There's no question in my mind that My Space is a wonderful thing but I find it alternately inspiring and overwhelming when you get a glimpse of the sheer number of bands and promoters are out there trying to do their thing. It doesn't help that at the majority of gigs I've played on the so-called "toilet circuit" I haven't been that keen on the other bands, I'm not someone who will randomly pop out to my local venue to see who's on and some days sifting through the independent music online can even be too much. Then again, when the gems do finally shine through it means so much more.
Traditionally, gig promoters have been grumpy middle-aged men, seemingly only in it for what little money they can get. Band submits demo to promoter, promoter responds with a contract setting out the terms for the gig. You must bring fifteen people through the door specifically to see you in order to get paid 10% of the takings at the door. If you do not bring twenty five people, you will not be asked back. In the old, pre-Internet days I remember so many gigs with my first band, Billion Dollar Brain, where we travelled to London to play, stormed the gig and were given the cold shoulder by the promoter because we hadn't made him a load of money at the bar. Forcing these contracts on bands, particularly out-of-town bands, seemed to give them licence to ignore the rest of their duties as promoter i.e. PROMOTING the gig by advertising it around the city and working to build up a club night that punters would return to again and again because the quality of the bands was high.
The "pay-to-play" gig is not entirely a thing of the past but in the last year I've been pleased to come across a good few people who are trying to change the way things are done. I've mentioned 2Bob in this column before - the South East London collective that put on regular gigs at The Fox & Firkin in Lewisham and The Lauriston in Hackney. More recently I've come across Rock 'n' Roll Ain't Noise Pollution who put on shows at Pool Bar in Shoreditch, Semiconductor Archives who have nights at Brixton Jamm and Cross Kings and Daf & William who run "Anti Anti" at Satchmo's in Stoke Newington.
I can't tell you what a relief it is to find that promoters have changed so much, in no small way due to the rise of internet communication. Old school promoters = grumpy men brandishing contracts and booking anyone they think can bring people along. New school promoters = a group of young, enthusiastic, interested people who love music and love bands and love putting on nights that are mostly cheap or free entry.
The quality of the bands seems much higher on nights put together by new school promoters too, most recently Upcdownc, a band with two drummers and a whole load of superbly heavy instrumental noise who are about to release their second album, having previously recorded Xfm and Radio One sessions. Some bands are even putting on their own nights (yes, finally! More please!), a case in point being The Low Fidelity Disconnect run by the guys from Djevara as an art / music space with regular showcases held as private parties and featuring the cream of UK alternative bands.
In keeping with the punk DIY ethic that is having such a resurgence in modern music more and more bands are releasing their records completely independently from the mainstream music scene and having a lot of success with them. There's something for everyone and here's a little taster:
If you like...alt-rock/metal check out Djevara's second album "Third World War: Cast The First Stone" out now on Genin Records
If you like...acoustic rock troubadour style tunes see Open Mouth's debut album "Import>Export" out now on R*E*P*E*A*T Records
This Week's Five
1. Channels - Popular Workshop
2. Sourangle - Sour Grape Project
3. The Quietist - Open Mouth
4. Autism - Djevara
5. Our Flowers - Upcdownc