Any student in Barnsley during the mid 90’s will remember a little bar on Pitt Street called ‘Panama Joes’. With an interior of 50s American memorabilia it would seem unlikely to be the inspiration behind Burn Down The Disco (BDTD) Indie Night, but, unknown to some, this is where Matthew Lovatt (original founder of BDTD) had a vision to bring live music to indie fans in Barnsley.
Promoters were already using Panama Joes for ‘Punk nights’ which were proving popular, yet very few were accommodating for those who were infatuated with bands such has The Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses, Blur – basically anyone going under an Independent label. Matt took it upon himself to DJ regularly at Panamas and the bar became home to a varied crowd of music lovers.
It wasn’t enough, students wanted more than cheap beer offers and were tired of travelling to nearby cities for the ultimate student night.
With the help of Kieron Clark, Matt began to book local bands to play, why not? Other music nights were happening! I remember walking past Panama’s and seeing the placard, it read ‘Topless Bar staff’; I had to see it for myself. True to its word the bar staff had no upper body attire, however, they were all male! It was a ploy to lure people in to watch a local band called The Palms; it wasn’t long after other local bands were queuing to play the beloved pokey stuffy pub.
It came as a shock when Panama Joes announced it was selling up, regulars were in disbelief. It’s no secret that Barnsley isn’t without its share of Public Bars, but many lacked the atmosphere and authenticity Panama Joes had accumulated. Optimism came in the form of Stylus (a Barnsley band), who had an ambition to create a live venue to attract fans of rock, metal, punk, indie and rap music. The dream began at The Arches, on the fringe of Barnsley town centre; it was ideal for students and rockers to escape heckling from the weekend crowds and ‘trendies’.
It was here at the Arches that Matt saw the opening for an indie night. BDTD became an instant success; Last Gang (a Wakefield band) and The Baddies (a Barnsley band) was on the night’s first bill, and since then many local, upcoming and establish bands have graced the BDTD listings.
Other indie nights began to mushroom around Barnsley’s town centre and the competition between promoters was obvious to the outsider. Students and revellers were spoilt for choice; nearly every night of the week Barnsley venues were hosting live music and catering for every music genre known to man.
At this point Yorkshire bands were taking the UK by storm, and were on the pedestal of any renowned music media going. If you had sat next to an ‘Arctic Monkey’ at college or took a piss beside a Pigeon Detective, a newspaper wanted your story! Unlike tacky journalism, promoters wanted more than a scandal, they wanted to be the one who showcased ‘the next big thing’ before anyone else. Pubs, clubs and promoters weren’t the only ones cashing in, music teachers/schools had an increased interest, teenagers wanted to play instruments, if local bands could make it big their dreams had just become an achievable realism.
“If you had sat next to an ‘Arctic Monkey’ at college or took a piss beside a Pigeon Detective, a newspaper wanted your story!”
Whilst many were upping entry fees, limiting drink promotions and booking any band sounding like Arctic Monkeys, Burn Down The Disco and very few promoters had remained consistent and kept loyal to their targeted audiences. The bandwagon greedies didn’t see the craze of emo/pop-punk rising and their once booming nights had dissolved to nothing.
Only a few indie nights including BDTD managed to keep afloat. Although Matt remained faithful to organising indie nights, he realised he had to provide something more than live bands, ‘Special Guest DJ’ could have been a risk, but it paid off. BDTD didn’t have to put bands on the backburner, instead upped the attraction, bands were elated that they might be playing a night that the likes of ‘Mani’ or ‘Bonehead’ were DJing. Once again BDTD had adapted to maintain interest.
You can’t have too much of a good thing! Unless you are a promoter/member of BDTD! With indie nights fizzling out rapidly, BDTD was looking stronger than ever, it came has a shock when BDTD would be changing venues. The owners of Arches were selling up, Panama’s de-ja-vu all over again. Scepticism really hit home when BDTD would be held at Lucorum in Barnsley. The popular night united with Audio Bullied and Love Music Hate Racism to take BDTD to another level. Recently BDTD introduced ‘Silent Disco’, this involves revellers wearing headphones and having a choice of two DJ’s to listen and dance to. Silent Disco is an instant hit and has attracted new regulars.
So what is the secret of success? There isn’t one! Honesty, loyalty, adaptation, commitment and the lack of greed are key factors; the art of setting trends instead of following them helps too! Matt may be the original founder of BDTD, but he does appear to be undeterred and has been selective of who jumps onboard behind the scenes. Teaming with ‘Westy’ (Audio Bullied DJ), Sharon Stacey (Love Music Hate Racism promoter) and Ben Woodhouse (musician/promoter) has been yet another positive direction, which sees BDTD branching out to The Hop in Wakefield, could Burn Down The Disco be coming to your town next?
Burn Down The Disco and Love Music Hate Racism will be hosting a day to remember, a vast indoor and outdoor spectacular not to be missed!