Monday, 21 May 2018

Are you local?

The first gig my band played in our home  town was on a Sunday night. It was the only night that our manager, Simon,could persuade the landlord to risk putting on a band, he had never done it before and he was bothered about upsetting his customers. The only places music was  performed was in the clubs, of which there were several, including an underground venue (Joy Division played there once) and a couple of social clubs who would sometimes let the local bands put on their own gigs in their function rooms but aside from that, there was a regular jazz night and that was about it..


The result of us playing there was that the place was rammed, the bar take was more than doubled and the enterprising manager eventually invested in equipment including a PA and lighting show and thereafter ran the place as a small venue successfully for many years.  The buzz around these events resulted in contact with the band from a label (thought nothing came of it).

Sounds far fetched, right?  Well, its a true story.

The way it happened is this, and you should remember that this is before the internet so the only way to get information and to communicate with anyone was by mail, by telephone and face or word of mouth. What we had going for us was that we had a space to rehearse, which we did every day for several weeks until we had good material we could play well and a fantastic manager who worked really hard getting us gigs.

Simon had worked as a croupier in a casino in Amsterdam and had never managed a band before but he was very good at speaking to people and would travel around with a cassette of us in the rehearsal rooms and would persuade the music pubs in the neighboring towns within a 50mile radius to give us a gig and sometimes in pubs that didn't normally have music on strength that we had our own PA and lights. This was true but we are talking a vocal PA and just four cans and a disco controller.  Sometimes nobody came other than the regulars, who were suitably entertained and possibly bought a drink or two more than usual so everyone was reasonably happy, including us because we almost always got paid enough to cover our fuel to get there.

Fly by night...

In those days, if youhad a gig to publisise you flyposted. This is almost impossible when you are playing gigs out of town, though we would put up the odd poster and hand out flyers on the way to the gig, we made up for it, though, by absolutely plastering our home town with flyers for our other gigs in the hope that people would come. They didn't,  but  why should they? Nobody knew who we were.

Simon managed to get us eight or nine gigs in the space of a month. The neighboring towns had a couple of music pubs and small venues each so by the time we  had played these we were running out of options which is why Simon tried and succeeded in getting us a gig at a largish pub at the far end of town though a few of the local bands had tried and failed in the past.

It seems, in retrospect that the flyposting we did to publicise our gigs in other towns in the preceding weeks created a buzz, so when we finally hit town, on night when nothing else was going on everyone turned  out to see what all the fuss was about.  The irony of being known locally is that  if you are ONLY known locally  that makes you a local band but if you are known outside your own town you become a Manchester band or Liverpool band or a Cleethorpes band (Cleethorpes! #Where the hell did that come from?)  Eighties band Squeeze , who spawned the inimitable Jools Holland hailed from Blackheath in South London were always a Blackheath'

Flyposting is rarely done these days and even then it was "dodgy" in that it was not just the authorities that could bust you but other flyposters were known to have "roughed up" a few people for intruding on what they considered their turf . The beauty of flyposters was that they tended to hang around for a little while afterwards before dissapearing which was a good bit of advertising that would not usually come back to haunt you shoulod you change your style, unlike the interweb which is "forever"!

Appreciate the subtleties of buzz creation. Try playing outside your home town. There's a cache to being a band from out of town especially if you are from somewhere with a "scene" do try to avoid the "local band" pitfall. We were lucky. Our early gigs seasoned us so when we played our home town we played to them as if they were anyone, no quarter asked.

Whenever you post to social media, consider what it might look like in the future, Is it a cool relic from your 

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