An invitation to assist with my dissertation…

Hi all,

Seeing as yesterdays blog post about my one week vegan adventure seems to have gained me several new followers – if they guy reading the last post from Kenya is also reading this post then a particular “hello” to you! When I started writing this blog I expected it would only be seen by myself and a couple of my facebook friends, I never expected it to be read in Kenya! (maybe I should tag all my posts with “vegan” regardless of what they are about)

So I figured I would take advantage in this brief surge in attention with a bit of shameless self promotion. For those of you newcomers who haven’t read back on the previous posts (Sorry to disappoint you but this is not actually a veganism blog), I am currently working on a dissertation for a masters degree in Cultural Heritage Management. The title of the project is “Scenes of Heritage” and it focuses on the cultural and communal value of live music venues with a view to protecting them from the increased risk of closure that they currently face.

A key part of my study is an online survey of fans of live music so if any of my new found vegan friends also happen to love live music I would very much appreciate it if you would follow the link below and spare a few minutes of your day to answer a few questions about your relationship with live music and the places that host it.

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/scenesofheritage

At the time of writing this I am six people away from the minimum number of participants I was hoping to attract with three weeks to go before the survey closes so it would be great if you guys could tip it over the top.

Thanks for reading and particular thanks for those of you who take part in my survey.

-Reed

Review: Hollywood Vampires – Wembley Arena 20/06/18

I don’t write gig reviews, I gave it a go several years ago and found I was not good at it. I found that I tended to review the entire experience beyond just the performance of the band. This included everything from the range of beers available at the bar to the ease of getting a train home. For me gigs go beyond simply going to watch a band, they are about partying with my friends, maybe having a little too much to drink and any number of factors that can affect the enjoyment of the evening.

However, last week I found myself with a spare evening in London and browsing the local gig listings saw that Hollywood Vampires were playing at Wembley Arena. I was sceptical of the whole concept of a covers band paying tribute to deceased rock musicians as well as conflicted about supporting a project with which Johnny Depp was involved after some of his recent PR disasters. However, The Damned and The Darkness were the support bands which ensured there would be a high fun factor about the evening and Vampires frontman Alice Cooper always puts on a great show, so I put my scepticism aside and hopped on the Metropolitan Line to Wembley. Having arrived just only a few minutes before The Damned opened the show meaning I didn’t go through my usual process of going to the pub and getting buzzed before the show and being an all seater gig meant I was able to relax and enjoy the show with very few distractions and as such the seeds of attempting a gig review were planted. Let’s see how this goes…

Opening act The Damned came out to an arena that was still mostly empty yet still managed to blast out a high energy punk-rock setlist that would put bands half their age to shame. Guitarist Captain Sensible kept proceedings light hearted seeming perfectly comfortable sharing banter with the sparse crowd. The opening slot of a large arena gig can often see a support bands sound get lost in the cavernous space but The Damned’s experience shone through and they never once sounded like anything other than a headline performance. The only mis-step of their set being when frontman Dave Vanian ventured out into the crowd attempting to engage with an audience who were mostly unfamiliar with his work.

20180620_190058

The Darkness may no longer be drawing crowds to the same degree they were when they headlined this venue for three consecutive nights in 2004 but it appears nobody told them that. Opening with “Solid Gold” from their latest album and blasting through an abridged setlist comprised almost entirely of material from their first and last albums. Although their role as support band tonight means they cannot bring out the flaming guitars and giant flying breasts they had during their time as an arena headline band but that just free up frontman Justin Hawkins to share a bit more banter the audience and ensure the crowd is fully warmed up by the time Hollywood Vampires take to the stage.

