Rock City (venue)
Ferocious Dog playing at Rock City in 2015
|Address||8 Talbot Street|
|Owner||DHP Family Ltd|
|Type||Music venue and Nightclub|
|Seating type||Primarily standing, some seating|
It opened in December 1980, first hosting The Undertones, and has gone on to host some of the biggest names in alternative music, as well as maintaining a number of weekly club nights. It has been described by NME as "sweaty, but truly indie", and has received numerous awards, including Kerrang! magazine's Venue of the Year for ten consecutive years.
Rock City is based in Nottingham City Centre, with a capacity of 2450, and is known for its intimate atmosphere. The club features four bars spread across two rooms; the Main hall and the Basement, both of which are all-standing during gigs, with an additional room previously known as The Rig operating separately since September 2011 as the Black Cherry Lounge. Rock City plays host to various sized gigs, from smaller upcoming bands of the underground and local scene, to bands that are getting chart success.
Pre-Rock City and foundation
The building opened as the Alexandra Skating Rink on 23 November 1876 and was renamed Victoria Halls in 1887. It closed in May 1928 and the proprietor, Mr. Walker started a new venture with a new Palais de Danse which was opened in 1929 in Greyfriars Hall, Greyfriar Gate.
Prior to Rock City the building was called The Heart of the Midlands, which hosted variety acts including the inaugural World Professional Darts Championship in 1978. The building was taken over by Sammy Jackson, who already owned a club called the Retford Porterhouse where he had booked bands such as AC/DC and The Clash, along with George Akins Snr., a local bookmaker, who bankrolled the new venture. The club was managed by Paul Mason, who would go on to manage Manchester's Haçienda nightclub, and had Iron Maiden booked to be the band to open the venue, although unfinished electrics resulted in the gig being cancelled. As a result, Orange Juice became the first band to play at Rock City on 11 December 1980 supporting The Undertones, who ended the gig with "Teenage Kicks".
The 1980s and 1990s
Rock City underwent a major refit in 1982 which included a purpose-built sound system, lighting rig and two video screens. Although the club remained faithful to the spirit of rock, with riots at sold-out gigs by The Pogues and Ozzy Osbourne, it was never restricted by genre as by 1982 the club already had a well-established Futurist night every Saturday and were considering starting a student night on Thursdays, approaching DJ Jonathan Woodliffe, who performed the first Thursday night to a crowd of about 400 people. Following the success of Thursday nights the club looked at introducing a dance night, initially playing a mixture of European electronica and American releases, although this was not as successful and was cancelled after a few months. It was replaced by a jazz, funk and soul night which was advertised by word of mouth and was well received. To add to the diversity in music, Rock City also hosted all-age hip-hop jams on Saturday afternoons, establishing breakdancers the Rock City Crew, and the club would also host the first performance of Bring the Noise in the UK by Public Enemy.
As alternative music changed, Rock City changed with it. Grunge and punk became popular in the first part of the 90's, with bands such as Nirvana and Rage Against the Machine appearing. The intimate environment allowed for band members such as Eddie Vedder and Kurt Cobain to sit at the bar with fans after their gigs. Equally, as Britpop became established, Rock City found itself hosting the likes of Oasis and Blur. The Nineties also saw the club change management, as George Akins Jnr. took over at his father's request in 1994, aged just 19 and having previously worked on the bar and cloakroom.
In keeping with music trends, the new millennium saw Rock City play host to more dance music events, and annexing the 1970s and 1980s friendly club, The Rig, situated beneath the main hall, yet maintaining a commitment to mainstream alternative music through its existing club nights.
On 28 November 2015 Ferocious Dog became the first unsigned band to sell out the venue. Rock City has remained one of the biggest names on the live circuit for alternative bands and celebrated its 35th anniversary in 2016.
Issue with crime
In January 2013, Nottinghamshire police stated that between September 2011 and August 2012, 10% of all mobile phones stolen in the Nottinghamshire area were stolen at Rock City. Bart Easter, the club's general manager, claimed that organised crime gangs who followed bands on tour were partly to blame.
The venue currently hosts four club nights:
- Wednesday: CRISIS – Exclusive club night for University of Nottingham students.
- Thursday: TUNED – Two for one drinks, primarily indie music.
- Friday: Get Lucky – Pop music from the 1990s, 2000s and current hits.
- Saturday: Hey Hey Hey – Alternative anthems.
The following is a list of recordings made at Rock City:
- Frank Turner - Show 2000 (2016)
- Ferocious Dog - Live at Rock City (2015)
- The Wildhearts – Rock City vs The Wildhearts (2014)
- Jimi Jamison – Live at Firefest (2011)
- Enter Shikari – Live at Rock City Bootleg (2009)
- Shaped by Fate – Shaped By Fate tour DVD (2008)
- Bonfire – Double Vision (2006)
- The Libertines – Libertines live at Rock City with Radio 1 (2004)
- Pitchshifter – P.S.I.entology (2004)
- The Wildhearts – The Wildhearts Strike Back (2004)
- Morbid Angel – Altars of Madness (2003)
- Linkin Park - "Radio 1 broadcast bootleg" (2003)
- Cradle of Filth – Live Bait for the Dead (2001)
- Cradle of Filth – Heavy, Left-Handed and Candid (2001)
- At the Gates – Live in Nottingham at Rock City (1996)
- Radiohead – The Bends Pinkpop (1995)
- The Fall – BBC Radio 1 Live in Concert (1989)
- Napalm Death – The DVD (1989)
- Into A Circle – Live (1987)
- Play Dead – Caught from Behind: Live in England, France, Germany, and Switzerland (1985)
- Tygers of Pan Tang – Live at Nottingham Rock City (1981)
- "Rock City". Gecko Mobile Venue/Events Guide. Gecko Mobile. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- "Rock City". DHP Group. Archived from the original on 21 January 2012. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- "Nottingham Rock City". TPI Magazine. September 2009. Archived from the original on 26 February 2011. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- "Black Cherry Lounge". Rock City. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
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- "Rowland's New York Circus in Nottingham". Nottingham Evening Post. England. 5 November 1887. Retrieved 3 March 2018 – via British Newspaper Archive. (Subscription required (. ))
- Wilson, Jared. "Brief History of Rock City". Rock City 30th Anniversary Magazine. Left Lion. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
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- Wilson, Jared. "DJ Jonathan on Rock City". Left Lion. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- Wilson, Jared. "The Man Behind the Music". Rock City 30th Anniversary Magazine. Left Lion. Retrieved 5 February 2012.
- "Nottingham's Rock City 'targeted' by criminal gangs". BBC News. 15 January 2012. Retrieved 15 January 2013.
- "Rock City – Club Nights". Retrieved 16 December 2011.
- "Louder Than War". Retrieved 2 August 2016.
- "Discogs". Retrieved 16 December 2011.