Business As Usual: Strange Discoveries

Things we’ve found since the renovation.

It’s been a few weeks since we re-opened our doors here and we’re making some odd discoveries around our almost-new bar…

All sorts of things get stirred up when you get work done on a building as old as ours. We’ve been having some fun going through the bits and pieces left over from the work that was recently completed here. Our staff have been working hard here to get the place back in order. Although we’d started just wanting to get a few changes made to the place, mostly in regards to some important safety features, the more jobs we got completed, the more ideas we had to keep the construction men and surveyors busy!

After three months of constant demolition, design and construction, we’re all dead pleased with how far we’ve come and we’re even happier to have found this wonderful assortment of forgotten things, we think we might stick them all together in a display case.

Take a look at our discoveries below to see what we found (and send us a message if any of it’s yours!):

Total Station

When the builders first brought this to us we thought they were having a laugh, however this particular total station looked far older than anything that a modern builder would be using for surveying purposes. Darryl, the bricklayer, told us that he’d found it crammed into a space within a wall that he was knocking through and surmised that it must’ve been dropped in there by a particularly careless surveyor some 75 years ago – we bet that took a nasty chunk out of his monthly pay check!


Cribs T-Shirt

This little gem was found in a panel above one of the ladies’ toilet cubicles. Jolene, our resident writer and major Cribs fan, instantly recognised it as being from their tour of their second album The New Fellas. You’d think that a hidden vintage t-shirt in a ladies toilet would spark all sorts of intrigue amongst us, but we managed to piece together it’s story pretty quickly as it was heavily spattered in vomit. Although Jolene attempted to wash it, the tee remains unwearable, no doubt abandoned by its owner in a fit of embarrassment.


Half of a Fender Mustang

Musicians don’t often leave there instruments here, it’s usually how they make their money on a day-to-day basis so it would make little sense for them to leave them just lying around, but it’s clear that this is exactly what someone did with at least half of their guitar. The interesting thing about this find is that the guitar quite clearly predates any gig that we’ve held, so it suggests that there was a venue here before Jakers’ Chicken Shack even existed. Although there have been some calls to put it back together and return it to its former glory, we we think it’ll look much better as it is in our display case.


Tape Cassette Player with Michael Jackson’s Thriller

Only a handful of us remember the days when cassette tapes where the best way to listen to music on the go, most of our younger bass stuff where a little nonplussed by this chunky, clunky metallic box that was found whilst we were ripping out the old bar. The best surprise of all was that the thing still worked! Apparently this tape player was simply misplaced by someone 20 years or so ago – it’s just a shame we’ll never find out who!

Tellurmonster + HarshMannas: 12/04/18

After nearly three months away, Riga Music Bar is finally back up and running!

You know how it is: you start one small job and then that job leads to another…and then another.

We only intended to close for a week and somehow that week turned into three months! Since we’ve closed we’ve had tonnes of time to re-evaluate our situation here and that meant ramping up the changes that we were originally planning on making. Although we knew that we’d be disappointing our audience by staying closed for so long, we knew that our most dedicated fans would want us to take our time so that we could re-open better than ever.

Thanks to our mates over at The Raj, we’ve been able to hos a number of truly unique performances in a great space that has kept interest in our music nights going whilst also boosting the popularity of what has always been our favourite Indian restaurant. Now that the work’s completed though, we’ve been happy to break in the venue once more with a few of the best solo artists performing at the moment. We’ll hand it over to our features writer, Jolene Fitzstewart to tell all…

It feels strange being back in the Riga after such a long time away.

As the doors open and a bunch of familiar faces start to flock back in, I get a chance to appreciate how different the space really feels.

Now that a number of windows have been created in the bistro area there’s a lot more light in what used to be a bit of a squalid canteen room. It’s now a social environment with the late Spring sun beaming through the skylights and the beer flowing freely, it almost feels like Summer…almost.

Once you move into the gig area though, it’s back to business as usual. The darkness envelopes the punters as they enter with only their expectant faces illuminated by the newly added neon strip lighting, a nice touch that oozes an 80s retro sensibility which will serve tonight’s performers well.

