This month, Cambridge rockers, The Treatment , joined Status Quo on their reunion tour. On Friday this week, 15th March 2013, they tweeted “Tonight we rock the Hammersmith Apollo. Possibly the holy grail of all British rock venues.”
Ah! Hammersmith Apollo; still affectionately known as the Hammy O (due to previously being the Hammersmith Odeon). This excited statement on Twitter not only made me think of all the amazing bands that I had seen there myself, (and also made me wish I had got my butt into gear and got myself a ticket), but also brought to mind another of my favourite venues that is sadly no longer with us and sorely missed. The Astoria on Charing Cross Road in London; a victim of Transport for London’s Crossrail project, nothing could be done to save its life. This January 2013, saw the fourth anniversary of its closure when, on the 14th January 2009, The Demolition Ball was to be the last concert it staged.
Yes, it was a dive; yes you had to keep moving or risk your feet becoming attached to the floor; yes the bar was expensive; yes the security were heavy handed and bloody minded (crowd surfing was NOT tolerated!); yes, narrow staircases and 2000 fans were a bit of a squeeze and an alarming fire drill prospect! But, what history and what a vibe! Intimate enough to be up close to the band yet still command the pulling power to entice major acts like The Rolling Stones, Madonna, Deep Purple, Dio, Radiohead, McFly, The Libertines and The Darkness, the venue had become iconic in its own right since it’s days as the Crosse & Blackwell pickle factory warehouse. Converted into a cinema in 1927, it then became a musical theatre in 1976 before the music and club scene made it an established part of the live music circuit from the 1980’s.
In mourning it’s passing I have often found myself recalling the hazy memories of all the great gigs that I experienced there on my journey from young teenager to irresponsible adult. I think I learned how to “mosh” there and punched a bloke’s lights out without realising what I had done (I am only a seven and a half stone slip of a girl!) I have drunk so much beer and danced so manically that I have dehydrated myself to a crisp in my endeavours to party hard at The Astoria. We have formed pits and human pyriamids at The Astoria. We have done things in the loos of The Astoria that maybe we really shouldn’t have!
All grown up, my last gig at The Astoria was on November 29th 2008, just two months before the ceiling was to literally come crashing down. Aussie rockers Airbourne were playing with Stone Gods. It was a highly charged, sweaty party night that closed with a rendition of AC/DC’s “Whole Lotta Rosie” when Airbourne were joined onstage by Dan Hawkins (Stone Gods/The Darkness). That kind of summed up the fact that I didn’t want it to end. It was probably one of the best gigs I had been to for a long time and I remembered feeling slightly strange when I left that night, knowing that I would never step inside that building again.
This link to the Airbourne UK Fansite displays some of the photos from that night with Dan Hawkins too.
So four years on from the demise of a truly iconic landmark, let me raise a glass to The Astoria, cider, or Carling, or whatever, and say Thankyou for the memories and the glory days!
If you can bear to watch it here is the link to the time lapse vid of The Astoria’s demolition filmed by TfL’s webcams.
What was your last gig at The Astoria? Let me know.
I can also remember some other venues that might fall into the “holy grail” mix. There’s The Marquee and Klub Foot at The Clarendon Hotel Ballroom for a start. But, for me, nothing beat The Astoria.
Maybe you’d like to let me know what your iconic British rock venue is and we can go down memory lane all over again?