Hare & Hounds
The Grade II-listed Hare & Hounds is a Birmingham institution. It’s even got a plaque on the wall to mark the fact that it hosted UB40’s first ever gig. In the last decade, it’s really come into its own as one of Birmingham’s finest music venues, a position that is more than evident from the calibre of bands it attracts. Even pop supremos Ellie Goulding and Ed Sheeran have played the King’s Heath venue, while its more usual fare of rising indie acts has included Angel Olsen, Diet Cig, Big Thief, Hinds and Alvvays.
Thankfully, Birmingham’s Glee Club has nothing at all to do with perky youths singing Journey’s Don’t Stop Believin’ a capella en route to regionals (whatever regionals actually are). Instead, the Birmingham outlet of this quartet of venues (the others are in Nottingham, Oxford and Cardiff) is a purpose-built comedy theatre that has expanded into musical spheres with great success. It can hold 600 people, so it’s an excellent spot for more intimate gigs from bands that have outgrown the Hare & Hounds.
The Sunflower Lounge
The Sunflower Lounge is a case study in how to do a small venue the right way in an era when so many have failed. It’s intimate, tastefully scuzzy, diverse in its crowd (one of the few places where grizzled rockers and fashionable hipsters will happily drink IPAs side by side) and friendly. It also helps that the soul food it serves is top-notch and the bands it books are about two weeks away from being heralded as the next big thing in NME.
The Castle & Falcon
This old Birmingham boozer (formerly known as The Ceol Castle) relaunched in March 2017, filling a gap in the Birmingham music scene. It provides an alternative to the Hare & Hounds, thus broadening the range of 250-300 capacity gigs in the city on any given night and increasing the options for rising bands touring the West Midlands. The vibe is rustic and warm and the level of the bands and size of the crowds it has attracted so far bodes extremely well for the future.