Date: 13 April 2017 Venue: The Green Door Store, Brighton Genre: Alternative Rock
If there’s one thing we love, it is the showcasing of authentic and interesting talent in independent music venues, and Bushmills ® Irish Whiskey have announced that it is launching a nationwide tour to do just that featuring: We Are Scientists, The Magic Gang, VANT and The Wytches.
‘The Bushmills Tour’ is part of the #AnswerTheCall campaign that aims to showcase creators, artists, entrepreneurs from the music industry and beyond to showcase their talents and inspire others to fulfil their true calling. The Music Venue Trust have reported an estimated 40% of music venues closing in the past 10 years – which sucks – so here, Bushmills are aiming to celebrate these iconic venues that remain the lifeblood of the UK music scene – which is great!
One of the UK’s most impressive new bands, The Magic Gang are going to be kicking off this tour at the Green Door Store in Brighton next month as part of this tour. With irresistible tunes such as ‘How Can I Compete‘, and ‘Jasmine‘ are sure to be lashed out to the budding Brighton crowd, and with the Summer just about on the horizon, now is the perfect time to get a glimpse into what the festival favourites are going to have in store.
It is bands such as The Magic Gang that are so important within alternative music (no matter what flavour of alternative is the one for you) as they are continuing to emphasise the importance of independent music venues as well as the huge sweeping festival fields and stadium halls. So yeah, it’s pretty important and it’s gonna be pretty cool.
Tickets for the full tour are now available through Dice
Words and Photography by: Victoria Ling Samuel Jack returned to Slaughtered Lamb to celebrate the release of his single ‘Surrender’ on the back of his last visit here last October – come show time, there was a buzz in the air as this artist is slowly but surely making a name for himself with all of the radio airplay he has been getting. Giorgia-May, a petite Neo-Soul Jazz artist with a big personality kicked off the night and got most of the crowd fixated on her set. In fact, at one point, the eager listeners at the front had to silence the late-comers joining the night, as May is someone that, given the chance, will stop you in your tracks to take note, especially with her song ‘I Want You,’ that has a Corrine Bailey-Rae vibe to it. Besides this niche comparison, May definitely stands out on her own and in her short support slot impressed the audience leaving the room full of even more anticipation for tonight’s headliner.
As the room fills, and the first notes on the keyboard start, the audience are ready and as Samuel steps onto the stage, his band are already in full swing. ‘Making It Rain’ is a tremendous opener. As the title suggests, it is quite the stormy affair, and the audience were now pretty much huddled in for the rest of the night. A few new numbers make the set list, such as ‘Refugee’, which Samuel describes as a tale about current issues of the world. Hearing this live really does cut into the soul, you can really feel the message within these passionate vocals especially when he sings, “where are you now?”. If you have been to a Samuel Jack gig before, you’ll know a certain cover song always seems to make the set list, and despite him wanted to steer away from them, the opening chords of Coolio’s ‘Gangster’s Paradise’ always sends the audience into hysteria. During this moment, the audience are singing word for word and at one point are even stealing the lead vocal spotlight. This passion and crowd engagement is what makes every Samuel Jack performance so memorable. If it is not for a sing-along, they engage with your mind, body and soul. This is also reflected in the moment when he finally performs what we’ve all been waiting for, ‘Surrender’. And, boy, is the crowd ready to SING. When the chorus kicks in, it’s like the choir has come to town as the audience are immediately on their feet and clapping into euphoria. When ending a set on such a high, there has to be an encore and of course, Samuel cannot resist as he sings two numbers including last year’s EP title track, ‘Let It All Out’ which only escalated the audience’s choir-esque flow, leaving us all with a sense of satisfaction for the night.
THEN As people often say, “back in the day” years ago, no matter your age or hometown, you would always count down the days until the new release of your favourite music publication, be it NME, The RollingStone, or Q. It would cost from 3-5 quid, and would be worth every penny (so we thought). This would answer all of weekly questions: who’s the coolest artist on the block right now, who’s making music, is it any good, who’s touring and where can I go and see them? Our own personal fix of music news. These established music magazines were the hub of all the up-to-date news and the ultimate trendsetters within the music scene, regardless of taste.
NOW things are slightly different. For the answers to all of these continuously urging questions we go to our phones, our laptops, or our favourite venue. You rarely see people paying for a music magazine at their local shop anymore, and this has been such a drastic drop in demand that one of Britain’s most established publication, NME, has recently had to re-release as a free magazine distributed publicly on the streets and at station, just when it was seemingly going to go on forever at £2.50 a piece.
What has cause this dramatic change in the world of music and media? And more importantly is this a positive move forward or something we should fear?
As we all know (and if you aren’t just look around you and witness the sea of screens before you), we now live in a world of fast-paced, constantly delivering technology. The demand for information has changed. We want it all, and we want it now (sometimes regardless of quality); so much so that we are more likely to watch 50 8-second, instantly-loading videos of recurring jokes like “what are those?” than watch an hour long documentary about something we actually care about. We also want everything for free, and are becoming increasingly stubborn against paying for services that we use regularly.
