Ian Fletcher is ‘working on a dream’ and if you’ve had a night in the Waterloo Music Bar you’ll understand.
In the last three years this ‘small venue with a massive attitude’ in Waterloo Road has welcomed local to international acts, grass roots musicians to big names and Ian says there is a reason - attention to detail.
He says: “Bands love to play the venue, there is nothing quite like a live night here.
“We have some of the best tech guys who are just as invested in making this place a success and putting it on the map as I am.
“And it all comes down to detail and service - if you look after people in the right way, they’ll look after you.
“From the promoters, to the managers, to the band, we’ve spent our time building relationships and it pays off in the quality of the acts we now have coming through the doors and it’s great for the music scene and it’s great for Blackpool.
“I’ve got big plans, there is so much more to be done but the buzz keeps me going - there’s nothing quite like this place when you’ve got a 300 strong audience, the stage, lights and then the music, it’s an experience - it’s just electric.”
And it has a strong following, put simply if you love live music, you want to spend a night at the Waterloo.
The bands want to play and the audiences want to see the band, Ian accommodates all.
Next week, April 14, eccentric stoner/psych rock combo of REEF guitarist Kenwyn House and vocalist Leah Rasmussen (Hydrogen, EMI, Bedrock), ‘Goldray’ will hit the resort with an exclusive gig of reveal tracks from their highly anticipated second album: ‘Feel The Change.’
The Waterloo is their only north-west stop.
Speaking on the tour, House says it is what he lives for as a musician, he adds: ‘Having a good gig is the greatest high, it’s an incredible amount of effort to get everything together as well as possible at that professional level musically; it takes everything really but it’s so worth it.
"It’s the best buzz ever and I’ve tried a few buzzes in my time.’
Bass guitarist Ian and member of Blackpool band Dirty Work, will most of the time be found trying to fix up dates to fit more gigs in, in between researching a band’s availability, costs and requirements, finding supporting acts and working on big events. There is talk of a festival in the works.
The small team behind the success of the independent venue are passionate about creating a home for music fans to enjoy everything from original and alternative sounds to legendary covers and more importantly without huge price tags.
The bar’s reputation has now earned it the title as the fastest growing independent venue in the UK and that is no mean feat, with big cities renowned for the music culture Manchester and Liverpool right on the doorstep.
Ian says: “People come here for something, for one thing and that is the music.”
An ‘epic’ April bill will host no less than 15 big gigs with support, nights ranging in genre from hard rock to punk rock and rockabilly, psychedelia, acoustic sets to blues.
There is no bars on who can play - if the bands will come, Ian makes sure they will suitably looked after.
“Hospitality is key to it,” adds Ian: “Tickets or door prices, negotiated with the promoters and agents we try to keep as fair as possible, drinks on the bar are reasonable, that’s the punters
“We make sure we have everything right for the bands and their teams too, whether they’re just starting out, from having the staging and the tech ready for the kit, a space relax before a set to the right drink the minute the band walks off stage.
“It’s the small stuff that makes all the difference but it’s a two way thing, I’m disciplined there’s no room for huge egos either, you treat people how you expect to be treated. The bands know they’ll be looked after and that’s why they come back.”
As is the nature with most success stories in the music business, former builder Ian, although a keen musician from his teens never had any intention of running a bar, not least a music bar.
But it was a charity gig at another pub The Golden Eagle, which led him back to his music roots and to his ‘home’ at the Waterloo and a new career to boot.
His building background also providing some advantages when it came to refurbishing the venue, which is adorned in musical memorabilia.
It’s a grand space - not too big which provides a perfect setting for intimate gigs and a personal experience.
The ‘EagleFest’ as it grew to be at The Golden Eagle in aid of Brian House Children’s Hospice, was organised by Ian, his son Lucas, who plays with band Avarus in aid of Lucas's guitar teacher Phil Smith who died from cancer.
“We went into it just wanting to raise some money but it was such a success and it showed there was a calling and a place for lots of good local bands.
“I ended up in some conversations at the Waterloo sometime after and it was a case of ‘do you think you would want to take it over?’ - I didn’t really but then somehow that’s what happened and here we are.
“We’ve been building and building and I’m not going to lie it’s taken real graft but the place is thriving and then to get the recognition as one of the UK’s biggest independent venues - well it’s massive when you consider Manchester, Liverpool but big bands are wanting to play here in Blackpool and I’m so proud.”
Head of communications at music ticket outlet and events guide Victoria Bamber, Skiddle, adds; “It is fantastic to see that one of the UK’s fastest growing independent venues is based on Skiddle’s doorstep in Blackpool and it is also incredibly encouraging to see grassroots venues like Waterloo Music Bar thriving against the odds.
“So often, when independent venues make the headlines it is because they are under threat of closure or have shut their doors for a final time.
Whilst these are valid concerns, it’s a real pleasure to be involved with a venue like Waterloo Music Bar, that is bringing affordable and accessible live music to Lancashire and has been entirely embraced and supported by the community and a plethora of established and emerging artists.
“Skiddle have long championed live music, grassroots venues and up-and-coming artists. The impact these venues have on their communities is not to be underestimated.
It is exciting to see what the future holds for Waterloo Music Bar and we look forward to seeing the impact this venue has on the music industry in the coming years.”
April gigs at The Waterloo Music Bar:
Saturday 6: Buster Shuffle plus guests £5otd
Sunday 7: Jim Jones & The Righteous Mind plus Shallow Waters £10adv
Wednesday 10: The Meteors plus Guests. £15adv £18otd. Tickets available from our ticket link.
Thursday 11: The Toasters plus guests £10adv
Friday12: Mike Tramp (White Lion/Freak of Nature Acoustic) plus guest Rob Wylde (Tigertailz/Midnight City) £10adv £13otd
Saturday 13: Viva Morrissey £5otd
Sunday 14: Real Deal Record & CD Fair 9am - 4pm; Goldray (Kenwyn Jones, Reef) plus guests Thirteen Stars & Run Into The Night £8adv £10otd
Friday 19 - Sunday 21 Anarchy @ The Waterloo (Punk Weekend) Tickets Friday Only £12.50adv £15otd; Tickets Saturday Only £12.50adv £15otd; Tickets Sunday Only £12.50adv £15otd; Weekend Tickets £30adv £35otd
Friday 26: Kite Club Presents Chantel McGregor plus guests The Otherness £14adv
Saturday 27: Raven Rocks Stormbringer Tour, guests Pulverise, Jessies Divide, Surrge & Snake Oil Remedy £6otd
Sunday 28:Luke Appleton (Absolva/Iced Earth Acoustic) plus guests £5otd