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a city by city guide to the best indie clubs, bars, record shops and local bands

Nottingham, UK
By Sam Metcalf

Recently pilloried in the national news, and newly-dubbed ‘Shottingham’ (ho, ho), Nottingham officially Isn’t As Bad As People Make Out. One of the highest student populations in the UK point to the fact that this East Midlands city remains as popular as ever, and if people want to shoot each other because they had Vim cut with their speed, well, that’s their lookout. Many indie types will point to the fact that Tindersticks were formed in Nottingham, but let’s not forget the city’s other indie pop heritage in the form of The Melons, Fat Tulips, Airport Girl and, um, KWS. Since the turn of the century, Nottingham’s live entertainment scene has undergone a renaissance only seen once before – and this time Brian Clough wasn’t involved. No longer do we have to go and stick to the floors, walls and ceilings of Rock City to see a half decent band. And, please, never let us go back to those dark, depressing days.



Don’t Start Feeling All “Romantic”
The Red Room, Rescue Rooms, Masonic Place. First Saturday of every month, 10pm start. Free before 10.15pm, £6/5 conc after.
Nottingham’s first indie pop night, and its best. Playing everything from Freezepop to Bruce Springsteen, DSFAR is manned by a collection of friends (they’re not a collective – heavens, no) who love the music they play. Just don’t ask for any Idlewild.

Rescue Rooms, every Saturday. 10pm start. Free before 10.15pm, £6/5 conc after.
Nottingham’s biggest indie night, and depending on how much you’ve had to drink, it’s most generic. Every university town has a night like this; I don’t need to spell it out for you.

Club NME
Stealth, every Thursday, 10pm – 2pm.
Tacked onto Rescue Rooms like a smaller, Siamese Twin is Stealth, and this is probably its best-attended night. Entrance to Club NME (which often includes shows from the most up-and-coming bands, mate) relies on two things: a Switch card to hold the bar queue up with; and seven different haircuts on your head. Avoid if mentally unstable or not on a stag night.

Jumpers for Goalposts
The Alley Café, Cannon Court, Long Row West. Wednesdays.
I’m not too sure if this is every Wednesday or not theses days. Anyway, it’s a wholesome night of indie, often with the odd live act thrown in. And it’s all staged at the mecca of vegan eating in Nottingham. Don’t forget to take your shoes off.

Liars Club
Stealth, Saturdays, 11pm-5am, Free before 10.15pm, £5 after
You either love Liars Club, or you hate it. One thing’s for sure, you have to be hipper than those things that hold your belt in to not look out of place here. They also put on lots of bands that are variations on The Gossip. They’re frightening, basically.



The Social
23 Pelham Street
Nice when it’s quiet, but a bugger to relax in when it’s full of electro mullets, The Social has played its part in the transformation of the live scene in Nottingham. However, try going in there on a Saturday night and not feeling murderous. Officially Good For Gigs.

Junktion 7
6 Ilkeston Road, Canning Circus
Usually a haven for old punk shows, glam metal, or local bands playing Nirvana covers, Junktion 7 often throws up the odd gem, and is, all in all, a very good and likeable. If you can manage the walk up the hill. Also features an excellent array of beers.

Bunkers Hill
To my mind, the finest small venue in Nottingham. Lovely downstairs bar area and nicely scuzzy upstairs room which make for hot and sweaty gigs in the summer and intimate pop fests in the winter. Before you leave for Derby you must see a band here.

The Boat Club
Pricey to hire out, but lovely to watch bands in, The Boat Club was once one of Nottingham’s premier live music venues. Now a little too far out of town for most lazy tykes, it still plays host to less regular stream of gigs, and is definitely worth a visit.

The Rose of England
36 Mansfield Road
A new landlord has meant a new turn back to live music for the Rose of England, which is handily placed right in the city centre. If I were you, I’d enjoy your pre-gig drink in the Peacock opposite, mind.

The Maze
The Forest Tavern, 257 Mansfield Road
Now thankfully reopened after a short spell of being turned into student flats, the Forest Tavern is home to the Maze – a lovely little room which is widely used by promoters and gig-goers alike. One of Nottingham’s finest.



The Orange Tree
Shakespeare Street
Depending on which side you dress, you'll either love this pub in term time, or during the summer. In term time it's usually fully of student with white i-Books, staring intently at the screen. In the summer it's wonderfully quiet and very relaxing. Also, the food is ace, and it's only a two minute stagger to the taxi rank.

The Peacock
Mansfield Road
If dusty chandeliers and old-fashioned table service is your thing, then you MUST spend a lazy afternoon in the Peacock. With a clientele that veers wildly between OAPs, students, office workers and passers-by, The Peacock is THE perfect city centre pub.

The Sir John Borlase Warren
Canning Circus
Perched atop Canning Circus, and quite rightly looking down on the rest of the pubs in the area, the Sir John Borlase is wonderful. Choose between a comfortable bar area, or, if the weather's right lounge around on the rooftop terrace. It's mostly well-populated by rich students, but please don't let that put you off.

The Fellows Morton & Clayton
54 Canal Street
One of the few pubs in the city centre that you can visit before a football match without getting any aggro. The Fellows serves an ace range of real ales, does ace food, and has a large no-smoking area. You can also sit outsid, near the canal. Lovely.

Record Shops


19/21 Market Stret
Aside from the usual HMV, Fopp, Virgin morass, Nottingham still manages to cling onto Selectadisc, despite the sad closure of its second hand outlet. Selectadisc remains one of the finest record shops in the UK.

Local Bands



The Grave Architects
The next big thing? Maybe. Early indications suggest that you may well throw away the rest of your records on the grounds that they are now 'worthless'.

We Show Up on Radar
They are two and they are a beautiful mix of lo-fi electronic bleeps, beeps and acoustic guitar picking soundtrack with some wonderful nursery rhyme lyrics, vocally drifting somewhere between Joanna Newsom and Syd Barrett.

Saint Joan
Saint Joan create pastoral sparse folk-noir which lies somewhere between Low and Pentangle. Cor!

Beautiful, laid-back tunes that are perfect for a Sunday afternoon. From the head of Lucinda Chau.

They are very good. This humble assembly of musicians currently / have previously graced such fine groups as Saint Joan, Jones of Colorado, Sweetbriar, The Nordic Mile, The Grave Architects and the Sexcapades of Dan Diego.

The Chemistry Experiment
Like Tindersticks at Butlins, these dourpoppers are funnier than they seem. Lovely, dark stuff.

The Radiator Experts
Fuzzy, jump-up-and-down DIY indie greatness from on-off four-piece.


Damn You!

Bringing leftfield indie to Nottingham for some years ago now, this group of friends are the inspiration behind a number of DIY promoters in the city. Friendly, accommodating, and easy to borrow a PA off.

Also runs – a vaguely indie pop webzine. Puts indie pop gigs on in Nottingham and Leeds. If in doubt will always turn to MJ Hibbett & the Validators.

Supernight is a monthly DIY music/art orgy that's filled with all things loud and colourful.

Main Nottingham photo © Urban75

If you'd like to recommend a club, bar, record shop, band or any indie delight for inclusion in the Indie Travel Guide, please email us. If we've included a link to your band/shop etc, it would be lovely if you could link back to us. Thank you!

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