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The Stables, Milton Keynes, 12 September 2007

Stables unbolts door to Stage 2

Long-standing posh Milton Keynes, UK venue The Stables has upped the anti in its remit to support rising talent with the opening of Stage 2, an additional performance space to its main auditorium. And rock is going to get its due look-in.

The 1970-launched venue, a far cry from its early incarnation as converted stabling, does a commendable turn in music education, running 250 projects a year spanning all genres.

Phil Jupitus

Pre-Stage 2 opening - Phill Jupitus prepares to brave the good of Milton Keynes

GRTR! turned out to the official opening (September 12th 2007) to find MC for the evening Phill Jupitus (perennial "Never Mind The Buzzcocks" TV guest) working hard to keep an audience of the venue's supporters - nice mums and dads whoofing back champers and canapes like wedding guests, local dignatories, sundry press and radio hacks - not talking through a string of live acoustic performances from newcomers such as Lucy Pullina and Matt Rivers, with David 'Dire Straights' Knopfler and singer-songwriter Boo Hewerdine signing the night off.

Stage 2 is basically a converted bar but no less impressive for it. An informal stage area is rooted at the end of a long room with fold-away seating for 80 to 100 tops. At the other end is still the bar - hooray.

But The Stables has always been seen as a venue for the acoustic/jazz/blues fraternity. We were getting troubled by the lack of yer man 'rock' in evidence.

Saviour of the day is Rod Argent (The Zombies, Argent) - not only looking in great shape for a man just off a major US tour, but commendably rock 'n roll, still hirsute and sartorially rocking.

Turns out Rod's a Stables trustee and on the theatre board (it impressed us).

"Yeah, the new stage is very much about all genres of music including rock," he reassures. "Rock bands do play The Stables but when you are starting out, it's sometimes more appropriate to play a more intimate and informal space than the main auditorium."

That's true of established acts for that matter. "Yes, you have instances of bands playing acoustic sets or someone taking a solo spot and a smaller area like this will be better suited to the performance and the audience numbers." Nope - nothing worse than playing to the empty dark.

A glance at the Stables gig guide reveals none other than Wishbone Ash coming up soon. Probably not on Stage 2 though.

Review by Peter Muir


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