HarshMannas is the stage name for Norman Hooper, he’s a local lad and has built quite the following over the last few years. Only 24-years old, this performer spent 2017 going through a rather dramatic change. HarshMannas started as a grime artist back in 2005. Fresh out of college, he had big dreams of heading to London and claiming his fame amongst his heroes, but things didn’t quite work out the way he planned. After struggling to gain traction in the capital he had to return home and find a new path.

The blissed out electronica and spoken word diatribes that HarshMannas is now known for have served him well and proves to be popular with the crowd here. Heads nod in approval, but there isn’t much in the way of dancing, they’re saving their energy for the main act.

After squirelling himself away in a studio for Winter, it’s a joy to see Tellurmonster back at the Riga Music Bar. In this new age of shape-shifting songwriters, his brand of deceptively complex music making is a welcome reprieve from the norm and soon has the audience shuffling in appreciation. It’s a stellar night at the Riga Music Bar and one that has hopefully reminded the punters why they loved this venue in the first place.

Big Structural Changes Coming

Riga Music Bar is undergoing a transformation!

Thanks to 2017 being such a bumper year for us we’ve been able to put a few long-term plans into effect…

When we first envisioned our very own Music Bar, we were never that fussed about such ancillary things as interior design or architecture. When we were freezing our arses off on a cold winter’s night, watching Jakers’ Chicken Shack quickly burn to the ground, we simply saw the opportunity to do something truly exciting with the space at our disposal. We always that felt that a good bar should value substance over style. We’d seen the hipster traps that had started popping up all over the city with their exposed brick work and bare light bulbs and we knew that, for some, this was a marker for a ‘cool’ place, but we weren’t interested in attracting those people.

There’s a reason why we put the word ‘music’ into the name of our establishment: because music is at the very heart of what we do.

Since opening, we’ve tried to coax more people through our doors each week off the back of an eclectic selection of live music options and well-sourced vittles. We knew that our kind of clientele weren’t about to be put off by our relatively cheap looking fittings or dark interiors. They would come for the music and, hopefully, would stay for the good vibes. Over 4 years down the line we’ve now successfully built up a solid base of regulars which is consistently topped up whenever another stellar touring act makes it’s way onto our stage.

With that being said, time has not been kind to our plucky little bar, which is why we’ll be closing for refurbishment for a fortnight in February. Before you throw your hands up in dismay and ask us what you could possibly do with yourself for that fortnight – don’t panic! Our DJs and musicians will be shifting their activities over to The Raj, just across the road, so you’ll still be able to listen to some great music with the added bonus of eating some cracking Indian food at the same time!

Amongst other things, the majority of the work taking place will be focused on getting more light into our dedicated dining space as well as safeguarding against potential risks. Although we’ve only had one serious safety issue here this building does come with a past history that is hard to ignore. So, just like a new pool should be installed with the right equipment, such as a swimming pool skimmer or aquamatic cover (from Paramount Pools), this building needs to be protected by it’s own host of fail-safe features. A sprinkler system throughout the building, in addition to advanced heat sensors are the major installations that we’re investing in, as well as improved emergency power lighting in the event power loss.

As we’ve said before, architects we ain’t, however we’re bright enough to realise that most people don’t generally like the idea of eating their breakfast in the dark. We’ve been saving up the necessary cash to fund a replacement conservatory roof for some time and now we’re finally ready! Although this change is moving our business (quite literally) into the daylight, we want to assure our regulars that we will still be continuing our stellar range of night-time activities: we promise you we’re not slyly turning ourselves into a tearoom.

In addition to this exciting new change, we’re going to be making some much needed updates to the upholstery and furnishings so that those who choose to sit down for our music performances will hopefully be a little more comfortable.

Fingers crossed these changes will be made without a hitch and we’ll be back in business by the 19th February!


The Riga Music Bar will be closed from the 5th-19th February 2018 for refurbishment. There will be a full program of events hosted by The Raj during this time.

Circadian Rhythms: 05/02/18

Dark afro-beat tracks wrestle with New York disco for a night of Riga Music at the Raj.