20180620_201955

I wasn’t particularly familiar with the opening few songs of the Vampires set, a couple of their own originals paying tribute to their “Dead Drunk Friends” and a couple of cover versions of which the originals I have only ever heard in passing. Cooper commanded the stage with his usual style and humour whilst Depp’s early contributions seemed to be mainly aesthetic with him seemingly playing the role of a modern-day guitar wielding Jack Sparrow at extreme ends of the stage. I have ever been the biggest Aerosmith fan, but Joe Perry’s talent was simply mesmerising with this new setting seemingly freeing him up to really show off. Once they broke into cover of The Doors “Break on Through…” it was non-stop big hits. With Perry and Tommy Henriksen both on guitar, Depp did seem musically superfluous for most of the set and at times when he was jamming with his bandmates it almost appeared as if he was receiving guitar tuition from the seasoned pros. He clearly has musical talent but possibly not to the degree of playing a venue of this size. That being said, for the two songs he fronted on his ability to portray an English accent served him well. His version of Bowies “Heroes” has been pretty well documented but for me his singing on the verses of Jim Carroll’s “People Who Died” is where he really shines, his lack of musical experience lending itself well to the DIY punk sound of the original. Sadly this cover was let down by the rest of the band jumping in and glamming up the chorus, stripping it of that punk sound. Judging by the T-shirts on display the audience was mostly made up of Alice Cooper fans and they were rewarded with polished versions of “I’m Eighteen” and “Schools Out”. What really shone through from the whole night is that, Depp aside, Hollywood Vampires are a group of musicians at the peak of their abilities covering songs that they clearly love. What initially seemed like a middle-class audience just looking for some nostalgic entertainment on a Wednesday night were all up on their feet dancing and singing along at the tops of their voices.

People go to watch cover bands to have fun partying to familiar songs. Yes, it’s not Bowie, Lemmy or Jim Morrison singing to us, but we don’t mind if it’s being done well. Essentially what you get with Hollywood Vampires is the world ultimate covers band.

20180620_225954

Ok, maybe a bit long winded but there we have it – my first and probably last ever gig review.

Why is it still acceptable to stigmatise an entire genre of music?

As a white male its not often I face negative discrimination but there are certain prejudices that can affect people of any race, religion, gender or sexuality. Prejudices that discriminate against specific subcultures and their forms of expression.

Yesterday I saw this advert for Virgin Trains that perpetuated all kinds of negativity towards heavy metal.

Whilst thankfully it is not a regular occurrence, I have experienced various incidents of people judging me based the various subcultures I consider myself part of, particularly when I am openly expressing my involvement in that culture. As a football fan if I go to a match wearing team colours people often assume I am a hooligan (despite the fact that real football hooligans actually frown on displaying team colours) pubs will refuse service and even the police will treat you like a suspected criminal. Once when I was 14 walking home from a match I had a police baton rammed into my ribs by an officer demanding to know where I was from. Apparently wearing a Chester City FC shirt in Chester was not enough evidence to him to suggest I was from Chester (Its not like Chester are a big enough team to have glory supporters around the country). I get similar treatment as a heavy metal fan. Recently on a route to a gig on a packed train wearing a band t-shirt and a jacket covered in various metal bands patches I noticed I was being given much more room than usual. I a large beardy guy with several visible tattoos which some people may judge me for but never to the degree of giving up valuable space on a busy train. Yet the addition of heavy metal attire seemed to be enough for people to judge me as somebody to be avoided. I will admit it was actually quite nice to have some breathing room on a rush hour train but it did make me question why do these attitudes still persist over 30 years after Dee Sniders fantastic speech defending heavy metal to the US Senate? A speech in which he showed a person can be deeply embedded into heavy metal culture and still speak with intelligence and eloquence regardless of the clothes he wears or the music he listens to.

I don’t expect everyone to start listening to metal overnight (or ever), we all have our own tastes in music and fashion and some of us chose to identify ourselves by that more strongly than others. What I find hard to believe is, that given the actual popularity of metal and alternative music, that a major national company like Virgin Rail still sees it as acceptable to risk alienating its fans. As I write this over 100,000 people are gathering for in a field in Castle Donington for the UKs second biggest music festival (second only to Glastonbury), Download Festival, a festival dedicated to metal and alternative music genres which also serves as a celebration of the culture and traditions that surround those genres. Virgin Rail likening heavy metal to stress, disorganisation, shabbiness and unemployability and openly portraying a character who chooses their described “metal” option as a “wrong’un” and being at “rock bottom” is not only an incredibly narrow minded attitude, it is also factually inaccurate and incredibly short sighed given how many potential customers they are alienating. Given the current negativity towards rail operators in the UK surely they should be on a charm offensive to win over as many customers as they possibly can rather than stigmatise a genre that makes up almost a quarter of UK music streaming and has by far the most loyal fans of any music genre.

