It struck me recently that, with more than 30 of these columns under my belt, I’ve never really introduced myself or explained why I do what I do.
I have been a fan of music for almost as long as I can remember, jumping on the heavy metal bandwagon with my mates in secondary school before deciding that I wasn’t going to let other people decide my tastes.
In a nutshell, I would like what I liked.
My gig-going started more than 30 years ago, when I would get the train over Leeds to the sadly missed (by me, anyway) Queen’s Hall to see the likes of Ozzy Osbourne, Whitesnake, Dio and Wham.
Eventually, I upgraded to bigger venues, travelling the country and adding acts such as Bryan Adams, Roxette, Bucks Fizz, Five Star, Queen, U2 and Elton John to my list.
The local scene
Marriage and a family curtailed my live music experiences for a while but I’m lucky to have a wife who, while not being a big music fan herself, understands what it means to me and, since I discovered the local scene in York a little over ten years ago, has let me out to as many gigs as I’ve wanted to see.
After getting over my apprehension of walking into (the original) Fibbers, I have seen upwards of 500 gigs around the city (and have recently started travelling, occasionally, for live music again).
I’ve seen touring bands and local bands, bands who return year-on-year and those who have faded away after one appearance. I blog-reviewed 300 of those gigs. Unfortunately, I decided to give up that aspect a short while back due to a lack of time.
I have never been in a band, I have no idea how to manage a band, promote a band (beyond shouting about them from the metaphorical rooftops) or put on a gig, but I think that I’m more than a fan of music.
I’m a supporter of the local scene. I take pride in the fact that, apart from a handful of times, I have paid for a ticket to every gig that required one (and, for the few that I didn’t, they were mostly forced upon me for various reasons).
It’s rare that I walk away from a gig without having added to my already well-into-four-figures CD collection.
I don’t download illegally and I rarely stream.
Solitary to sold out
I’ve run the gamut from sold out gigs to being the only person in the audience not connected to one of the bands on the bill. York’s music scene, both in terms of touring and local bands, has changed dramatically since I have been going to gigs here and it continues to change.
Selfishly, I want more people to go to gigs in York and find it strange that most of the people I know won’t consider going to see somebody who isn’t yet (and, in some cases, never wants to be) famous.
Unless audiences improve in York bands are going to stop coming here, but I remain positive about the scene. There is too much negativity elsewhere.
How this guide is compiled
So, that’s why I spend a couple of days putting this column together every month, but how do I do it? Well, pretty much the same way that I decide which gigs I’m going to try to get to every month.
I scour the venues’ what’s on listings (some are good, full of information, others are quite frankly awful), picking out acts that I want to see. I might not like everything, but I still have wide tastes – and then add a sprinkling of stuff that doesn’t interest me but what I think might interest others.
It’s primarily a personal choice and, yes, it’s going to skewed away from some genres but I try to include a bit of everything.
Where I don’t know the bands I will try to give as accurate a description as possible, drawing from whatever sources I can find and never making anything up. Oh, yes, and I try to include a bit of trivia and something personal into each month’s column, just for entertainment’s sake.
Anyway, that’s quite enough self-indulgence for one lifetime. Let’s get on to the main business.
I know, I know… Summer is still but a distant hope and, as I write this, Storm Doris is causing disruption elsewhere in the country. But there are three “festivals” (or all-day events) on in York this month.
My recommendation is York’s Little Festival of Live Music’s event on the 4th at the Black Swan. YLFoLM work hard throughout the year to promote local and not-so-local music at a variety of events throughout the city.
This latest one ties in with International Women’s Week and is a celebration of Girl Power, with their first all-female bill.
Starting at 3pm and going on until 9pm you can see harpist Sarah Dean, a special all-female line-up of Celtic/Gypsy band Leather’o, brilliant songwriter and busker Rachel Croft, singer/songwriter Gracie Falls, ex-Mostly Autumn frontwoman (now making waves with her own band) Heather Findlay and Holly Taymar of The Bronze.
It really is a cracking, diverse line-up and well worth getting along to see. Entry is free, but there is a suggested donation of £5 which will go to the York-based Kyra – women’s project.
Elsewhere, the Fulford Arms has two big events. The Brodown festival returns after a three year hiatus. Featuring mainly local metal acts this also takes place on the 4th (I doubt there will be much of a crossover audience).
