We celebrate indie venue week with a profile on London's greatest small venue
Cai Trefor

19:32 23rd January 2017

It doesn’t happen all the time but it just seems to have been a real crop of great South London bands and this was the first place that they all played,” says Tim Perry, in his cheerful Northern Irish accent.

Perry, the promoter of The Windmill in Brixton (London’s most brilliantly curated small venue of late) is in conversation with Gigwise as it’s Independent Venue Week and The Windmill epitomises what's great about small venues in the UK.

Its rough 'n' ready psychedelic interior and fantastic live stage is an emerald in a sea of £14.50 a burger gastro chain pubs, that have engulfed the ever-gentrifying streets of Brixton. And in the 17 years Perry's has been promoter it has developed a fantastic alumni of bands that started here and have gone on to make it on an international level. However, it's what's going on now that seems to be heralding far more interest in the venue than ever before.

“Fat White Family kicked it off with their Trashmouth Records events a few years back,” says Perry. “Shame are quite instrumental in it at the moment. I think they’ve done more than me to persuade people to play here. Then Goat Girl came out of the blue last year and  got signed quickly. Of course there's bands that say they’re from South London, but, they’re not, " he laughs. "But they all seem to hang out here more than anywhere else.” 

What makes musicians so drawn to playing here? “It’s just one room, answers Perry. “No bouncers, it’s casual, and there a shed in the back years that’s nice to hang out in. 

"Also, it’s somewhere that’s truly a music venue; it’s not selling burgers until 8pm and then there’s a few live bands then a DJ and a club night. When venues do that something’s got give," he adds.

In addition to the aforementioned reasons, Perry’s role at the helm certainly is a driving force in its success. His entire life experience feeds in to make it the best it can be. "I used to be a music journalist and had a column in the Independent. And before that I worked for Rough Guides" - all certainly complimentary attributes for an alternative venue promoter.

Overall Perry subscribes to a fairly grassroots way of operating and most gigs are three quid, "because if anyone asks for guest list at three quid you laugh at them – if it's a fiver everyone wants guestlist. I don’t really like free gigs," he says "It just devalues the whole thing. "

This experience of working in the industry, coupled with a fair entry price policy. and his refusal to pocket any of the door money is a complete antithesis to the pay to play promoters who work as deviants in the city. Thankfully, it is noticed and rewarded. The management from big touring artists will often encourage a stopover at The Windmill en-route to bigger venues as part of a tour. The Vaccines, The Weeks – and Perry's own favourite: ...And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead – are just name a few that spring to mind. 

This week's Independent Venue Week line-up – including Shame, HMLTD, Insecure Men, Goat Girl – are predominantly all regulars and on the cusp of breaking into the higher end of the industry. They will draw the crowds, honouring the little empire of friends and fans  showing a great amount of dignity that's totally in line with what Independent Venue Week is all about.

It's not always been this way, though. Perry remembers a time when it was quite the opposite: “I think there’s more venues than ever in South London. There was baron period in South where all the live music activity was cornered in Camden, shortly followed by East London. No industry lived down here. “Now there are venues popping up – especially in Peckham.” he says.

But in Brixton itself the closure of The Queens Head on Stockwell Road – the infamous home of Fat White Family – does leave The Windmill as one of the places small venues for live guitar music and as a hangout for bands in the whole area. And long may it reign in its beautiful shabby way. It may  be an insptraion for more venues of its ilk and character to be born. But, there will only ever be on Windmill. 

This week's listing at The Windmill. Check its Facebook page for more info

Monday 23rd January: Shame + Fish + Hotel Lux SOLD OUT
Tuesday 24th January: Insecure Men + Horsey + Sleaze SOLD OUT
Wednesday 25th January: The Big Moon + Lice + Karmacoma SOLD OUT
Thursday 26th January: Trashmouth Records presents: Warmduscher + Madonnatron + No Friendz
Friday 27th January: HMLTD + Ghost Kings of The Five Regions + Jovis & the Bedwetters + Fake Fur SOLD OUT
Saturday 28th January: Black Cat White Cat and Windmill Brixton present: The Winter BBQ:Phobophobes + Special Guests + Matt Maltese + Yowl + Monk + Evans the Death + Weird Milk + Bad Parents + Louis O/B Tickets
Sunday 29th January: Goat Girl + The Honey Hahs + Glows + Primordial Soup SOLD OUT

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Photo: press