In a small Roman style city there can’t possibly be much music round here, right? Wrong. It’s spilling out onto the street’s day and night if you truly look for it. With buskers on every corner during the day, and artists playing in numerous venues as nightfall hits, the choice is endless. Finding them down tucked away side streets and courtyards only adds to the adventure of it all. So, here’s a rundown of all the best hidden gems for music, where to find them and what to expect.
Telford’s is a good a place as any to start. Located at the side of the canal between Tower Wharf and Raymond Street, it’s perfect for a summertime drink or late-night boogie. Providing numerous gigs and DJ sets each month, there’s no shortage of putting on something for everyone. With a quaint little stage and a modern yet still rustic feel to the place, the venue easily creates good vibes all round. Providing us with lots of Cheshire based talent we start to see the grassroots scene thrive and ideas of how exactly we can support it. Get yourself down to a gig, I guarantee you won’t regret it. Being surrounded by likeminded music fans and top-notch beers, there’s no reason to complain.
A real hidden gem is Commonhall St. Social. It’s an edgy little bar that is located on Commonhall Street, just off the side of Bridge Street. Playing live music from 6-8pm every Friday followed by a DJ till late sets you up for a night of fun, singing, and a little bit of dancing. Having access to a selection of fun craft beers and spirits to enjoy inside or out on their stunning terrace. Decked out with table tennis and foosball there’s no shortage of entertainment.
‘We need to support live music, see more acts, buy more music and encourage the next revolution of live music’ – Stew Etcell
General Manager and avid music lover Stew Etcell expressed his love for a variety of venues across Chester, such as Telford’s Warehouse, The Saddle Inn, Alexander’s and St. Mary’s.
His love for St. Mary’s runs deep, describing it as a ‘great local collective, bringing fantastic acts to Chester and creating a real buzz. Bringing a like-minded audience who are all there for the music to a charming old church. For my money these are the best gigs in Chester at the moment.’ Roman Candle promotions ran by Carl Bennett brings acts from far and wide to Chester’s very own St. Mary’s church. A stunning venue in the heart of Chester that’s not to go unnoticed. A local artist I fell in love via this venue is Toria woof, playing all over Chester in HMV, Commonhall and St. Mary’s to name a few. Her music is highly serene, calming and iridescent.
Another slightly out-the-way venue that’s well worth a visit is The Saddle Inn. Located at the bottom of town by the Magistrate’s court, it provides an alternative Rock element to Chester’s music scene it’s loved and appreciated by many. Hosting open mics on a Wednesday night and live acts throughout the week and into the weekends, it’s never a bad time to be in attendance. Even known for being a little haunted too! So, if you’re feeling brave enough why not stay in their hotel. It has all you could need on your doorstep. Food, drinks, Rock music and a friendly community.
‘We have to get off our arses and attend a gig’ – Stew Etcell
Moving onto Alexander’s, arguably one of the most well-known of all the hidden venues. Found in Rufus court you can’t deny its attraction. Being home to the annual Alexander’s tribute festival, open mics, and new acts weekly. Helping not only local acts but the creative students at Chester University too by providing them an outlet to perform and form industry-based connections. Supervisor Harry Brums confessed how he feels about the scene and what comes along with it. ‘The venues play just as much of a role in supporting the local talent as the acts do to the venues. Here at Alexander’s for example every Monday we have a new artist play. With that comes a new crowd of music lovers. The people of Chester are constantly being exposed to new up and coming artists and this is how we boost the scene.’
However, when thinking about what needs to be done to improve Chester’s music scene Stew voiced his opinion claiming, ‘Chester is a challenging audience, and it feels like the crowd numbers never really bounced back after covid.’ Adding on that ‘the costs of running live shows in grassroots venues has become increasingly larger, pushing more operators into putting on fewer gigs. It all comes down to drawing in paying punters sadly. The greater Chester crowd are becoming a little tight on their purse strings when it comes to paying for something even though they wouldn’t think twice about it in our neighboring cities’
So, if you’re new to Chester or just looking for something new to experience, then give one of these places a go. Get out and have some fun, support the local music and hey, maybe you’ll find your next favourite band. Even some of the biggest celebrities began here. With Ed Sheeran playing the open mic at Alexander’s and the Sex Pistols playing Quaintway’s, now known as Rosie’s, you don’t know who you could see!
By Niamh Rowley