Battle Off: Small vs. large music venues

Words, audio & images: Bernadette Galbraith | Subbing: Joanne Clark

Banquet Records in Kingston pride themselves on being ‘more than your local record shop’. I took a trip to the store to find out more about what they meant by this.

Having stumbled across Banquet Records accidentally, it was a stroke of luck to discover they also arrange regular in-store gigs and various events. Many of the artists they collaborate with are well-established with already a desirable following. For example, folk singer-songwriter Frank Turner will be playing The Hippodrome with them Thursday night and yet, he’s played at the O2 Arena in the past, to an audience of 20,000 people.

It was the in-store gigs that really caught my attention though. While browsing for more information, an image came up alongside a description for them and it displayed a tiny stage with a crowd huddled round. Having experienced smaller gigs before, at Margate Winter Gardens for example, I was keen to visit Banquet Records to see how it would compare.

Julien Baker playing Banquet Records. Image: Bernadette Galbraith

American singer and guitarist, Julien Baker was the next artist lined up to play the Kingston store. Her music is a divulgence of her most inner thoughts and feelings. It’s delicate and yet hard-hitting, commanding the room with just an utterance of her voice. As the crowd start to fill the room, which is no larger than the record store next door, a staff member asks us to move right up as far as we can.

Baker is standing on stage with just a guitar in hand, watching us all pile in and then thanks us for joining her on this rainy, dreary day. With her standing merely two metres away, I can’t help but think how nice it is for music fans to unite in such a way. It’s 12:30 on a Saturday afternoon. The rain is incessantly pouring and with staff still setting up, gig-goers had no choice but to queue up outside.

There are many other places that some people would rather be on a Saturday afternoon and yet, there is an element of devotion to standing here. Whether that be for the love of the music or rareness of seeing an artist in such a small venue.

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