|Music Lovers - Think Global & Attend Locally|
The Courteeners - victims of an incestuous music scene or just overrated?
White Stripes - back when they were the underdogs
The Travelling Band - unlucky
recipients of the Pete Ellis kiss of death award 2008
|Last year I went to
see a band called the Courteeners. You may have heard of them. After all
they are selling out decent sized venues throughout the country and
gracing the charts with their various singles and album. At the point that
I saw them though they were merely the next big thing.
Before going to the gig I googled them and found references to them been the next Oasis, Libertines, Smiths, Stone Roses and Arctic Monkeys. A heavy tag for any band to wear round their neck. To be honest in a small venue with poor sound and borrowed gear they just sounded like a slightly more poppy Libertines to my (cloth) ears.
Now a year down the line the press are queuing up to give the band a good kicking. The Twang, The Enemy and the Pigeon Detectives are a few other bands who've been through the same recent whirlwind of hype 'em up and knock 'em down.
And this in a nutshell is my problem with the Uk indie scene. Reputations are made before an album is released. Bands are saviours before a single is out and then often written off after a less than brilliant album. The music press, radio stations and record companies conspiring to give these bands lifespans which make the average mayfly seem like Methuselah by comparison.
When you get beyond all the patriotic tub thumping the UK is quite a small country. There's an whole world out there of bands that are worth a listen. Just statistically its obvious there's going to be more talented musicians in the US to pick an obvious example. Also because of the huge size of that country its actually possible for bands to develop and room for them to gain a local reputation before been bought to our attention. The White Stripes, the Hold Steady and even REM are examples of bands who've been allowed to grow and mature before the NME proclaimed them the next big thing.
Its noticeable that a lot of these bands are much better live than their UK counterparts. I think this is partially some cultural thing that they are more aware that they are entertainers rather than our saviours or whatever it is that the Courteeners think they are. Also these guys have usually played a lot of gigs on the way up and learnt their craft.
There are also a lot of smaller acts that seem to be able to sustain a career which just wouldn't be possible for a British act. I'm thinking of the likes of M Ward, Micah P Hinson, Oakley Hall, Jim White, Regina Spektor, Jesse Malin, Beirut, Laura Veirs etc. Perhaps in Britain its just too claustrophobic with too many artists chasing too small an audience. After all if you've got 2 fans in every town in the US its a hell of a lot more than 2 fans in every town in the UK.
Of course the rest of the world provides some great music as well. Just off the top of my head try Tiniariwen, Sigur Ros, Arcade Fire, Ojos de Brujo & the Howling Bells. To be honest though I've just added this bit to cover my 'Global' headline.
Still if you exist purely on a diet of American (and other non British) bands you are going to find your live kicks hard to find. They won't tour as often and they may not play as close to your home.
So I suggest you supplement your diet of American music with local stuff. Local unsigned bands playing music that isn't over exposed & over hyped.
Beyond the tiny incestuous scene that you hear about in the music press there are tons of bands out playing gigs & recording stuff on shoestrings. A lot of these guys are doing it from love and are a hell of a lot better live than some of the bands I mentioned at the top of this article.
How do you find these bands? Read the music columns in your local papers; catch the support acts when you go to see bands; go see your mate's band or his/her mate's band; follow people's recommendations; find a regular gig night which puts on bands you like and attend even when you haven't heard of the artist. I do all of these things. Important attributes are a decent memory for a name (or write it down) and just the enthusiasm to get out and go to a gig.
I can't advise you on your local area but in my various catchment areas I can recommend the following:
South Yorkshire: Little Lost David, Slow Club, Easytone, Tiny Dancers, Mark Jones
Wakefield/Leeds/York: New Vinyl, Chris Helme, Gary Stewart Band, the Rosie Taylor Project, I concur, Rosie Doonan, Tigers that Talked, JonnytheFirth, Middleman, the Sugars, Ben Walker's various groups
Manchester way: the Travelling Band, Petty Thief, Rook and the Ravens, Ten Bears
Of course you might not like the music of these acts. Go out and find your own favourites. There are bands out there doing every genre you can imagine and there are plenty doing more 'out there stuff' than the music I personally prefer.