Download-Festival-edit.jpg
That’s a lot of people to stigmatise in one advert

Virgin Rail are not the only company guilty of this perpetualising of outdated, inaccurate, and negative stereotypes of alternate subcultures but this particular advert is one of the most recent and blatant examples of mainstream culture stigmatising a form of expression that does not fit with what they chose to portray as “normal”. By broadcasting attitudes like this on national media it emboldens more damaging attitudes to alternative culture. I am not saying atrocities like the murder of Sophie Lancaster or the fact that punks, goths and metalheads require protection under hate crime legislation are a direct result of companies like Virgin Rail pandering to negative stereotypes of alternative subculture but they are not bloody helping either. Yes, this is an extreme example of where these ridiculous attitudes can lead but I could write for day exploring how negative attitudes to alternative subcultures can impact peoples every day lives (I am confident I could complete another dissertation just from the tattoo acceptance in the workplace debate alone). Yes many of the ways we chose to express our links to our chosen subcultures are entirely optional but if that is how we feel comfortable and we are not harming anyone then we should not be pre-judged or stigmatised for that

I accept that this form of prejudice pales in comparison to the racism, sexism, homophobia and countless other forms of bigotry that continue to plague our society but it does raise some very worrying questions such as – If mainstream society cannot even be accepting of a specific type of music what hope does any minority group have?

Oh and for the record, if anybody from Virgin Rail should ever read this – when I have used your trains in the past I have usually been listening to metal as its the only thing that makes your terrible service bearable. After seeing this excretion of an advert I will in future try to avoid Virgin trains whenever possible but should I find myself forced to suffer a Virgin Rail journey in the future I shall be blasting something like this into my headphones the whole time and enjoying every damned note of it:

 

</rant>

Virtual gigs – The sci-fi future of live music?

Firstly, apologies for the lack of updates recently. Work and uni have been at critical mass recently and my time for recreational reading/writing has been limited.

I recently gave an assessed lecture at the University of York as part of my Dissertation project. I was commended for how passionately I argued the case for preserving live music venues. Now I am going to ask if there is actually any hope for the future of live music.

Today I experienced a virtual reality concert for the first time, an Occulus recording of The Who at Wembley Arena in 2016. The first thing I have to say is that it hands down beats watching camera phone footage on Youtube (something which I am not adverse to doing and have defended many times in the past). However despite being able to turn your head anywhere within a full sphere of vision you are still essentially restricted to a limited number of fixed camera positions that you can switch between at will.
Given that a recent survey showed that 23% of people who have never been to a gig cite feeling overwhelmed by crowds as a reason for non-attendance it would seem that VR gigs present an ideal alternative, but in my (limited) experience VR concerts fail to emulate the spectacle of a well shot and directed concert film such as AC/DCs “Live at River Plate” (a particular favourite of mine). Whilst it is a brief novelty to find Roger Daltreys crotch at your exact eye height (particularly for anyone wanting to punch him in the balls for his recent elitist comments), eventually you start to feel a bit awkward and find yourself turning away from the band and observing the crowd wishing you were watching from the thick of it.

