curtis Mayfield,  Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, the Sex Pistols, Rod Stewart, Def Leppard, Gary Moore, Black Sabbath and many more have played gigs in this tiny 250-capacity venue alongside the River Trent.

Other bars and lounges in Nottingham, some with music and some without,  include The Palais, Ohm, Ocean, Bar None, Lizard Lounge, The Cooke Club, Daniel’s Hall, The Square, and Muse.

Bands and artists who have emerged from Nottinghamshire include Ten Years After ("Love Like A Man"), Stereo Mcs (“Elevate my Mind”, “Connected”, “Step It Up”, “Creation”, “Ground Level”) , The Magic Heroes, Amusement Parks on Fire, Bent ("Invisible Pedestrian"), Computerman, Earth The Californian Love Dream, Punish the Atom, Confetti, Dead Fingers Talk, Fat Tulips, Paper Lace ("Billy Don’t Be A Hero"), Pitchshifter, Seachange, Six by Seven, Katty Heath, Little Barrie, Love Ends Disaster, Whycliffe, MC Pitman, Tindersticks, Twelve, Bloc Party, Reef, Iron Monkey, and Outdaville.

Since 2003, the Sandfield Theatre near Derby Road has hosted a week long “Bands in the Sand” battle-of-the-bands talent contest each winter for young rock bands with members between the ages of 11 and 19.

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