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Live Music News

Is Live Music Back?

 

The more alert of you will have noticed we recently snuck up a new event. An event that features some live music. Those of you with long memories will realise that this is auspicious as it will be our first live music since mid-March. However, do not get too excited in thinking this marks the long-awaited return of our live music programme, because it does not. This is just us scratching the itch, seeing how it works under current situations and checking to see what the demand is like.

I will attempt to explain. There is nothing more we would like than to launch back into a full line up. I had the year booked up right through to our summer break in August when Covid-19 shut things down in March. I also had a smattering of post August events scheduled too; the year was about 75% booked from about February. Of course, all the gigs from late March to the Shuffle (our normal break point) in July have had to be cancelled under government orders, and rightly so. I got brave in June and started filling in September onwards, because surely things will be better by then. Well, no, not so far. But, as of last weekend, indoor musical events were allowed again, albeit under the current distancing regulations. Hurrah you say! The music is back you say! But it is not.

Some venues are manfully attempting to get going again, and I applaud them. But these are venues that have no real choice. Places like Level III exist only for live music. They only open for gigs. Without them, they cease to have any relevance. That is not the case with us of course, we are first and foremost a bar. We can open without gigs, these are just a nice little side-line (an important one for us personally, but less so from a business perspective). So, we have not been claiming support for music venues to ensure the maximum possible could go to the places that really need it (like Level III here in Swindon, or The Exchange or Louisiana in Bristol or Moles in Bath etc), places that don’t have trade without gigs. I have written in the past about the Music Venue Trust (check that out here: https://thetuppenny.com/2020/05/11/the-tuppenny-lock-out-diary-02/) who have been doing incredible work raising the issue and working with government to solve it; and they are getting there. They have been instrumental in securing the recent funding packages, they have helped save venues like the Deaf Institute and Gorilla in Manchester from closing and so much more. Go and check them out and see what you can do to help.

But back to little old us. As I said, we have been observers in all this, we have the bar and some shop trade keeping us going, so have always felt others were more deserving (even when some musicians hosted an online gig with us as the official bar, so we received donations from the audience in lieu of them buying a pint, we gave all that money to the musicians playing). Which brings me to the point of this blog. We will not be leaping back in to doing gigs until some of the restrictions are lifted. Quite simply, this is because it is not financially viable for us to do it. Why, may you ask, how on earth can attracting extra people to the bar not be worth it? Well, in normal times you would be right in assuming this, it is worth it, very much worth it. However, with the reduced capacity, which reduces even more with the stage being set up, we simply cannot take enough money to pay the musicians.

Yes, you read that right; “pay the musicians”. Because that is what we do. For every show we have put on, we pay them a fee. It is their job. They are working. So, they should be fairly paid for this. We have a real issue with venues and events that do not offer payment to musicians, whether it is from the bar take or by charging for tickets. If you cannot afford the music, do not have it. It is not fair you are profiting from other people’s efforts. Therefore, it is for this reason that we are not going to be rushing in to putting gigs on. We would probably lose money if we did – unless the current gig capacity of about 30 people all decided to spend about £40 each over the bar, which is not all that realistic (go on – prove me wrong; come to the Jim Blair gig that is part of our Summer Blow-Out and hammer your debit card – I dare you, nay, I double dare you to! Make me look like a fool), then we do not cover everything we need to, and right now every penny counts. It is not even like we are making enough through the week to cover gig related losses, as I have mentioned in other blogs, as our capacity has gone down, we have had to increase staff costs.

So, I am left monitoring the booked gigs, gradually cancelling them as this all drags on. Will we be hosting live music again this year? I hope so, there is some brilliant stuff booked in towards Christmas, but I cannot see it. Live music will be back at some point. It is in our DNA. It just might not be for a little while. Which sucks.

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Live Music News

The Tuppenny Lock-Out Diary #02

The Music Venue Trust, Live Music & Us!

Hey all, Ed again! When we set up The Tuppenny, in many people’s eyes we probably had the worlds worst business plan and went about everything arse-about-face. But, for us, the idea was to create a place that we wanted to be. It was that simple. We were fed up with the proliferation of carbon copy plastic bars serving the same obvious drinks to people that we quite frankly did not want to hang around with. Big companies selling even bigger companies’ products to people who could not care what they were drinking. People who went along with the crowd and had no independent thought. Your basic sheep, essentially. We wanted to serve drinks from independent producers who cared more about quality than cost, drinks that were properly handled and served by people who cared what they were selling you and knew their stuff. We really did not want to deal with all the problems and hassle that comes from running a mainstream bar and all the dickheads and menacing atmosphere that cheap booze brings.

