Plenty of music lovers in Bristol still mourn the loss of Bierkeller, 16 months after its shock closure.
The legendary live music space, loved for its dingy nature and often raucous atmosphere, closed in February 2018 with its bosses claiming the building’s owners, Resolution Property, wanted to redevelop the site.
But Resolution Property refuted this and said keeping Bierkeller open was very much part of its plans.
When we asked people what former institution they miss the most on our Facebook page, the former All Saints Street venue was a very common answer, with many sharing their fond memories of it.
Cat Horwood-Darby wrote: “So many great memories of my youth spent there” while Susan Chippett said she remembered “dancing on the tables” and singing along to bands with a “giant pint of German beer” and they weren’t alone in their fond memories.
Free shot Fridays came up multiple times, while Tuesday Rock Nights are also clearly missed.
While its closure is somewhat shrouded in mystery, what we do know for certain is Bierkeller welcomed a huge array of top bands, particularly during its heyday, when it was graced by the likes of Nirvana, Blur, The Stone Roses and many more.
To give you a trip down a sticky-floored memory lane, we caught up with the person responsible for booking those legendary acts.
Andy Fox was at the helm of the venue between 1986 until 1995, but he remembers it as if it was yesterday.
It will come as no surprise to you booking Nirvana to play the venue on November 4, 1991 just as the seminal Smells Like Teen Spirit was taking off was one of Fox’s biggest-ever bookings.
You would be forgiven for thinking that the band, who had just released Nevermind, would have been backstage ingesting a heady concoction of drugs before taking to the stage – but that was far from the case.
“Nirvana’s gig at the Bierkeller was their first-ever UK gig, so that felt pretty special,” said Andy, who now delivers medication for the NHS.
“It was for the Nevermind tour and Smells Like Teen Spirit was just starting to set the world alight.
“I remember it really well. They had only recently arrived in the UK and they were very jet-lagged.
“I went to grab them and their crew members some towels they could use for the performance but when I returned backstage, Kurt Cobain was flat out asleep on the sofa. It wasn’t quite the rock and roll image I had in mind.
“But of course when they got going on stage the atmosphere was absolutely mega. The build-up to it was crazy, there were loads of people outside the venue all day trying their best to get in, but it had sold out ages ago.”
Andy added that, although the band members were visibly shattered, they were ‘lovely guys’, as were Blur, who played the venue following the release of Modern Life Is Rubbish.
Birthday cake for Extreme
Another big moment for Andy was booking American rock band Extreme just after they had reached number one in the USA charts for More Than Words, from the hit album Pornograffiti, in 1990.
It was a huge gig for the band and venue, which meant crews from MTV were on the scene to capture the action.
But Andy’s plan to mark the band’s recent success didn’t go entirely to plan.
“I knew they had just reached number one in America so I thought I’d do something special for them to celebrate,” he said.
“Given the name of the album I went to a cake shop and asked them to make a cake shaped like a pair of breasts, which I thought was quite amsuing.
“But when I went backstage to check on them before the gig started, they weren’t eating the cake – they were having a massive cake fight, which made the backstage area pretty messy.
“As long as they had fun, I suppose…”
(Image: Wendy Stone)
Andy said running the venue was hard work at times, and it was almost impossible to tell how well a booking would do.
“We had Faith No More play in 1990 and while tickets sold okay, it wasn’t a sell-out which really surprised me,” he said.
“So when I was asked if I wanted to host them on their next UK tour I passed up on the offer – but then they went and sold out The Studio, which was above where the O2 Academy is now.
“It made me feel a bit daft, but that’s just the way it went sometimes.
“I once booked Soup Dragons on a whim after they covered I’m Free by Rolling Stones and people told me there wouldn’t be much interest, but sure enough we had a sell out on our hands.
“That one turned out to be pretty shrewd as they were cheap to book.”
‘Massive loss for Bristol’s music scene’
Andy said he thinks the closure of Bierkeller – a venue he still visited after handing over the reins to a new manager – was a ‘massive loss for Bristol’s music scene’.
“The main problem is there’s not really anything size-wise in between The Fleece and Thekla and the Academy now,” he added.
“The Fleece has a capacity of about 450 and Thekla is about 500, and then there’s a huge jump to about 1,600 for the Academy. The Bierkeller had a capacity of 700 so it was a massive loss for Bristol’s music scene.
“Bristol needs a new venue with a similar capacity to what the Bierkeller had.”