The last­ing legacy of top mu­sic venue

Carmarthen Journal - - Front Page - ROB HAR­RIES 07890 546505 robert.har­ries@me­di­awales.co.uk

“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.

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