Cambridge Boat Race RIP

On Saturday January 31st, an estimated 300 people shoehorned themselves into The Boat Race for the final gig at this crumbling venue. The brilliant The Broken Family Band had the honour of being the last band to play, preceded by performances from an energetic Right Turn Clyde, a marvellous acoustic spot by The Dawn Parade's Greg McDonald, and an occasional interlude by the entertaining Pete Popstar.

Stan, Boat Race manager for the last seven years, was presented with a massive 'good luck & goodbye' card signed by hundreds of Boat Race regulars and bands. He didn't say much, (it was hard enough getting him on stage) but he thanked us all for our support, thanked the many, many bands who played before telling us to "Fuck off home!"

The closure of the Boat Race has been greeted with a mixture of anger and sadness.
The Dawn Parade's Greg McDonald told DiS the closure was: "A disaster". He added "There is no equivalent in the city... The Portland Arms and The Man in the Moon put good gigs on but the Boat Race was very special. I'll miss it."

Steven Adams, frontman of The Broken Family Band, the last band to play the Boat Race, said: "It's a real shame... but mostly it sucks because little bands like us will have lost a home."

Richard Rose founder and editor of legendary, local fanzine R*E*P*E*A*T, warned the closure is likely to restrict the growth of new bands. Rose, who has also organized gigs at the Boat Race, said: "It means there's even less opportunity for local bands to take the next step and support slightly bigger signed bands with a slightly bigger audience. There's less to aspire to."

One such local band who will be affected by the closure are The Hybrid Three, a fledgling four piece led by Tony Wood who said: "It might not be a big thing to most but a humble venue like the Boat Race is a goal for musicians starting out on the blessed road of live entertainment. It wasn't a venue for glory, riches or honor but for real music alone that none of us should ever take for granted. And yes it was the only place in Cambridge that would give us a gig!"

Maybe the Boat Race closure is a sign of the times. Tom O'Connor, of Reckless Management who represent Houston 500 and Wry, both of whom have played the Boat Race, wondered: "Is rock 'n' roll not 'cool' or 'in' enough? Cambridge is a student town. Beers were cheap at the Boat Race. Why then would those kids not pile in there to see bands, get wasted and get laid? The bands were good enough, believe me."

Many fear the Boat Race will be turned into some gentrified eatery or 'trendy' wine bar. Richard Rose claims "It's proof that profit is more important than anything else. I guess the powers that be think they can make more out of it by turning it into a brain dead theme pub for blow dried people with blow dried brains. For 10 years the Boat Race has been a place that those whose cultural interests are slightly out of kilter with the main stream have been able to feel valued and at home; no more."

So, on Saturday January 31st, the Boat Race closed its doors for one last time bringing to an end years of legendary performances and leaving only treasured memories. By the time you read this it may well have already begun the transformation into yet another soulless wine bar.

Yet, this doesn't mean the end of live music in Cambridge. The city still has a vibrant music scene - The Corn Exchange will always be there for the big bands, the APU are putting on gigs again, The Portland Arms is still cramming them in, and in April, The Junction will close for the summer for refurbishment. This will upgrade existing facilities and create two, new performance spaces one for the bigger, touring bands, and the other, a 200 capacity hall for the benefit of new, unsigned and local bands.

Of course, it's down to you to get out there and support this scene - no one wants to play to empty halls after all - so, get out there, get drunk, get down the front and enjoy it.

Anthony Gibbons