Milton Road baths as a concert venue?

As a veteran of almost 1,000 gigs over 35 years, the recent SA article (Aug 26) about the idea of the Milton Road Baths possibly hosting gigs caught my eye immediately.

The photo used made me at once to think of an old black and white movie I once saw where a dancing competition ends with the floor gradually opening and everyone falling into the underlying pool.

Of course, using such a venue would put a whole new spin on the phrase “stage diving”.

So, after so many gigs over the years, you start to form some ideas of what makes for a successful and vibrant concert scene and so here are my thoughts.

Firstly, you need a range of venues in your town/city, from the very small (less than 100 people) through to medium-ish (3,000).

Why? Well I like to think that a band can visit repeatedly as their career develops from just starting out to being stadium fillers.

I always like to give Bristol as a prime example of a place which has a good range of venue sizes, though sadly some of the venues I knew have now closed. Bristol has no stadium/arena and yet a very good music scene is achieved.

Nothing beats a small venue, say 300-400 people, to experience a band in the raw, seeing the white-of-their-eyes even if stood at the back of the room and with the chance to speak with them after.

Possibly my favourite venue is The Underworld, Camden. At one point it was literally my local pub as I was visiting it so often.

It is small (500 capacity) and the wrong shape with a metal pillar in front of the stage.

But the bands that have played there is a who’s who of rock and metal; bands starting out, playing their first UK show, album launch parties, secret shows.

Next you need people of vision, passion and energy who are willing to run those venues and to book the bands to play them.

I have never understood why Swindon isn’t able to get bands to visit when we sit on the M4 halfway between Bristol and London – both with vibrant music scenes.

Once you crack that problem, word of mouth between bands, promoters, booking agents and record labels should go a long way to getting the ball rolling for more bands to visit and play.

Most importantly, you need people to turn up and support these venues and the bands playing them. I include the local press who need to give support by not only advertising in-town events but also to report on them too.

The SA at one point did gig reviews. Nothing like a “you should have been there” review to encourage people to attend next time. If people don’t support them, these venues will wither and die.

Based on a recent conversation with the landlord of one Swindon venue, the phrase “terminal” doesn’t come close to describing the financial situation.

Iain Smith, Dean Street.