Fans need venues too…

Ok, enough of me introducing myself and my blog, let’s get down to business!

I am currently studying for a masters degree in Cultural Heritage Management at the University of York. The course itself covers a fairly broad spectrum covering subjects such as archaeology, architecture, museum studies and town planning amongst others. The final stage of my studies is to complete a dissertation on a heritage topic of my choosing.

As a music fan who spends most of my free time attending gigs it seemed only natural to focus my dissertation on live music. Some people may see this as a shallow attempt to appear cool and youthful or simply an effort to avoid a more academically dense topic such as the ongoing planning debate surrounding English Heritage plans to develop Clifford’s Tower and on some level they would be absolutely right in that assumption. However, the regular threats of closure faced by UK music venues is something that I passionately feel needs to be addressed.

The Roadhouse in Manchester closed in 2015 but it still holds many fond memories for me. (Image © Manchester Evening News, 2015)

That is not to say this issue has been entirely overlooked, groups like the Music Venues Trust do some fantastic work in supporting the needs of independent venues and the newly introduced agent of change bill has been adopted primarily to protect music venues from development enforced closure (although it only protects against very specific threats and is by no means a fix all solution). The vast majority of this work to protect venues has been built on two key arguments. The first being that small venues are essential to the development of new talent that can grow and develop into the UKs next major international musical export act like Muse, Ed Sheeran, Adele or Coldplay (Please note these examples are not indicative of my personal music taste, they just a few of the most regularly cited examples). The second argument focuses on the economic value that venues bring to their local areas. These points are completely valid and a great deal of serious research has gone into supporting them such as the UK Live Music Census. However one area that, whilst not entirely overlooked, hasn’t received the same degree of focus is that of the importance that of the fans that turn out to watch bands perform at these venues. Without an audience both the bands and the venues become redundant. Despite this, nearly all the discourse regarding the relationships between fans and venues offers little more than anecdotal evidence from individual fans. What is needed is a systematic study to truly asses the role music venues play in enabling genuine communities with their own cultural identities to form and grow and the impact of what happens to these communities when they lose a venue.

Clarks-Sunday-crowd-too (1)
Whether it’s 50 or 50,000 bands and venues need an audience (Image ©Daily Record, 2016)

What I intend to do for my dissertation is to conduct a survey of my own in which I will ask music fans about their experiences and relationships with the venues they frequent. My hope is that I will be able to demonstrate how live music communities fit within UNESCOs definition of intangible cultural heritage and as such the places in which they congregate should be subject to many of the same safeguards we apply to our historic cultural sites and the preservation of shared memories.

Thanks for reading, if you have any thoughts or ideas regarding this subject please leave a comment of drop me a message. Any contributions that make it into my dissertation will be fully referenced and credited. In my next entry I plan to talk about how I first developed the idea behind my dissertation topic and possibly share some entertaining anecdotes about my own little gig community

– Reed


Reeding the book first…

I am not going to sit here and preach that you should always read the book before watching the film or TV adaptation. Personally I like to develop my own mental image of characters and locations in a book before seeing how a film maker has chosen to portray them. I find if I read the book after the film I cannot help but picture things as they appeared in the film. This preference is a bit of a double edged sword however, I have found that my enjoyment of an otherwise good film can be negatively impacted if it deviates too far from my impression of the source material.

I must stress this is not a hard and fast rule that I stick to, there are some instances where I am only casually interested in the film, not enough to dedicate the time to the book or where I simply cannot get into the book. A prime example of this being Game of Thrones, whilst I enjoy the TV show for the fantasy soap opera it is, I simply do not get along with George R. R. Martins style of writing and find the books a chore to read.

