Medway is a collection of a few small towns and villages taking up a small portion of Kent. We like to call ourselves part of ‘The Thames Estuary’ because it sounds fancy, but actually we’re based by the muddy part of the River Medway, so not as fancy as we’d like. We’re in a position where a gig night in London is do-able but you find yourself rushing for the last train home or having to sleep in St Pancras ready for the first train at 5am. We also have easy access to Kent’s sea-side towns which are often a hub for live music, but an hour long journey home when you’re half-cut makes those shows a little less appealing. Kent has produced a number of music legends from The Rolling Stones very own Mick Jagger and Keith Richards to David Bowie and Kate Bush. Other big names include Pete tong, Oli Skyes and punk duo Slaves.
Medway it’s self has a vibrant music scene, being host to three separate universities means there’s a wealth of young students all looking for entertainment. Musicians and fans alike normally find themselves in Rochester, the main nightlife hub in Medway and the location of most of Medway’s best music venues.
Standing proudly beside the river in Strood, the aptly named pub/club plays host to a variety of themed nights including cabaret nights, tribute acts and performances from musicians ranging from Dappy and Big Big Brovas to some of Medway’s own local bands. The back of the pub has been transformed to a club room and music venue with a stage, Dj booth and it’s own separate bar. The pub is one of the only places in Strood to see music performed live (outside of karaoke nights of course) but not only that, the spacious pub and generous outside space makes it an ideal place for a gig night.
4- The Ship Inn
This Rochester pub earns it’s place in my 5 for always putting on a good show. The venue, similar to Riverside Tavern is in a separate section of the pub meaning regular punters aren’t particularly affected by Bands and their fans making camp for the night. The Ship Inn is an ideal place for local bands to play, it provides a cosy space which is easy to fill so it doesn’t feel like your playing to a big empty room, which can be daunting for performance newbies.
3- Nags head
This vintage pub is based just off from Rochester high street; set on a hill the pub is set across three floors, the stage being placed on the top floor, it’s natural height over the rest of the pub means everyone visiting the pub gets a full view of the band playing. The venue is popular among a range of age groups in Medway and gigs are always free entry, making it a busy spot to play. The Nags Head takes advantage of Sunday’s being a popular pub day with their ‘Chilled Sunday Sessions’ every Sunday at 2pm which features everything from soul and jazz musicians to guitar bands and singer/songwriters. “The Nags head have welcomed local music for as long as I can remember” says Jason Stafford, front-man of Kent band Crybaby Special “They’ve added local bands to their jukebox and the walls are covered in photographs by one of the most respected photographers in Medway who every band should know, Phil Dillon. They always air local radio shows promoting Medway music and most importantly it’s a home to a lot of great memories for many local musicians.”
Out of the venues on this list, The Eagle Tavern boasts the perfect location for a music venue, slap bang in the middle of Rochester high street, in between one of the street’s busiest club/bars and the biggest night club in Medway. I spoke with Stig Kolner from Eagle Tavern regulars The Word who said “The Eagle is the nuts, they always put on quality bands every single week and the jam nights are awesome”. Most weeks will have 4 nights of live music; ranging from ‘jam nights’ which give budding artists a chance to perform either on their own, or sharing the stage with more skilled musicians, to fully fledged gig nights featuring some of Medway’s top bands performing 2 hour sets. The sound of live music always draws in a crowd from the busy high street, giving musicians a chance to build a fan base as well as meet other musicians from the area.
The former Mexican restaurant turned music venue is the only place on this list, and across Medway who’s sole purpose is a music venue.I spoke to the front-men form three of Medway’s top bands who agreed it’s Medway’s top venue. It’s radical interior and compact size creates the illusion of being at one of London’s more intimate popular venues. Their packed schedule see’s music 4 nights a week every week, poetry nights, cabaret and charity events. “I’d put Poco at the top because of the vast amount of gigs they do and I’m pretty sure every band in Medway has played there at least once!”-Lead singer Matt Roy Adams from Medway band The Ovines.
Although it is located on a road between two towns, Poco Loco is always packed wall to wall with eager music fans. The owners of the venue know good music when they hear it and will only let a band headline a night if they’ve seen the band play before and know they’re getting a quality act, which with Medway’s extensive music scene, is hard to not achieve.
Check out each venue’s pages linked throughout this article to see upcoming gig listings.