So it seems that if you want to relive one of your favourite gigs VR is not the way to do it. But how about the more controversial trend of holographic concerts that have started to emerge in recent years? Much of this controversy stems from the use of holograms allowing concert promoters to continue making money from deceased musicians. However, is that really any different to selling live CDs, DVDs and other merchandise of these musicians? Surely fans should still be allowed to enjoy the music of their favourite musicians after they are gone? A hologram concert does address many of the shortcomings of VR, in that it is still essentially a real concert experience where you find yourself in a real crowd free to experience the concert first hand rather than from a pre-set camera angle. However for me the notion of holographic concerts represents echoes of a much more troubling future for live music. Touring the world can be an expensive business. Transporting musicians, support staff, gear, etc is not cheap and these costs could be cut massively by replacing it all with a pre-recorded hologram and audio recording. It doesn’t seem too much of a stretch of the imagination to predict a world in which bands, particularly the more corporate minded ones (I am looking your way KISS, Metallica, Guns N Roses, etc), record one perfectly polished gig every few years and sending the holographic recording of it out on tour (potentially even playing multiple venues around the world at once) instead of actually having to go out and tour themselves. Now I am sure most people reading this will probably be thinking “who on earth would pay to see a hologram of an existing band?”. Technology that at first seems like a novelty to the generation that invents it regularly becomes the norm for the generation that follows. Mp3 players, Kindles, music and video streaming services – all were initially treated with suspicion and many said they would never replace physical CDs, books and DVDs. Yet every year they swallow up a greater portion of the market. Maybe by 2040 the concept of going to a gig could mean piling into a concert venue to watch a near indistinguishable from reality vintage recording of the Foo Fighters headline set at Glastonbury 2017 or the latest holo-recording of Guns N Roses “touring” their long long long awaited follow-up to Chinese Democracy (In my mind called “American Dictatorship”)

Now obviously this technological revolution to live music will begin with the mega-rich stadium filling bands but in the same way that even the bands playing your local pub can now produce top quality music videos that compare favourably with the big budget offerings of the big boys, so too will they soon be able to record super high quality VR and holographic recordings of themselves. How long before every pub has a Star Trek style holosuite allowing punters to experience any gig they please in a manner near indistinguishable to the real thing?

Compare a Eureka Machines video from 2011 to a Metallica video from 2016. Aside from the image resolution is there any real difference in the ambition, quality or execution between the two?

Questions like this leave me torn, on the one hand I would chew my own arm off for a chance to try out a Star Trek-esque holodeck and I dread the day I become a luddite bemoaning the evils of new technology replacing “traditional” forms of entertainment. On the other hand I am currently committed to a dissertation arguing for the preservation of live music venues and their heritage values.

I don’t have a crystal ball and I cannot say for sure that technology will put an end to our current concepts of live music and if it does I honestly don’t believe it will be in my lifetime. However, as an avid sci-fi fan it does seem that very few visions of our future ever feature of reference any real form of an active live music scene. Even in the utopian future built on music we get a glimpse of in the Bill & Ted films they seem to only revere the bands of the past. With our every day lives incorporating more and more elements of the fictional futures we have written for ourselves (1984, Fahrenheit 451 and even Star Trek, amongst others, have all accurately predicted technological advances that we take for granted today and their impacts on society) it seems that many don’t see live music as being a part of our future.

PADD_stylus_interface
Predicted in the late 80s, PADDs in Star Trek appear to be less advanced versions of present day tablet computers

Get out and enjoy a gig whilst you still can!

 

Going back to the start of a most non-bogus journey…

For anyone who knows me or who has simply read a couple of posts on here it becomes rapidly apparent how important live music is to me. For me the perfect night out involves a group of friends, a few beers and, most importantly, a live band. This love of gigs has now crossed into my academic work but had it not been for the right film at the right time things could have been entirely different.

That film was Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey.