Whilst the Bar is getting a little face lift we’ve been able to schedule a special program of events catered to this particular space.

Our working relationship with the Raj is one that was borne out of competition which was quickly followed by mutual respect. Our town isn’t exactly big, so it can be easy to get possessive over footfall. The boys at the Raj were no doubt a little relieved when Jakers’ burnt down. Although a fried chicken shop was hardly going to be taking that much business away from a fully-fledged Indian restaurant, there had always been a rivalry between the two establishments. When we opened up our doors 6 months later, Sanjay and his team were no doubt a little disheartened to discover that we were planning on serving food as well!

Fast-forward a few years and our two teams have never been tighter. Their lads are often round our gaff enjoying the music and we’re frequently over theirs after a late-night working the bar. We’ve grown so close that they were good enough to let us schedule a series of gigs in their dining room. Programming for this new environment was a unique challenge, which meant avoiding aggressive or intrusive performers and seeking out smaller scale acts.

The Raj does a roaring trade in delivery orders during the week, however their dining room is often a little quiet during these times, so it was great to see it pretty much packed out with all of our regulars, who were eager to tuck into some authentic Indian grub and listen to some interesting modern music.

Our first act to grace the Raj’s makeshift stage travels around the world with nothing more than a laptop and midi-keyboard; bringing dark, chilled out Afro-inflected beats wherever he goes. Circadian Rhythms is the stage name for Ode Azikiwe, a South African born producer and DJ who’s been making a name for himself in his hometown of Johannesburg. Since 2004 Ode has been attempting to join the pulsating rhythms of New York’s club scene with his hometown’s Afro-beat roots, creating a number of original works, whilst also remixing many modern classics at the same time.

He makes for an innocuous figure, dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt with a baseball cap placed neatly on his head. With the lights dimmed, an expectant hush descends upon the dining room as small spots pick out the lone performer. His head nods imperceptibly as a simple djembe beat begins to take on a more sonorous timbre, the back light of his laptop illuminating a face full of focus. Diners nod their heads in appreciation and seem unsure as to whether or not they should continue eating.

It’s an admittedly novel situation. Although many people are used to having music on in the background whilst eating, it almost seems rude to tuck-in or converse when there’s a person who’s travelled such a long way to curate the soundtrack to your meal. 10 minutes into his 2-hour set, a deep South-African voice emerges from the rhythms to thank the diners for coming out but not to stop eating on his behalf.

The mood relaxes in the room and a quiet murmur of approval circulates around the room – bright wide smile is now reflected by the blueish-white LCD screen and it stays there for the entirety of the night.


Maxi James reviewed Circadian Rhythms at a seated concert on the 5th February 2018 whilst enjoying some time off from cheffing at the Riga Music Bar.

Shining a Light: New Film Nights

Film comes to the Riga Music Bar

When we first thought about opening up this place our aim was to create a music venue that could cater to the interests of the many and not the few.

We wanted to create a partisan venue that would appeal to music lovers throughout the town, a place where our regulars would know that they could drop in at any time for a pint and have the chance of catching a band or singer that they might have never heard of.

Over time though, with the experience of running this place, our priorities have changed. Planning and executing what has essentially become an arts programme has been a real learning curve for us here and it has led to us broadening our perspectives on what mediums of art we can effectively exhibit here at the Riga Music Bar.

Whilst we’re not about to start filling every open space we have with experimental sculpture and cubist paintings, we do have a new ambition for how to use the space that has given us so much over the last few years.

We will be launching a weekly series of film showings starting next month. Every Wednesday we’ll be putting on a screening of a movie, one week it might be a cult classic that we think deserves a bit of attention and the next week it could be an Oscar-winning smash hit from 50 years ago. One thing that we all have in common here at Riga Music Bar is a love for great cinema and we’re so glad that we’ll be able to share this passion with our wonderful patrons.

