Sure, it’s not the biggest - but few would argue that Rescue Rooms isn’t one of the best spots for catching live music in our city. Welcoming everyone from Dua Lipa to Jake Bugg over the years, it’s helped to launch the careers of tons of our country’s - and our county’s - greatest artists for two decades. To celebrate its twentieth birthday, we take a look at one of Nottingham’s most valuable venues…
Foals. Wolf Alice. Calvin Harris. Just taking a quick glance over the acts that have graced the Rescue Rooms stage over the past two decades, it’s easy to feel the big influence that this little Notts venue has had on music in this country over the years. Such is the extent of their significance, their eclectic guestlist acts as a Who’s Who of top tier British talent, spanning indie rock to groundbreaking pop, acoustic singer-songwriters to dancefloor-filling DJs.
The impact of this understated spot leaves its mark on concert goers and artists alike long after they visit. Just last year, a certain Dua Lipa chatted fondly about the intimate venue that took a chance on her when few other places would. Talking to us, Amber Run are quick to praise the spot that “reeks of music and wears it like a crown”.
But what exactly is it about this place, this 450-capacity joint nestled behind Rock City, that has helped it to thrive for twenty years? Well, according to Anton Lockwood, DHP Director of Live and the brains behind it all, the answer is pretty simple: it’s all about the atmosphere. “It’s a properly unique venue,” he says with a smile. “When you’re in there, the bands are right in your face. It’s very immersive. We obviously invest a lot in lights and sound to enhance that experience too, and we do our best to make it a vibrant and forward-thinking place to go for a gig.”
Where we can, we try to put on local support and spotlight new Notts bands. That’s something we’ve always wanted to do
From the very off, Rescue Rooms has attracted big names that would go on to become even bigger, cramming in rock fans, ravers and everything in between for memorable nights of boundary-pushing music. Even back in 2003, when the Rooms first opened their doors, they were making headlines - bringing now world-renowned group The Libertines to our shores for a night that instantly marked this place as one to watch.
“That show was insane,” Anton muses. “They were on fire, and the chemistry they had was magical. That was one of those where I had to pinch myself. It was one of the first but one of the most legendary. We’ve had so many different genres and performers come over the years - we’ve always attracted acts on the cusp of taking off.”
That’s an understatement. As well as the array of acts already mentioned, Rescue Rooms has played its part in kickstarting the careers of megastars both old and new, from Lewis Capaldi in recent years to Jamie T back in the heady heights of noughties indie. Attracting wave upon wave of talent, year on year, could be tough for some - but, once again, its size is its strength. “From an artist’s point of view, that intimacy feels good,” Anton asserts. “the fact that the audience is right there. You can see them up close and on the balcony, so you can really connect with who you’re performing for.” Amber Run can confirm that the artists themselves agree. “Never before have we needed shared experience more, and I can’t think of anything that’s impacted me more than a room full of people singing the same words to the same song at the same time,” smiles Joe from the band. “Venues like Rescue Rooms are the cauldron that create culture and bind people together.”
Rescue Rooms is a venue that reeks of music and wears it like a crown
Amber Run are far from the only local lot that have cut their teeth in the Goldsmith Street cauldron. Nottingham’s brightest sparks like Jake Bugg and London Grammar found a platform for expressing themselves when they were first learning their trade, and that focus on local music has run through the venue since day one.
“We’ve always been part of Dot to Dot, the Acoustic Rooms bring through a lot of people you wouldn’t have expected,” Anton explains. “Where we can, we try to put on local support and spotlight new Notts bands. That’s something we’ve always wanted to do.”
The respect and love that our acts have for the Rescue Rooms brings many back time and time again - and some shout out the venue for playing an important role even outside of music. “I met my fiancé there,” says Amber Run’s Joe. “That's how big an impact it's had on my life!” Not bad, that.
So, twenty years, countless top acts and one future marriage under its watch: where does the Rescue Rooms go from here? Put simply, where it’s always been - acting as a hub for upcoming talent you need to have on your radar.
“You look through the list of stuff coming up and we’ve got such a wide range of acts to celebrate our twentieth,” Anton explains. “We always try to keep it diverse. While we probably started as an indie spot, that’s not our sole focus now. It’s always such a mixture, and we’ll always try to take stuff from different worlds and bring them into one special programme.” Music to suit everyone’s tastes and an immersive venue that transports you to another world - two decades on and there’s still little room for improvement here.
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