Robert in Lockdown – 01.10.20

Clark's bar in Dundee has closed for good.

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I read something on social media recently about the standard job interview question: ‘where do you see yourself in five years time?’
It was suggesting that nobody who answered this question five years ago could possibly have got it correct!

Before my pals spit out their tea laughing: I appreciate that I don’t know much about job interviews having played music for a living since I was 17. But life really has taken an unexpected turn for everyone, hasn’t it?

In previous years, in amongst hectic touring schedules, I would have bitten your hand off for a free Friday and Saturday night. A year’s worth of them in a row? Not so much.
And that’s the prospect that now faces us with our last gig away back in March; and our next not until April 2021 at the earliest. We’ll be back, though; and so, I hope, will most bands. Venues might not be so lucky.

I read this week that Clark’s on Lindsay Street in Dundee has closed its doors forever. As far as I know, this is the first venue Tide Lines have played in that has fallen foul of the Covid-19 restrictions. It was also the first venue we ever played in Dundee – which is why its closure has saddened me so much. This is not purely because it is nostalgic to us (although there is a bit of that); but more because venues like Clark’s are the only way for any young band to get a foot on the first rung of the ladder.

Let me try to explain why. When we played there in 2017, we had established a decent fan base in the Highlands, were beginning to make a name for ourselves in Glasgow, and had done a couple of support slots in Aberdeen and Edinburgh. We’d even supported Skerryvore in nearby Forfar.

But Dundee was completely uncharted territory for us and anyone in the music business will tell you it is a notoriously difficult place to sell tickets – so there was no chance we could take a risk on any of the city’s sizeable venues. Clark’s had a good reputation for putting on young bands; so Beyond Presents (who were promoting our first full-scale Scottish tour) included it in our schedule. The venue was small enough (probably about 200 capacity from what I recall) that we managed to sell it out; and the gig, for me at least, felt brilliant.

I remember saying to a really supportive audience to go out and tell their pals to come to our next gig in Dundee. I also remember eyeing up the neighbouring Fat Sams, 1,200 capacity, and thinking I’d love to play there one day. Last November, two years after our Clark’s gig, we did.

I am not making a political point here about regulations in any way. I only wanted to show anecdotally how important the smaller venues are for up-and-coming bands and, therefore, for the survival of the Scottish and UK music industry as we know it.