The London Astoria is, by the standards of most modern music venues, a dump. It’s very dark, a bit sticky in places, and since the smoking ban came into force, you can tell that frankly, it whiffs a bit too. It is, nevertheless, my favourite music venue in the world.
Why? Here’s a smattering of (hazy) memories: Dancing on one of the tables upstairs to an extended Beta Band ‘four men, four sets of drums’ solo and NOT getting thrown out; watching Coldplay seize their moment when bottom of the bill on an NME Brats night, and then bumping into Chris Martin in the Keith Moon bar afterwards; seeing The Darkness become the first unsigned band ever to sell out the venue; realising there was a great big bar at the very top of the venue that sold £1 fruit-flavoured alco-shooters…
The charity gig where Ryan Adams rambled a load of old bollocks more than he played actual songs, but was still fantastic; Primal Scream reverting back to soul-rawk revue form in a warm-up gig for their last album (while still playing Swastika Eyes mid-set); buying numerous £5 knocked-up-in-a-bedroom unofficial t-shirts from blokes on the Charing Cross Road after gigs; and many, many gigs.
In fact, I’ve just dug out all the Astoria tickets I can find from my big drawer of gig tickets:
Here’s a snapshot of the bands I’ve seen there down the years: Primal Scream, The Darkness, Dandy Warhols, White Stripes, Primal Scream (again), Cooper Temple Clause, Asian Dub Foundation, Beta Band, Supergrass, Delays, Muse, Six By Seven, Wolfmother, Elbow, The Duke Spirit, The Thrills, The Darkness (again), Blur, The Datsuns, The Polyphonic Spree, Travis, Starsailor, Doves, The Charlatans, Starsailor (again – I know…), Fountains of Wayne, JJ72, Alfie, My Morning Jacket, and one gig featuring Andrew WK, Lost Prophets, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club AND The Coral on the same bill.
Happy days. But there won’t be any more of them, since the Astoria is shutting this Thursday to be knocked down and rebuilt as a new Crossrail train station. For those of us who’ve spent a small country’s transport budget on gig tickets in our time, it’s a sad week indeed.
Its owners say they’ll build something new and even better, although doubtless it’ll be sponsored by a beer brand or mobile operator, and will be half as smelly but also twice as soulless, judging by the example of other recently-opened London venues.
So if you’re down the pub tomorrow, raise a glass (a plastic one full of eye-wateringly-priced Red Stripe if possible) to the Astoria. It had plenty of glory days, and will be missed.