Fave5 with Will Sergeant
This article originally appeared in the Winter 2021/2022 print issue of Quench Magazine.
If there’s any one musician who exemplifies the spirit of this column it’s Will Sergeant of Echo & The Bunnymen.
Not because the hugely influential guitarist (and now author) can readily declare his favourite venues; Sergeant himself admits that he doesn’t really think in those terms. But if you flip through his autobiography, Bunnyman: A Memoir (Constable/Little Brown; 336 pp) you can’t help noticing that it was a particular venue where he found his lot in life. That was Liverpool’s Eric’s Club, which only lasted four years but acted as a spawning ground for such now legendary area acts as Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, The Teardrop Explodes, Dead or Alive, and of course, the Bunnymen.
The importance of Eric’s is clear in Sergeant’s memoir, though the book is more about the milieu in which he grew up in than the band that became his bread and butter, or the scene that propelled them. The Bunnymen themselves toured all over the world on the back of such beloved singles as The Killing Moon, Lips Like Sugar, The Cutter, and Never Stop, and they continue on today. We spoke with Sergeant, who also records solo under such names as Weird as Fish, Glide, and on Themes For GRIND, about some of his favourite places to play in the world.
Years ago we did a tour right up at the top of Scotland, these little tiny village halls, places like that. We took a little p.a. system with us and the light show was these little anglepoise lamps that we bought. We’d just put them on top of our amps and turn them on. It was very low key. Ian Broudie (who produced Crocodiles and Porcupines) came with us and mixed for us on a little mixer. It was a good laugh, we’d sort of go from little venue to little venue with these carloads of fans following us. We’d all be on the same ferries going to the islands and that was cool. You’d see the same faces at every gig.
IRVING PLAZA, NEW YORK
We used to like playing in unusual places, you know, where nobody else would think of going, but we don’t do that so much anymore. Still, there’s a few standard venues that we enjoy going back to, like Irving Plaza in New York. It’s always been a fun city for the Bunnymen, and Irving Plaza always stands out on tour. I think it was called the Fillmore for a time but now it maybe has changed back. It’s got lots of space, just this really long room with balconies on the side, and it’s not one of those sit down gigs where you can’t really feel the vibe.
THE WARFIELD, SAN FRANCISCO
There’s a great venue in San Francisco that I always enjoy playing at called The Warfield. It’s got these six chandeliers on the ceiling going all the way down to the back, and it just looks fantastic. That’s a good place, it’s always a great vibe in San Francisco, but that’s as much to do with the crowds as it does the venue, you know. You’re feeding off the energy, which is essential, and crowds at the Warfield always seem to have it.
THE BARROWLANDS, GLASGOW
Glasgow is one of my favorite places to play, and Barrowlands is one of the best places ever. There’s just so much energy there and this sprung dance floor, so it moves when people are dancing or jumping up and down. When people in Glasgow like you they like you a lot, so it moves. That’s what it’s all about, you know, when the crowd are having a good time. It means that you’re also enjoying it, and it pushes you to go harder.
THE ACADEMY, LIVERPOOL
We started playing Philharmonic Hall whenever we were home, and it’s like a sit down place and I don’t like it. I don’t see why we’re doing it, it’s a bit too hoity toity. My favourite place in Liverpool was the Royal Court Theatre (which is now exclusively theatre), that was our place. It was a stand up venue, there were no seats and it was great in the early to mid ‘80s. The crowd were like a football crowd, you know, like, “blergggggh,” they egged you on. Nowadays we’re usually at another place called The Academy where we sometimes do Christmas shows and it’s great for us.
Photo Credit: Will Sergeant