51ZNPET6HFL

The 1991 sequel to 1989’s “Excellent Adventure”, Bogus Journey follows the titular characters attempting to live up to their destiny by becoming the band whose music a utopian society is built upon whilst evil robots from the future attempt to stop them. I first saw this film when I was 8 years old and from the moment I saw that final scene in which a band consisting of Bill & Ted, the Grim Reaper, 2 medieval princesses, 2 aliens and 2 robots performed the KISS version of “God Gave Rock ‘N’ Roll to You II” a seed was planted. Through the rest of my childhood years and into my early teens my musical exposure was limited to my parents collection of 70’s and 80’s punk and whatever latest pop fad was playing on Radio 1. I bought some bizarre and diabolical records during those years. The first single I ever bought with my own money was Lou Bega’s 1999 hit “Mambo No. 5” and it got worse with Eifel 65s “Blue (Da Ba Dee)” and, to my eternal shame, The Cuban Boys “Hamster Dance”. I was buying this crap because it was popular and easily available but it never really did anything for me, not just because it was pure garbage but because that seed planted by Bill & Ted was still in there somewhere.

51cND-6sWUL
File under: “What the fuck was I thinking?”

When I turned 14 I was given my first Mp3 player. It held just 12 tracks but it represented freedom. Before this I would only buy CDs containing tracks I knew from the radio as I didn’t want to risk spending my limited income on something unknown.  I now had the whole internet to select music from (this being a time before Metallica told us all how music piracy was bad), no longer limited to being able to afford 1 CD a week (if I spent my money on nothing else). By this time alternative music was starting to make a comeback, nu-metal and pop-punk were the trends of the day (unless you went down the RnB and hip-hop route, but that was not for me either) but with bands such as Sum 41 directly referencing their own musical heritage with lyrics like “Maiden and Priest were the gods that we praised” it was inevitable that we were soon working our way backwards down the timelines of musical history (albeit not in a time travelling phone booth) exploring bands like Metallica, Megadeth and Iron Maiden and suddenly I felt at home. That seed planted by Bill & Ted all those years ago started to grow rapidly. I started going to gigs (my first gig being the aforementioned Iron Maiden) and can trace a direct links between my ever growing love of rock music and live gigs and my current place in life, the friends I have met, the academic and career choices I have made, all of it directly links to that day when I was 8 years old and Bill & Ted tuned me into rock ‘n’ roll.

!!d5NZ)gCGM_$(KGrHgoH-CUEjlLlvS+VBKQ433steQ___35
This little thing opened up a whole new world to me

It was also around this time I revisited both Bill & Ted films and damn they were even better than I remembered them. At this point I still saw them mainly as wacky comedies that were perfectly in tune with my slightly surreal sense of humour but as I have watched and re-watched them over the years I appreciate them even more each time. I am not going to sit here and tell you how they are under-appreciated classics, the truth is much of my appreciation of them is entirely down to the role these films have played in my life. However, in so many ways these films were so far ahead of their time.

We have seen recently how the films and TV shows of 20 years ago are being criticised by the the millennial generation for containing homophobic and sexist jokes, racist stereotypes and pretty much every other form of bigotry you can think of. The Simpsons and Friends being just two high profile examples*. Now I may be a white male whose love of these films (seriously, I have a Bill & Ted tattoo) probably blinds me to their flaws  but I would like to think that both Bill & Ted films hold up pretty damn well to modern standards of morality. I am overdue for a re-watch of them but off the top of my head the only homophobic slur in either film was uttered by the evil robots in order to demonstrate their unlikeability. The two main characters show nothing but respect for their girlfriends by honouring their wishes to wait until after they are married to have sex. The only potential racial issue in either is the portrayal of Ghengis Khan but given the historic nature of the character any cliches or stereotypes are ones attributed directly to the historic perception of one specific individual than of his people (if there are any scenes of references you feel I have forgotten or overlooked please do leave a comment and I would be happy to discuss it). But more than that the basic morality that flows through the film is something the world needs so much more of today. “Be excellent to each other” is more than just an iconic line in the first film its the mantra that the two lead characters quite clearly live by. At no point in the film do we see them act in a malicious manner or even utter an unkind word to somebody who didn’t very much deserve it (The guy who stabbed Ted absolutely deserved to be called a “medieval dickweed” and Satan is in fact the “ugly, red source of all evil”). Even when everything is going against them they take it all with grace and good humour, they remain calm and look to solve problems rather than get angry about them even if that problem is being murdered and sent to hell (In fact, if two guys as nice as Bill and Ted can be sent to hell surely thats proof that heavy metal is in fact the devils music?).

