Last Updated on February 18, 2023
This article originally appeared in ‘Issue Punk Zine‘ number 62.
Whenever I sit down to write a column I’m wary of coming across as some old bugger having a bit of a moan, which can be a bit of a challenge as it’s reasonably hard to disguise the fact that sometimes I am an old bugger having a bit of a moan. Before I get fully into my flow I also need to make it clear that there has NEVER been a golden age for live music in any town; the best time for live music is always tomorrow, next week, next month, it has to be because otherwise why bother? There is no such thing as the best band in the world or the best show you’ve ever been to, because that will happen just around the corner. Your band hasn’t yet played their best show…
Last night I went to a gig in the back of the local Labour club, and past the rows of cheerful codgers playing whist and cribbage was a little door that led into a stubby little hall that used to be part of an old World War 1 barracks that were moved from a nearby town to the back of this labour club between the wars. This might seem like a little bit too much detail to impart, but it’s relevant to the point I’m going to get around to making. Nobody I know had ever hired this venue (it was free!) before, and as far as the management of the Labour club knew nobody had ever approached them about hiring (for free!) their hall. The management were keen to see last night’s gig happen, and partially due to the fact that most beers were under £2 a pint the gig promoters had a fair idea that their punters would be keen on attending.
The promoters had covered the inside of the hall with thousands of fairy lights and drawn all the curtains, giving the hall a very dreamy appearance. The two acts who performed (Nathaniel Robin Mann and The Sons of Joy) both put on a very inventive show, the former using some instruments I’d never seen before in my whole life, and the later playing (and yelling) 1920’s American folk-gospel songs. Everyone came away from the show totally mesmerised, and I’d say the effort put in by the promoters played a very large part in that.
|Sons of Joy playing the bowels of a lightship, point in case…|
So if you’re putting on shows and deign to make the effort to create something a bit more special than blokes in jeans strumming guitars I’m sure the cosmos will smile kindly on you for making the effort. In one of my bands (ZEEB?) we always made a huge effort to decorate any venue we were playing, to have small parts of costume given to every person through the door to wear and we even had ‘gifts’ to give to members of the audience who caught our eye. People remembered us, and people chose to come and see us because in these cash-poor times they knew they’d get a proper show. Now I’m by no means claiming that ZEEB? are the example to follow (especially not our ‘stuffed lycra’ phase) but don’t take your audience for granted, give them something special. Gimmicks are only gimmicky if you’re doing them wrong.