Alongside this, there was always going to be music. With backgrounds like ours, that was a given. Linda had spent over 9 years managing the bar at music venues The Victoria and 12 Bar and I had been putting gigs on and running festivals for years as well as writing about and releasing music. Then, there is Jamie, who has had a life immersed in music, playing in local bands, touring the country in those bands, sound engineering, touring even further afield as a professional session player for bigger musicians and of course, a long stint at Holmes Music equipping the areas musicians and repairing their instruments. It is fair to say we couldn’t not have some form of live music in our new place.

What kind of music that was got partly determined by the space we had. The Tuppenny is not big, is pretty much one room, with low ceilings and residential flats directly above. Anything that was too loud would not have worked – we would have had a litany of noise complaints, deaf customers and staff and besides, a five-piece band with full drums takes up a fair amount of space, leaving little room for customers. So, smaller acoustic based set ups it was then. We all liked a wide variety of music so this was no issue and I had plenty of contacts on the circuit built up over the years. We picked Thursdays initially as a music night, as Fridays and Saturdays we had no need to attract custom, it was already coming and we consequently didn’t have the space available for music. We went with just 2 sessions a month, both to keep costs down as we found our way and built an audience, and so as to ensure we kept the quality levels high and people interested. Of course, in keeping with our desire to be a little different and more artisan, we only book artists who perform their own material, not covers acts. Again, the sort of music we would go and see ourselves.

We have found ourselves part of a wider music circuit, attracting artists not just from the local talent pool, but artists who tour the country, people making a living from playing their own songs. We eventually got brave and have had bands with drummers (small set ups, admittedly) and widened our musical scope as best we can within our physical limitations – some of our favourite shows have been when we have encouraged bands to strip back their sound, reinterpret what they do and tailor it to suit our space and our audience. We have hosted folk, americana, blues, soul, indie, dream-pop, roots, afrobeat, drone, punk, electronica, rock, all in way that suited our vibe. We even extended music to include a monthly Sunday afternoon chilled session and host several sessions of local festival The Swindon Shuffle every July. There are not many places in town that you would find the kind of artists we host (hello to our friends at The Beehive!) and that is perfect for us.

Of course, since the Covid-19 enforced lockdown, all our lovingly curated live music events have been cancelled (many to be rearranged when possible). This is not ideal of course, but can’t be helped. As I noted in an earlier blog, we quickly converted ourselves to an online store with home delivery (and now click-and-collect), so we are not reliant on any income generated by the live events. However, the artists themselves are and so are a lot of our peers on the circuit. Which is why, because we see ourselves as having a wider responsibility within this live music community, we have been following but not getting involved with the current #saveourvenues campaign from the Music Venues Trust (MVT). Whilst we do not yet need this kind of support, others do, which is why I wanted to highlight it and bring it to your attention.

The MVT is a UK registered charity which acts to protect, secure and improve Grassroots Music Venues. These venues have played a crucial role in the development of British music over the last 60 years, nurturing local talent, providing a platform for artists to build their careers and develop their music and their performance skills. In a nutshell – if bands like Muse, Arctic Monkey’s, Radiohead or even Ed Sheeran hadn’t cut their teeth and honed their craft at these venues, then they wouldn’t be where they are today, selling millions of records and tickets worldwide and bringing millions of pounds into the economy. These issues are not new however, the MVT was founded back in 2014, way before Covid -19 was a thing, because existing pressures on these venues such as noise abatement issues, building developments, and financial stresses on audiences have meant that many have already closed, or were at extreme risk of closure way before the current, government ordered, closedown. They have been sorting out legal representation for venues, providing experts in acoustics to help with cases and were instrumental in pushing through parliament the “Agent of Change” legislation that now requires any developer building in the vicinity of a music venue to bear responsibility for soundproofing their development or improving the venues existing soundproofing.

Since the closedown they have upped the ante somewhat as there are now over 500 venues at imminent risk of closure and organised the large scale #saveourvenues crowdfunder (which at time of writing was sitting at well over £1 million raised). Additionally, they are helping link artists with venues to put on and promote to a wider audience fundraising live streams (including some higher profile artists – big props to Frank Turner who has been instrumental in all this). It is hoped all of this will ensure these venues can survive the shutdown and last through until the live music machine grinds back into gear again, something that is looking less and less likely to happen this year.

