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Hastings Pier Rocks Again (Updated)

Turning Of The Tide?

Written By John Bownas

It’s a safe bet that many big promoters will have their eye on what Hastings Pier is doing this this summer. If shows do well there’s going to be stiff competition for the space next year.

One of Brighton’s brightest live music companies, One Inch Badge, is the first promotions company to see the potential in Hastings’ newly opened Pier

They’re preparing to set a trend for putting on truly memorable gigs.

Big outdoor affairs that will put the new timbers to the test under the combined weight of thousands of music fans.

However, following the stupendously well-received Madness gig at the official pier opening party, the town thought it would have to wait until Saturday 17 September for the next big show.

Featuring headliners the Happy Mondays (followed by the Levellers on Sunday), the pair of all-dayers are sure to bring a festival vibe to the town as the top-billed names are joined by The Orb and Turin Brakes to deliver classic albums to audiences suspended above the waves of the English Channel.

However, the success of ticket sales (plus the opportunity offered by having the stage already in place) has meant that an extra day has been added. So Friday will now kick off in style with grime-lord, Dizzee Rascal and a yet-to-be announced supporting line-up.

Hopefully other venues in town will add to the spirit of the weekend and take the chance to get in on the act by providing alternative action for people unable to get tickets to the pier gigs – either because of the price or due to the heavy demand.

And of course there will be plenty of scope for raucous aftershow parties!

It’s certainly in the best interests of all the town’s live music venues to use this opportunity to show themselves at their best. Everyone’s aim should be to bring the crowds flocking back to what is increasingly recognised in the national media as an upwardly-artistic seaside haunt.

Aleister Crowley, may have reputedly left a curse hanging over Hastings’ rooftops (“anyone who has ever lived here, will always live here”), but perhaps the loss of the original pier and a couple of decades of economic gloom has worn out that particular hex – and now the tide is well on the turn.

Certainly if the various press reports of recent years about Hastings’ growing popularity are to be believed, it’s clear that the town is no longer considered Brighton’s bumpkin cousin. And if any further proof was needed you just have to look at the spiralling house prices that are a sure sign of consumer confidence - although also something that might put up a barrier to Hastings being seen as an affordable artistic retreat from the economic pressures of the rest of the south east.

The town is, without doubt, reinventing itself, and the rejuvenated pier, despite some predictable on-going debate over its architecture and infrastructure, is the biggest sign of this.

We asked the Happy Mondays’ Shaun Ryder why he thought the weekend would be a little bit special. He told us: “Piers go as far back in my memories as my mind allows, there was and still is something exciting about them. As a five year old I had a strong urge to jump off one into the sea, and fish and chips always seemed to taste better on them. Piers make great live music venues - pier fairgrounds, the waltzers and the whip are rock roll as you can get.”

The Levellers are top of the bill on day two, with the perennially popular folk-rockers having added Hastings to the other largely sold-out dates on the silver jubilee tour of their platinum-selling long player, Levelling the Land.

Guitarist Simon Friend explained to The Stinger why he was looking forward to coming back to Hastings after a long break.

He said: “The last time we played Hastings Pier I remember we were all exhausted by the time we went on stage because we’d spent the afternoon chasing each other up and down stairs in the Laser Quest venue! I loved exploring the town and bought some lovely old cufflinks in a great little antique shop.

“I’ve also got some brilliant memories of the area as we recorded one of our albums at Parkgate just up the road in Battle, and I recall waking up in a field with an empty bottle of scotch after Mark [Chadwick]’s birthday before jumping on my motorbike and heading off to see Page and Plant play Glastonbury. I know from friends who’ve moved to the town that the last ten years have seen the place really start to take off, so all of the band are really chuffed to be back on the pier after so many years away.”

Support act Turin Brakes also spent time recording early demos a few miles up the coast in Rye, before retreating to California to master their second major release.

If future bookings can maintain this level of quality programme the pier is going to throw open the floodgates for a whole new era of music tourism to Hastings.

Alex Murray, a top-dog at One Inch Badge, explained how the ten-year-old live music promotions company, which thrives on helping artists grow to play to bigger and bigger audiences, were drawn to the pier.

He said: “We visited the pier in the final stages of completion with the idea of promoting concerts there. The Hastings Pier team have been extremely helpful and excited about the projects we’re going to deliver.

“The pier and town have a great musical history and it was such a shame what happened [when it burnt down]. Many of Hastings’ residents will still remember the incredible concerts that took place there, so it’s our ambition to deliver the same for future generations. People love seeing a unique concert, and the pier is that option.”

As well as the prospect of bringing the pier back to life, Alex is a big fan of Hastings’ existing live music spots. He explained to us: “Of course there’s also St Mary in the Castle and The Union Bar which are awesome venues. The town has a rich history in music, so the people there know how to have a good time at a show.”

The council are also passionate supporters of everything cultural that is currently happening in and around Hastings.

Councillor Dawn Poole, the council’s newly re-elected lead on culture explained to us: “I'm passionate about music and I’m really proud to live in a town where we have such a thriving music scene. Whilst the Council does directly support some shows the majority are led by local people - in what seems like every available nook and cranny.”

She went on to outline the fact that the authority is very serious about the value of a thriving music scene:

“I'm keen to see Hastings Borough Council support more live music and we plan to talk to local musicians and people interested in the scene to see if we can put on our own event. Although finances are limited I would hope that we could help address any practical issues that might otherwise pose obstacles.  

As for the pier, the hope clearly is that this will become a mainstay for bigger names than can be hosted in the town’s smaller venues. Dawn concluded: “It's great to see the pier has already got some great bands lined up. I didn't manage to get tickets for Madness, but I was on the beach singing along!”

Editor: Two local acts have been chosen to be a support act for two of these gigs. Supporting Happy Mondays will be Vile Electrodes, and supporting the Levellers will be Matilda's Scoundrels. Well done to both of them, we hope they enjoy themselves and make many new fans of the night.

An earlier version of this article originally appeared on the Virtual Festivals website:

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