Brighton Rock: Lose yourself in the city’s live music scene

Brighton is one of the UK’s most popular seaside resorts, with hordes of Londoners coming to bask in the summer sun. But it’s in the evenings that the city truly comes alive, through the Brighton music scene.

With a music history spanning over 60 years, featuring big names such as Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, David Bowie and Jimi Hendrix, it’s no surprise that over 500 bands perform gigs here every night of the week.

Back in the 1950s, Brighton pubs were already known for having a piano player at the weekends, with some having bands playing exciting live music. In the 1960s, music was the focus of the famous clashes in Brighton between the “mods”— scooter riders in suits who liked ska, soul, and rhythm and blues, and the “rockers”— who wore leather jackets, rode motorbikes and enjoyed rock-n-roll from the ’50s. The conflict was depicted in the cult movie Quadrophenia.

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[Image: Brighton Rockers – Credit: Triton Rocker]

The ’60s also brought big names to Brighton’s ever-growing live music scene. The now-closed Hippodrome showed off the Beatles to screaming teenagers in 1963 and ’64, while the Brighton Dome hosted Jimi Hendrix in 1967. Pink Floyd played the Dome eight times between 1966 and 1972, where they debuted their classic album Dark Side of the Moon.

Brighton’s popularity only seemed to increase after ABBA won the 1974 Eurovision contest with their hit “Waterloo” at the Brighton Dome. The ’80s saw U2 play at the Jenkinson’s Cabaret Bar during the Boy Tour, but it also offered a home to the punk rock movement, and the city was rife with anarchists and squatters.

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[Image: David Bowie at Brighton Dome — credit: Brighton Dome]

“When I moved to Brighton it felt like I was in a never-ending music festival,” says local musician Nik Barrell. He moved to the city in the ’90s to escape the increasing cost of living in London and to seek out like-minded artists. “Many of my friends were living on benefits at the time, but you could easily get a meal and a drink for just £5, which was a bargain! We lived a very bohemian lifestyle, played music all the time and collaborated on many exciting art projects. I used to call it the British Nashville.”

The scene changed at the beginning of the 2000s, says Nik, with the opening of the prestigious British and Irish Modern Music Institute (BIMM) in 2001, (whose alumni include The Kooks), and Fatboy Slim’s250,000-strong Brighton Beach concert in 2002.”All of a sudden Brighton became a magnet for the music industry.” says Nik. “Many people were now coming over to create bands and score album deals, and we lost a bit of that tight community vibe.”

Nowadays Brighton boasts a healthy mix of big-name acts, trendy venues featuring upcoming bands and a plethora of bars and pubs playing all kind of live music.

Brighton’s Best Live Music Venues

Just a 5-minute walk from Hotel Indigo Brighton, you’ll find the relatively new Green Door Store. They have a penchant for independent music and are always on the lookout for new and exciting bands. The Prince Albert is just a short walk away—the ideal spot for indie rock bands.

The Prince Albert

[Image: The Prince Albert – Credit: Grass Roots Ground Swell]

If you’re exploring Brighton on a Sunday, then consider paying a visit to the Seven Stars pub for a Sunday roast lunch while listening to some jazz and swing. Another option for jazz fans is The Brunswick pub, a characterful building from the ’30s, though slightly closer to Hove. The icing on the cake is the Rose Hill Tavern, which is less than five minutes from Hotel Indigo Brighton. “It’s my favourite place in Brighton,” says Nik. “It’s a venue that was bought by a bunch of musicians, who live there, and host incredible gig nights.”

May is the best month for a visit to Brighton to catch some of the local music festivals, most notably the Great Escape, the Fringe Festival and the Brighton Festival. There are concerts all over the place, but if you fancy seeing Nik or other local musicians, head to the Pavilion Gardens to watch bands busking to a cheering audience.

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[Image: The Great Escape – credit Great Escape Festival]