Bearded’s Guide To… Bath

Larry Day explores Bath's premier venue, Moles.

Posted on Jan 25th, 2012 in Features and Interviews / By Larry Day
Bearded’s Guide To… Bath There are many great places to visit in Bath: there's the Abbey, the spa, the pump rooms... and a little club just off Milsom Street called Moles. It's been the venue of choice in the historic city for over thirty years with scores of phenomenal acts gracing the stage: Blur, Radiohead, The Smiths and Pulp to name but a few. Steeped in indie-rock and britpop culture, it's a landmark for music history fans, locals and even for casual visitors of the city. The venue has a reputation in that bands who play there suddenly hit it massive within a few months - Ben Howard and Mumford & Sons being recent examples. Situated in a dank cellar, it's easy to imagine just how... intimate... this place is. The walls sweat, the floor is sticky and gigs sell out lightning fast. They don't make venues like this any more.

It was a cold New Years Eve in 1978 when Moles first opened its doors, and legend has it that the finishing touches to the décor were still being put into place as the guests started pouring through the doors. Jubilant times were had and revelry was in abundance. Quite. Moles started life as a vegetarian café, playing folk and jazz in the evenings to groups of ageing hippies clinging to the dregs of their fading youth; but eventually the venue's prominence in the local scene increased exponentially as they started putting on a broader variety of shows - introducing blues and rock to the fledgling club.

The reputation of Moles exploded, and one misty summer evening Robert Smith graced the club, fronting The Cure. Such a seminal performance helped the venue stake a claim as the place to perform. The night went down in history, with The Cure playing two encores on the tiny stage. Since that fateful night, numerous bands have been catapulted into superstardom after playing the subterranean stage. In the late 80s, the owners bought the upstairs rooms and converted the whole thing into a studio, complete with band accommodation that has lured the likes of Elbow, P J Harvey and Portishead to record there.

Nowadays, it's going from strength to strength. There is a second bar upstairs, for daytime frivolities, and a record shop is due to open this year- presumably to capitalise on the boom in vinyl sales. Though the focus has somewhat shifted from live music to club nights, Moles still manages to put on some cracking shows from unknown and unsigned acts. A lot of smaller bands tend to actually open the club nights - The Good Natured and Clement Marfo having recently kicked off Fridays - but bigger acts still descend upon the beer-stained stage: Ed Sheeran played a memorable (yet overly sweaty) show in June last year.

Moles is also known for supporting the growth of new artists, regularly putting on showcases for Bath Spa University and a recurring Acoustic event every Monday. Artists from all over the region play Moles on the local circuit, and it's where many young groups make a real name for themselves. Exciting new stadium-rockers Doll Rats have been performing regularly of late (for a free download, visit their Facebook page: and Bristolian post-punk upstarts The Hit Ups are due to play early March - grab your tickets now, before they go.

Although, in the past, the genres played at Moles have been somewhat narrower, there is room for everything now. The weekend is usually home to dub, reggae and hip hop whereas the weekday slots are filled by acoustic singer/songwriters, indie groups and rock bands. Moles is so intimately claustrophobic and in dire need of a deep clean, but it's all part of the charm. Those who venture into the murky depths are greatly rewarded in once-in-a-lifetime memories and gloriously brilliant performances, be they established acts or hidden gems.

Visit their site for gig listings, club night information and details about booking the venue, the studio or accommodation.