*For the record my opinion on revisionist analysis of old media is roughly in line with that of Bill Maher

We are now being told a third instalment of the Bill & Ted franchise could be on the horizon. It will feature Bill & Ted having reached middle age still not having written the music upon which the promised future utopia will be built. Personally I hope that it turns out that its not their music that saves the world but simply their attitude to life. If everyone was a bit more like Bill & Ted the world would be a much better place. If everybody would just “be excellent to each other” and “party on dudes” then maybe one day we will finally be able to accurately state that “The best place to be is here. The best time to be is now”

-The scene which started it all

 

3b452386c02f6e9c879d3519e54f6de482b94442813bace3575c7d2b96501a2d
Words to live by

-Reed

Local gigs for local people?

In my previous entry I touched upon the practice of people travelling cross-country to attend gigs in local grassroots venues. This is something I witnessed again on this past weekend. The Crescent in York is the epitome of a grassroots venue serving its local community. On Saturday night The Crescent hosted an act synonymous with the York live music scene, Boss Caine launching their latest album by performing it in full. I would estimate if you were to go top any 10 gigs in York chances are you would encounter Dan Lucas, the brain behind Boss Caine at 6 of them either as a performer, hosting events such as the Sundown Sessions or simply as a member of the audience. Despite this appearing to be a gig as rooted in York as its possible to get there were people in attendance from all over the country who had taken the time to travel to York to be at this gig (Side note: I will never get bored with seeing Londoners joyful/shocked reactions to northern beer prices). What really struck me was how many of these people already knew each other from meeting at previous shows in other areas of the country. They were not just mere acquaintances, they had brought gifts for each other. I could pull out several examples of the community spirit I encounter at gigs every week but I think the sharing of homemade scones between people who live hundreds of miles apart says everything you need to know.

Boss Caine.jpg
Boss Caine at The Crescent

Another gig last night (Monday), this time it was Ginger Wildheart at The Fulford Arms. I am a huge Wildhearts fan and it was my Wildheart fandom that first lead me into the “gig family” community that I have previously written about. I know I can walk into a Wildheart gig and I see people who I know well without having to make any advance plans to meet up with them. This was the case last night and unsurprisingly most of the people I knew had travelled a not insignificant distance to be there. During the show Ginger (himself currently in the process of becoming a York local) asked how many people in attendance were from York and it was maybe a 50/50 split of local fans and those who had travelled.

Ginger.jpg
Ginger Wildheart at The Fulford Arms

You may by now be sensing a trend that fans are generally willing to travel to see their favourite bands and to meet up with people who share their musical tastes. If that’s the case you may ask whether it really matters if a few venues close down, surely the fans will just travel elsewhere to see bands? Maybe so, but I would like you to think back to your first gig. How old were you? How far did you travel? For me it was Iron Maiden, Manchester MEN arena, Dec 9th 2003. I was 16. I travelled an hour on the train from Chester with my friends we were only able to attend thanks to the willingness of my dad to pick us up at nearly midnight (the last train back to Chester left from the other side of Manchester at the same time the concert finished). For years as a youth living in Chester this became the normal way to attend a concert. Until the opening of the Live Rooms in 2013 Chester did not have a venue regularly hosting touring bands. Occasional acts at Telfords Warehouse that could draw a crowd such as Frank Turner in 2011 but generally we were restricted to DJs, open mic nights, cover bands and local part-time folk musicians. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with any of those things (I saw some cracking cover bands at the Flookersbrook back in the day), but a lack of variety, badly promoted gigs and venues that were simply not set up for hosting live music meant people simply were not engaging with the local music scene. Go to any local club night and you would meet people who loved their music but rarely if ever went to gigs. Even I, who now regularly travels up and down the country for live music, rarely travelled more than about an hour to attend a gig despite not having a local venue to attend. As I mentioned in an earlier post it was only when I moved to a town with a handful of grassroots venues that I started to feel part of the live music community that gave me that extra motivation to start travelling to gigs I admit this is an anecdotal account of being a music fan in a small town but I expect that if I were to speak to fans up and down the country I would hear about similar experiences. And that is exactly what I intend to do, as part of the survey I am designing for my dissertation I will be asking fans about their early live music experiences particularly when they attended their first gig and how far they travelled (please feel free to share any first gig anecdotes in the comments section). It is my hope that I will be able to demonstrate some correlations between fans having easy access to local grassroots venues and feeling a part of a wider community within live music fandom. This is why we need grassroots venues, they not only give so many people their first taste of live music, they also nurture that sense of community that larger corporate venues don’t (please don’t read that as a dig at large venues, I have enjoyed many gigs at bigger venues to its just a different form of enjoyment). Yes people will travel for gigs but if we want a thriving live music scene that spans the country we need to ensure that we maintain and protect our network of grassroots music venues.

