Friday 26th May 2023 @ Manchester Academy 3
Just last Tuesday when I went to see Meryl Streek, I got speaking to some fellow avid gig goers and we were talking about how turnouts seem to generally be down at the moment, prompting us to worry about how sustainable grass roots live music is.
So it was a pleasant surprise to turn up in Manchester for tonight’s show, half an hour before doors opened, to be greeted with a queue stretching around the block.
As it turned out, the Club Academy in the basement (620 capacity) had a sold out show, but still, Academy 3 (450 capacity) I’d say was at least half full.
However, seeing how amazing all 3 bands were – for a measly tenner to get in, this show IMHO should have sold out in minutes if there were any justice.
Mark Davyd of Music Venue Trust makes an excellent point that arena’s should subsidise small venues since without somewhere for new bands to develop they will eventually run out of acts to put on.
But equally, I’d like to see someone do a survey to find out why so many people are reluctant to go to smaller shows, so that their concerns can be addressed and make smaller venues sustainable in their own right.
I’ve heard people complain that bars in gig venues aren’t very good – little choice other than cooking lager in a squishy glass for £8 – but then that’s true of arenas as well, and at the Academy, whilst they had no craft beers, there was a decent enough choice under £5 a pint.
When I was buying Arctic Monkeys tickets for my daughter, there were over 200,000 people in the queue – so there’s clearly no shortage of people who enjoy live music – with so many incredible bands around at the moment, every venue should be packed out on a regular basis.
When a new eatery opens, people are keen to try it out – even though the food could be shit. And yet tell people about a new band that they need to see and watch the tumbleweed?
Presumably there’s some kind of perception that intimate venue gigs aren’t as good as arena shows, when (for me at least) the opposite is true – being close enough to see the band without having to watch them on a tv screen is definitely a positive.
Seemingly tonight’s opening act, Seb Lowe has a sold out Manchester show next month at a 1,300 capacity show – yet tonight’s 450 capacity show wasn’t a sell out? Madness!
If it is down to (wrong) perceptions, perceptions can be changed. When I used to drink Cider people took the piss out of me because they saw it as an unsophisticated drink. Then Magners came out with their “ice” campaign, suddenly the very same people were sitting with a bottle of cider and glass of ice on their table – the drink hadn’t changed, but their perceptions had. Whichever agency did that campaign, are needed in grassroots live music – NOW!
Last time I was in Manchester was to see Dan Mangan, and between songs he was talking about how unsustainable his European tours are becoming. As he’s based in Canada, with cost of flights and everything else going up, meanwhile attendances are falling, presumably due to cost of living crisis.
He made an excellent point that 100 people had turned out to see him. He might not be everyone’s cup of tea – no band is universally liked (personally I think he’s bloody amazing) but as he said, there must be at least another 100 people in the whole of Manchester who would have enjoyed his show, which would have made it sell out and make it more economically sustainable, but either they haven’t heard of him, didn’t know about the show, or had some other reason for not coming.
If everyone who attended just brought one more person next time…
Thing is, people don’t really talk about bands they like any more.
For example, I saw Skating Polly in 2019 and they blew me away, so much so that having said I’d never do any gig promotion again, I roped in an active promoter to put them on in Liverpool. Fair to say, I posted about them a lot, even before I was co-promoting one of their shows, and when I meet someone I don’t see very often or that I only know on Facebook, they always ask “so, are you Skating Polly’s manager?” assuming you’d only post about a band because you have some financial connection with them, rather than because you’re a massive fan and want other people to experience their awesomeness too.
Anyway… I’ll get off my soap box and back to the gig!
Tonight’s show was presented by Chris Hawkins of BBC 6 Music, and as you’d expect, someone who plays music for a living on a station like 6 Music is going to have his finger firmly on the pulse and put together an impressive lineup.
First up were Seb Lowe
I must admit that I didn’t know a lot about Seb Lowe, and didn’t think they’d really be my kind of thing, but how wrong I was! Thankfully, I like to get to gigs early and see all the bands – sometimes the band you are going for disappoints whilst a band you didn’t think you’d like blow you away.
Anyone going to their sold out show next month is in for a real treat.
I could have gone home happy at this stage, still feeling guilty I’d only paid a tenner to get in!
Next up were Talk Show
Talk Show are regularly played on Chris’s show, and I expected to enjoy them – but live they are pure adrenalin – brilliant front man, and tunes that you just can’t stay still to (even if like me you can’t dance).
A band I definitely need to go and see again.
By this stage I was feeling guilty that I’d had so much entertainment for a measly tenner – and still there was more to come!
Several people had told me I need to see Loose Articles, and that was some of the best advice I’ve had all year!
Ridiculously catchy tunes, with the right mix of serious messages and playful silly songs too. If you weren’t on the train on Friday night with “ye wee chicken nugget” running through your head, you weren’t there 🙂
The audience were clearly loving it, and no wonder.
The night is called “Awesome Friends” and something that struck me was that all 3 bands seemed to have a lot of chemistry.
I didn’t realise how important that was until I saw Beach Bunny last year. I’d originally bought tickets for a 100 capacity venue in 2020, but then they became popular via TikTok and after being rolled over, sold out the 1,500 capacity O2 Academy Ritz.
I’d been looking fwd to it for 3 years, the band sounded great, the audience loved it, but there was a definite atmosphere between the band, and it just took the shine off the night for me.
A night like tonight where the bands seem to genuinely be enjoying the experience, is infectious and it adds to the mood.
It’s always a bit precarious getting to Manchester and back via public transport, and after a busy week at work I must admit I was looking out at the sun shining in the garden thinking “I fancy just having a quiet beer in the garden”, but to say tonight was worth the effort is an understatement.
I saw a friend was at Bearded Theory and Loose Articles were playing, so after 2 people telling me to check them out, I suggested to him that he check them out, and he wasn’t disappointed. We all need to do a lot more of that!
It seems Awesome Friends is an annual night. I wonder if it’s too early to book for next year?