This brings me to the actual point of this entry, a book I recently read in the down time between flights during my recently holiday debacle and how it partly inspired me to start this blog. The book is Ernest Cline’s “Ready Player One”. I chose to read this after a number of people whose taste in fiction I trust spoke well of it and after seeing the, frankly ridiculous, trailer for the film which launches next week. I expected a light-hearted romp full of geeky references (something for which I am an absolute sucker for). In many ways that is exactly what I got but there was also something mildly depressing  about it which I could not quite put my finger on. I am not going to tell you how this book will change your life (it won’t!) or wax lyrical about its hidden depths. If anything it could have made far more of its underlying themes. It did however make me question the manner in which we chose to portray ourselves online. We can chose to be anyone we want to be, some people may make up an entirely fictional persona but many of us chose to portray a version of ourselves we aspire to be where we have total control over what others see of us. I sit within a generation that did not grow up with the internet as a factor in our everyday lives and even once “going online” did become the norm the internet was still developing into the tool it has become today and few of us had any notion of the fact we could one day live out entire alternate lives online (God I feel old writing like that). What really resonated with me was how much of ourselves we chose to omit from our online personas, whilst reading the book I experienced first hand the often awkward experience that can occur when our digital and analogue lives. I have a friend who I met online and whilst I have met them a few times in person it has always been planned well in advance and as such I (and I suspect they) have been able to plan what we wanted to talk about and do together, there has never really been any spontaneity in our interactions. I don’t mind this as in truth I have always been somewhat intimidated by and envious of this persons talent and ability to effortlessly cool (not that she is aware of this ability which is what make her so damn cool). A few days ago I actually saw this person from a distance and could not bring myself to go over and speak to her. She appeared to be going about her daily routine on her way to work, dressed smartly and emitting the air of confidence of somebody doing something they do every day. I on the other hand was at the tail end of what was at that point a 28 hour journey, having not slept or showered and only consumed a single cup of coffee in that time. I platonically love this person, we regularly text and chat online about the many things we have in common and talking to her is often a highlight of my day. Usually in any other circumstance I would jump at the chance to spend more time (however brief) in her presence but seeing her in her everyday professional persona made me realise how little I actually know about her and question whether ignorance is bliss and ask do I really want to know about the stuff she doesn’t share with me? Of course I didn’t want her to see me in my sleep deprived scruffy state either having previously taken great care to present myself as somebody I hope she would be proud to call a friend and now seeing myself as somebody the polar opposite of her offline persona. I don’t think she spotted me (if she did she had the same instinct I did to turn the other direction). I have not told her about this blog (yet) but if she ever reads this I hope she takes no offence and understands my reasons for avoiding her. For the record we did have a pleasant and totally unrelated text conversation a couple of hours later.

But to refocus on my initial point regarding online personas, does any of what we chose to include or leave out really matter? We are still living in a world that remembers life before the internet. In the future portrayed in Ready Player One peoples online personas are accepted with the same, if not greater, degree of legitimacy as their offline selves. Soon people won’t remember a life without the internet and whilst that comes with certain dangers it also allows us the opportunity to create a world in which people do not have to be defined or restricted based on the level (or lack) of privilege they are born into. In part that is why I created this blog for myself. Whilst I acknowledge I am far more privileged than many that doesn’t mean the real world always allows me to present myself as I always want to. I am not looking to deceive anyone reading this about who I am, I merely see it as a way to explore ideas and parts of my own persona that I have struggled to fit into areas my offline life, be it professionally, academically or socially.

To quote a passage from RP1: “We’d connected on a purely mental level. I understood her, trusted her, and loved her as a dear friend. None of that had changed, or could be changed by anything as inconsequential as her gender, or skin color, or sexual orientation.”

I feel like I have started to ramble at this point but I hope that this post, along with my previous two entries, helps anybody who may stumble across this page understands the motivations and intentions behind me starting this blog. Over the next few days and weeks I intend to start populating the page with a bit more interesting, and less narcissistic, subject matter. For now here is the trailer for the upcoming film for which the book started this whole train of thought

My 10 most important albums ever…

Whilst I don’t want to get into a habit of copying and pasting content from my Facebook on here this one is kind of relevant as it will give you an idea of my musical tastes which will form a significant portion of my updates (and just because I am a fan of lists). Its a bit roughly written as I typed it on my phone last week as part of the current Facebook trend of posting the albums that “have stuck with you”. I stress it is in no particular order and is subject to constant change. If you to ask me to produce this list again next month probably about 50% of it would change.

