Crobar: Music When the Lights Go Out
Crobar: Music When the Lights Go Out, a new short documentary from filmmakers Lucy Brown and Andrew Wildey, tells what will inevitably – and unfortunately – become an all too familiar story. Crobar, one of London’s most well-loved rock bars, was forced to permanently close its doors last June as a result of the pandemic.
When it opened in 2001, Crobar was, according to owner Richard Thomas, “a rock bar for rock people”. The establishment was a place where metalheads could “get drunk and enjoy themselves” without the prejudice they often encountered at other locations. But in early summer – due to an unsympathetic landlord and insurance companies – Thomas decided that remaining open was no longer realistic.
Music When the Lights Go Out outlines the pathos of what will surely become a repeated headline. Just a few weeks ago, the owners of another central London institution, the Café de Paris, announced the nightclub would not be reopening just three years before its 100th birthday. While waiting for the lockdown to be eased so we can return to pubs, clubs, bars, cinemas, theatres and music venues, it is easy to forget that a significant number will not be there to welcome back patrons. Unfortunately, it will most likely be the independently owned institutions that fall away.
The film laments this potential future of streets packed with homogenous bars and people. In the understandably cynical eyes of Thomas, the construction of this dystopia was already well underway before Covid-19. Property developers have replaced some of central London’s most varied, exciting cultural hubs with offices and flats. “Walls make rooms, people make bars”, says Thomas. The same could be said of Soho in early 2021 – it has buildings and little else.
This is the defiant note on which the short ends: as long as there are willing patrons, the spirit of the Crobar will not die and central London will not be completely taken over by multinationals and elites. Thomas is currently crowdfunding to relocate the venue. He hopes the coming recession will spawn a new wave of music, as it did in the 70s and 80s. His previous building is now totally boarded up, and the pavement outside is encroached on by a nearby Crossrail construction site: the sound of metal and machinery echoing all around. But scrawled on its makeshift walls are messages of sadness and support: reminders of the special place this bar held – and still holds – in the hearts of London’s rock crowd.
Crobar: Music When the Lights Go Out highlights how the metalhead establishment was a remarkable place for many. The documentary recognises that venues like the Crobar celebrate and encourage diversity, and asks what might happen if we were to lose them.
Crobar: Music When the Lights Go Out is released digitally on demand on 28th January 2021.
Watch the trailer for Crobar: Music When the Lights Go Out here: