Esquires has been a music venue since the mid-eighties, although it was previously called the Greyfriars International Centre, or GIC for short. It was a different layout back then, with the gigs held downstairs in what is now Room 2. The venue was very much a part of the Goth / Rock scene and groups like Fields of the Nephilim, Zodiac Mindwarp, The Godfathers, Voice of the Beehive, The Primitives and local heroes The Quireboys all regularly played.
The building itself was originally a 19th century Chapel and if you look carefully around the main stage you can still see some of the Chapel’s original features. You can read about its history as a Methodist Chapel here. It became Bedford Esquires in March 1990 and in those first few years bands like Teenage Fanclub, Ocean Colour Scene, Stereolab (who returned 30 years later in 2021!) and Spiritualized all appeared here. It was also around that time that legendary DJ John Peel paid us a visit to see the American grunge band Babes in Toyland.
In the mid nineties local promoters The Thirst Club booked most of the up and coming Britpop bands to play – Elastica’s second ever gig was here, supporting Kinky Machine, and we had memorable gigs by the likes of Supergrass, The Bluetones, Shed Seven and Super Furry Animals as well as acts like Mogwai, Therapy? and Skunk Anansie.
A lot of people think Oasis played here in March 1994, but they actually played the (now demolished) Angel pub on Elstow Road, supporting Scottish band Whiteout.
After Britpop the venue still managed to attract some huge names, such as future Glastonbury headliners Muse and Coldplay (who played Esquires twice). Other notable gigs in the noughties include Biffy Clyro, The Beautiful South, Franz Ferdinand, Elbow, Enter Shikari, The Libertines, Editors, Graham Coxon and Bloc Party (three times!).
In 2016 the venue was taken over by Gareth Barber, who had previously promoted at the venue under the name ‘Hungry Bears’ as well as running The Pad nightclub. Gareth modernised the venue by investing in a new PA and lighting system, as well as reinstating a second, smaller stage downstairs.
Notable gigs of the last few years include Wolf Alice (twice), Blossoms, Sleaford Mods, Black Grape, Public Service Broadcasting, George Ezra, DMAs, Royal Blood, Alt-J, Yard Act, The Big Moon, Idles, RIDE, Marc Almond, The Pharcyde and Kae Tempest. American global sensation Lizzo also played Esquires in 2013, supporting and performing with Har Mar Superstar.
The venue has also been instrumental in helping the careers of acts like Don Broco, Tom Grennan and Alfie Templeman, all of whom played their first gigs at Esquires.
In 2019 Steve Lamacq and BBC Radio 6Music did a three hour feature on the venue as part of Independent Venue Week and we were named one of the best small venues in the country by music industry magazine Live UK.
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