As the Stag & Hounds closes this weekend, we asked Bristol to share their favourite memories of the legendary venue. Some sweet, others rather messy, here are the Stag’s top hits.
The Lionel Richie Crowd Surf (Oct 2015)
Bristol’s post-hardcore sweat-merchants The St Pierre Snake Invasion are well-known for their intense live shows, but sometimes they’re making small contributions to history too. During one particular show at The Stag, frontman Damien Sayell invented the ‘Lionel Ritchie Crowd Surf’, consisting of having such a feeling that you begin to walk on the ceiling. “The stag is a venue not unlike other great venues, the importance of which will only be realised years after they cease to be… Goldust,” says Damien.
Big Jeff Fronts The Backhand Jags (Stagfest 2014)
While there are countless Stag memories involving Bristol’s gig-going legend ‘Big’ Jeff Johns – “One time I played half a set using Jeff as a piano stool!” – perhaps the most special is one of the occasions he got behind the mic himself. Jeff and the Backhand Jags played a belter at Stagfest in that April, one of the venue’s most memorable nights. “That was one of the best weekends we ever hosted,” says head booker, Paddy Daly. “The Stag were always a pleasure to work with… No bullshit. No ego. No nonsense,” beams The Jags and Artscare’s Dave Thomas.
Stage Invasion After Stage Invasion
The Stag brought new meaning to the phrase ‘intimate venue’, with vast swathes of the shows their erupting into an invasion of their makeshift stage by mates and fans alike, some planned, some not so planned. Charlotte Bond of The Gin Birkins told us of “Christmas the year before last when I sang Destiny’s onstage with Milo’s Planes… And forgetting the lyrics because The Gnarwhals were in the crowd dressed as Jesus and I freaked.” Standard.
Every Great Band Formed…
But The Stag wasn’t just a place of ceiling walking, human stools and going full Jesus. Great venues also hubs where countless musicians can meet, bond and get it together. Amy Bevan of The Travis Waltons told us: “My favourite memories from The Stag include meeting and then joining The Travis Waltons. We played with Drawing Monsters at the final Stagfest. It was absolutely rammed, I fucked up loads but nobody cared.”
All-Dayers, All Welcome
One of the best things about the Stag & Hounds was its determination in being unequivocally itself – a laid back, welcoming space that was never too cool and of made people feel like an outsider. Managing Editor Sammy Maine shares: “Heading to a gig there, it was always a relief to be in a space that was comfortable and more often than not, contained a few friends. The all-dayers that were held there will always be my favourite memories. Art is Hard‘s fifth birthday was particularly special; Two White Cranes set in the little upstairs room was beyond magical.
And of course, the Deadpunk Special‘s have to get a mention… The Stag always allowed them to put on some of the best shows Bristol has ever seen. Nothing beats a room full of your friends, shout-singing lyrics back at the band while others slam a bunch of very reasonably priced jagerbombs at the bar. The Stag & Hounds provided a place where both bands and fans could find their footing and make some friends along the way.”
Tvesla Have a Car Crash, Play Anyway (April 2017)
BLM contributor Rosalind Grindrod’s favourite memory was seeing Luxembourg noise-rockers Tvesla last month. She told us: “Tvesla had been involved in a traffic accident and ended up playing with borrowed kit after half of theirs was destroyed. The support there for them was immense, the gig was fantastic and the crowd kindly donated to support the band. There was a real community spirit and it was a humbling experience for us all.”
‘The Idles Chant’ (Sep 2015)
Adam Devonshire of Idles’ life has between intimately intertwined with The Stag through Idles, Plainviews and even looking after the Exchange nextdoor. With the release of their 2015 track ‘The Idles Chant’ came a video shot at both venues mid-set, which you can check out below. Adam told us: “The city will sorely miss this wonderful venue and I’ll be very sad to see it go. Not only have I seen some of my favourite shows in Bristol there (USA Nails, Death Pedals, Raketkanon), but Bristol bands need venues like The Stag to cut their teeth at and, without it, the music scene in Bristol has some pretty big shoes to fill.”
