I was lucky enough to attend a very sold out show for Independent Venue Week 2015 at the Night and Day cafe in Manchester this week. Top of the bill was one of my favourite artists Frank Turner and supporting him were Skinny Lister, Esme Patterson and Oxygen Thief. If I was a music blogger, at this point I would write about how fabulous the night was and insert lines like ‘Brilliant up and coming artist’ but as you know I am not, so I won’t. I will however, write about my reaction to attending the gig.
I was a teenager in the 1990’s. Music was everything. I almost had to have my walkman surgically removed when I had a shower. I spent all my money on music, seeing live music, buying clothes to look like my pop culture heroes. The first live music I came in to contact with was at an independent venue, not a very cool or famous one, but independent non the less. The Academy – Bolton.
The Academy was formally a small gay bar near the train station in Bolton and it was one of the only places a 16 year old who looked like they were about 13 could get sold alcohol. It also had a small stage and a number of my friends and friends of friends who were very cool and played in bands used to gig in there, I actually did my one and only gig there too! There was live music every Thursday night and occasionally on a Saturday. My friends and I would rock up and listen to them do covers of Green Day, Oasis and Shed Seven.
By the time I got to 17, I could drive and had a job, we could get served in other pubs, we could get into other venues and the friends we had who were playing live music had either given up, or got better. The next music venues I frequented were still small independent ones but in nearby Manchester. I spent evenings in places like Band on the Wall, the Roadhouse and the Night and Day cafe. On Wednesday night, it struck me I hadn’t been in The Night and Day since I was 17. So why did I stop going to the Indie venues to see the Indie music I loved?
The answer came to me, the bands I wanted to see got too big for the small venues. The bands I wanted to see were playing Manchester Academy, V Festival and the MEN Arena. Embarrassingly I haven’t seen a gig in a small Indie venue for 17 years, until this week. I have seen many live acts in the last 17 years, but they have been at arena shows and festivals. I had forgotten the buzz of being crammed in a tiny, sweaty venue with just the die hard fans. Being able to see the performer in real life and not just as a tiny speck on a stage or on a big screen.
I am a big fan of Bestival, which kind of gives you the feeling of those little intimate venues for up and coming artists on its smaller stages. I saw Dan le Sac do his first solo gig at Bestival a few years back and that is the closest I’ve felt to being in those smaller venues in recent years. I am glad there is somewhere on the festival circuit for these artists to try out their craft. Being a regular Bestival goer it has been nice over the 7 years we have been attending, to see the smaller artists grow and come back over the years to play the bigger stages. However, Bestival comes but once a year.
So what’s the answer? Well obviously to search out my independent venues and seek out new music. Wednesday nights support bands gave me 3 new options of people I’d love to see again. I also have to give Frank Turner some serious thanks, firstly for playing a small venue like Night and Day, even though it meant disappointment for many who missed out. Secondly for making me realise that I have to do more to support my local music scene, to give artists that first step on the ladder and thirdly to remind me how wonderful those intimate gigs are. They made me a music fan, they formed my tastes and they will introduce me to my next favourite band.