When it comes to British music, it seems to me that the Midlands remains an unmentioned and much unloved place, despite being home to some of the greatest music scenes in the country. And of the Midlands, there is one place in my mind that simply oozes musical talent and a vibrant local scene: the proud city of Nottingham.
While I may be a little biased, growing up in this cultural hub is what made me the music nut I am today. It’s a place that showcases an incredibly encouraging, supportive network of likeminded musicians, making Nottingham an underrated gem of British music.
So, let me take you all on a journey through Notts, a city famous for many reasons beyond the likes of Robin Hood and Torvill and Dean.
The Maze, 257 Mansfield Road
If you’re just starting out as a band in Nottingham and want a stepping stone to greater things, look no further than The Maze – Nottingham’s answer to Battle of the Bands gigs, Open Mic Nights and everything in between. This dark and dinky little venue, hiding away behind a pub in the city centre, offers new bands the chance to show off their stuff to crowds of… varied size. If nothing else, The Maze is a place where dreams begin to blossom and stars in the making make their debut.
The Bodega Social Club, 23 Pelham Street
A slight step up from The Maze, The Bodega not only gives great opportunities to small, upcoming bands but it’s also hosted a fair few big names in the past such as Miles Kane and, not so long ago, Pete Doherty. This intimate venue has a capacity of just 250 so if you’re lucky enough to catch one of your faves here, then you won’t be disappointed with the closeness of the gig.
Rescue Rooms, 25 Goldsmith Street
The Rescue Rooms, attached to its larger counterpart Rock City (we’ll get there), is one of my favourite venues in Nottingham. It’s comfortable and cosy but with enough room to have a good old party, at a capacity of 450. Having been host to many great names in the past like The Killers and The Libertines, the Rescue Rooms boast a stage that sits slightly above the audience, giving a great view and never a bad gig.
Rock City, 8 Talbot Street
People from far and wide envy Nottingham for having the legendary Rock City on its turf. Love it or loathe it, Rock City has a legacy that very few venues can match. For almost 34 years it has opened its arms to artists of all genres and success in the past. With a main hall which holds almost 2,500 people and two adjoining rooms, ‘The Basement’ and ‘Black Cherry Lounge’ (formerly ‘The Rig’) you’re never short of music at Rock City and a huge, eclectic range of music lovers visit its sticky floors every year. To state notable bands that have played within its walls would be a never ending task, so (in the native tongue of Nottingham) go ay a look for ya’sen.
Capital FM Arena, Bolero Square, The Lace Market, Stoney St
Once known as the Nottingham Ice Arena (and the Trent FM Arena following that), the Capital FM Arena is the big daddy of Nottingham. It is Nottingham’s offering for any artists doing a nationwide arena tour and with the ability to hold 10,000 fans, it’s unsurprising that the people who grace the stage of this arena are usually huge commercial successes. While it’s undoubtedly the coldest, most generic venue in Nottingham and entering its walls would be not dissimilar to any other arena in the country, we should be proud that Nottingham has its own venue worthy to support worldwide superstars on our own turf.
Dog Is Dead
West Bridgeford born indie 5-piece Dog Is Dead have done their fair share to put Nottingham back on the map during their tenure as a band. Performing at the smaller, hometown festivals in the earlier days such as Splendour and Dot to Dot Festivals, the band have since explored the likes of Glastonbury, Reading & Leeds Festivals and even a slot at Paris’ Festival des Inrockuptibles. If that amount of success doesn’t do Notts proud enough, then their appearance on British drama ‘Skins’ ought to do the job.
Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden
You heard me correctly; a Notts fella has been an active member of Iron Maiden since 1981, excluding a brief period in the 90s. Originally from Worksop, lead vocalist Dickinson first appeared in Iron Maiden for their album ‘The Number Of The Beast’, despite contractual issues with his previous band Samson meaning he wasn’t credited for his contribution. ‘The Number Of The Beast’ topped UK charts and was a global success. Well done, duck. You done us proud.
Liam Bailey is a soul/reggae artist who is probably most recognised for featuring on 2011 Chase & Status single ‘Blind Faith’. Bailey is highly successful in his own right, having been signed to Polydor Records and released two EPs on the late Amy Winehouse’s Lioness Records. An up and coming star, Liam Bailey is a hidden talent of Nottingham. In all honesty, his inclusion on this list is also to do with the fact that he grew up in the same village as me and our brothers were friends at school. Claim to fame.
Okay, so they weren’t born and bred in Nottingham, but the band London Grammar formed whilst members Hannah Reid and guitarist Dan Rothman were the University of Nottingham, later joined by drummer/keyboard player Dominic ‘Dot’ Major. This is further proof that Nottingham has a unique ability to nurture new artists and provides a platform for young hopefuls to follow their dreams. Their debut album hit number two in the UK charts last year.
We all knew he’d have to be in here somewhere… Like him or loathe him, Jake Bugg has kickstarted a music revival in Nottingham (if, indeed, it needed one) and has certainly made a name for himself since growing up on a Clifton council estate. His folky, indie sounds have captured the attention of an entire nation, and the lad has been literally all over the place since he entered the scene in 2011. He’s the poster boy of the East Midlands and there’s no doubt that he’s made Nottingham a more recognisable place when it comes to the music industry. Cheers pal.