Slow Readers Club at Thekla, Bristol 11.3.2023 with Andrew Cushin supporting

This is my first visit to Thekla since starting these blogs, and the first since the recent refurbishment. It’s a novel venue… on board Thekla, a small cargo ship built in 1958 which ran aground and was later recovered, abandoned and revived to live again in Bristol docks as a music venue from 1983. It remains moored up – don’t worry, you’re not going to sea.

Thekla’s bow, from the pre-gig queue

My previous boardings were for The Rezillos and a Secret Affair gig, that one with tickets at 1979 prices. These were both pre-plague.

The good ship Thekla

The capacity of the venue in the main hold is 400. It pays to get there when the gangplank is open to board as once filled the narrow long ship shape means it can be hard to wrestle near the front, especially carrying a few drinks.

The small balcony

There is a small balcony which gives a great view if you can get up there and hold your position. There is lounge upstairs and the toilets are up there also but the venue bar is at the rear of the hold where the bands play.

The bar just after gangplank opened

A really good selection of canned Moor’s craft ales with some on tap along with other ale, cider and lager. The fridges brim with tasty ales and more.

The venue is a nightclub as well so keep an eye on those start times as they can be early with a curfew, so as to let the kids and night owls on in their glad rags… or maybe excessively ripped jeans eh.

For before and after, The Hole in the Wall pub is handy (nice to sit outside in Summer) but let’s face it Bristol has a lot for everyone. The two smart restaurants near Thekla are both very good, with The Riverstation being a real waterside treat: evening menu, daytime bar menu or just a coffee on the deck.

One thing dawning on me, however much I prioritise gig-going, is the mounting cost of a Bristol gig. It’s a great city but with £17 to park at the Premier Inn and £18 for the relatively recent congestion charge for an overnight stop, it’s not a great start. It is also a bugger to drive to (2¼ hours to drive 70 hard weaving miles) and the rail network doesn’t assist a Poole-Bristol passenger. Driving to a convenient station to come in from maybe the next test.

A few cans of Moor’s Stout onboard and we are ready for Andrew Cushin – solo with his guitar. He does play with a band as well but not tonight. Unmistakably Geordie, he is getting excellent reviews and my Spotify trawling means we make sure we are here on time.

Andrew Cushin – tonight’s support act

He has confidence, humour, youth, a strong voice and some great songs. I can hear some Noel Gallagher in there, well both Gallaghers. (He has supported Noel live and done some recording work with him.)

Andrew Cushin – Bristol Thekla

A taste here with You Don’t Belong recorded on my mobile and saved to my YouTube channel. There’s a bit of crowd babble but you can get the feel. What a top start to the night.

The passengers, I mean crowd, push forward a bit more and fill the gaps as Slow Readers Club anticipation heightens. There are Manchester accents – some have travelled, and not from the South Coast.

They have become gig regulars for us – with wife Sally tonight who loves ’em – and previous Slow Readers excursions are noted here:

Oxford O2 Academy

Wedgewood Rooms, Southsea

Slow Readers Club – Thekla

This tour is for the new album Knowledge Freedom Power, but the set is a good mix with just five songs from that one. First is Modernise which I captured from the starboard wall of the hold: link to Grey-Haired Gig Goer YouTube channel. A lot of synth beat on this one and quite a build-up before they come on stage.

Aaron Starkie and James Ryan (bass) – Slow Readers Club – Thekla

Hazy, colourful and dark is how I would describe the lighting most of the time, giving a more clubby feel.

Front man Aaron Starkie

Their sets get better and better as the albums collection grows – six albums now. Block Out The Sun is a mid-set favourite tonight for me. Aaron Starkie has his stage actions which involve Jim Kerr-like gesticulation and makes a set a more artistic sight.

You sing

It’s another excellent performance of their indie pop rock work. The new album does crank up the electro-pop aspects. The crowd love it. They know the stuff, especially the likes of the older On the TV, near the end of the main set.

The encores are the title track of the new album Knowledge Freedom Power, sandwiched between the now familiar fave I Saw A Ghost and the anthemic Lunatic. What a tasty sandwich to finish.

Aaron Starkie

The post-pandemic return to Thekla is complete. One of Britain’s great quirky venues and so many more to visit.

Published by ivaninblack

Still wild about live music - bands - gigs - festivals - after 42 years at it. All photos have been snapped by me or I will point out otherwise - I'll even own up to any blurry mobile phone ones. If gigaholic is a phrase then in recent years I think I've become one.

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