Venue in Focus: The Engine Rooms

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University is all about moving to a different town and meeting different people; I however decided that I wasn’t ready enough to deal with the change. I went with my gut, and decided to go to the University of my hometown, and ended up staying in the city I grew up in.

Southampton is a strange city. It’s not your typical metropolitan area; it feels like a city, yet it lacks a lot of facilities that bigger cities like London have. Sure, we have a shopping mall, a recognizable city centre, at least three cinemas (one boasting an IMAX), a football stadium, a major port and we’re the largest city in Hampshire. One thing that the city lacks, however, are venues that attract big stadium bands.

Back in the 70s and 80s, the Gaumont (now known as The Mayflower) was the place to be to see such bands. My Dad frequently saw shows here in the 80s and 90s, witnessing Genesis, Peter Gabriel, Whitesnake, Status Quo, Robert Plant and Steve Hackett. But it was my two uncles that frequently saw big bands there, such as: Iron Maiden, Motorhead, Def Leppard, AC/DC and The Police. This was due to the venue being part of the Rank Organisation, an entertainment conglomerate that was Britain’s largest and most vertically integrated film company; also owning production, distribution and exhibition facilities like the Gaumont. As such, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Queen, Rush and Kate Bush have also performed there.

The Mayflower now is mainly a theatre venue rather than a concert venue. From that, there really haven’t been any big names that have performed in the city. All I can remember is Bon Jovi performing at St. Mary’s Stadium; a concert that was so big for the city that The Daily Echo ran a competition to win tickets for the gig – which I entered and didn’t win.

Nowadays the Guildhall is your best bet for seeing big names. Just last year Bob Dylan randomly played there which was insane; I would never have thought in a million years I would get to say that Dylan played in my city and I couldn’t go. But if you want to see stadium bands like Green Day, Foo Fighters, Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band, The Who, Black Sabbath etc., more often than not you have to travel to London or up North to see them. Sometimes you’re lucky and musicians like Alice Cooper will perform at the BIC in Bournemouth, but other than that you’re stuck at having to make long journeys to see your favourite musicians.

That’s where the Engine Rooms comes in. It’s a relatively new venue, I remember when it was known as the Mo’Club, Southampton’s first and foremost roller disco. Yes, I went to a roller disco or two. And failed miserably. But in December 2014, the Mo’Club became the Engine Rooms. It’s still used as a roller disco whenever it’s needed to be, but it’s mainly used as a concert venue.

I’ve been lucky enough to see two of my favourite musicians there – Eagles of Death Metal and Bob Mould (of DC Hardcore Punk band Husker Du). For Eagles of Death Metal and Bob Mould to pick Southampton is beyond me. Southampton isn’t a city that is exactly known for a place for American bands to play in, but they did and I thoroughly enjoyed every second – especially since I got front row for both of them.

Eagles of Death Metal was probably my favourite out of the two, since they’re a band that I’ve been into since I got into Foo Fighters back in 2007. There’s something magical about seeing a band you’ve listened to for so long actually be literally 3 feet in front of you. And have the opportunity to be serenaded to by frontman Jesse Hughes, because you can’t stop grinning from being there.

That moment of pure happiness came to an abrupt end a week later, when the Paris terriost attacks occurred, with the main amount of fatalities occurring at an Eagles of Death Metal show at the Bataclan. I was in that same position a week ago, enjoying my favourite band with likeminded people. Some of those likeminded people were at the Bataclan and passed away, including Nick Alexander. Nick was the merch guy at the show I went to, who helped me pick out a poster and shirt, giving me the ones he thought were the best ones since I couldn’t make my mind up.

Everyone one of us – including the staff of the Engine Rooms – held our breath that night, and have carried it with us ever since. We’ve all tried to carry on with our lives and remembered that night instead of the week following, with the Engine Rooms starting to become one of Southampton’s staple concert venues. It’s hard to forget the people we lost that we shared that night with, but at least the memory of them is of them enjoying themselves like we were.

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A film student stuck in a 90s timewarp of FBI agents, UFOs, conspiracy theories, alternative rock and grunge.

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