Simon Eaton, head of live at Troxy (cap. 3,100), the largest venue among 300 others that took part in Independent Venue Week (IVW) 2023, tells Access the importance of the annual seven-day celebration.
London’s largest independent venue Troxy hosted a headline IVW show by Editors on 1 February, three weeks on from its last-minute show with Four Tet, Fred Again and Skrillex, promoted by Eat Your Own Ears. Eaton also tells us about the challenge of hosting the landmark show just after the Christmas period and how the venue’s lockdown renovations have given it a major boost.
Was this your first year at IVW?
SE: We’ve been ambassadors for the project for a long time but this was the first year we’ve had a show on that week. While we’ve been trying to programme something for many years, the problem is that the whole model of IVW is big bands and small venues. And when we’re talking about our capacity of 3,100 you’d have to get an arena-level band to come and play. So to get a band like Editors who traditionally would do a minimum 5,000 capacity show is quite a coup.
January and early February is a difficult time to have sold-out shows at our capacity. Not a lot of bands tour during that period so it’s a good time for IVW to get people out to shows again.
How healthy do you think the grassroots venue sector is at the moment?
All venues are struggling, no matter how big or small, there’s the same problems. The major one at the moment is power and energy. Our energy bills are projected to go to 12 times what we had last year, and ours are already six figures. If you are grassroots, you’ve clearly got less money coming in because of the smaller capacity, therefore it’s even harder to make those ends meet. If you’re not getting the big headline shows you’ve got to rely on other things to start to make money. It’s a difficult market for any venue big or small at the moment, and even harder if you’re independent.
How important are the bigger-name artists for venues like Troxy at the moment?
By 1 February this year we’d already held sold-out gigs from Viagra Boys, Skrillex, Four Tet and Fred Again as well as Editors. Those sort of names are paramount to venues of our size and independency. They can go and play at larger venues on the touring circuit but choose to stay independent, keeping things interesting for fans by playing somewhere that might not pop up on a regular tour poster.
Them playing somewhere a little leftfield helps that local economy and enables the venues to continue to operate. If bands stop playing venues like Troxy then unfortunately there won’t be any venues other than your standard corporate sponsored venues left. Then those tour posters will become incredibly boring.
And how was the Skrillex, Four Tet and Fred Again show? It was all over social media which must have been great for the venue.
We got the call a couple of days before Christmas asking if we wanted to do a show with three of the biggest DJs in the world, so obviously we said yes. But trying to put that show together with 10 days notice, especially over Christmas when all the staging and lighting companies are all closed, made things interesting. Normally we work with six months’ notice. But it was a really nice problem to have. It was amazing on the night, the atmosphere in the room was electric. To have that in early January was brilliant for us.
Eat Your Own Ears are very good friends of ours, we do loads of shows with them. Their artists are aligned with our branding and ethos – they’re fiercely independent and that’s exactly what we are.
How have recent venue renovations benefited the venue?
Lockdown gave us time to reinstate the original 1930s stage that had been hidden away many years earlier. We had been planning to do so since we bought the building in 2006.
We now have the original stage housing and fly towers which means the visibility for the sightings are much better. We also did the box office, foyer, all the power and wiring, and we have proper wings now. We can now attract these big artists and do much bigger productions on a bigger scale, and we can do them faster. It’s revolutionary for us, we’re a much bigger beast. It means we can rival venues of our size if not much bigger.