So as a result, dominating magazines like NME quickly went from being respected sources of media and information, the first to deliver all the latest and greatest, to an antiquated, out-of-fashion magazine. The fact that NME was driven to stop charging for the publication just demonstrates how powerful this shift is. The idea of it is great: have larger, cheaper distributions in order to gain a bigger influence. But have you given it a read lately? It is a sell-out shell of what it once was. From having the majority of the pages filled with mainstream adverts, to covering the latest hot pop-star that they would have previously mocked while boasting about discovering the new underground must-see.
NME has disappointingly sold-out its identity in order to simply stay afloat. But this is not the case with everyone.
Lately there has been a rise of brilliant, independent publications such as DIY and Upset that have been built upon the idea that it should be free to join a music community. With their magazines being distributed to local music venues to encourage people to go to gigs, and a prominent passion for discovering a range of fresh talent from across the scene(s), there is a feeling of authenticity and genuineness when reading these magazines, and this honesty has been rewarded with an ever-growing group (with myself included) of committed readers.
There has also been a recent flourish of blogs, and good blogs. Real journalism, honest discussions and uncompromising exposure of artists that editors are actually passionate about. You can also see artists and bands embracing this change on traditions by becoming more creative and resourceful when releasing music, making announcements and doing their promotion campaigns. We need to stop complaining about how things have changed and learn to incorporate the new order of things. Media and music are no longer emerging from the top down, it is coming from every which-way due to the Internet and other innovative ways of distribution, bringing about a new level of diversity within the music industry and levelling the playing field for everyone.
So while some institutions and organisations have fallen into the trap of the changing market within music consumption, by selling their front-page spreads to the highest bidder, others have embraced this head on. There is now a new generation of artists, journalists and media enthusiasts with fresh ideas and an eager attitude to bring people together into a community of people who just love all kinds of music, regardless of their income.
Every committed fan and connoisseur of music will have a collection of memories from small, independent venues that they can roll off the top of their head. Their first gig, their messiest gig, that one gig years ago where you saw today’s biggest band for the first time in a room with 100 people in. In a world where ‘bigger is better’ in regards to just about everything: TVs, companies, houses, among other things… music venues represent an important and timeless exception.
Why are small indie venues so important?
For me – and I reckon a lot of other people – it’s about the unique experiences you get with them. Instead of a polished, overly uniformed arena with structured seating, anonymous crowds and lacking personality, you have a room small enough where you can meet people, chat to the bar staff about mutual tastes in music, try an obscure craft beer, and be close enough to the band that a real connection can be made between you and the artist(s). You don’t have to pay an extra fortune to get close enough to the stage to actually see someone’s face, you just have to be committed enough to get in there early. It’s all about what you put into the night, not how much you pay for it.
Lydia from the Boileroom, Guildford, agrees. “Each one is different, and is ran by people passionate about music and the artists that come through and play within their hallowed walls.”
So it’s quite evident that independent venues have been suffering from a collective, nationwide struggle for some time now. Suddenly you find yourself more interested in saving up to go to one big gig at the o2 arena instead of four intimate gigs at the tiny club at the end of your street, and becoming increasingly less interested in the leaflets going round going on about who you should be seeing and listening to.
And why is this?
Well, as always, the government has its role in this game.With funding for the arts on an annual decline. Ambivalence for the creative arts often spreads from the top down, just as enthusiasm grows from the bottom up. The ongoing battles between indie venues and unwelcoming neighbours, staggering property values, and difficult laws that see great places being shut down nationwide seems to be a rarely discussed, unsurprising reality rather than a devastating misfortune in recent times. As towns are becoming more heavily populated, and reactive licensing regulations and environmental health agencies are putting on more pressure, it’s only getting harder. Indeed, of the 430 music venues that operated within London between 2007 and 2015, only 245 are still open, according to the trust.
So has all hope been lost?
Definitely not. There have been several developments in the last few years in terms of safeguarding music venues across the country. Lydia from the Boileroom, Guildford explains “Music Venues Trust have set up trade union TAMVA, and have been making headway with regards to PRS licensing fees…reducing business rates…as well as giving general advice and creating a network of grassroots venues that can support each other”. And that is when needs to continue to happen, networking and support.
There is something special about small indie venues that people still cherish, consumers and artists alike. Many bands still take the opportunity to play the smaller town venues when they could easily get 10 times the amount of customers in a bigger venue. For instance, last year youmeatsix played the Boileroom for Independent Venue Week (and it was an awesome night), and Wolf Alice stated in an interview for the guide2surrey that they will always remember playing the smaller venues before hitting it big with the likes of Glasto Festival.
So what I’m mainly trying to say is that small indie venues and grassroots venues are still as important to the music industry today as they ever were. They often represent the community in an all-inclusive, welcoming way and are a place to make incredible memories. They are the places that hosted today’s biggest headline bands way back in the beginning when they were still growing and developing as artists – just as we are still developing.
And they will continue to do this, if we are still committed to supporting them.