In the last few weeks we’ve been in discussions with a variety of architectural lighting companies who’ve been giving us advice on how best to rig a quality projection system in our main space. It’s important to us that when these films are screened we’re doing them justice. That means investing in a high-quality projector and screen that will give a clear, consistent image. Sound is also a real priority for us and we’ve been working on adapting our existing speaker system to be able to properly process surround sound so that you get the best experience possible.

So, without further ado, we’re proud to announce the first slew of titles that we’ll be bringing to the newly formed Riga Screen Club. With each screening we’ll have a specialist cocktail that you’ll be able to buy from the bar and there’ll also be a one-off sharer tray created by the kitchen, perfect for snacking on throughout the movie.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007)

With the upcoming release of his new animated feature Isle of Dogs, we’ve been discussing Wes Anderson’s new movie and even though there are so many to choose from we settled on The Darjeeling Limited as it provides the kind of sunshine that we are all in dire need of right now – as well one of the director’s best soundtracks. Expect our special food sharer to have a few Indian twists…

Super Mario Bros. (1993)

Video games have finally made the move into mainstream culture but it’s easy to forget that this was not always the case. Back in 1993, despite Nintendo having released some of its most successful titles in video games history, the characters of Mario and Luigi were still deemed to be for children. This makes the decision to recreate the technicolor environs of the Mushroom Kingdom as a grimy dystopian future even more baffling – still, it makes for surprisingly good watching.

Howl’s Moving Castle (2004)

Considered to be a deep cut from legendary director Hayao Miyazaki’s extensive back catalogue, this adaptation of a fantasy novel from 1986 features the voices of Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Billy Crystal and even legendary film-star Lauren Bacall. The heady blend of high fantasy, wartime heroics and romance makes for a truly emotional ride and has garnered it a huge cult following that we can hopefully expand even further.

Changes in the Kitchen

Our team here at Riga never like to rest on our laurels…

We made some real progress last year with our kitchen team, expanding the variety of food that we offer as well as introducing a couple of weekly events that have helped change the perception of how locals see our little business.

Where once Riga Music Bar was seen as the place to get simply grab a pint and watch some music, we’ve now forged a new identity that places us squarely in competition with local restaurants and other food oriented bars.

One of the real success stories of last year was our collaboration with local Indian restaurant, The Raj. Although we’re technically speaking in competition with these lads from across the road, we so often found ourselves enjoying each others’ wares that it seemed silly to be keep up this air of competitiveness. After bonding over a few pints and a curry we decided to try something unconventional. Once we a week our team of chefs would swap over, offering regulars at The Raj a chance to taste our own chefs take on Indian food and our own customers the opportunity to sip down our great tasting beer whilst noshing down on some award-winning curry.

We’re happy to announce that this collaboration will continue this year with a minor change to the way we work: our teams of chefs will now mix instead of straight swapping, giving these talented cooks a chance to truly learn from each other and expand their knowledge.

After our little accident last year with a (now fixed) deep-fat fryer, we’ve decided to run a thorough check of all our kitchen equipment, to ensure that we don’t have any more nasty surprises in store for us in 2018. A few little bits and pieces were looking tired, amongst them were an element for a Belling oven, a long forgotten ice-cream maker and an old-school rotating buffet toaster. You probably won’t be surprised to hear which of those was replaced and which one’s found a new home in the skip out back…

It’s not just the kitchen gear that we’re replacing though, we’ve taken a long, hard look at our food offering this year and have made a few tough choices that will hopefully raise the perception of our bar moving forward and should hopefully start attracting more customers in to check out our live music. Whilst the Triple Cheese Toastie and Croque Monsiuer were once firm favourites with our lunchtime crowd, these cheesy delights have fallen out of favour with our current clientele. As a result, we’ve decided to take them off the menu and replace them with lighter alternatives that should hopefully appeal to more of our diners.

Breakfast has long been a meal of the day that we’ve shied away from, but with more and more folks turning up for a cup of coffee in the morning, we’ve decided to branch out to offer a few breakfast options for those looking to star their day with us. Alongside the traditional bacon, egg and sausage barms, we’re also offering quality porridge with some truly righteous coffee.

Please let us know if you appreciate any of these changes to our food offerings, we’d love to hear your feedback!

Folky Terry and The Strawberry Crunch Bunch: 09/01/2018

We don’t usually play folk music here at Riga.

Despite our resident DJ’s impassioned (and often drunken) arguments in favour for Simon and Garfunkel’s early folk recordings, for a long time it has remained a genre that has been untouched at the Riga Music Bar.

Whenever I think of folk music, my mind drifts to dismal country fairs, Joni Mitchell wannabes at open mic nights and God-awful-buskers in quaint historical cities like York and Winchester. So, with that being said, you might be surprised to hear that I found Folky Terry and The Strawberry Crunch Bunch to be one of the most entertaining and energising live acts to have graced our stage here at the Riga Music bar.

A good-sized crowd turned up for the support act on a Tuesday night, either an indicator that the students were back and really didn’t want to get on with their revision or that up and coming local act Good-Time Jarv was already building up a considerable local following.

With a mop of bleach blonde hair and a battered acoustic guitar, Good-Time Jarv more than resembles a certain deceased Grunge icon however the pure tone that he sings with and the delicacy of his guitar puts him in closer reach to a singer like Norah Jones than any of Cobain’s acoustic work. As is expected from a large crowd, Jarv initially struggles to be heard over the din, however after drawing the mob’s attention with a blinding rendition of Bowie’s The Man Who Sold The World (surely a nod to his bleach blonde 90s hero) he soon settles into a groove that has the audience lapping up his softly crooned vocals.

By the end of Good-Time Jarv’s set the Bar is reaching max capacity and there’s some real anticipation building in the room. The stage is cleared and brightly coloured instruments of all shapes and sizes are brought on stage. There’s a tuba, a double bass and even a Korg synthesizer: hardly the kind of instruments that you’d associate with a usual folk band but, then again, Folky Terry and The Strawberry Crunch Bunch aren’t your usual folk band.

The 7-piece band are given a rapturous welcome as they take their positions on stage. Dressed in black, they’d look a little ominous if it weren’t for their technicolor instruments. The band begin a thrumming intro based on Sunflower River Blues, a folk standard that is clearly familiar to the crowd. As this opener reaches a crescendo, the man himself bounds on stage. Folky Terry has always been known for his outlandish getup, yet it seems like he’s really pushed the boat out for this show.

Thick dreadlocks wheel through the air as the front man grabs his uke and begins to strum madly; this kind of devil may care performance is normally associated with hardcore punk acts rather than folk performers and it’s clear that his energy is infectious.

Within a matter of minutes the crows is a sweaty mass of smiling faces and it’s clear that Folky Terry has won over a new slew of fans.


Folky Terry and The Strawberry Crunch Bunch played the Riga Music Bar on the 9th January 2018 and were reviewed by Part-Time Bar Staff member, Jolene Fitzstewart.

Reopening and Upcoming French Visitors

After nearly two weeks of closure, we’re proud to be opening our doors once more on the 19th February.

Although we’re all keen to get our noses back to the grind stones there’s the small matter of a reopening party to sort out first.

We feel like we’ve got a real reason to celebrate. Coming off the back of a storming year in 2017, the Riga Music Bar has finally reached a point where we’re happy with the service we provide as well as the way our place looks. With the conservatory roof finally replaced, there’s now a tonne of light streaming into our restaurant area making it a great place to enjoy our new breakfast menu. We’ve also taken on a few new members of staff, so expect to see some fresh faces milling about throughout the next couple of weeks.

When it comes to organising parties we feel like we’re safely in our comfort zone. We’ve updated our lighting rig and even serviced our speakers systems, so our grand reopening should pump louder and brighter than anything we’ve done before. Of course no huge celebration is complete without a lineup of exciting artists. We’ve reached into our back catalogue of favourite artists and tried to book as many of them as possible to ensure that we have an eclectic lineup that will keep you on your feet for the whole night.

