Glasgow boast a wide variety of venues for all purposes. One of the most famous is King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, a 300-capacity grassroots music venue that has hosted an impressive list of superstars in its time, either on their way to stardom or returning as stars to play an intimate set.
For our Glasgow Focus, Pollstar reached out to the venue’s booker Chris Loomes, who talked about the amazing feeling of being back at “Tut’s,” welcoming fans again, and dealing with the challenges of a post-pandemic world.
Pollstar: What’s your state of mind right now, speaking from the perspective of a live pro running and booking a grassroots music venue?
Coming out the back of the pandemic, the last year has been a bit of a whirlwind. In the best way, though. Having live music back and being able to provide music fans with a space to come and see some of the best acts around is a total privilege. Grassroots music venues are so important and places like King Tut’s help harbor a community that is essential in developing new artists.
My state of mind just now is general excitement. Excited to have live music back, excited to see King Tut’s busy again, excited about shows we have coming up and excited about shows that have happened.
Since re-opening we have done amazing shows with future stars like Black Country New Road, CMAT, Kenny Hoopla and Sam Gellaitry to name a few, as well as hosting special intimate shows for huge acts like Blossoms.
Business is back – I’m a big believer in people needing to be around other people to survive. Having that stripped away from us over lockdown was awful and having a space like King Tut’s where we can bring strangers together and harvest an atmosphere of pure joy is amazing. We’re really lucky to get to do what we do.
How much of a return to normal did 2022 bring, if any?
2022 started in lockdown – once restrictions were lifted towards the end of January, the whole year has been a bit of a blur. It’s been amazing to have live music back and have the opportunity to bring people back together.
As we have got further and further into the year, it’s almost felt like it never went away. There’s a special atmosphere in King Tut’s that can’t be bought, or in my opinion re-created in any other room. It was paused over the pandemic – but it has returned.
The look you see on peoples faces when they walk in for the first time, and their first show in Tut’s always reminds me how privileged we are to do what we do.
The word legendary gets banded about a lot, but King Tut’s is that – we have an amazing track record of bringing the best new artists from around the world to Glasgow for the first time, from Oasis and Radiohead, to Florence + The Machine, Fontaines DC, Lily Allan, The Killers – I could go on and on – Tut’s is where people get the opportunity to see future festival headliners in an intimate space before they blow up.
Is the Glaswegian audience happy to go to events again based on ticket sales? Do you observe a hesitancy, does it differ between demographics, when compared to pre-pandemic years?
I think the market has changed since before lockdown. People definitely buy later in the day, we tend to see a spike of sales the week of the show, opposed to at on sale. I get the sense people are definitely happy to have normality back. I’m sure some have been hesitant but I suppose it’s our job to try and make everyone feel as safe and comfortable as possible.
Running a grassroots music club is challenging in the best of times. How did you survive the pandemic, which lead into a cost-of-living crisis? What were the most important factors?
I think a big part of it was trying to stay positive, and believe that normality was going to come back. On a personal level the pandemic was incredibly challenging, and at times it did feel like we would never get live music back the way it once was. But I’m incredibly grateful we have and that we are back to business.
Having the venue shut for such a long period of time was really weird. There were a lot of challenges re-opening in a post-pandemic world. Luckily we have an incredible team in Tut’s who have worked tirelessly to help deliver concerts seamlessly, safely and provide an experience for both customers and artists that is overwhelmingly positive.
Did you experience any Brexit related issue while booking talent? Does it affect staff at King Tut’s?
There are obvious challenges for touring artists. The cost of touring has sky rocketed, and at a grassroots level is pretty unsustainable now.
The government needs to do more to support the arts and new, independent artists. Without major label financial support it is really hard to do a tour without losing hundreds, if not thousands of pounds and something needs to be done to remedy this.
In-house, costs have gone up too – recently the energy bill crisis has, and will continue to hit us and other small venues hard.
What makes Glasgow special in your eyes?
I’m biased, I grew up here, have lived here my whole life. But I genuinely believe Glasgow is the best city in the world. It’s a bit of a cliché but the people are what makes it. Artists all over the world cite Scottish crowds as the best in the world – and we’re really proud of that.
We also have a world class music scene, that would rival any other from around the world. It’s welcoming, supportive and nurtures incredible talent. We have a plethora of iconic venues and a rich history in producing world class artists. This will continue until the end of time – it’s a special place and breeds creativity.
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