The lasting legacy of top music venue
“WHEN I was a kid you either hung out in the bus stop or you went to see a gig.”
Times have changed since Matt Davies was a young music fan.
In 2011 he opened a music bar in Carmarthen and wanted to give the town a venue to be proud of, somewhere where new musical talent could blossom on stage in front of local people.
The Parrot, located In King Street in Carmarthen town centre, seems to have been here a long time.
Its age of seven and a half doesn’t quite compute with the impact that the venue has had among lovers of live music in West Wales.
Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci frontman Euros Childs, Cate Le Bon, Adwaith, Ysgol Sul, Bromas, Dodgy and Boy Azooga are just some of the bands that have hit the stage at this independent and charismatic throwback which has ingrained itself into the psyche of the town’s revellers.
That particular love affair is coming to an end, however. The Parrot will close on New Year’s Eve, for good.
“I was putting on gigs in the Waterside and at the Jolly Tar, but when they both closed I realised there wasn’t a venue in town for live music,” said Matt. “So we were filling a gap in the market, really. We’re still the only place that has live bands playing original material.
“We’ve had so many busy nights here, but it’s just not consistent enough. We’ve always been slightly short of making ends meet. We’ve tried different things – we’ve had craft beers sold here, we’ve had a cafe in the daytime, we’ve really tried to make it work, but it’s never quite been enough.”
In these times of X Factor, iPods, and 24-hour music channels, do enough people still want to watch live music?
Matt said it wasn’t that simple, and that young people do still want to come out and enjoy themselves.
“Young people have more choice now, but I don’t think that’s the problem,” he said.
“We had an under-18 night here the other week and it was packed.
“People do still want to come out. That reason may be part of it, but it’s not the main issue.”
The Parrot very nearly closed for good in 2014. A campaign was launched to save it, and thousands of pounds was raised in a matter of weeks to make sure that Carmarthen retained its only dedicated live music venue.
It is not just about the music, either.
The Parrot has been described as being “purpose built for performing comedy”.
One of those who backed the fight to keep it open four years ago was Rhod Gilbert.
The Carmarthen-born comedian was asked to help, and despite not being a Parrot regular, he stumped up around £3,000.
He said: “From a comedy point of view it’s a fantastic place, and an important place,” said Rhod.
“When I was growing up there was nowhere like that in Carmarthen. I didn’t even set foot in a comedy club until I was 27.
“It was a place exactly like The Parrot where I saw my first ever live comedy. It was an open-mic night in London. I used to go every week, and because I was there so often I ended up volunteering there. Then one day they started this stand-up course.”
Rhod’s affection for small, independent venues is shared by fellow comedian Elis James.
He has performed twice at The Parrot, and was hoping to do so again before he was hit with the news of its closure.
“It’s a crying shame,” said Elis. “It’s more widely known as a music venue, but it’s basically the perfect room for stand up.”
Another person who helped drive the cam- paign to save the venue back in 2014 is BBC journalist Steffan Storch.
Working for the Carmarthen Journal at the time, he wrote at length about the need for a dedicated music and comedy venue in Carmarthen.
“It is a sad day to see The Parrot closing when we all put so much of our time and money into reopening it and keeping it going,” said Steffan.
“But we had a lot of great events and I don’t think there’s much we could have done differently so I don’t regret any of it.
“We have a good legacy in the bands who played their first gigs here and went on to have big successes in releasing great albums, touring across the country or getting spots at big festivals, and that was always the whole point of doing it.”
Owner Matt remains upbeat, even in the face of The Parrot’s impending closure.
“I don’t think we’ve failed,” he said. “Seven and a half years is pretty good for somewhere like this. We’ve had more than 1,000 bands perform here – I look at that as quite an achievement.”
All good things must come to an end, it seems, but not quite yet.
With a packed-out schedule to fulfil over the coming weeks, culminating in a send-off party on New Year’s Eve, one thing even more inevitable than its closure is that The Parrot will go out with a bang.
Parrot owner Matt Davies and below, the Parrot has seen more than a thousand gigs.
Opening night at the Parrot back in April 2011.