We all love a pop-up gig – the more creative, the better. Town squares, libraries and even launderettes have been pressed into service at many an urban festival, and you can now regularly see major artists in a forest or with an Eden Project biome or the Jodrell Bank transmitter in the background. British Sea Power have made a career of it, playing everywhere from an oil platform to the highest pub in the UK.
Ever since The Beatles’ played their farewell gig on top of Apple music’s office in London’s Saville Row on January 30, 1969, to alfresco (and shivering) lunchtime crowds on both neighbouring rooftops and the street below, bands have been challenging themselves to play in unusual places. We’re just wondering – how far is too far in the search for a novel venue?
Higher and higher
Taking a leaf out of the fab four’s book, the Party At The Palace for Queen’s Jubilee in 2002 was launched with an electric guitar performance of ‘God Save The Queen’ from Queen’s Brian May, on the roof. In 1997 Spiritualized outdid both, in altitude at least, by playing the 144th floor of Toronto’s CN Tower. Singer Jason Pierce later called it “the best show we’ve ever done. The building was moving 12 feet in either direction. We were literally floating in space.” In 2007, Jamiroquai played at 35,000 ft gig on a Boeing 757 to promote their hits compilation album ‘High Times’. It remained the highest altitude gig ever until James Blunt performed at 41,000 ft in 2010.
As part of a London exhibition called Sculpture in the City last year, Portuguese artist Joao Onofre created a sculpture called Box Sized DIE, which involved death metal band Unfathomable Ruination playing while locked in an air-tight, soundproof metal cube in a street in The City until they ran out of oxygen. Three times a week throughout July they started playing with the door open, then were locked inside the hot, airless space by a security guard for between 15 and 20 minutes. The artist saw the featureless box as a symbol of the blank ‘boxy’ offices inside which people work invisibly in the financial district.
The coolest place on the planet
Nunatak, a five-piece indie band made up of British Antarctic Survey research scientists took time out from investigating climate change and evolutionary biology to play two songs in the snow outside Rothera Research Station in Antarctica as one of the concerts on all six continents organised by Al Gore’s Live Earth in 2007 to raise awareness about climate change. With an on-site audience of just 17, the gig was broadcast live across the world via television, satellite radio and the internet.
Down and dirty
Katie Melua broke the world record for the deepest ever gig in 2006 when she played 303m beneath the North Sea, on an oil rig. Richard Hawley chose the even less friendly atmosphere of the Devil’s Arse cave in Castleton, Derbyshire in 2008, presumably because he liked the idea of playing the worst toilet gig ever. In May 2010 London ska-punks King Blues went one better, playing the sewers under Brighton Pier – actually a popular tourist attraction. No kidding!
On the way home
In 2004 indie-rockers The Others surprised commuters on a Hammersmith and City tube train. While touring Winnipeg in 2007, The White Stripes played a set on a local bus. Last year’s impromptu aeroplane gig from Kanye West proved this strategy is not always the best way to win new fans.
Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever seen a band play?