The Story of Revolver – Essex’s pioneering club night.
After coming back from university in September 2006, best friends Mike Read and Jim Keable went for a night out in their hometown of Braintree, Essex. After three years living the with the university drinking and club culture in Manchester they were appalled with what they found back home. The same old pubs and bars, playing the same old commercial music, Mike said, “after the experiences we had at university, coming back to find what we did was just, well, crap.”
Mike and Jim met each other at high school, and became close through their love of live music. “I knew him (Jim) from around school, but it was because we enjoyed going to gigs that we really got to know each other. It’s a bit embarrassing, but the first gig we went to was Catatonia. Since then we‘ve been to hundreds of gigs together.” The week after their first Braintree experience since university, Mike recalls he and Jim went out for a quiet drink. “We went out to ‘Spoons for a drink and ended up spending the whole night until closing time drinking and moaning about the state of nights out for people into Alternative music in Essex, not just Braintree. There was one night called ‘Route’ in Colchester on a Thursday that catered for Alternative tastes.”
It was then that the idea of putting on their own club night came about. Karly Last – someone Mike and Jim had known from school, had also just returned to Braintree from university in Birmingham and was feeling the same as the pair. Mike told how the foundations were laid, “we thought that we might as well walk rather than just talk, and so we set up a meeting between the three of us in ‘Spoons for the following week so that we could get a proper business plan in place.”
The business plan consisted of a discussion about venue, promotion, funding, website and the name of the night. “I originally suggested ‘Indisco’ which is obviously an amalgamation, but it’s pretty feminine and tame, so we discussed our favourite albums and ‘Revolver’ immediately stuck out.”
Over the next month the trio christened themselves “Braintree Revolution” and Mike explains, “it looked big headed to claim we were the revolution within Braintree, but it’s exactly what we were, we were the outsiders going against the norm.” They offered putting on their night to every bar in Braintree, and of the numerous venues offered only one took them on, Club Eden. Club Eden was a small venue which held monthly strip club nights. “Brendan (owner of Club Eden) said that we could have a slot and we had one chance and one chance only to make an impression, if it wasn’t a success that was it.”
Jim and Mike designed posters and flyers themselves and Mike had previously handed out flyers for club nights at university so was the first one to take on the responsibility of the task. “The very first night I went out with the flyers was a Friday and I hung around the main stretch of pubs in town (Braintree) and couldn’t quite believe the hostility. At uni you get used to having flyers handed to you every few yards and some catch your eye, in Braintree they’ve never had it before, and they seemed very frightened by change. It really made me question whether it would work.”
They got an article in the Braintree & Witham Times local newspaper in the week leading up to the event. “We had people who said they were definitely coming, but they were mates. There was no way of knowing the exact number. In the week leading up to the first event me and Jim were out every night handing out flyers to the event.”
In early December 2006, Revolver – Braintree’s first ever Indie and Alternative night was held. “Club Eden had a 220 capacity, and 325 people turned up on the opening night. It was absolutely incredible.” It was a huge success that proved Mike, Jim and Karly’s rumblings about the Braintree alternative community needing a scene correct. Mike went on to say, “we were meant to play from 9-3 and ended up going on until 4, because people were loving it and just wouldn’t leave.”
The venue complemented the evening superbly, with an ample seating area around the dance floor and bar, it had the feel of a real cramped city night club. It was dark, and marginally underground, with paintings of the Adam and Eve story on the wall, very symbolic of the creation of something new. In Manchester and London, Indie and Alternative nights are ten a penny, it’s often forgotten that small towns on the peripheral of major cities get left behind in this regard, and now this small town and its alternative scenesters had their place, Revolver was booked in a further two times before the year was out.
Throughout 2007, Revolver was held in Club Eden every two weeks on a Saturday night, and continued to gain a reputation. Reveller’s came from all over Essex to experience the event. “People wanted to hear the right song, and it was up to us to play it for them.” Revolver’s set list was eclectic to say the least, with bands being played stretching from Clap Your Hands Say Yeah to Justice, The Rolling Stones to Shiny New Guns and Hot Chip to Otis Redding. “In the first year and a half we had at least 100 regulars. It was somewhere to see familiar faces and have an enjoyable night because there was always a good crowd and never any trouble.”
