From the Rubble to the Ritz: Inside Arctic Monkeys’ first ‘grotty’ Sheffield gigs

“They were never no trouble, the bands. Never. Their fans were fabulous, but they always graffitied on the walls,” says Ann Flynn, landlady of The Grapes – the Sheffield pub where the Arctic Monkeys played their first gig in 2003.

“I don’t know of anybody who would get ready at night and think ‘oh, I’m gonna take a couple of black markers so I can scribble all over the walls’,” she laughs.

The Grapes, where the Arctic Monkeys performed their first gig in 2003.

The room where the Monkeys performed in the pub, on its upper floor, was converted into a living room after Mrs Flynn moved in there with her family in 2010.

She was told that the room had a great sound. “To me it was grotty. It was dark red painted, all the windows had to be sound proofed and it seemed really dark and dingy. But that’s what they loved.”

Ann Flynn, the landlady at The Grapes in Sheffield
The upper floor in The Grapes where the Arctic Monkeys had performed their first gig.

The Grapes, which used to a be popular gig venue for bands in the city, became a more traditional pub since 2010 and doesn’t hold gigs anymore.

The rough-edged, guitar-led Sheffield sound, however, lives on and has been made popular across the world by the Arctic Monkeys and other bands who sprung up with them.

“We’re massively influenced by the Sheffield sound,” says Jack Hardwick, frontman of Sheffield-based Cora Pearl. “It’s a sound we hold very close to our hearts. What inspires us more, however, is the city itself.”

Sheffield-based Cora Pearl are heavily influenced by the city’s rough-edged, guitar-led sound.

Formed in 2016 by four University of Sheffield students, Cora Pearl are now releasing their debut single on 30 March titled ‘Hope Machine’, which, Hardwick says, is about apathy and the general feeling of discontent that is rampant in society.

“Lyrically, it’s heavily influenced by beat poet Jack Kerouac. There’s an incredible Kerouac quote, it’s something like: ‘In the end you won’t remember the time spent in the office or mowing the lawn. Climb that goddamn mountain.

“That’s why the chorus lyrics are what they are: ‘There’s a mountain to climb so settle your debts instead.'”

Sheffield also has venues that offer budding artists a chance to listen to both city-based and out of town artists. The Washington and Cafe Totem are among the popular hang outs.

The Washington is among the popular performance places in the city

Nick Gee, the building manager at Yellow Arch Studios, says one of the main features of the city is that is fairly small and in the music community everyone knows and supports each other.

“There’s a close knit community, community of arts. Sheffield is massive in arts. It was most famous for its steel industry and since that’s dissolved, its moved to art in sense that there are a lot of makers, like musicians, and a lot of independent business.”

Yellow Arch Studios is one of the many venues in the city that have taken over old mills and converted them into performance venues and rehearsal space for bands. It is also, apparently, the place where Arctic Monkeys first rehearsed and wrote their first album.

It was rumoured that the Monkeys would be performing a string of homecoming shows in the city over summer. However, after the licencing application was withdrawn by the organiser, an air of uncertainty has hovered over the claims.

But the city’s indie music scene seems to be thriving with support from the local community.

As Mrs Flynn says: “If I had another pub, I would do the same again, with the bands, because they were never no trouble.”