Finally I just want to thank those of you who have taken the time to read and support my first forays into blog writing. Seeing the visit counter slowly tick upwards and getting notifications when people follow me has re-assured me that this could turn into a worthwhile endeavour.

-Reed

Keeping it in the family…

In yesterdays entry I spoke about how live music fans form their own communities with their own intangible cultural heritage. Today I am going to talk about my own experiences as part of a live music community.

Throughout my teens and early twenties my attendance at gigs was dictated by my impoverished financial status and which gigs I could convince my equally impoverished friends to attend with me. Being young and kinda socially awkward my interaction with strangers at gigs was generally limited to bashing into them in a mosh pit. Then in 2014 I moved to York to start a new job. The income allowed me to be able to afford to attend far more gigs than ever before and my new location was far better connected to get to gigs all over the country with relative ease. However, being new to York meant I didn’t really know anyone who I could drag along to a gig. As such I began to attend more and more gigs on my own. As I am the kind of fan who will see his favourite bands on every tour and on multiple legs of the same tour I began to recognise familiar faces of people who also did this. Another factor of my newfound financial status was the ability to afford to buy alcohol at gigs in large enough to act as a social lubricant  and chat more with total strangers. I began to match faces to the names I recognised from various bands message boards and Facebook fan pages and over time I found I was not just going to gigs to see the band but to catch up with people who I had grown to know through following the same bands. These people became genuine friends, I would show up to gigs hours early not to be at the front of the queue but to meet friends in a bar nearby for a drink or even to sit down for a meal together, sometimes the gig felt like the secondary reason to travel over to Leeds, Manchester or down to London or wherever. Rather then legging it off to get the last train home after a gig I began booking a hotel in order than I may hang around after the gig and continue partying with my gig friends. We began to refer to funny little group as our “gig family” in an increasingly un-ironic manner. We formed our own traditions (such as “Spragg-tagging” and the drinking of “Green shit”), we became a genuine community with shared memories and values that were inherently tied to the places we congregated. Certain venues took on an almost mythical status for us (The Parish in Huddersfield I am looking at you!) with members of the group travelling across the country to attend a gig with the “family” rather than seeing the same band playing closer to home. As with any community we supported each other through tough times, celebrated good times. We worked together on projects such as arranging a private gig exclusively for ourselves. Couples have been formed, members who have passed have been mourned, birthdays celebrated, gifts shared. We have had a Christmas meal together. To an outside observer we may appear as little more than a loosely familiar bunch of music fans who like the same bands and enjoy drinking together, but scratch below the surface and you will find communal bonds equal to those you will find in small communities around the world.

25591786_922733927908305_8602936598450448365_n
Even a favourite bands battered old van can hold shared symbolism for a gig community

It was seeing the similarities between my gig-family and importance that communities and their shared associations with place that hold in heritage studies that first inspired my choice of dissertation topic. The challenge I face with my dissertation is to demonstrate to the academic community that the intangible heritage of gig-families like my own are as present and valid as any other more “traditional” community.

13322043_10209284928388575_5413217143495497670_n
My gig-family

-Reed