I set myself a task

Portraying Durham's music scene in an optimistic light so any newbie freshers wouldn't be too put off...
It was a tricky task... I even squeezed in a promotion for the night I now run at Fishtank...

Palatinate Issue #711

On embarking upon your years in Durham, you may or may not become aware of the dwindling reputation of an obvious music scene here. The city's odd dubstep night (if you're lucky) being the most avant-garde and diverse it seems to get. This aids in making it almost laughable that it expected to be in with a chance of winning the grand title of 'City of Culture 2010' earlier in the year. Other Universities' student newspapers can't physically cover the amount of the gigs in their city, whereas on the contrary we cheekily have to dip into our neighbouring city of Newcastle's music scene from time-to-time. The University Orchestral Society of course provides fantastic classical concerts, but otherwise how can a city filled with so many sparky and creative young minds be so culturally and musically indiverse? I hear you ask. Well the short version is, it isn't. The long version... If you would, for just a moment, peer past your freshers' handbook regime, toss aside the sweaty innards of Studio, brush past the surreal haze of Klute, you will find a hive of wonderful activity (albeit a small hive, but with very dedicated bees).

Gigs in Durham aren't necessarily of massive proportions. Not everyone who plays has had something produced by Timbaland or duetted with Katy Perry, but it's safely nestled in the city with the help of a handful of student musos and it's here to stay. Fishtank being the main host, with its modestly intimate size and dive-bar atmosphere with retro Blondie and Frank Zappa décor. It's the sort of place where you could wander in one night with a friend, grab a pint, make yourself comfortable at a pew (literally- I told you it's good décor), watch an up-and-coming synth/ukulele act, and finish the night having made at least one new friend. Quite a bit to say about a little bar above a chip shop! Oh and contrary to popular myth- it does not smell of fish and chips.

Fishtank plays host to nights lasting till the wee hours, showcasing a diverse array of live bands as well as regular nights such as electro/indie Grammar on Tuesdays, reggae and breakbeats DJ sets, Absence (the best DJ collective in Durham- trust me) nights, as well as A Deer For Your Lamb sessions with their one-off stunners. Starting this term every Thursday are the new Fishtank Acoustic Sessions, with a 'bring an instrument' vibe, following in the massive success of Strum last year, which we're chuffed to hear is carrying on bigger and better this year every Saturday evening at underground restaurant/bar Cellar Door. Both of these bars are a breath of fresh air after the body-popping sweaty blur of Durham clubs (which, as we all know by now, can be very fun indeed. But when you can predict the next song on the playlist, maybe it's time to try something different!).

Head of Steam, just off North Road, is toddling in the footsteps of its big sister in Newcastle for its gig venue reputation as well as amazing choice of Belgian beers. If alternative/metal is more your thing, nip to The Angel behind North Road. It hosts alternative bands regularly, but it's worth going in any time for the friendly traditional pub atmosphere with a punk twist as well as a massive pool table, THE best beer garden in Durham without fail, one of the most well-stocked jukeboxes and best real ale selections I've seen in a long time. This is the most underrated place in Durham.
If you fancy popping outside of the bubble for a change of scene and something more specific, Newcastle is a mere 15 minute train ride away. With its variety of gigs spanning from the English Philharmonic Orchestra (16th October at City Hall) to Tinie Tempah (14th at O2 Academy) to Robert Plant (20th at The Sage), our north-eastern big sister has an unbeatable music scene. The intimately cosy Other Rooms hosts less obvious and discreetly advertised gigs, contrary to its neighbour Digital, which showcases massive nights such as Wax:On and sets by Annie Mac (presenting Benga on 6th October) and one-off performances (Professor Green on 13thOctober). Newcastle nights are a must for your time in Durham, so why not add a couple of gigs to your to-do list while exams are still a mere far-off haze?
Durham's music scene is modest and needs to be sought out, but once you find it you'll wonder why you'd never tried it before. Although it may be a while before it reaches Newcastle status, it's home!