After three years of music and comedy shows, owner of local NyV58 (Vestergade 58), Ebbe Lindblad Ottzen, has decided to close the venue at the end of this year. With a post on social media, Ebbe describes in more detail the underlying reasons for the sudden, and sad, news – Read more here.
Two actors create a creative mecca
In 1966, the now legendary venue V58 opened its doors to the public for the first time. Initially, the renters, the two actors Jens Okking and Preben Harris, name it ‘Trinbrættet’ and made it a jazz venue, theater and gallery.
However, during the 70s, the venue becomes a mecca, mainly focusing on supporting the blooming Aarhus musical underground. Many of the most famous Danish artists performs there; both after and before breakthrough. For example, on April 19, 1974, a young Aarhus band called ‘Shit & Chanel’ performs their debut concert at ‘Trinbrættet’. In that band is a young girl called Anne Linnet, a girl who will later become one of the most well-known Danish singers. Not only did she perform at Trinbrættet; she also later reveals, that her hit single ‘Smuk og Dejlig’ is actually written after a night out, where she sees actress Ulla Henningsen dance at Trinbrættet. As an eureka moment for her, she uses that experience as the inspiration for her song, written in only fifteen minutes.
The venue later changes its name to ‘Vestergade 58’ due to its geographical location. At that time, most nights were spent with a band on stage, cold beers and the smoke from cigarettes. Since then, the venue has been called both Trinbrættet in the 90s and experienced yet another re-branding to Vestergade 58 again. Fast-forward 40 years from the 70s and the venue is taken over by new (and current) owner, Ebbe Ottzen. Back then, in 2014, the intended focus was targeted at people aged 30-40, with monthly nights devoted to reggae and rock. However, looking at the last three years in retrospective, the most prominent entertainment element that will be remembered from the NyV58 years will be standup comedy – both Danish and English.
Is Aarhus really big enough to have that many venues?
Unfortunately, the story about a venue closing down in Aarhus is not a new one. We have experienced it with both Backstage and the previous V58 in recent years. We have been at it for four years, and we have experienced one of the most legendary venues close two times, now. Thus, it is tempting to ask yourself: Are the city of Aarhus big enough to have that many venues?
The answer to that question is not straightforward. First of all, competition in that industry is complex due to the fact, that some are regional venues and others are private actors. Thus, competition and competitors are not exactly the same to all of them. Given the initial focus, when the opening of NyV58 was announced in 2014, one can wonder, what happened since they simply changed from opening a venue, to eventually creating a comedy club with musical happenings once in a while. That might be the result of the different type of competition private actors encounter.
Second, in order to run a venue in Aarhus, you need an audience. We have many (!) venues given the size of the city, and creative collectives, independent party hosts and more are increasingly doing things on their own, instead of using the venues as geographical locations. Thus, it is difficult to answer the question of venues with a specific number. When is the number of venues in a city like Aarhus too many, too few or just perfect? – No one knows. It seems that consumer demand is increasingly guided toward cheap beers, cover music and brain-less parties, instead of original music a random weekday, however, it is really difficult to conclude anything about causality in that relationship.
However, the closing of NyV58 teaches us an important lesson, again. As a venue, you need a clear profile. A mixed profile like the one eventually created by NyV58, wanting to combine the vibe of a comedy club in weekdays with the feel of an old venue in the weekends is not going to cut it. Ultimately, the limited musical focus created a situation, where NyV58 should suddenly compete with other bars, musical venues and places hosting comedy events.
Personally, it really makes me sad to see and hear, that NyV58 will be closing at the end of 2016. No matter what, the venue is, and will always be, one of the cosiest places to experience music. With the limited capacity, any given concert can suddenly feel like an intimate set, with the artists performing just for you. In the end, I sincerely hope, that another passionate soul will take over the place when NyV58 closes. However, until then, keep in mind, that the scheduled program will be carried out as planned.