Jaques the Beatmaker was one of the first few acts to grace our stage. His artful blend of Deep House and 90s RnB struck a chord with both our older and younger patrons making him a firm favourite to this day. Back in 2011 he was an ambitious teenager travelling around the festival circuit in his camper van mixing as he went, but time has changed how he goes about his work now:

“Playing the Riga Music Bar was a real highlight of my early days as a DJ. I really felt the love from the crowd and that important for me, especially considering that I was spending so much time travelling alone at the time. I can’t wait to return to Riga to show how far I’ve come!”

After spending some time touring a series of villas in Provence, Jaques is ready to hit the road once more and test out his new set of tunes: we can’t wait to see what he has in store for us!

Rachel Abe’s Sonic Maelstrom will be making their fourth appearance at the Riga Music Bar for our reopening which should bring a smile to many of our regulars’ faces. Pairing a direct, unashamedly political angle with an earnest songwriting style, this ragtag 5-piece are always a joy to watch. Although they’ve not released any new material for a while, you can guarantee that they’ll have some new tunes up that their sleeves that are bound to skewer a few topical events.

“We love Riga Music Bar – let’s party like it’s 1885!”

Finally, PoorlyWordedPR might not sound like the best up and coming electro-pop group coming out of Sweden, but anyone who saw their set here two years ago will know that they’re definitely on the cusp of greatness. With a sharp 80s aesthetic, stabbing synth melodies and an aggressively personal performance style, this four-piece have been touring intensively since we last saw them so it’ll be interesting to see how far they’ve come since then.

“Life on the road has been super tough for us, but we know we’ll receive a warm welcome in one of the best bars we’ve ever played in.”

Preparations are well underway now and we can’t wait to see what our touring acts have to show us!


Riga Music Bar will be re-opening on the 19th February with music from Jaques the Beatmaker, Rachel Abe’s Sonic Maelstrom and PoorlyWordedPR. Food will be provided by the Riga staff in conjunction with The Raj.   

Our 2017 in Review

What a year it’s been for us!

With yet another successful year under out belts, we thought we’d collect some of the highlights from the team here at Riga, from the most disastrous to the most successful!

Chip Pan Fire in the Kitchen

It was only a matter of time before an accident like this came a cropper. Every bar is tested at some point, whether it’s a robbery or something a bit more serious. Our little accident came in the form of an overzealous chip fryer and thankfully didn’t result in any lasting damage to either persons or property. A busy Friday night shift can often take it’s toll on the kitchen, ask any of our chefs; as tidy as they try to be sometimes, messes can often be hard to avoid.

Although we had to shut down the kitchen for the weekend, we were glad to be back up and running the week after. The faulty chip fryer was replaced and we’re happy to report that there have been no further technical issues – Jakers’ Chicken Shack we are not.

Hosting the Bob Bobbins Blues Blast

For over a decade the name Bob Bobbins has been synonymous with groundbreaking blues music and it was our honour to host what would be the great man’s 27th annual Blues Blast this year at the Riga. As with all of his Blues Blasts, this one-day show brought together Bobbins’ seasoned house band with locally sourced talent, as well as Bobbins himself, making for an epic night of Blues that has gone down as one of the nights of 2017.

Introduction of our World Hoedown

Combining the best dance and hoedown moves from around the world to create a completely unique, fun, community based experience that everyone can get on board with. Our inaugural Hoedown in May was a massive effort that spanned across the entire bar. We’re so happy to have such a talented and enthusiastic team here at Riga’s and it’s thanks to their efforts that we were able to pull this event off and keep it running throughout the year as a successful weekly event.

New Year’s Eve Extravaganza

We’ve always had fun at our New Year’s Parties and this year’s celebration was no different. Once more we opened our doors to the mercy of the town with only one aim in mind: to blow the socks off every person who chose Riga to party the New Year in with. We had a tonne of our friends helping us out this year and the live music performances were as much a celebration of them as it was of 2017 in general. Performers from our sensational World Hoedown teamed up with our Salsa DJs to build some seriously funky beats and it was great to see our chefs on the dance floor letting loose.

We’d all like to thank our wonderful staff for the great work that they’ve done for us in 2017. Riga Music Bar is going nowhere anytime soon, we’re going to be right here entertaining you lot for as long as we can!