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Memories of The Maze

7 August 19 words: Eileen Pegg

It's been a month since The Maze shut it's doors for good. Time to find out what really went on behind them…

The Maze - Illustration by Aikaterini Paraskevopoulou

Amongst a sea of ‘yeah it’s alright’ type boozers, there are certain late night haunts that earn themselves a special place in people’s hearts. In Notts, The Maze was undoubtedly one of them, and news of its closure this summer sent lots of people sobbing.

We had a chat with its owners, Gaz and Steph Peacham to paint a picture of the club’s story. But to really get our teeth into what happened behind those doors, we also had a natter with punters, promoters and artists who formed part of the furniture of the local institution.

From true love encounters to last minute sell out shows, you’d be amazed what went on inside the humble live music pub. What’s clear though is the attitude; welcoming musicians and music lovers from all sorts of genres, as long as you’re not a dick’ed, and acting as a central point for lots of people’s social and professional lives. In’t that how a ‘proper’ venue should be?

Someone has to kick things off. Justin Dodsworth played his very first gig at The Maze at one of its opening parties back in the nineties. This was to be the first of many though - with one particular tale including one well known frontman that’s worth sharing…

In all my years playing keyboard for Bad Manners, the highlight for me was when Buster Bloodvessel agreed to play at The Maze.

It happened in 2014 when we were scheduled to play at a gig in Newcastle, but Buster was on a session and we didn't end up leaving London until about 3pm, (we were meant to be in Newcastle at 4pm for soundcheck). The further up The A1 we got, the more frantic the calls from the promoter became, and the excuses were running out!

It became apparent that there was no way we were going to make it. The decision was made to pull the show and head back down south. On the way back Buster asked if I knew of a venue where could just roll up and play for free  we were all there in the van with our instruments anyway. There was only one place in my mind, so I called Gaz at about 9pm and told him about our situation and proposition. He thought about for a second and then said yeah, we can pull this off!

Purely by word of mouth, a few Facebook posts and phone calls, the word got about that Bad Manners were playing a free show at midnight and the pub was soon jam packed with punters who didn't quite believe that the band would actually show up, thinking this was some kind of wind up. 

The sweat was pouring from the walls and dripping off the ceiling, and we played what I still consider to be the most fun gig of my life. Without doubt it was my favourite night there over the last twenty years and to be able to play with a band of that stature on my home turf was always a great honour.

Al and Rebi - Illustration by Aikaterini Paraskevopoulou

From one emotional memory to one of a different kind, Rebi Gilby tells us about the time she met Leflion’s co-founder and her future husband, Al, at a D&B night...

It was one of those times when you really don't want to go out, but you get convinced to anyway. I was so pleased my mind was changed. A live drum and bass band called Vaccine were playing and the atmosphere was ace  we were both dancing our socks off when we met. 

After dancing into the night, we got each other’s number and I put him in my phone as 'Al D & B'. He's still in my phone as that to this day, even though it's been fifteen years and we're now married with a child. Al's been known to serenade me with "I saw your face in a crowded Maze" to the tune of James Blunt's You're Beautiful, thanks to that night.

It wasn’t only Rebi and Al’s eyes who locked across that hazy Maze dancefloor. Gareth Jones is the original licensee, whose name you might have seen above the door. Here’s his two cents...

I used to be the assistant manager of the Grosvenor down the road, leaving it to go travelling for a year. When I came back, I needed a job so was taken on as an assistant at The Maze. I'd actually wanted to work there for ages so it all worked out. I met Helen, who I’m now married to, while we both worked there – she was on the bar. The best man at our wedding was a Maze employee too. 

Beyond the mushy stuff, I’ll always remember when Pama International performed. They were a warm up act for a tour, and I booked them without realising how much of a crazy supergroup they were themselves. They were top guys who I had to guide in over the phone because they got lost on the way (pre Google maps era), and they played an absolute stormer.

Gareth and Helen - Illustration by Aikaterini Paraskevopoulou

I’m Not From London founder Will Robinson is a known face on Notts' music scene. Here he shares his mad Mansfield Montage memories, featuring The Maze...

Me and my friend Andy put on a festival in the venues up Mansfield road. As part of the festival, we decided to put on a mexican wrestling match. We had a ring donated from an arts centre, but we couldn't fit it inside the venue. We’d already booked the gig so we needed to find an alternative, quick. 

In the end, we made the base out of crusty mattresses we dragged from our squat on Forest Road ten minutes before. The sides were made from my mates standing on all corners, stretching out the ropes. Someone from the Birmingham garage band Copter had a go in the ring. He'd brought his own mask and proceeded to beat us all up, just ten minutes after we started. 

Ben Brettell, who then owned the place, was impressed. Afterwards we did more nights like the I'm Not From London Marafun, Prohibition (on the last night of the smoking inside law), the Masked Ball and the INFL Spankathon (people in bunny outfits spanking people for charity). No venue owners before or since have treated me with open arms as much as Gaz, Steph and Ben, and I can honestly say they're to blame for me not getting a proper job. 

Soul Buggin’s Wrighty and Beane both attended as punters, before bringing their night there more recently...

Wrighty: I have about a million memories of the place; seeing Nottingham School Of Samba playing so ferociously it was like a sweatbox, people tugging on the camouflage netting while going beserk at Basement Boogaloo, playing the bar alongside Osborne for Smokescreen facing fooking massive speakers and, of course, all the Soul Buggin' nights that have been held there. A favourite memory from our night was doing the door for the Ron Basejam night. As the night went on, we had to ask punters to hang on a minute while I danced on the chair to his set.