10) Like You Do… The Best Of The Lightning Seeds – Feels like a bit of a cheat to put a greatest hits album on a list like this but this was the album that introduced me to a world of music beyond the top 40. I first played this album on my parents stereo as a 10yr old who loved football and wanted to hear “Three Lions”. I then discovered there were plenty of other really good tracks on the album and was asking for a CD player of my own for my birthday and HMV vouchers for every Christmas and birthday through my youth. The journey started here.

9) Guns N Roses – Live Era 87-93 – My first live album and one of the first rock albums I ever owned. It introduced me to a world beyond studio recordings.

8) Pearl Jam – Ten – My favourite debut album of all time. An album to suit almost any occasion and every track an absolute classic.

7) Soil – Re.De.Fine – I was in HMV at 9am the day this album was released. As somebody who generally listens to mixed artist playlists over full albums its rare for me to listen to any album without skipping a track after the first few play-throughs but this is one album where I cannot skip a single track.

6) The Wildhearts – The Wildhearts Strike Back – Another live album on the list. Anyone who has known me for more than 10 mins will know how much I love The Wildhearts. In truth I could make up this entire list of Wildhearts and Ginger Wildheart albums but this was the one that introduced me to the band and started a journey that lead to me naming their most recent album (fittingly another live album).

5) Machine Head – The Blackening – Whilst my musical tastes have mellowed a bit in recent years, during my youth I was all about the heavy stuff. This album was an absolute game changer. I was given it on my 20th birthday and spent that afternoon with my headphones turned up to 11 blasting this album. It remained pretty much on repeat play for the next 18 months.

4) REM – Automatic for the People – One of the first albums that introduced my teenage self to a world beyond heavy metal.

3) Black Sabbath – Heaven & Hell – I may be in a minority of people who prefer Dio era Sabbath to Ozzy era Sabbath but this album is just absolutely perfect. An example of an album where every member of the band is at absolute peak form for every track including some of the finest riffs by my all-time favourite guitarist Tony Iommi.

2) Feeder – Echo Park – A large part of the soundtrack to my uni years. One of the few albums everyone in our house agreed we liked so it got played A LOT.

1) Volbeat – Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood – There are a small handful of bands who grip me enough that I have flown to another country specifically to see them. Volbeat are one of them (The others are on this list too). The title track to this album introduced me to them, at the time like nothing I had ever heard. Hooked me instantly and hasn’t let go since.

A slight change of plan…

I sit here in a bit of a haze.

Right now I should be sat drinking a beer on Copacabana beach. Instead I am sat in my living room with no idea what to do with myself. Long story short I booked a holiday to see my favourite band, Pearl Jam, performing a concert in Rio De Janeiro tomorrow. Sadly bad weather and even worse luck brought my bucket list holiday grinding to an abrupt halt in Frankfurt.

I’m not the first person to have their holiday plans collapse and I am not writing this to complain about it. However, over the past couple of days I have had a lot of downtime to be stuck with only my own thoughts to occupy me. During that time it has became clear to me that I am somebody who thrives on keeping himself permanently distracted and as such my mind is a badly disorganised place in need of a serious tidy up. I’m also not saying that my thoughts are in any way unique or interesting to be worthy of publishing online and sharing with the world. My hope is that by writing things down in a manner that I am happy to present publicly it will help me to collate and clarify my own thought processes. In making this blog readable to all I am forcing myself to ensure I maintain a certain level of readability and hopefully can avoid descending into confusing rants as I am prone to do when I write anonymously and by hosting on a paid subscription site it will hopefully encourage me to continue to post updates (I tried something like this many years ago with different objectives but hosting on a free site I quickly lost interest in the project as other things drew my attention). It would also be great if this occasionally triggers some lively discussions, I am open to criticism and opposing opinions but lets try and keep things respectful, yeah?

