Top 5 Gig Venues in Southampton

Top 5 Gig Venues in Southampton

Guitarist James Whitehead from the band exhibitor, playing at the Joiners, Southampton. (Photo by Alice Penney)

It comes as no surprise that such a vibrant student city is thriving with music, but where are the best places in the city to enjoy a gig with a nice cold pint?

As a music photographer myself, who also happens to pull pints at an independent venue, I felt it was only right to ask a variety of people what they think are the best venues in and around the city to eliminate any chance of bias I may be swinging, and this is what the public delivered.

5 – 02 Guildhall

Coming in at 5th place, the 02 Guildhall is inevitably the largest venue in the city. Constantly bringing in big acts from around the world.

The venue can hold up to 1,700 revellers, making this the perfect gig hall for popular culture.

Joe Oliver, a music production student, stated “I like the Guildhall because it’s a big open space that attracts good artists. I saw Bring Me the Horizon there two Octobers ago, which was really good, and I’ve also seen Jake Bugg there. The Guildhall also hosts the sports awards, so not only is it a gig hall but it’s also a good multi-purpose venue.”

4 -The 1865

The Talking Heads (2nd place) recently obtained the 1865, to expand their gig potential with a bigger venue, and they have not disappointed. The 1865 is an all-rounder of a venue, with a capacity of 750 for standing gigs.

The venue provides for many revenues of entertainment, with monthly record fairs hosted, regular comedy nights, a cabaret and jazz themed nights, alongside battle of the bands competitions and then bringing in the bigger names such as sell out gigs from the Levellers, Dr Feelgood and The Story So Far.

The 1865’s devotion for blues, jazz, folk, mod and rock, consistently brings in diverse crowds to the large venue.

The drinks are reasonably priced, and the staff are always friendly making this the perfect getaway for a fun night.

Stuart Bartlett from Southampton said “I’ve been to this place a lot in the last couple of years. Easy parking, friendly staff and a great view of the stage no matter where you’re standing. Pretty much all you need for a good night out.”

2 (Joint) – Engine Rooms

Engine Rooms is one of the newer gig venues in the city, but it still brings in some classic old names such as The Dandy Warholes & Bad Manners.

Engine Rooms hosts a variety of music events but is also proud to be a multi-functioning entertainment space, accommodating the likes of exhibitions, theatre, comedy and “bespoke festivals”.

Joey Butcher a music journalism student said “It’s a really good venue because of the large capacity, but it still feels cramped so it’s still like an intimate gig, which is really good. I Saw Kano there with my friend and we had a great time. It’s a really good venue because you can get so close to the stage, if you go to a sell-out show its going to be amazing.”

2 (Joint) -The Talking Heads 

The Talking Heads is a keen favourite venue for music lovers, attracting both young and older revellers to boogie on down. With the pub and the gig hall separated, you can go to enjoy a quiet drink or a night of music at your leisure.

Musicians play in both the pub and the gig hall, creating a perfect community music hub, with regular acoustic, folk and open mic nights hosted.

The pub serves a wide selection of ales and the staff are always friendly.

Fun fact: The Talking Heads takes its name from the legendary New York rockers responsible for hits like ‘Psycho Killer’ and ‘Burning Down the House’.

Michael Oliver, an English literature student said

“The size of the venue is good because there is a lot of space for the bands, for example I saw the band wallflower there, who has 5 members and still had a decent amount of space on the stage. There was also a lot of room for the audience – but this did make it feel kind of empty. The bar didn’t take up too much room, it’s a nice layout and there was a designated area next to the stage where the band can set up merch.”

Although deemed as a smaller venue, with the capacity of 260, the Talking Heads provides a spacious area for their gigs, perfect for people who don’t wish to get too cramped when enjoying a good dance.

1 – The Joiners

The public favourite, The Joiners is undoubtedly a legendary venue, so legendary that the likes of NME crowned it Britain’s Best Small Venue in 2015.

Southampton’s diamond in the rough some may say. The family run independent venue has been bringing exceptional musical talent to the city since 1968 including the likes of Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys and the Libertines. All before they were huge of course.

As the venue itself is very small, with a 200-person capacity, making the gigs extremely intimate. Whenever well-known acts are set to play it is inevitable of them selling out sharpish.

Sam Morrisby, 24, is an engineering student. He stated “It’s nice and cosy, it’s never got out of hand there, everyone’s always really friendly – especially considering they have people under 18 allowed in there. They have really good acts there, and where it is such a small venue you can kind of talk to the acts after.”

There are roughly 300 events a year at The Joiners, meaning that there is live music nearly every single night, making there no excuse to not pay a visit.

There are plenty more wonderful venues to experience in the city, but if you haven’t been to a gig at any of these places yet, then I highly recommend you get on up and out to indulge in a quality evening of live music and beverages.

Originally written by: Alice Penny