In April last year, I had listed 50 gigs that were available in York across seven venues (the Grand Opera House had no live music that month). This year, in nine venues, there are 40.
It’s not a huge drop and, admittedly, I am still having trouble finding full listings for a couple of our venues, but it is, to me anyway, a worrying reduction, especially when you take into account that there are twice as many tribute bands playing our city this month as there was in the equivalent month last year.
Small venues are the life-blood of the live music industry. It used to be that audiences weren’t turning out to see bands – I have attended two gigs where I have been the only person in the audience not connected to any of the bands playing.
If it’s now changing to be that venues aren’t putting on as many gigs, or bands are playing even smaller venues – it seems to me that both York’s mid-sized venues used to put on more local bands than they do these days – are we experiencing a paradigm shift at the lower levels of live music?
Luckily, those gigs that are being put on seem to be very well-attended, from well-known British acts like Reef to lesser-known international acts like Frøkedal, so the venues themselves appear to be relatively safe.
But where does that leave the local bands? I’m no expert, and people more involved in the industry than I am may think things are in a better place than I do, so maybe I should just get on with telling you what’s available this month…
Where I’ll be
Having said all that, most of the gigs I’m aiming to get to this month feature local acts of one level or another. Kicking things off at the very start of the month are the talented young punk/rockers of Minster Conspiracy, as they open for alt-rockers Blind Eye at Fibbers on the 1st.
Blind Eye themselves have been on a short hiatus but are back with a new EP and a tour that will see them take in venues across the North of England (and has already seen them play up in Edinburgh). These guys impressed me back in 2014 and I haven’t been able to catch any of their subsequent gigs, so I’m hoping to get to this one.
If I do get to that gig, it rules me out for another as Blackbeard’s Tea Party play The Duchess on the same night. A superb live act, their performances are always energetic and their gig’s just slightly raucous. I’ll catch them next time.
I’ve said before that I don’t often go to see tribute acts but I will be this month, when Heaven Or Hell play the music of Dio at Fibbers on the 16th.
I saw Dio in Leeds back in the eighties and I think I had an album or two of theirs, probably taped from a friend’s copy, but I can’t remember much about them. Maybe memories will come flooding back, who knows?
But it’s not them I’m mainly going to see. York band Morpheus Rising’s current line-up may only include two of their original members (and one of them is quite often replaced due to other commitments) but this is the band that, a few years ago, rekindled my interest in NWOBHM music.
With a third album being, I believe, worked on they are continuing to work with tribute bands in order to build up a following. Also on the bill is multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Howard Sinclair, whose work I have heard a lot about in prog circles but have yet to hear myself.
There’s another “blast from the past” for me at The Duchess on the 10th. I loved Nerina Pallot’s 2006 single Everybody’s Gone To War (and its accompanying video) and saw her live back in 2009 when I fell in love with her music all over again.
Last year’s album release – The Sound And The Fury – is superb and a huge change in tone from the singer/songwriter sounds of her previous releases. It’s more blues-y, more brash and just a little bit tempestuous and I can’t wait to see how the songs sit alongside her back catalogue in a live set.
The gig I’m most looking forward to this month, however, has an even stranger back story. Mantra Vega are a band whose members come from both sides of the Atlantic.
Co-founded by Dave Kerzner (Sound of Contact) and York’s Heather Findlay (ex-Mostly Autumn) it also includes Chris Johnson and Alex Cromarty (both also Mostly Autumn, among others), Stu Fletcher (We Could Be Astronauts) and Dave Kilminster (Roger Waters).
Earlier this year they released The Illusions Reckoning, a much anticipated prog-rock album that I (due to my own forgetfulness) have yet to hear. Anyway, Mantra Vega aren’t playing York this month…
However, with Kerzner and Kilminster too busy with other projects to tour, Heather has put together her own band – with Angela Gordon (Mostly Autumn) and John Mitchell (It Bites, Lonely Robot, Frost* and others) joining Johnson, Fletcher and Cromarty – to play the album in full at a number of venues across the UK. They hit Fibbers on the 14th.
Even though prog rock seems to be growing in popularity it seems to me that it still remains a bit of a niche market (and there can be little or no crossover audience at gigs I have been to). I think this gig, however, will be popular, with people travelling to York to attend it.
Support comes from Chris Johnson’s current band, Halo Blind.
Other gigs that sound like they could be interesting include John Otway and Wild Willy Barrett at the Basement on the 2nd.
Musical styles that include folk, blues, pop and punk collide with dry humour and on-stage antics for a tour that either hints or promises will be the duo’s last and it sounds like it could be well worth taking a trip out to see.
Simo are touted as being rooted in the blues-rock power trios of the late sixties, combining improvisational jazz, gritty rock and soulful blues in a transcendent live experience. You can judge for yourself at The Basement on the 5th.