I am sure many people wonder what all the fuss is about. So what if some grubby little music venues close down? However, just a small amount of forward thinking would reveal that were these venues to close, there would be no next generation of bands and artists coming through. No fresh new Coldplay (not the worst thing ever suggested), Foals or Royal Blood. Hell, even the Beatles and the Stones cut their teeth in small dingy venues back in the day. Just imagine a world without any of this music in it. Who would be headlining festivals? We would be stuck in a world full of anodyne, written-to-order pappy pop nonsense. The result would be no different to removing the foundations of a building. Soon enough the whole thing will collapse, even the exclusive penthouses on the top floor.

So, whilst you wait for the great re-opening of pubs, bars and venues, spend a little of your time looking at what the MVT are doing, and if you really care about live music, at any level, even if you only ever go to big corporate festivals and gigs, do something to help save the grassroots venues as they are the lifeblood of the industry and without them there would eventually be no Glastonbury, or O2 Arena shows. Chuck a few quid into the crowdfunder, or into the pot at one of the excellent online gigs that are going on at the moment. It all counts.

The Music Venue Trust are found here: http://musicvenuetrust.com/

More on #saveourvenues campaign is here: https://saveourvenues.co.uk/#/

 

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Thursday Night Music Club

Live Music Session #71 – Matt Owens (Noah & The Whale) + NASH

Matt Owens March 20 Tupp WEB

You know you are doing something right when promotors and venues of the scale of SoP and The Tuppenny are attracting artists of the calibre of Matt Owens, artists with 2 top 10 albums (plus 2 top 20 ones) to their name….

Matt is a British singer-songwriter and musician, who came to prominence as one of the founder members of indie-folk band Noah and the Whale, and for fronting Rock’n’Roll band Little Mammoths.
Releasing four albums, Noah and the Whale achieved huge success in the UK and overseas, selling over one million albums in the UK alone. The band toured the world between 2006 and 2015, playing hundreds of festivals, including Austin City Limits, Fuji Rocks and Lollapalooza, as well as touring with the likes of Arcade Fire, Bahamas, and Laura Marling.

February 2019 saw the release of Matt’s debut solo album, “Whiskey and Orchids” to widespread critical acclaim including a 5 star review in Maverick Magazine. It is an album that sits closest to “Americana” with its rich, lyrical storytelling, shot through with gallow’s humour, combined with Matt’s return to his beloved acoustic guitar, betraying hints of favourite artists Neil Young and Warren Zevon. Nigel Stonier produced the album which featured Tom Waits’ drummer Michael Blair, Thea Gilmore, Carleigh Aikins from Bahamas, and Robert Vincent.
Local support comes in the fine shape of NASH, aka Gary Nash, who is known more for playing drums and percussion with Richard Wileman & Amy Fry, guitar and vocals with AT-IT and The three of Us. NASH has embarked on his own songwriting and performing adventure. The RUN and RUN Acoustic albums are a culmination of almost 3 years of work and feature skilled and impassioned folk and americana songs

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Live Music Thursday Night Music Club

Live Music Session #33 – Kid Calico & The Astral Ponies

Coming up in our second October session – a stripped down, scrubbed-up and suitably intimate show especially for The Tuppenny. Not only are the guys expanding their set with some special songs, they will be bringing a hat load of friends, for this gig doubles as Kid Calico himself’s birthday!

Original olde time music hall, 60’s psychedelia, and new-world country rock, riding in with a grin (and possibly tank-tops) from the borders of Wiltshire and Oxfordshire.

Music for people seeking foot tapping thrills, heart tugging anthems, daring circus ditties and Mexican waltzes proven to cause ankle injuries.

Full details here.

 

 

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Live Music Thursday Night Music Club

Live Music Session #32 – Atari Pilot + Nick Felix

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Live Music Thursday Night Music Club

Live Music Session #31 – Larkham & Hall + Sunset Service

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Live Music

Live Music Session #30 – Richard Wileman + Jarid Clark-Bound

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Live Music

The 2018 Swindon Shuffle at The Tuppenny

Once again we are very proud to be hosting 3 sessions for the Swindon Shuffle. Check out the line up below. Plenty more info at the festival website.

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Live Music

Live Music Session #29 – Chris Webb

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Live Music

Live Music Session #28 – Grant Sharkey + Kitchen Sink Dramas