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My favourite Sheffield music venues

Music reviewer Laura Mills pays an emotional tribute to some of her best-loved Sheffield music venues

Any avid gig-goer in Sheffield will know we have a range of great music venues in the city. Some have been around for a short period of time, but others have been a foundation for Sheffield’s live music scene for years, opening its stages to many stars in the process.

First up is my personal favourite and Sheffield’s longest-running music venue, The Leadmill. It first opened its doors in 1980 and has since won multiple awards for its service. This venue has had many amazing bands and artists grace the stages, plenty from Sheffield itself such as Pulp and Arctic Monkeys, but also many other well-known stars from across the ages and genres, including Oasis, Jorja Smith, Kasabian and Lewis Capaldi. This venue not only hosts all the best gigs but provides the best club nights, too – the most popular of these being Sonic Saturday which they describe as “Indie Rock VS Motown, Disco, Funk & Soul”. If you’ve never been, go. Seriously – just go.

Image: Model D Photography

Next up we have Sheffield’s biggest venue, Fly DSA Arena, which was opened in 1991 by Queen Liz, no less. The first ever show played here was by Paul Simon during his Born at the Right Time Tour. Oasis also played their first ever arena show here in 1995. The venue has had many of the biggest stars in the music industry perform on its stages in recent years, such as Little Mix, Ariana Grande, The Killers and Drake. It’s also important for grassroots music too, with SIV Live regularly hosting exclusive events with upcoming artists. However, the arena does not only entertain but is now getting stuck in and helping in these challenging times. At this current moment it is open as a vaccination centre and throughout last year was running as a drive-in test centre for Covid-19.

Another significant venue for me is O2 Academy Sheffield. The O2 went from being one of Sheffield’s top nightclubs to one of its main live music venues in 2008 and holds a special place in my heart as it’s where I did my first ever gig review for Exposed! Since its opening, hundreds of established bands and artists have performed here such as Two Door Cinema Club, Prodigy (the loudest gig yet), Catfish and The Bottlemen, and Stereophonics. It is also important to mention this is where Joe Carnall Jnr hosts his ever-popular Christmas show! If you want a venue where the stage is near enough for the view to be fantastic but the mosh pits will still knock you for six, our O2 is the place for you!

Image: Lewis Evans

The final venue which thoroughly deserves a tribute as its sadly not with us anymore is the late, great Café Totem. This venue closed its doors in March before the first lockdown to move locations and events are now to take place at Sidney & Matilda, which will continue carrying the torch for the local music scene. Café Totem provided some of the best gigs I’ve ever been to and is consequently the main place I’ve done most of my reviews and interviews at. I’ve seen all manner of bands here including The Clause, Animal House, Shangralas, and Only Sun. It’s also been the venue I’ve discovered the newest bands at from the variety of support acts at the gigs. Café Totem did not only host live music shows but had their fair share of comedians and DJs perform here too. I won’t just miss the countless number of amazing nights I’ve spent here, but – perhaps more importantly – the two for a fiver on Red Stripe deal, a now departed offer which leaves my heart shattered in pieces!

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Image: Louis Hicks

Other venues – amongst many, many others – which make this city’s music scene so monumental and therefore deserve a mention include Record Junkee, West Street Live, Foundry and Don Valley Bowl. I think I speak for everyone when I say I can’t wait for things to get back to normal so we can all return to our favourite venues. Let’s keep supporting these local businesses where we can and hopefully they’ll soon be back to let the music play!




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