DEEP INSIDE THE DEVIL'S ARSE
A venue like no other.
I’ve been a member of T.Rextasy since October 2015. We do around 100 gigs a year and get to play some pretty special places. Notable ones for me have been the incredible Marc Bolan 40th Anniversary Celebration Concert at the Shepherds Bush Empire in 2017 sharing the stage with a whole host of music industry luminaries, in 2018 we had the honour of opening the 50th Isle of Wight Festival and in 2019 it will be an invitation to play the Devil’s Arse that will hold strong in my memory.
Puns aside, of which there have been many, the Devil’s Arse is a venue situated in the Peak Cavern in Castleton, Derbyshire; so called apparently because of the flatulent-sounding noises from inside the cave when flood water is draining away. Until 1915 the cave was home to some of Britain's last troglodytes who lived in houses built inside the cave mouth and made a living from rope making, while the depths of the cave were known as a haven for bandits. In 2013 the operators began promoting concerts and events inside the cave as a way to secure new streams of income and in recent years has hosted such artists as Jarvis Cocker, Richard Hawley and The Vaccines.
Late in 2018 we were asked by the Gig Cartel if we’d play this somewhat unique venue. We gladly accepted and on Friday 5th July 2019, following a gig at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking the night before, we’d head up the M1 to Derbyshire to experience what would be an incredible gig in an incredible location.
On this occasion I would be travelling separately from the band, heading up to Buxton with my wife and checking in to a hotel before venturing over to the venue alone. The sun was out, I had the trusty Saab 9-3 convertible to experience the stunning scenery and the sat-nav confidently advised that the venue was just 25 minutes from the hotel – perfect. I use Waze for my sat-nav, if you’ve not tried it you should – it’s a free app, traffic reports are managed in real time by users and on many occasions it’s helped me avoid those unavoidable hold ups. It always gets me to the right location, so much so that we have a family saying of ‘trust the waze’.
Why have I told you all this about my trusty sat nav? The more astute among you will have guessed that on this occasion the Waze was not to be trusted... and I would get to see, albeit unintentionally, some rather spectacular Peak District scenery. I’m not complaining, I love those exciting drives, perfect weather, roof down, taking in the view (as much as you can whilst concentrating on navigating hairpin bends, sheer drops and exhilarating views!), I only wish I’d taken the time to stop and take some pictures! It was only when I climbed higher up a peak and the road turned into a gravel path – and then a very rough gravel/rocky path, that I thought to myself that this really can’t be right even though ‘trust the waze’ was confidently announcing ‘you have reached your destination’.
Fortunately, this rather remote location atop a mountain would surprise me with 4G reception allowing me to switch to Google Maps which offered me an alternative location for the same postcode. The route down and into Castleton centre was equally stunning. Google was endeavouring to get me to the mouth of Peak Cavern, the location of the Devil’s Arse, but those of you that have visited will know that this isn’t accessible for vehicles… such fun! A friendly local advised me rather cheerily that ‘you can try and get down there, but you won’t make it’ (ok, thanks…) and then directed me to the appropriate car park. At the car park I bumped into a few ‘fans’ who had seemingly experienced a similar journey. A short (mostly uphill) walk through tiny winding and extremely pretty streets alongside a stream leads you to the entrance to the Devil’s Arse… and wow! What a place!
The band had arrived a couple of hours earlier and all our gear had been transported in from the car park by a great team from the venue via a 4x4 pick-up truck to the cave. I think it’s fair to say not your usual load in. Facilities for the band are sparse; a sizeable shed as a dressing room and a single portaloo for band use (which is in full sight of the audience!). The stage is dusty and made of concrete, the cave drips in the most inconvenient of places and the temperature drops quite rapidly in the late afternoon as this ‘summer boy’ in shorts and shirt was to find out. But really, none of this mattered, this place is incredible and I’m feeling a little humbled that we’ll be one of only a handful of bands to play this place in 2019.
Soundcheck goes without a hitch – in fact the sound in the cave is surprisingly good – and the view from the stage is like no other. I’m looking forward to this gig immensely. We’ve sold over 550 advance tickets which will make for a good crowd in this 600 capacity venue in the middle of nowhere.
To add to the fun there’s a film crew on site getting footage for a Chinese documentary. Yep, you read that right. Apparently, there’s a growing punk scene in China and Marc Bolan is (rightly so) inextricably linked with the UK punk scene. Hopefully one day we’ll get to see and share some of that footage.
By 7.30pm the place is full and completely transformed from the gaping open cave to what feels like quite an intimate space with an expectant buzz of anticipation. We take to the stage at around 7.40pm for the first of two sets to an audience which can only be described as amazing. The earlier chill in the cave has disappeared as the warmth from the crowd transforms the stage into the usual sweaty arena of cosmic rock. It’s a cracker of a gig from start to finish – thank you to all those that attended!
Thanks to Jill Ashmore, Stef Swietlinski and Robin Carr for the images below.
The Devil’s Arse is truly a unique venue not just for those who perform there but for those who attend too. It’s an amazing space with an equally amazing atmosphere made all the more special by the logistics involved in getting there in the first place!
So there you have it, my account of being deep inside the Devil’s Arse – a combination of words I didn’t expect to be using – for a gig that I’ll definitely not forget… and one that I hope will be become an annual event in the T.Rextasy calendar.