Beane: I’ve always had good memories of The Maze, dating back to the Basement Boogaloo parties in the early noughties going both as a punter and DJ. When Soul Buggin' moved to The Maze a few years back it was great. Bringing in DJs like Jazzanova, Alexander Nut, Al Kent, Yam Who and Ron Basejam made for some brilliant dancefloor sessions in that venue. I mean seriously, Alex Barck playing to 150+ people in a dark backroom of a pub. Can it possibly get any better than that? I'll miss The Maze mightily. Gawd bless her and all who sailed in her.

Live bands - Illustration by Aikaterini Paraskevopoulou

Another promoter, Acoustickle’s Parisa East, remembers both lock ins and locking down her career... 

There was a long stretch of time in my early twenties where my entire life was The Maze. It's where I worked, went out to socialise, slept, first sang on stage, first promoted music events, and where Acoustickle started. Acoustickle at The Maze helped Jake Bugg, Georgie, Gallery 47, Daudi Matsiko, Yazmin Lacey, St Raymond and many more play some of their first gigs. It's also how I joined Origin One, later going national and international as an artist.

The after hours parties were outrageous: lock-ins and jam sessions with world renowned artists, local musicians, and any good-hearted person who we took in. I have a career in music thanks to the Brettells, Gaz, Steph and everyone else part of the story.

Kristi Maria, who now promotes at Metronome, also cut her teeth at our favourite sweatbox...

From dancing at jungle raves to seeing The Skints in a packed out sweaty room, I’ve got some many fantastic memories. The Maze introduced me to lots of great bands and it was the place I put on my first ever gig eleven years ago. Wow. 

I was also one of the contributors to Saggy Pants, a music fanzine in Notts, which forged even more memories with Gaz and Steph who have been absolute diamonds in the live industry. They have given so many bands their first gigs and so many promoters their first opportunity. They will stay in people's hearts and minds forever, and it’s making me feel pretty emotional! Thanks for everything.

Andy Barnard - Illustration by Aikaterini Paraskevopoulou

You will have seen Unknown Era play countless lineups at The Maze, that’s because it’s Gaz’s band. Andy Barnard is the drummer, with a lot to say about the venue.

I first encountered The Maze in around 2010; it was one of very few independent venues that supported the underground electronic music scene after Blueprint shut down. After meeting Gaz and Steph it was immediately apparent that they were the most passionate, approachable and laid back venue managers I'd ever met. Over the years it has been incredible to see so many musicians, DJs and artists from all genres and backgrounds be equally welcomed, encouraged and nurtured by The Maze.

I began to promote my own multi-genre electronica events there in 2011 and later I launched Mashochism and One Night In Nottingham (ONIN), continuing to promote events there right up until the final sell out night at its series of closing parties. On top of all this, in 2015 I was asked to try out as the drummer for Unknown Era. This quickly expanded into the nine-piece musical monster we know today and, through Gaz's tireless hard work and extensive contact list, we have been lucky enough to play countless festivals, tour in Europe and perform in front of crowds as large as five thousand! None of this would've been possible without The Maze as our home base, practice space and venue.

I couldn't even begin to count how many unforgettable experiences I've had and how many wonderful humans I now call family purely as a result of being involved with The Maze. It has utterly and inconceivably changed my life and allowed me to achieve multiple lifelong dreams! Whilst I know Gaz and Steph will continue to promote the Notts music scene in other ways and I will continue to work with them to do so, I doubt any single venue will have more of an effect on my life as The Maze has.

As sad as the closure is, all good things must come to an end and it has been an honour and an enormous privilege to be involved! To everyone in The Maze family, I say THANK YOU.

Jake Bugg - Illustration by Aikaterini Paraskevopoulou

Music manager Jason Hart recollects the time his and Jake Bugg’s lives changed forever...

I have been going to the Maze for twenty years now, either playing in bands or watching them, and I walk past it most days going to my office. In 2010 I saw a YouTube video of Jake Bugg performing there  it stopped me in my tracks and made me want to become a manager to this incredible young artist. Eighteen months later, Jake had a number one album. He holds the venue in high regard and is very sad to see it go, as having access to a small venue to play live and learn your craft is incredible for young musicians, and he’s definitely shown the benefits it can bring. 

Gaz - Illustration by Aikaterini Paraskevopoulou

It would be rude not to chat to Gaz too. Here is the manager’s favourite ‘best bit’...

I have many memories from crazy nights to late lock ins, painting, cleaning and personal stories, but one that will always stick is one of my earliest.

I had been working on the bar for a few weeks, and Cosmic American were hosting a night with a country musician from America called Chip Taylor. I had never heard of him and wasn’t a fan of country folk music at the time (The Maze has educated me to become one since!)

It was a sit down quiet show, and I was trying to be quiet as I cleaned shelves on the bar but some customers started shhhing me as I moved about, doing my job. Chip stopped playing and told people to respect the bar staff, then asked me to pour us both a whiskey. 

Throughout the night he bought us both more whiskeys and then told stories, We found out he was the man who wrote Angel of the Morning, as covered by Shaggy, and he told us tales of meeting Shaggy, Jimi Hendrix, Christi Hyde and many other famous musicians he had wrote and performed with. 

Afterwards he sat and talked to me and shared a final whiskey. I will never forget that and I think it started my love of discovering new genres through The Maze, as well as a new respect for all musicians.

The Maze closed its doors on 29 June, 2019. 
Read our interview with Gaz and Steph about the closure.

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