As a town Rhyl may not have a great reputation on the whole, but it has nonetheless been home to a number of much loved live music venues over the years.
After the late, lamented Bistro closed its doors we had the Breeding Ground, still generally regarded as the absolute gold standard in the town, and this has been followed down the years by the likes of the Dudley Arms, Vegas and The Pot, until we reached The North and O’Gradys – immediately prior to lockdown.
In the middle of that run there was Bar Blu, a venue which for five years both excited and appalled its audience as it showcased bands that ranged from brilliant international acts like Zeroscape [review] through to the shambolic – who could forget The Night Of The Green Minge (no matter how we try!!!)? [review]
Blu was an oddity whichever way you looked at it: a posh nightclub in a faded seaside town on a Wednesday night is not the ideal setting in which to try to embellish a town’s live music scene which at that time was set around the Dudley Arms.
However, it quickly found its niche by adapting to the factors that were in its favour, chief among them being that the Dudley catered almost exclusively to a hardcore punk and metal audience, meaning that there was nowhere in town to play for bands from outside that demographic.
As a result Blu found itself becoming home to the young, the ambitious, the oddball and the damned (with a small “D”) and quickly found its audience numbers swelling as members of bands like Gintis, Jives Room, Junebug and Ethergy played there, drank there and generally treated the place like an extension of their living rooms (and occasionally bedrooms too!!!).
It lasted five years from March 2003 to January 2008 and became as much a part of that generation of music fans rite of passage as drinking Frosty Jacks on the skatepark and there was a genuine outpouring of grief when the place finally closed its doors.
Subsequently the building stayed closed for several years before it was reopened in 2013 as the Front Room / Late Lounge but, despite occasional one-off shows that more often than not were spectacular successes, it has never mounted a sustained attempt to become part of the region’s regular live venue circuit, chiefly because there was no-one on board who could fulfil that role.
The last gig put on there before lockdown may have been a watershed moment however.
This Feeling curated a Saturday night gig there that was toplined by local indie supremos The Montagues and the event pulled in a crowd of well over 200 punters, including yours truly who had gone there simply because I wasn’t required on site at my regular Saturday night DJ-ing stint.
Excellent sound and light, three brilliant bands, a generally well organised premises and a big crowd – what else could the night need? Erm, the indie DJ hasn’t turned up. Really? Hold my beer!!!
The result was an invite to get on board the good ship Late Lounge, this arriving at a point in time where I felt that I was no longer needed at my current gig, simply because by booking the cream of the region’s DJs I’d helped to turn the place into the techno capital of the North Wales coast to the extent that that was all the regulars really wanted there.
The onset of lockdown has therefore been both a blessing and a curse.
The obvious downside has been the lack of gigs, but the more positive aspect of this has been the time that has consequently been given to the planning and preparation of the venue on every level from giving the premises itself a bit of a revamp and spruce up, to the upgrading of the PA and lighting and right through to the planning of precisely what we want to do with the venue once it is able to reopen.
In the days of Blu we only had Wednesdays as a regular weekly event because Fridays – Sundays were strictly for the mainstream Tracy n Jason audience, although at various times tribute bands were tried on Tuesdays and there was a very popular under-18s event on Mondays in the latter days of the venue.
When the venue reopens there are three separate rooms available, which obviously gives a much greater scope for putting on smaller scale events that would lose atmosphere in the main upstairs club but which will enjoy an intimacy in the smaller back room downstairs in particular.
So what can music fans expect from the place?
For starters, two regular weekly live music events called Fuzzed Up on Thursdays which will be 100% indie oriented and Iron Fist on Sundays which will cater to the metal, rock and punk fraternity/ sorority and the plan is to feature three live acts plus a DJ on each of these nights so that they will form the bedrock of the live line up at the venue around which everything else will be built.
On Tuesdays we’ll be having a (slightly) more relaxed weekly event when the Strings n Sings team will be hosting acoustic open mic sessions in the downstairs bar.
Additionally we will be working with outside promoters and the first to jump on board is Rockageddon who have already lined up some great rock and metal tribute acts to Kiss, AC/DC, Def Leppard and The Cult.
Rockageddon have also pulled off something of a coup by getting one of the two bands who currently tour as Saxon and which features two of that band’s original members in for a gig, and among the “name” acts we’re currently negotiating with in-house are TV Smith, Glenn Tilbrook and Ian McNabb.
The dance music fraternity will still be catered to, with house, techno, RnB, reggae/ dub, old skool disco and trance nights all on the horizon so that no-one is left out.
However, the venue will also be looking to go beyond being a mere music venue and already has the Sidesplitters crew on board for live stand up comedy once a month and also with North Wales Burlesque who are planning some events that will be truly unique.
Obviously this is all for the future and after the easing of Lockdown restrictions, but smile ….. the future’s bright, the future’s orange ……. erm blu ……erm late ……in the lounge!!!