Over the years, Chester has seen a lot of bands coming and going, and venues too for that matter. It’s got a great local music scene and has been host to a number of bands that would go on to achieve huge success. We’ve decided to take a look at some of the historic venues around the city and where they are today.
Let’s start with the venues that are unfortunately not around anymore...
The ABC Cinema opened in October 1937 with the purpose of showing films. In the 60s, the venue also decided to put on concerts and managed to get some big draws. The first notable band on this list is a small band called The Rolling Stones, have you heard of them?
The Stones brought their live show to the city of Chester on 14th September 1964 to play for their adoring fans, along with Inez & Charlie Foxx. The band was supporting their debut self-titled record “The Rolling Stones” and they played the cinema again on October 1st 1965. It seems so crazy now to imagine a band of that calibre playing on our doorstep.
That was just the beginning, the list of artists who ended up playing at the ABC Cinema during it’s time putting on live events is impressive to say the least.
After The Rolling Stones, the venue managed to book performances by Gerry and the Pacemakers & The Kinks in November of 1964. Chucky Berry and The Moody Blues both played in 1965 and Roy Orbison performed in March 1966. The cinema enjoyed multiple more shows through the latter end of the 60s, with another show from The Kinks and even The Jimi Hendrix Experience on their first European tour. The last concert to be held at the venue was heavy metal legends Motorhead on 11th November 1979.
Since then, the cinema has gone through many different owners and has now been turned into a Caffe Nero.
The Beatles (Not a venue, but we can't forget The Fab Four!)
It should be worth noting that Liverpool based pop rock sensations The Beatles played in Chester a handful of times during 1962 and 1963. The “Love Me Do” singers performed to crowds at The Riverpark Ballroom for 4 consecutive Thursday in 1962. These shows hold a special place in The Beatles’ history for a few reasons.
The first show on 16th August was supposed to be original drummer Pete Best’s final show with the group but he didn’t show up, having to get a replacement fast. The second show on 23rd August was also John Lennon’s wedding day, having gotten married earlier in the day. The band played 2 more shows on the 30th August and 13th September. The venue closed in 1963 and was demolished, with a NatWest office in its place currently.
The Beatles also played a show at The Royalty Theatre on 15th May 1963, performing songs like “Please Please Me”, “I Saw Her Standing There” and “Do You Want To Know A Secret”.
Quaintways was a music venue/nightclub on Northgate Street and hosted some phenomenal bands and artists in it’s time. It was a staple on the Chester music scene throughout the 60s and 70s, with people still having fond memories of it today.
One of the first notable bands to play at the venue was Peter Green’s Fleetwood Mac. The band was supporting their debut album “Fleetwood Mac” and played the club on 14th April 1969. Following that, 1971 saw a multitude of bands that would go on to rock fame including Status Quo, Thin Lizzy, The Sweet, Slade and Uriah Heep. Rock giants Judas Priest also played in March 1973 and Stealers Wheel (best known for their song “Stuck in the Middle with You”) put on a show in June of the same year. The last show at the nightclub was by German rockers Scorpions on 15th March 1976.
Today, the venue is still a nightclub but is now under the name Rosie’s, with a focus on dance music and club nights.
Believe it or not, but Chester’s leisure centre had a shot at putting on a handful of concerts over the years in the late 80s and 90s.
The first concert held at the centre came from punk new wave singer Joe Jackson on 20th August 1981. Following that, a few more gigs held place by artists such as New Model Army in December 1991 and Levellers in May 1992. Notable performances include electronic legends The Prodigy on 18th March 1994, The Smiths frontman Morrissey on 11th December 1997 and Welsh rockers Manic Street Preachers on 16th September 1998. The last show to be held at the venue was Ocean Colour Scene on 22nd April 1999. With it being primarily a leisure centre, the sound apparently wasn’t exactly great and is probably a contributing factor to why gigs are no longer held here.
So now that we’ve had a look at some of the venues of this city’s past, let’s take a look at what this city’s had to offer from the last few years...
Telford’s Warehouse is a bar/music venue located next to the river and has put on a fair few fantastic acts.
The first band to talk about that has played this special venue is none other than Coldplay. The “Paradise” hit makers played Telford’s way back when on 2nd July 1999. The band played in Chester only a couple of days before the release of their first record “Parachutes”, which spawned the singles “Yellow” and “Trouble”. Imagine being able to see Coldplay in such an intimate environment, before they would go on to headline stadiums across the country.
Other notable performances include prog rock outfit Porcupine Tree on 3rd November 1994, pub rock band Dr. Feelgood on 8th April 2002 and folk singer-songwriter Frank Turner on 15th May 2011.
Predominately used for the Races (as stated in the name), the Chester Racecourse has also been home to a few special concerts. The first of these special events was none other than pop legends The Bee Gees back in March 1968.
Since then, the Racecourse has been home to multiple different music events including performances from Westlife and Van Morrison as part of the city’s Chester Live event and Chester Rocks which was a festival than ran for 3 years. The 2011 line-up included Iggy Pop and the Stooges, McFly, Taio Cruz, The Wanted, Feeder, I Am Kloot, Sugababes and The Saturdays. In 2012, The Courteeners, Pixie Lott, Katy B, Labrinth and Tinchy Stryder all performed and 2013 saw Jessie J, The Wanted, Lawson and Union J play sets.
Formerly The Hangman, it was rebranded as The Compass and was often a great place for local bands to play in. With a tiny room upstairs and all of the gear on one end of the room, it was a small and intimate setting to enjoy local music. Occasionally, you would have bands from afar play shows at the venue.
Probably the biggest show held at the venue was on Valentine’s Day 2013 where The 1975 played a show just before they hit the big time. A couple of months before their debut album was released and rose to number one in the UK Album Charts, the band played this tiny show, blasting through songs like “Chocolate” and “The City”. The support act for the show was Catfish and the Bottlemen, who have since then enjoyed success of their own. You’d be unlikely to catch either of those acts in a venue that size again.
The Live Rooms
Lastly we move on to one of Chester’s most popular music venues, The Live Rooms. Formerly a comedy club called The Laugh Inn, it was rebranded in 2013 and has put on a number of great acts since.
The first big band to play the venue was The View on 17th October 2013. Following that, the club made a name for itself and attracted the likes on rock band Pure Love and electro icon Gary Numan in 2014. They enjoyed a successful year in 2015, putting on shows by the likes of Funeral For A Friend, Lordi, Young Guns & Nothing But Thieves, Buzzcocks, The Damned and Fozzy and continue to put on both local and international artists.
It’s crazy to think how many amazing bands have passed through our city over the years and how music has always been a staple on the nightlife here.
Do you remember going to any of these places or attending some of these historic gigs?