Saying goodbye to Stokes Croft’s LeftBank
Aggie reflects on talent-filled nights at LeftBank that made Stokes Croft feel like home
I had heard through the grapevine, but a quick Google confirmed it – the LeftBank had closed its doors.
On the 16th March LeftBank closed to the public, announcing on the website that they would be shut for the foreseeable future due to the COVID19 pandemic. Leaving myself, and I’m sure many others incredibly saddened by the news.
As we find ourselves adapting constantly to a new, restricted way of life; re-evaluating the way we run our lives, including what we do for fun; It has meant great change for many people in Bristol. A city known for creative expression through music and partying.
One of the closures that has impacted me the most, is the closing of the LeftBank venue. The popular bar turned music venue closed its doors suddenly during lockdown leaving myself and others wondering if we will see its well-known jam session nights return to Stokes Croft. The most popular nights that were hosted there regularly were the open mic nights on Wednesdays and the Jam sessions with the LJBJ band on Thursdays. On the popular Thursday night jam session, the LJBJs would open the night, and afterwards members of the public would jump onto the small stage to perform.
I have loved the LeftBank for many years partly due to the feel of the space. The small venue with its long shape and dim lighting made it stand out from other venues on Stokes Croft. With its small bar at the end of the room, and small stage and low ceilings, it gave the place a safe and cosy feel, making the space feel more like a living room than your average venue.
A city known for creative expression through music and partying, the temporary or permanent closure of music venues has meant drastic change for many people.
I have been going to LeftBank since my university days. I can recall feeling so proud of my friend Gunseli as she got up to sing at an open mic night there. How beautiful her voice was, how nervous she was as she sang in front of the audience that night. The man running the night shushed people when they weren’t listening to her perform. This subtle but welcoming gesture made LeftBank feel like somewhere artists were always respected. I returned to LeftBank many years later to find that same man still shushing people.
I have also had many amazing nights at LeftBank since I left university. One night my friend Jamie and I were blessed to see an amazing performance by a middle–aged man who got up onstage, sat down at his keyboard, and began having the time of his life. He sung about putting mushrooms in the oven; singing at a fast pace whilst simultaneously selecting random features on the keyboard to accompany his bizarre lyrics. As we watched this man, we both agreed on our envy of him – he didn’t have a care in the world about how he appeared to others. He continued to headbang his way through his other bizarre songs. Walking offstage, seemingly barely noticing the people applauding him.
That night was a great example of why I loved Left Bank so much. So many different characters could be found at Left Bank, dancing or singing the night away. It was a safe space where you didn’t have to be anything other than what you wanted to be.
So many different characters could be found at Left Bank, dancing or singing the night away. It was a safe space where you didn’t have to be anything other than what you wanted to be.
There have also been many nights where I’ve gone to see The LJBJs play. The lead singer known in Bristol for his amazing vocals, quirky dancing and great outfits. His amazing band: the incredible bassist, next–level saxophonist, and drummer bringing funky vibes to Stokes Croft. I always felt like I was exactly where I wanted to be on those nights – with everyone dancing to the talent of Bristol. On the jam nights there have been some amazing vocalists get up in front of the mic. I haven’t been to any other venues that offer that level of spontaneity and talent all in one evening. That for me is Bristol. Hidden gems of creative talent that come out from hiding to produce something beautiful that brings everyone together.
That for me is Bristol. Hidden gems of creative talent that come out from hiding to produce something beautiful that brings everyone together.
I know when I reflect on LeftBank nights in the future I will remember quirky dance moves, meeting interesting people in the smoking area, friendly staff, strange and interesting messages written across the toilet doors, and feeling assured that I live in a city blessed with musical talent. There aren’t many words that could do the atmosphere you’d find on a Thursday night in LeftBank justice. But I know for sure many people will miss it, and hope to see its doors open once again in the future. If not, I feel blessed to have experienced many amazing nights there. A big thank you to the LeftBank team.
Did you visit LeftBank? Are you saddened by any other music venue closures? Let us know on social media
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