ON THIS DAY: 2003 - Arctic Monkeys play first ever gig at Sheffield pub - LISTEN HERE
On this day fourteen years ago, Sheffield's Arctic Monkeys fired up their amps live for the very first time.
The date was June 13, 2003.
And little did the crowd of unsuspecting punters know that Sheffield’s intimate music venue The Grapes was about to play host to a band who would go on to become one of Britain’s biggest rock exports in decades.
When Alex Turner and co stepped nervously out on stage, neither they nor the audience could have predicted that less than three years later they would notch up a ubiquitous No.1 hit – and the fastest-selling debut album in UK history.
Indeed, speaking about the Arctic Monkeys’ first performance years later, Turner remarked that the sum total of his ambitions for the evening were: “Just to get to the end of the night and pull the bird that I fancied that I’d got to come down!
“But we had practiced so much beforehand, and it was a major deal just to go and play somewhere. I’d never been on a stage in my life before that. I don’t think I opened my eyes for the whole set.
“But that 25 minutes – wow.”
Clocking in at less than half an hour, the rollicking onslaught of debut rock from the young band mostly took in a selection of razor-sharp pop covers (everything from Fatboy Slim’s dance hit ‘Rockafeller Skank’ to Undertones standard ‘Teenage Kicks’) as well as a forgotten early composition, the brilliantly named ‘Ravey Ravey Ravey Club’.
Musically and thematically, the set-list showcased early signs of the energy and wit that would make them famous.
Referred to by the band’s manager Geoff Barradale as “a Sheffield rite of passage musically”, a performance at The Grapes may not have made the boys big bucks (they reportedly received just £27 from ticket sales), but it did put them on the local music radar.
Speaking to The Star back in 2010, Brian Ellis, sound engineer at The Grapes for eight years, recalled the Monkeys’ first foray onto the stage:
“We didn’t know who they were. They were so young but you could tell they had a couple of elements that other younger bands didn’t have – the singer could sing and the drummer could drum.
“I’ve seen many bands play The Grapes and two weeks later they’ll be on telly.”
In the case of the Arctics, it took a little longer than two weeks.
But when they did eventually roar out of the Steel City and into the national consciousness, a lucky few were able to look back at that short, snappy set at The Grapes in the summer of 2003, and say “I was there”.
Were you at The Grapes that night? Share your memories with us.