Starting slightly earlier at 2pm and finishing at around 11pm, there is room for more acts and the bill includes, On The Ropes, Earthbreaker, On Hollow Ground, Amongst Thieves, Shot Down Stay Down and Mitzi’s Revenge, among others.
Musically even further away from my highlight is promoter Northern Extremity’s latest venture, also at the Fulford Arms, this time on the 18th. This is a day dedicated to the UK’s extreme metal scene, with a line-up that includes Reign of Erebus (Basingstoke), Wolfbastard (Manchester), Primitive Graven Image (Chesham) and Human Mycosis (Cornwall), this time among many others.
Buckets full of talent
I have a bucket list of acts I’d like to see. It’s a big bucket and a growing list and it’s unlikely ever to be fulfilled, even if it stopped growing now (and Pink Floyd decided to re-form).
However, one artist on it is in York in March. I was captivated by Scottish singer/songwriter Amy Macdonald’s single This Is The Life and love her album of the same name.
Being honest, the next two albums didn’t live up to her début (her fourth is currently in my “to listen to” pile) but the live disc included with A Curious Thing goes a long way to showcase her on-stage energy and passion for performing.
I’m fairly certain she has played York before but I missed it for some reason. This time I will be at The Barbican on the 29th to add remove her from the bucket and add her to the ever-expanding list.
It seems that, for me, it’s going to be a month full of female artists. One gig on the Fibbers listing that has caught my eye is Sari Schorr & The Engine Room on the 23rd.
I hadn’t heard of this Brooklyn blues singer before, but her write-up is one of those that reached out and made me take notice. “A force of nature.” “The blues speak through her.” “The real dirty sad funny wonderful blues.”
That last one might have brought out the grammar-nazi in me and it is all typical press-release stuff, but it has done its job and piqued my interest.
Of course, it helps that local blues band The Dead Cats are in support.
I’ve seen them, in various incarnations, a few times now, the last supporting The Brew when they got a great reception from the early crowd and managed to sell a few CDs from their merchandise bucket.
I still haven’t managed to get to see Beth McCarthy play live but I get another chance this month when she kicks off her biggest tour yet at the Basement on the 9th with a full band show.
Although, I may miss out again as, the last I heard, this gig was close to selling out.
You can also Laruansee at the same venue two days earlier when she supports King No-One frontman Zach Lount as he plays an intimate show – just him and a piano – before heading off on tour with the band again.
Amber Arcades sounds like the name of an indie-rock band.
It’s not, it’s the performing moniker of Annelotte de Graaf, a Dutch singer song-writer whose 2016 début album Fading Lines, self-recorded in New York and funded by her own life savings, has been described as dazzling.
She will be playing the Basement on the 22nd.
Continuing, if somewhat tenuously, the female theme, I’m going to mention Frontier Ruckus at the Fulford Arms on the 8th, although I’m fairly certain I will be working that night so I won’t be at the show.
Frontier Ruckus are an indie-folk band who hail from Michigan and will be playing York on the first night of their UK tour, five days after ending the US leg in New York.
They do have a woman in their line-up, but that’s not the connection I was making. Nor is the fact that a full-band Boss Caine (still one of my favourite York acts) is also on the bill, almost certainly meaning that Jennifer Chubb will be on cello.
No, the link I was referring to is Amy May Ellis, another singer/songwriter from around York who changes the singer-and-guitar sound slightly by playing a four-string guitar. (Or, at least, she did the only other time I’ve seen her play.)
Finally on my list of highlights is one-hit wonder and cult favourite John Otway (not a female) who is back at the Basement on the 18th.
I saw him play there the last time he toured with long-time collaborator Wild Willy Barrett (one of those few gigs that I was given a ticket for) and it was one of the most entertaining and funniest gigs I’ve ever seen.
I’m not sure whether it will be the same this time around, without his comedic foil but, to be honest, if it is half as good it will still be brilliant.
Support comes in the form of Marbled, another talented singer/songwriter from our city.
Picks by genre
There are so many genres and sub-genres these days that sometimes it seems that each band could have their own. I’m going to make it difficult for myself and list a few other gigs by, admittedly wide, genres.
