People from the era tell their stories.
» The Hot Bear Club - 1977
THE HOT BEAR CLUB - 1977
Fresh from Art college in Leeds I came to Bristol in 1977 to do a Post Grad film course at the University Drama Dept., by christmas that year I had moved into 73 Queens Rd an infamous shared house above a shop on the Triangle, Queens Rd., and home to an eclectic collection of Artists, Poets, Musicians etc. Very soon I got to know several very young musicians the likes of Paul Hollywood, Marc and Jerry Clements and was rather surprised to find that there was a seemingly lack of venues for new bands.
Still buzzing from my experience of a 70s punk fuelled arts and music scene in Leeds where any empty space, building, back room was quickly turned into a venue I searched for a similar blank canvas in this wonderfully laid back Bristol.
A fellow lodger in the house suggested a room at the back of the Bear Hotel on Hotwells Road. Although it apparently had a slightly dubious reputation , the landlord, Tony Hook, seemed amiable enough and was happy for us to use it even though we pointed out that the audience would be quite young and not his usual heavy drinking cliental.
However the audience for the first bands we enticed filled the small room to capacity, trebling the bars turnover. A grateful landlord waived any hire charges and The Hot Bear became a regular Gig.
What a great succession of bands we had ,some playing for the first time, some more seasoned groups and many going onto greater notoriety.
Amongst them; Martin Moss, with his first Bristol band - Headlines, The Untouchables, The Vultures, Joe Public, The legendary Spics, Steve Bush with the Blue Wave Band, and Gerard Langley (Art Objects ) gave his first performance reading poetry.
Unfortunately, although being a photographer, I never had much time to document the occasions (apart from this small selection of snapshots) but we did use one gig for background footage for one of the filmed dramas I was working on at the film course.
Applying for a late licence involved inventing a birthday, wedding, or other such special occasion for each gig. The name Hot Bear obviously derived from the venue and its location and coupled with my aspirations to be the next Robert Crumb, I created a cartoon bear for a series of posters to promote each gig. The hot bear became a character in his own right later in a short lived cartoon series in the newly formed Bristol guide OUT WEST (now called Venue).
How I managed to keep the fortnightly gigs together while working all hours on the film course I'm not quite sure?
One night as I was handing over their share of the door money (all the money went to the bands ) I felt myself going dizzy and collapsed in a heap in front of a confused band member, out cold, not drunk just totally exhausted.
Eventually the gigs were getting very popular and extremely crowded prompting the landlord to ask for a cut of the door money, he then decided he didn't want the underage drinkers allowed in ( he wasn't making enough money on soft drinks).
The younger musicians and their audience were a key part of club so I decided to call it a day.
As a fitting finale to the Hot Bear we got a selection of the favourite bands and on Sept 22rd 1978, Trinity Hall (Which was at that time the Carribean Community centre run by Roy De Frietas ) became the one off venue for The Hot Bear Ball.
A great line up including The Spics, Tesco Chainstore Massacre, Art Objects and The Untouchables (or should I say Jerry Tremaine and his Ultra Untouchables as they had then become)
That ended the Hot Bear... not a bad experience for my first year in Bristol... I decided to stay. My first impressions were well based. Bristol was full of unbounded talent... We certainly got the feeling that the foundations were being laid for a new Bristol music scene.
In the next few years I went on to work with the early Ashton Court Festival, help Mark Simpson with posters and publicity for what became regular gigs at Trinity.
Even Playing in several bands myself (although the less said about that the better).
My connections with the Bristol music scene continued as I was making music promos for local bands including Startled Insects, Korgis, Pete Brandts ' Loggerheads' and Cinematographer on Peter Gabriels 'Sledgehammer' video.
Ah! Happy formative days... anyone up for a Hot Bear Reunion gig...?
Photos and words reproduced with the permission of Dave Alex Riddett