Karly began attending less events and eventually stopped altogether. This coincided with the introduction of guest DJ’s and bands to the evening. “People were offering up their services to us throughout the night, and who were we to say no? We’d wanted the same opportunity so why not let someone else have it? By having guest DJ’s it broke the night up and made it more varied and memorable. They ranged from regulars bringing in their own stuff to do a set, established local jockey’s like DJ Paul and even once Tom Bellamy from Cooper Temple Clause played a set for us, although it consisted of the most underground electro you could imagine – which is cool, but at the same time people also want to have a sing a long and it killed the mood. It made us check what guest DJ’s wanted to play from then on.”
Mike had always wanted to be a music promoter and saw the night as a chance to put on bands that himself and Jim were into. “We didn’t want people to think we were just bedroom DJ’s, we actually wanted to do something and putting on bands seemed like the natural progression. It was all worth it though because we had some excellent performances. We also learned about agents the hard way because they really f****d us about. It was always going to be hard to get established acts to come and play this small night club in a small town, but we did our best. Bombay Bicycle Club were scheduled, but their agent just stopped responding on the Thursday (performance was Saturday) so we had no time to get a replacement act. We also contacted Nine Black Alps after they were dropped from their record company, and just last week got an e-mail from their people saying they’d be up for it. Our last correspondence with them was January 2008!”
Towards the end of 2007, the lads received some devastating news. Club Eden was to become a full time strip club. “It was gutting because we’d built this up and were probably the most popular night they had, yet we were going to be turfed out in favour of lap dancers.” Mike and Jim had been looking to expand Revolver for some time, and the news sped up the process. “We started getting in touch with a few clubs in Chelmsford because it seemed like the natural step to take, it’s a bigger town which had just as much of a need for an Indie night as Braintree did. The people in Chelmsford were harder to convince and the only real offer we had was from a club called ‘Reds’. We pulled out of putting on a Friday night Revolver there, because they stopped responding to us.”
In October 2007, the night anticipated to be the final Revolver in Eden’s was held. When 3am rolled around no-one had left, and it led to the duo playing an encore – much to the disapproval of the doormen. “They came in quite heavy handed because the punters were showing their support for us and Revolver. No one wanted it gone, but there’d be nowhere to put it for the foreseeable future. It was amazing seeing everyone refuse to leave and incredible when there was a spontaneous chant of ‘f**k the bouncers’ that lasted for ages.” Less than a year after there had been no alternative nights out in Braintree, there were people refusing to leave the club in a show of support for the only one they had.
Revolver had a brief stint in the recently refurbished ‘Hog’s Wine Bar’. “We were kind of in competition with Hog’s while we were at Eden’s, what with us putting bands on, on the same night’s, but I think Paul (owner of Hog’s) saw that there was a new crowd to be had at his place.” It turned out to be the only Revolver held at Hog’s, “It just didn’t have the right feel, it wasn’t geared for people wanting to have a dance.” Hog’s closed down not long after and it looked like the end, until a call from an unlikely source.
The lap dancing and strip club only venture for Club Eden had failed miserably, and there were available slots once more. Some would cut their nose off to spite their face, but Mike and Jim were itching to host another Revolver. It was to be short lived with Eden’s closing down after just three more had been hosted. Luckily they received news about a club opening in Chelmsford aimed specifically at the alternative scene.
“The Barhouse asked us to play some nights in their upstairs room. We organised a coach for the regulars from Braintree to save them money and it was a good night. The downside is that it just didn’t have the vibe of Eden’s, it didn’t feel like our place, we were just guests. You don’t know where the dance floor begins and the bar ends. People in Chelmsford are more snobbish and they didn‘t take to it.”
Revolver was last held in Chelmsford in August 2009 and while it may have lost some of its momentum, it’s spawned many similar nights. “When we started there was one night, now they’re scattered all over Essex, including nights in clubs that originally turned us down.”
Revolver made a successful return to Braintree in May 2010, playing in the High Street’s refurbished ‘Bailey’s Bar’ at the beginning of the month before hosting a second silent disco with three seperate DJ’s a couple of weeks later that once more proved just how successful the night is.
The future of Revolver is unknown, with nowhere willing to regularly host it and work commitments affecting any plans. Jim took time out to travel and is getting into accounting and Mike has just moved into a house, and is working for Chelmsford Council, “it pays the bills”. For Revolver to disappear altogether however seems some way off. “We’ve already got so many memories and I think there’s definitely more to come. Me and Jim have made great friendships and met people we wouldn’t have had we not started it. People are always asking us when the next one is, and we don‘t want to let them down.”