A Look Back at The LeftLion Gigs

Words: Jared Wilson
Saturday 14 April 2018
reading time: min, words

As well as running a magazine, we’ve put on hundreds of gigs and events across town. Some readers will be too young to remember ‘em, but many of you will have played and partied at our nights. This one’s for the old-school...


Malt Cross (2004 - 2007)
Our first ever “LeftLion Presents” gig was on the beautiful stage at the Malt Cross in the summer of 2004, with Sam Lindo and Rapunzel Map; both experienced buskers. The gig was inspired by our hero Frank Robinson, aka Xylophone Man. We then put on a new gig every time we launched a new issue and did a series of unplugged gigs, too. Props to our resident DJs, XS:IF (Yemi) and Reason (Dave) who started these nights with us.

Drop In The Ocean (2005 - 2006)
Drop In The Ocean (DITO) was the city’s first multi-venue festival and pre-dates both Hockley Hustle and Dot To Dot. Run by Ash Dilks (LeftLion Marketing Manager), Al Needham (former LeftLion Editor), Steve Pinnock (Mood Indigo) and Ste Allan (Dealmaker Records/Gangsta Wraps), the two DITO festivals combined raised in excess of £50,000 for charity.

The Orange Tree (2005 - 2008)
We took up a monthly “LeftLion Live” residency at the Orange Tree in 2005, which was newly refurbed at the time. Highlights included NYE with Hellset Orchestra and Kids in Tracksuits, a stomping everyone-dancing-on-tables set from ska band Weeble, and the surrealism of The Henry Road. Stiff Kittens became our resident DJs and are still about to this day. In 2006, we brought in a fledgling promoter called Will Robinson to help run the nights, and he went on to smash it out the park with his own events company, I’m Not From London.

LeftLion Pub Quiz (2006 - 2013)
Probably the greatest pub quiz Nottingham has and will ever see, which went out weekly at the Golden Fleece. Hosted by our former editor Al Needham, with rounds that included theme tunes played backwards, and “Nish’s Nana’s Bontempi Organ.” There’ll be kids in primary school whose parents met at these nights.

Hockley Hustle (2006 - present)
We’ve rolled deep with the Hockley Hustle since day. We hooked up with original founder, Adam Pickering early on, and we’ve had a stage at Broadway Cinema most years. When Adam buggered off to London, we got together with co-founder Tommy Farmyard and INFL to bring it back after a three-year hiatus. Tommy and Ben, who now run the Hustle, share an office with us to this day.

Rescue Rooms (2006 - 2007)
We put on two big “LeftLion Extravaganza” gigs at the Rescue Rooms in 2006 and 2007. These were probably the first “big” showcases for Nottingham musicians, as very few Notts bands could fill that venue back then. Hellset Orchestra, The Atoms, Lo-Ego, Grain, Old Basford, WSUOR and the rest: you did Notts proud.

Brownes (2008 - 2010)
After we left the Orange Tree, we moved our “LeftLion Live” nights over to Brownes, now BaaBar, because our friends who ran Spectrum and Detonate had just taken it over. It was a weird bar for us to be honest, and sometimes attracted a clientele who weren’t really there for the music. But we had some fun nights with Vinyl Abort, Yunioshi, First Blood, Cappo and more, including the 2009 NYE party.

Splendour (2008 - 2012)
Before Jake Bugg headlined Splendour in 2013, Notts acts were mainly consigned to the courtyard, which for the first half-decade was run by us. Jake played for us too; he was first on the bill in 2011 and I made the mistake of asking him if he was Jack Peachey (aka Gallery 47) who was playing straight after. Oops. Other splendid highlights include Natalie Duncan, Liam Bailey, Nina Smith, Petebox and Rob Green.

Circus Extravaganza (2009)
In September 2009, inspired by the success of Hockley Hustle, we put on a one-day event across eight venues at Canning Circus. It was brilliant fun and provided early gigs for the likes of Nina Smith and Motormouf, as well as headline slots for Ronika, Hhymn, Elementz and Karizma. But it was also bloody hard work. Since venues like Junktion7 and Shop closed soon after, we never repeated it.

Scribal Gathering (2010 - 2011)
This was a series of literary events at Nottingham Contemporary, put together in our name by our then Literature Editor, James Walker. Highlights included Poetry Bingo and our Editor, Al Needham, reading out his sex diaries. However, it got really interesting when Ste Allan from Gangsta Wraps collaborated with us on a night called Gunpowder, Treason and Pot in November of 2011, and Task Force’s Chester P came up for his first ever spoken word set.

The Maze (2011 - 2013)
We’ve always loved The Maze, and although we’ve never had a residency there, we’ve done some great one-offs, usually in collaboration with I’m Not From London. Our favourite of these was our NYE 2011 party with Baby Godzilla, Hot Japanese Girl, Captain Dangerous, Manière Des Bohémians, Long Dead Signal, Gaz Breadchaser and Mokshah. Just look at that line-up.

Blow-Out (2013 - 2014)
We moved into our new office in 2013, at The Corner on Stoney Street, with our friends I’m Not From London. We had this massive room downstairs and realised that if we put on a monthly gig we could make enough from booze and ticket sales to pay the rent. Thanks to Fists, OneBomb, Rob Green, Youthoracle, Aja, Major Oak Chorus, Hey Zeus, Mr Switch and more for playing. And thanks to all of you who came for helping us pay our rent.

Waterfront Festival (2011 - present)
Another charity music festival in collaboration with I’m Not From London and Audacious Face. The festival started a couple of years before we were involved, but our co-founder Al Gilby and his wife Rebi got on board in 2011, and there’s been a LeftLion stage every year since.

We’ve namechecked a few of the acts who have come to play with us in this article, and the people who helped make them happen, but it’s impossible to name you all. There’s hundreds of you and we’ve lost most of the flyers and posters. Needless to say, we love the bleddy lot of yer.

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