I’ve been into rock music in a serious way since I was about eleven and I’ve always loved live music. However, in recent years, I’ve been seeing fewer and fewer bands live. I won’t pay touts, I don’t like big outdoor gigs much, and I’ve had other commitments. Then, a couple of months ago, I had a bit of an epiphany, and I’m back at gigs. Not by the mega bands of my youth, who rarely play anything smaller than a football stadium and charge half a month’s wages for a ticket: no, I’ve been championing the little guys, the ones who’re trying to make it, and the ones whose star may not be burning quite as bright as it once did. And, I have to tell you, folks, I’m loving it!
I like to check out Classic Rock Magazine’s tracks of the week online … erm … every week … and it was while doing this that I stumbled across a track by a young British band called Illustr8ors. I loved it, and decided to see if they were playing in Scotland any time soon. They were, but as support to another band – Toseland – who I’d not heard of either. I called one of my mates who’s into the same kind of stuff as me, and he agreed to take a punt on going. At £10 a ticket (including fees) it didn’t seem much of a risk. It wasn’t. Both bands put on a great show and, afterwards, I was inclined to put one of Toseland’s albums on my birthday wish list. (I’ll get the Illustr8ors album when it comes out next year).
There was something different about this type of gig; something life-affirming and inspiring. These lads were trundling around the UK in a couple of vans, setting up their own gear, in tiny venues, and playing to a couple of hundred punters on a good night. It takes guts and a lot of self-belief to do this. It used to be called ‘paying your dues’ but, in this era of instant gratification and instant stardom via dogshit TV shows like X-Factor, it must be even harder than it used to be. I was inspired, I was ready to find something else to go to. Step up RavenEye.
Last night, I went to Glasgow with the same pal and, again, we only had to shell out £10 each for our tickets. I bought their album, Nova, in advance of the gig and loved it, so I was looking forward to hearing songs from it live. Well, they played an absolute blinder. It has to be one of the best gigs I’ve been to – right up there with some of the rock superstars I’ve seen over the years. If these guys don’t make it big, then there’s no justice in the world.
Oli Brown and Aaron Spiers from RavenEye ripping it up in Glasgow
After the gig, they manned their own merchandise stall and I bought an EP, which they signed for me. They were friendly, cheery and brilliant with the punters lining up to buy stuff and have their photos taken with them. After that, they’d be loading their van and pin-balling all over the UK until the end of November.
I’ve played in bands, and I know how hard it can be to get set up for a gig, and what it takes to hone a polished live set. I feel good to be helping these lads on their way in my own small way. There are so many hurdles to overcome – declining numbers of venues, pay-to-play policies, local authority curfews and noise abatement, declining CD sales, and poor live attendances. Bands like the three I’ve mentioned here need all the help we can give them.
Music is something much more than economics, though. It’s good for the soul. It lifts your mood, it brings people together in tribes and common purpose, and it stimulates your mind in ways no computer screen ever could. I hope some of you that might also have fallen by the wayside in terms of live music might consider getting out of the house and watching a few of these little guys. I don’t think you’ll regret it.
Next up for me? I’m going to a two day event called Winter Storm held in the seaside town of Troon. It’s a line-up festooned with a mixture of new Scottish acts and some 80’s bands like FM and Tygers of Pan Tang; still plying their trade, even though they never reached the giddy heights of stardom that some of their contemporaries did. Oh, and Toseland are there as well. I can’t wait!
And finally, for all those struggling bands out there, remember what your old pal Bon Scott said…