Apologies in advance if I lump one of your favourite bands in with others that you can’t stand and would never put together.
I’ll start with the easy stuff and get folk out of he way first. As usual your main purveyors are, somewhat appropriately, The Black Swan Folk Club and they continue to expand with larger gigs at the National Centre for Early Music.
March sees them put on two gigs there – Leveret, an instrumental collaboration of Andy Cutting, Sam Sweeney and Rob Harbron, three of England’s finest folk musicians on the 6th.
Back at the Black Swan itself, you can only see the madcap multi-instrumental band The Curchfitters on the 2nd if you were quick enough to snap up a ticket before the show sold out.
Away from the Black Swan, you can also catch Canadian-born, US-based indie-folk singer Devon Sproule when she plays the Basement on the 30th.
When it comes to metal, there is a small Scandinavian invasion with Sweden’s Bonafide, apparently the country’s finest in low down, dirty mean rock ‘n’ roll leading the charge with their “AC/DC meets The Cult” sound at Fibbers on the 10th.
This is one of those rotating headliners tours, so get their early to avoid missing your favourite. In fact, get their earlier still to see the support band, Glasgow’s Seraph Sin.
If indie-rock is your thing then you are almost spoiled for choice with local bands this month. Part Time Miserables kick off the month at Fibbers on the 3rd, Glass Caves, recently featured on the BBC website, return to the same venue on the 18th.
Fans of post-punk will need no introduction to Theatre Of Hate (hey, even I’ve heard of them…) who play Fibbers on the 16th but might not have come across Bristol’s Idles who visit the Crescent on the 27th, as part of their Brutalism tour.
Space-rock is a genre. It’s just not a very popular one, at least not in York in March.
Punk is also a genre, but you can’t blame me for that. (Insert smiley face here…) It’s a genre I know little about so I don’t know if these are the best bands playing York this month, but you can find 2 Sick Monkeys at the Fulford Arms on the 24th.
And The Ramonas, an all-girl tribute to The Ramones, are at the Crescent on the same day. Could that be a difficult choice for punk fans?
Not a genre but a description (of sorts) that drags more people to gigs and probably doesn’t need me to mention the acts.
As usual, there is more. I don’t pretend this is a comprehensive list. It might not even feature what some people think are the best gigs of the month.
If I’ve missed off your favourite, or even just something you think I should have mentioned, that’s what the comments section is for.
Here is the usual chronological list of the main gigs I covered above. All details are correct at time of putting this column together and ticket prices are as advertised. Paying on the door at Fibbers will cost a pound or two more.
On a smartphone? Scroll horizontally to see all the info
|3rd||Part Time Miserables||Fibbers||£5|
|4th||Girl Power Mini-Festival||Black Swan||Free (£5 suggested charity donation)|
|Brodown Festival||Fulford Arms||£8 adv / £10 otd|
|8th||Frontier Ruckus||Fulford Arms||£6 adv / £8 otd|
|9th||Beth McCarthy||Basement||£5 adv / £6 otd|
|Lost Trends||Fulford Arms||£5|
|13th||Mortiis / Pig||Fibbers||£16|
|14th||Bay City Rollers||Grand Opera House||£27.40|
|15th||Blown Out||Crescent||£6 adv / £8 otd|
|16th||Theatre of Hate||Fibbers||£15|
|Jim Causley||Black Swan||£9 adv / £10 otd|
|18th||John Otway||Basement||£12 adv / £14 otd|
|Disciples of Extremity all-dayer||Fulford Arms||£9 adv / £12 otd|
|20th||Gilbert O’Sullivan||Grand Opera House||£33.65|
|21st||Marti Pellow||Barbican||£44.24 upwards|
|22nd||Amber Arcades||Basement||£7.50 adv / £9.50 otd|
|23rd||Sari Schorr & The Engine Room||Fibbers||£12|
|Kieran Halpin||Black Swan||£10 adv / £11 otd|
|24th||2 Sick Monkeys||Fulford Arms||£5|
|26th||Marc Almond||Barbican||£25.20 upwards|
|28th||Steve Tilston & Jez Lowe||NCEM||£15|
|29th||Amy MacDonald||Barbican||£25.20 upwards|
|30th||Devon Sproule||Basement||£11 adv / £13 otd|