I don’t remember The View, the rock ’n’ rollers from Dundee who play Fibbers on the 11th. But, then, I didn’t remember Reef or The Coral and that didn’t stop me buying tickets for their gigs, so maybe I’ll head along to this one as well.
Similarly, I know I’ve never heard of noise-rock band Three Trapped Tigers, but the write-up on Fibber’s website for their appearance there on the 19th sounds like it could be right up one of my many musical streets.
“Live, they are a vortex, a swirling mass of layered sound, complex but not pompous, gracefully intelligent and wildly primal.”
If you want to be part of the recording of a live album, if only as part of an applauding and cheering audience, head along to The Duchess on the 22nd, when Vinnie Whitehead, frontman of Vinnie And The Stars, solo artist and open mic stalwart (as well as mixer and co-producer of Mulholland’s recent album) will be recording his first solo acoustic album.
I saw The Alarm many years ago, but only because they opened for Queen at Wembley (back when I still did regular stadium gigs) and never really got into them.
Their frontman Mike Peters is back at The Duchess on the 29th when he will be presenting his “Alarm as a one-man band” concept, as well as debuting new material.
The 30th presents me with another choice when The Basement plays host to The Taskers, a garage-rock band primarily from the Midlands (but which also includes York-based cellist Sarah Pickwell) which I have seen and enjoyed before.
On the same night, The Red Hot Chilli Pipers appear at Fibbers to perform “bagrock” – a blend of traditional Scottish music and rock anthems which has seen them become the most famous bagpipe band on the planet. Tricky one…
If folk is your thing (and it is sometimes mine) then The Black Swan has its usual mix of acts for your perusal, starting on the 7th with Winter Wilson’s – Kip Winter and Dave Wilson – stunning harmonies.
Then there’s virtuoso guitarist and York university graduate Sam Carter on the 21st and a triple bill of singers who have previously impressed the venue on the 28th, when Gemma Khawaja makes the trip up from Norfolk and Dariush Kanani and the trio Fireside Nights make the shorter trip across from Leeds.
The Crescent, York’s newest venue, continues to put on an eclectic mix of acts. In my opinion, the most interesting of this month’s sounds is the Midwestern drone of Wussy, who will be there on the 29th.
Although Holy Moly and the Crackers also come highly recommended and they will be on stage on the 20th.
As usual, there are more gigs than I have musical tastes, so there are bound to be some that I have no interest in. Top of the list, as ever, are the punk bands whose genre I doubt I will ever get into.
If that is your thing, though, you could probably do worse than Fibbers on the 29th when Chelsea, celebrating their 40th anniversary, will be playing. I admit it, I’ve never heard of them, even though their original line-up featured one William Broad (later known as Billy Idol, some of whose singles I do actually quite like…)
From the same genre (sort of), but presumably on a smaller scale, you can see TV Smith, formerly of The Adverts (who, like Chelsea, formed in 1976) at The Fulford Arms on the 2nd and London-based “feminist left-wing vegan band” Colour Me Wednesday at the same venue on the 3rd.
While American pop-punk band Patent Pending are at The Duchess on the 15th.
Away from punk, you can find The BellRays combining garage-rock and soul singing styles at Fibbers on the 15th and Gordon Raphael, who produced The Strokes, playing his own material the same venue on the 28th.
A final word
There’s more. There’s always more. The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed that I have only mentioned 24 gigs and, as I always say, I can’t cover everything. If you think there’s something I have missed that deserves attention, leave a comment below.
Below is a 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.
|Blackbeard’s Tea Party||The Duchess||£5|
|2nd||John Otway & Wild Willy Barrett||The Basement||£15|
|TV Smith||The Fulford Arms||£8.80|
|3rd||Colour Me Wednesday||The Fulford Arms||£4|
|7th||Winter Wilson||The Black Swan||£8|
|10th||Nerina Pallot||The Duchess||Unknown|
|14th||The Heather Findlay Band||Fibbers||£15|
|Patent Pending||The Duchess||£12|
|16th||Morpheus Rising / Heaven or Hell||Fibbers||£8|
|19th||Three Trapped Tigers||Fibbers||£10|
|20th||Holy Moly and the Crackers||The Crescent||£8 adv / £10 otd|
|21st||Sam Carter||The Black Swan||£11|
|22nd||Vinnie Whitehead||The Duchess||£5 adv / £7 otd|
|Gemma Khawaja, Dariush Kanani, Fireside Nights||The Black Swan||£8|
|Mike Peters||The Duchess||£16|
|Wussy||The Crescent||£8 adv / £10 otd|
|30th||The Taskers||The Basement||£5|
|The Red Hot Chilli Pipers||Fibbers||£20|