The legendary venue Nambucca is laid to rest with one last event headlined by Frank Turner.
Friday night was an emotional one. On the one hand, we gathered to mourn the loss of the great Nambucca, the historic haunt frequented by the likes of Frank Turner, Beans on Toast, and Laura Marling. On the other hand, we gathered in hope, inspired by the knowledge that the scene that comes hand-in-hand with a venue like Nambucca is far from dead, proven by the fact we had all decided to show up that evening.
Nambucca is one of a succession of venues to be forced into closure due to increasing costs and pressures placed upon independent grassroots venues. The Music Venue Trust exists to attempt to mitigate the risks posed to venues as a result of these pressures and is doing some fantastic work to keep important community cultural spaces alive. Unfortunately, the Nambucca was beyond saving.
The legendary Holloway Road venue has had a tumultuous history. In the mid-2000s, Nambucca was cited as a birthplace of the nu-folk scene. The scene predominantly included Frank Turner, Marcus Mumford, Beans on Toast, and Laura Marling. Turner himself actually describes the venue as his ‘spiritual-home’ having experienced a number of his most formative moments within the confines of the building. The venue has changed ownership a number of times following repeated closures. Since 2014, Nambucca has been run by Giles Horne and was transformed into a 300-capacity venue. In its final iteration, the venue saw artists like Wolf Alice, The Wombats, and Declan Mckenna passing through to play. The venue’s closure was announced at the end of April, but it wasn’t until Thursday that Frank Turner announced one final show to celebrate the venue.
We arrived at the venue during a passionate set from Bliss, the Nambucca house band. Immediately the tone of the night was apparent, we weren’t here to mourn in sadness, but to celebrate in joy. We were here to celebrate a very much alive and vibrant scene that persists in spite of the wider problems threatening live music.
The headline set from Frank Turner was particularly emotional. I’ve seen the folk-punk singer three times, but compared to those, this set bore an entirely different energy. Turner told a number of stories detailing just how important Nambucca had been to him and the many friends he had made there. This was accompanied by a setlist of songs that traced back to his early days spent at Nambucca. Dry eyes were in minority for most of the set, Turner included. The audience gave it absolutely everything, donating every drop of passion and energy they had to both Turner and the venue.
Something really beautiful happened last Friday, as often does when a community of people is brought together out of necessity. The loss of Nambucca is something to be deeply sad about, but do not mix up the loss of the venue with the loss of the scene that accompanied it. That is still alive and kicking, and will find new ways to adapt and overcome the challenges that live music faces.
We’ve made a playlist featuring some of the legends that have taken the stage at Nambucca:
Thank you to Nambucca and Giles Horne for allowing us to come and cover this event.