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A Music Guide To... Coventry

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Coventry is often summed up with three C’s: concrete, cathedral and cars.

Destroyed almost entirely by the Second World War, the city rose from its ashes to become what it is today. While it may not look like much, beneath the surface Coventry is a hive of artistic talent. Back in the 90’s we had more theatre companies per head than anywhere else in the country and we’re also the home of two-tone (A.K.A. Ska) music.

To the uninitiated, Coventry’s music scene may seem sparse. Lacking in clubs and often overshadowed by neighboring Birmingham it’s easy to see why. However, with bands such as The Specials, Napalm Death and The Enemy all hailing from our streets, there’s definitely something in the water here.

Constantly evolving (as seen in the rebranding of pretty much everything in recent years), Coventry might just take you by surprise…

Venues 

Also known as Coventry’s creative quarter, FarGo Village is an artistically repurposed industrial space in Coventry City Centre, designed exclusively for creative, independent businesses and like-minded visitors. Regularly hosting events, there’s always something quirky going down. Based on Far Gosford street, it’s in the heart of student central, providing a creative outlet to the artistically inclined. The Big Comfy Book Shop hosts an acoustic night and open-mic nights often take place here.

A little known fact to people is that Warwick Uni is actually in Coventry. Therefore, we’re able to claim Warwick Arts Centre as our own (even though many Cov Uni students wouldn’t dream of stepping foot in it). It’s also the largest arts centre after London’s Barbican Centre, offering a range of artistic platforms. Many smaller bands embarking on their first tours visit the arts centre and it’s mecca to more ‘alternative’ acts. There have been so many huge bands and artists gracing it’s stage over the years, including The Smiths, Radio Head and U2. 

The marmite of Coventry, Kasbah (or Colly if you’re local (or just trying too hard)) has something for everyone. The largest nightclub in the city is often host top DJ’s, such as Wilkinson, Sigma and Blonde. Moreover, their side room doubles as a live venue, hosting all kind of acts from up and coming local bands to well known bands such as Deaf Havana who are due to be there in November. One moment you’ll be in the main room bopping along to Punjabi MC (another Coventry legend) and then next you’ll be in the side room watching an acoustic cover duo.

Like Kasbah, the Phoenix is sometimes better known as Campbells. A hive of student activity, the ‘Dark Room’ is an upstairs venue, which is host to all kind of musical functions. Bands that have played here include Mallory Knox and tonight alive. Home to Coventry Universities Rock Society, it’s frequented by alternative bands and always makes for a lively evening. 

Festivals

Coventry’s Godiva Festival is billed as the UK’s biggest free family music festival and is now in its 19th year. Based in the city’s historic War Memorial Park, the three-day event offers great live music, family entertainment, international food and drink, craft village and even a fun fair. Spanning over three days, there are multiple stages and it caters to all tastes. The rock tent transforms into the RnB tent as the weekend progresses. In 2017, record crowds took to the city’s War Memorial Park, with over 179,000 visits during the Godiva Festival weekend. 

Clubs

I’d be a liar if I said Coventry’s Nightlife didn’t leave something to be desired. With only three ‘big’ clubs, your options are limited, but surprisingly there is something for everyone.

Aforementioned Kasbah is the largest of the bunch, with 3 rooms, balconies and an impressive beer/ barbecue garden. When I say Kasbah cater to all, I’m really not joking. Artists that have played here include Klaxons, Calvin Harris, La Roux, Arctic Monkeys, N-Dubz, Babyshambles and Enter Shikari – that’s before you even consider the acts featured during freshers. 

With a lesser focus on live music, JJ’s (formerly Jumpin’ Jaks) hosts the biggest student night of the week, in the form of BOOM Tuesdays – so popular that they’ve also launched in Birmingham this year. They’re the home of cheese in Coventry and nights normally end in a Disney tune, but who doesn’t love a HSM sing-along with your mates after a great night?

Recently rebranded, The Empire is home to student social after parties on Wednesdays. Formerly Hush, The Enemy front man Tom Clarke helped to reinvent the venue and even named it as one of the stages he’s miss the most once the band stopped touring. Nestled between Coventry Uni and FarGo village, it’s in a prime location for artists and students alike.

Record Shops

Coventry City centre only actually has one remaining record store. Vinyl Destination is located in Coventry’s market, so finding it can be a bit of a maze, but it’s well worth the hunt. There’s a vast collection and while you’re never sure what you’ll find, chances are you won’t leave empty handed.

If you head down to FarGo village, you might stumble upon Roman’s Records. Listing everything from Thrash to Folk in their catalogue, it’s the perfect place to have a look round before an event at FarGo. Like all things in the Creative Quarter, it’s an eclectic collection.

Taking vinyl into the 21st century, Coventry is home to Planet Earth Records, and exclusively online record store. They specialize in sourcing hard-to-find records and have heaps of rarities in stock. While it’s not quite the same as running your fingers through boxes of rectangular sleeves, it certainly offers you a little more than a regular record store.

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