Have You Ever Heard Of The Sycamores?
I have. They were awesome. They’ve split up now. You’ll never see them. Sorry. Your loss. The truth is that of course you haven’t heard of The Sycamores – despite being a band of immense talent and skill they touched only a thin wedge of humanity. I think they played maybe one or two gigs outside of their native Cornwall, and that was it.
There was some great music in Cornwall, still is. Much of it you will never get a chance to hear. There are some other great musical hubs as well, look at Liverpool, Bristol, Brighton, Nottingham – all of which have a wealth of brilliant unsigned bands, just as many as Glasgow. However just like Glasgow, most of these bands will never make it big and will split up before anyone outside their local scene knows their name.
Overall the message of this is pretty pessimistic. Outside of this city there is another world of musical talent, most of which you will never hear of or see.
However the truth of the matter is you have only yourself to blame – at least in part. Most bands worth their salt (what does that phrase even mean?) will at some point pass by our way, and most of them are ignored. Largely it’s down to how the Glasgow music scene works – a system of bands promoting their own gigs – but that’s another rant. More often than not touring acts are placed early on and find themselves playing to nearly empty rooms. I have seen the likes of I Say Marvin, Pause.Break.Riot! and even the soon to be epic Max Raptor play in Glasgow to quiet rooms. (Two of these bands have subsequently split up so you’ve missed out there as well).
Being a band – especially a touring one is shit. I travelled with one a few years back. It’s crap. You spend a fortune, sleep in a freezing van in December in Arbroath (actually happened), risk your van being broken into and your stuff going missing (actually happened), and you find yourself travelling 200 miles to a city you don’t know to find an empty room. It makes you wonder what the point is.
Most of the time promoters put these bands on first as they know they won’t bring many people, which only adds to the punishment for something which isn’t really their fault. So what is the point on going on tour? To visit Kelvingrove Museum?
Febuary 25th sees Popical Island, the Irish record label play a one off gig in the 13th Note – you should go. On the 1st March the superb Let’s Buy Happiness play at Captain’s Rest – you should go there too. Or at very least check them out, go listen on their Bandcamps and see whether you like what you hear. It is a dear hope that these up coming events don’t pass like so many good touring bands, with Glasgow ignoring it in favour of seeing a local act they’ve seen a million times play once more.
This is nothing against the Glasgow music scene. Glasgow has a superb talent to populous ratio, possibly finer than any other city. But like it or not, most unsigned bands in Glasgow you will have a few chances to see before they split up after a few years and all get real jobs. These touring acts may only ever play here once.
This is one of the things we’ve often sort to address at PGTR. We set out especially to have no geographical bias. It’s not where you’re from, it’s what you play. We try wherever possible to play bands that are completely unheard of from across the UK. You can appreciate good music no matter where it’s from.
We’re about to start doing live events as well. We’ve gone through extra efforts to try and make life for touring bands better. Putting them on later on the bill even if they won’t bring that many people, covering their travel costs, giving them a floor to sleep on. I genuinely believe we can have a better life for touring acts without compromising on the rest of the gig.
As an extra guide to some of the acts I’m talking about, check out our first live event. We came across Natalie Holmes and Tom Clarke whilst sitting on bandcamp. They’re officially two separate acts, but they play a lot together. We stumbled across by sheer accident a song by Natalie Holmes called Shooting Zombies and were blown away – a superb mixture of wit and beauty all rolled into this youthful love affair. Listen to it. You’ll be in love.
So many bands have this idealised vision of the Glasgow music scene. Places like Tut’s and a history of bands from Franz Ferdinand to Belle & Sebastian make this an almost must stop place to play on your first UK tour, so let’s make it worth their while.
I am not encouraging you to totally break the mould and give up on your own scene – that’s important too. But every so often, instead of playing it safe and seeing which band you know is playing this week, go onto the listings for the 13th Note or Captain’s Rest and see what bands you don’t know – then google them and find a MySpace / Bandcamp / Soundcloud and then listen. If you don’t like it, don’t go. If you do, go, enjoy the music and say hi afterwards. It’ll make their day.
I don’t think Glasgow is an exception. I imagine similar things happen when we send our unsigned joys off to other cities around the UK. But let’s set our standards high, go the extra mile, and go see bands because we found this one song by them on MySpace that was totally awesome.
To finish off. Here are a few far away bands that I haven’t booked for a gig yet. (That way I can claim neutrality).
We Are The Grand – from Liverpool – a superb fast paced indie sound. Their music flies at the pace of lightning. Like driving as fast as you can down the motorway and trying to be caught by every speed camera on the way just because flashes are cool. Raucous, in your face, and yet sublime.
Max Raptor – from Birmingham – Sitting on the fence between indie and rock they attract an odd crowd. They make you want to jump, mosh and dance at the same time. It’s an odd combination. But despite the weird movements you’ll be pulling, the slick riffs, and precise lyrics will lead to you having a very good night.
Marble Fairy – from London – Superb little Electro act. Some of the catchiest hooks you’re ever likely to get a chance to hear, combined with powerful vocals, it creates an emotional party music. Their music hasn’t reinvented the wheel, they’ve just taken the classic wheel design – you know round – and made it work really really well.
The Purgatory Players – Sheffield – Whimsical dream like music, each song is like an emotion in a microscope. Analysed and then drawn out so that every painful element of their chosen feeling can be analysed and brought to life. This growth and multiplication of sentiment built up through some wonderfully well written lyrics and great musicianship creates an extreme depth for you to bury yourself into. Wonderful music to bring a smile to your face when there is a grey sky or the world is ending.
Happy googling. Enjoy music.
George Pearson is one of the presenters and curators of Pop Goes The Revolution on Subcity Radio. You can find out more about the show at www.popgoestherevolution.com