Famous Villains + The Darlingtons + DJ Howla @ The Live Room, Taunton 20.04.13

At 7pm I strolled through the doorway of The Live Room expecting something downright bloody spectacular. I slapped down my fiver, procured a pint of cider and sat down to observe the wildlife flutter in and socialise. The bar staff were tense but visibly excited. A few photographers were doing the little dance they do, trying to get a feel for the right angles and best shots. The chemical smell of fresh paint filled the air. Everything was ready. The Live Room's opening night was underway.

Apr 20th, 2013 at The Live Room, Taunton / By Brendan Morgan
Famous Villains + The Darlingtons + DJ Howla @ The Live Room, Taunton 20.04.13 Back before The Live Room, before The Perfect 5th, before the smoking ban, was Mambos and I can recall (with difficulty) a few nights of drunken bliss, sweaty moshing and loud music. Once an ideal stop for bands on their way up and down the South West, the building had a firm tradition for live music. When it closed down in 2010 it became just another empty facade on the high street, soon to be forgotten. It seemed for a while like that was it and I don't think I was alone in my relief when, two months ago, I heard it was going to be reopened by new ownership. The old layout, a bar and lounge area upstairs and a standing room in front of the stage downstairs, had been retained. The refit was swift and the design kept simple leaving more focus to the lighting and sound, the centre point of the venue. Now all that's left is the overwhelming task of reinstating its original reputation. No pressure.

Famous Villains had the honour of kicking off the night with a suitably energetic set. Travelling from Doncaster and looking a bit like Mumford and Son's roguish siblings, their upbeat folk rock songs, ringing chords and whiskey sodden sing-a-longs went down pretty well. After a while, they were "interrupted" as they jokingly declared, or rather swept aside by the almighty, messianic figure of Brian May as part of the promotion for the venue's opening. It's the sort of thing that Joe Strummer would have lent his support to years ago. Still, Brian will do. Cheers Brian.

For me, the real highlight of the evening was The Darlingtons (pictured), a local four piece who belted out a tight mix of sparkling guitar melodies reminiscent of Foals coupled with the kind of melancholy you'd hear in The Editors, only with a lot more angst. At first glance, they have 'indie' oozing from every crack but their performance definitely outweighs their image. With towering distortion and warm textures, offset skilfully by some gentler moments, it was solid stuff and although their grand sound may deserve a slightly bigger venue, it would be great to have them back at some point.

After a short set of brilliant solo beatboxing from Dom Beatbox, we witnessed the return of a local DJ and legend Howla. His old school blend of familiar tunes with some nasty dubstep has definitely fermented well up in Bristol. Having been at the decks for years now (probably since birth) the guy knows how to throw a late night party. I left The Live Room seething with punters, doubtful that the opening night could have gone any better.

It's all too often that we recognise the value of something only when we lose it. Last year or two saw a cultural nose dive in the South West and the general public mood came down along with it. Time and time again I hear the phrase "there's nothing to do in Taunton" and I'd certainly count myself as one of the guilty. But I've come to realise that this attitude is unproductive and defeatist. We can't just sit around and expect to have it all sorted out for us. It's important for us to take charge of our local scene, now more than ever. If there aren't any decent bands around then stop complaining and start your own. We have to work hard for the things we love.

Based on the variety of the line-up, The Live Room's management appear open to all styles and genres. Even its name steers clear of any particular implication and this open and diverse approach should be kept at the heart of the venue. It would be great to eventually see stand-up comedy, a poetry slam or even some kind of weird theatre production but for now, live music will do just fine. The real danger is that down the road, a lack of interest or a change of direction could turn it into just another generic club playing Radio 1's playlist on repeat for airbrushed posers all night. Like every small, sleepy town across this ailing country, Taunton needs a real venue that differs from the rest of the clubs, where the town's musicians, artists, fashionistas, poets, comedians, general eccentrics, freaks and weirdos can mix together, swap ideas, give each other support and perform their art. The Live Room will need our help to keep it this way.

So, I'll see you there.