The huge variety of stuff that such a small place put on is rightly a source of joy for Team Stag. Landlord, Marc Griffiths tells us: “Mainly thanks to Paddy [Daly, Head of Booking], I have seen acts from all over the world… Belgium’s Jacques Brel-alike, Benjamin Schoos, was a particular highlight, winning the whole crowd over despite singing in Flemish. Blushing Melons from Austria with their wierdo folk were great, as were Blind Boy Paxton. Finally the sight at Stagfest of Bad Guys playing two twin-necked guitars, sonically attacking the crowd while singing “Prostitutes are making love in my garden!”
And finally my own personal highlight, whilst playing with Screamin’ Miss Jackson and the Slap ya Mama Big Band, the sight of April crowd surfing around the room. It doesn’t happen very often for a Jazz / Country band!
Art is Hard’s 5th Birthday (Aug 2015)
“I’m not sure many days will beat August 29th last year, our 5th birthday party,” Dave West from the label told us. “It was sunny, it felt like all of the 200+ people that were there were all one huge group of friends hanging out, and to top it off I’m pretty sure Doe played a medley of Happy Birthday and the Spice Girls…”
Taking No Shit (2011-Present)
Local country legend Mark J Lee personifies the nice-as-pie-but-don’t-fuck-with-me ethos of Team Stag. He tells us about a time he had some trouble while doing sound: “Members and friends of a certain punk band cornered me and accused me of beings fascist for politely attempting to adhere to music curfew in the Stag’s licence… Luckily the power to the mixing desk was in reach… Yoink!”
Chesterfield Crowd Surfing, Because: ArcTanGent (May 2015)
When you rock out in an 18th Century listed building with all manner of oak and furnishings, weird stuff will happen. Goc from ArcTanGent remembers one such time: “Martin Gallagher from Falls (RIP) ended up crowd surfing in a chesterfield armchair at the last ATG warm up show… Quite something.”
For Fans Of Bands (NYE 2014)
Future Of The Left You Say? And St Pierre? With nearly 20 others, across both The Stag and Exchange no less? Few could argue that this wasn’t one of the best NYEs on record for gig-goers in Bristol.
Ed-in-Chief Loki Lillistone was there: “That was the new year’s that someone convinced me to get on the fun train despite the fact that I ‘don’t drink’. I remember… Well, actually I don’t.”
Brisfest/Colston Hall’s Abi Ward adds: “This was one of my favourite nights there for sure, that and the city-wide Brisfest last year.” We even have this photo of the pair from that hallowed NYE, both looking utterly mental.
Raketkanon (Apr 2015)
“Raketkanon, need i say anymore?” says Big Jeff. Yes, countless people have cited these Belgian noise rock loons as one of the most infamous shows to date, “a definite ‘I was there’ moment,” organiser Miles Jelfs tells us. “The show almost didn’t happen due to problems at the border,” he continues, “but everyone dug in, getting Raketkanon on stage at 11pm on a Mon night! All there – incl. those leaving Exchange show, dragged in off the street by the band mid flow – got to see a truly exciting show. It wouldn’t have worked out that way anywhere else, The Stag rules!”
Free For All Festival (Jan 2015)
Though we now yearn for the days of worrying about a simple recession, and not the maniacal march toward a xenophobic dystopia that nobody really wanted, it has to be said that The Stag have given out their fair share of freebies during these ‘tough economic times’. In addition to the reliable stream of free entry or donation shows, each January saw Free For All Festival take over the venue, thanks to the hard efforts of booker Paddy Daly: “We managed to pull of so many stellar line ups… Too many to mention. Free For All 2015 was one of our proudest moments.”
Let’s all toast The Stag & Hounds at their closing night this Saturday
More info on that can be found here