Gig Scene - Are Harrogate venues good enough?

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It’s more than 12 years since Norm McDonald died. I was among the guests at his wedding in the registry office on Park Parade in Harrogate the week before this provocative indie musician finally succumbed to the dreadful spectre of leukaemia, writes Graham Chalmers.

It was a great loss in many ways, not least for the Harrogate music scene.

His latest band, Star, was creating a buzz far outside the town after the band played a storming show at the Dublin Castle in Camden.

He was clearly on the same path to success he had travelled with his previous outfit, the controversial Kinkystick, a brilliant Ramones-meets-Jesus & Mary Chain four-piece.

Almost by chance, they had ended up in the national news with a little help from me (including a page 3 lead story in the Daily Star) after Norm’s latest naked antics on stage provoked a genuine riot in a sweaty York venue

That fleeting taste of fame for the charismatic but doomed Norm is the last time to date a Harrogate band based in Harrogate has made a genuine national impact.

The question is why? Not through any lack of talent – there’s probably more great bands locally at this moment than at any time previously , from The Birdman Rallies to Purple Mafia, The Conspirators and more. I think the answer lies in infrastructure and the conspicuous lack of good venues which leave Harrogate and its music scene cut off from the rest of the music business in its own benign bubble.

The Blues Bar is an amazing venue for its size, but, in my opinion, it’s hard to see a massive leap forward for the town when it relies so heavily on free gigs organised in random pubs.

It’s significant that nearly all the best rock nights which do take place regularly locally charge an entry fee.

It’s this which allows them to attract out of town acts, which in turn raises the bar for ambitious local bands. But even the impressive individuals behind Bottom of the Bottle, North Yorkshire Hardcore or Ont’ Sofa tend to have to scrabble around for a decent venue, never staying anywhere too long.

Personally speaking, It was great to see The Four 45s playing Later at the Circle Bar last Saturday night to a packed crowd in the magnificent Harrogate Theatre but can you imagine if the town actually had its own Brudenell Social Club or Fibbers or Cockpit?

Now that would be something – and a real tribute to the much-missed Norm