Since it’s early days as a punk hangout and as a cornerstone of the UK touring circuit, the Leadmill has long been a staple of South Yorkshire gig-goers’ diets. In May 2015, the iconic music venue celebrated its 35th birthday. BBC 6 Music helped the Leadmill mark this milestone with a special gig featuring Mystery Jets and Sheffield-formed favourites Slow Club, followed by a DJ set from Pulp’s Jarvis Cocker and Steve Mackey. The party was hosted by an out-of-town guest who’s been to more gigs at the Leadmill than most: indie expert and broadcasting legend Steve Lamacq.
As Steve’s been a regular visitor to our city for thirty years, we spoke to him about what it is that keeps bringing him back. Here's what Lammo had to say about the Leadmill.
When did you first visit Sheffield?
Oh God, when? 84, 85, something like that. A guy who I knew at school went to university in Sheffield. I came up to stay and we went to place called the Limit Club, which was quite famous at the time. A lot of students used to hang around the Leadmill cafe during the day and went to the Limit in the evening. We saw a band called Treebound Story who were quite good in a very 80s post-Smiths sort of way. It was only years later that I found out that the guitarist in that band was Richard Hawley.
When was the first time you went to the Leadmill?
Now that would be, I’m imagining, late 80s at some point. I saw all of those bands at the end of the 80s into the start of the 90s, so I imagine I must have seen a Carter USM gig there, definitely Kingmaker. I worked with a guy called Simon Williams who now runs a label called Fierce Panda and any point where we used to have a bad time in the office, we would basically run away to Sheffield. By Thursday we’d book a train and get off to Sheffield to recharge the batteries and get away from the slight whiff of cynicism. That was the time when I was going an awful lot.
What was it you liked so much about the Leadmill?
Great audience, nice layout, you can see the bands, big stage, sound is good – just the atmosphere in the place and a spot-on indie disco at the end of it. Really, there’s nothing not to like about it. You’d come up and have a little wander around in the afternoon in Sheffield, which is always a nice place to have a wander. I think that’s probably when I started going to the Rutland Arms, which is still one of my favourite pubs. There was a point when every time I used to go into the Rutland, Tiger Feet by Mud would come on the jukebox, which, weirdly, was the first single I ever bought. It was almost like, "Is somebody taking the mickey?" Then we’d go to Leadmill in the evening. There was always a good experience because the sound is good and the crowd is good, and you could hang out afterwards. Usually the bands were playing it just at that point of taking off – like Teenage Fanclub when they played around the time of Bandwagonesque. The atmosphere at those gigs, just as everyone’s getting into it, was amazing.
Why is it important for 6 Music to be celebrating it?
It’s a backbone really, isn’t it? I was looking at the Oasis tours from their very early days and most of the venues on the list of gigs that they did are shut now. To maintain a really good reputation on the live music circuit and still be going is quite a triumph. There’s not a lot of places around. I think Rock City in Nottingham is 35 this year as well, but Sheffield has a really important place in my heart.
- Words by
- Robert Cooke