I am under no illusions, I don’t foresee this becoming a widely read blog, chances are if you have found this page you are one of my small-ish circle of friends who have me on Facebook. I have no aspirations to become a writer and I am not trying to change lives here. But, I do take some comfort in the idea of potentially leaving something permanent online that if I should be struck by a bus in 6 months will leave something of me for people to read beyond the frankly inane crap I share on Facebook. If anything I write on here should cause somebody to discover a band they fall in love with or even just raise the occasional smile from anybody that happens across something I write then all the better.

If you have already read this far then thank you. If you should decide to come back in the future then let me give you an idea of some of the kind of content I hope to populate this page with:

  • Live Music – I mentioned earlier that I like to keep myself distracted and going to gigs is my primary way of doing that. Some of the best people I know I have met whilst following my favourite bands. I will attempt to post something (however brief) about every live gig I attend but please don’t expect proper reviews, I am a fan not a critic.
  • Fandom – When I find a TV show, film, book that I like I attempt to absorb everything about it. I can quote entire Simpsons episodes word-for-word, I can pick out the tiniest cannon plot holes in every Star Trek series and film and reel of obscure references from all kinds of media. I don’t say this to boast, I know its not impressive but it doesn’t mean its not fun! I sometimes worry that my persona is just a series of pop-culture references cobbled together.
  • Academia – I am currently in the process of writing a masters dissertation about the UKs live music venues and will be posting content relevant to that in order to experiment with ideas and hopefully develop a few new ones from any discussion that arises. One of my hopes for this blog is that it will make writing feel like less of a chore when I have to do it for academic purposes and that it will help me to further develop my writing style
  • The world – It is a ridiculous place and more and more I find myself feeling like I am living in The Place That Sends You Mad from “The Twelve Tasks of Asterix”. I am not planning on writing detailed analysis of world politics or current events (although I cannot promise they won’t occasionally be mentioned) but will occasionally talk about the things that confuse me about the world in an attempt to make some sense of them.

    Finally a few disclaimers:

  • I am a 30yr old white male and I admit to the privilege that I was born with. I consider myself to be liberal minded but sadly can only write from the perspective I have. I do not seek to offend anybody but if anything I say should appear insensitive please know it is simply a lack of understanding on my part and I welcome the chance to be enlightened (but please do it respectfully, its hard to sympathise with somebody else when they are calling you a dick no matter how right them may be)
  • I do not consider myself a skilled writer. I can spell and my grammar is generally ok (with a few bad habits) but I am an average typist, terrible proof reader and not a fan of my own prose. I hope that working on this blog will help me improve my writing skills.
  • I do ramble. As you can probably guess if you are still reading this. Anyone who has ever got into a text conversation with me will know that conciseness is not one of my strong points. Again this is something I hope to improve on as I write this blog.
  • This is a personal blog. Please don’t see it as anything more than a personal diary that I am allowing others to read. I am a fan of looking back through my old online posts and photos in the same way one might look at a family photo album or scrap book. If and when my memory starts to fail me hopefully this blog will allow me to revisit my not-so-glorious glory days
  • I welcome any comments or discussion but keep it civil. If I think you are trolling of just being a dick I might tell you so but chances are I will just delete your comments. I have neither the energy or the inclination to argue online. I welcome different opinions and its fine to tell me you disagree with me and why but let’s actually have a civil discussion about it.
  • If I am writing about people I know in real life I will attempt to keep it as anonymous as possible. I fully expect that anyone who reads my ramblings will have me on Facebook and as such will probably know some of the same people I do. I will try to respect everyones privacy and keep you all as anonymous as possible if I do mention you. First names or nicknames only or if its something a bit sensitive I will give you a pseudonym.
  • I don’t like the name of this blog. I wanted to call it “The Reeding Room” but it turns out that’s the name of a series of christian songs and audio books aimed at young children. I respect peoples faiths but consider myself an agnostic and would rather not have any confusion or crossover of interests there. If anyone can think of a better name I am open to suggestions.
  • I am still learning all the various tools and features of WordPress so probably safe to expect a few layout and style changes whilst I play around over the next few days and weeks.

Thank you for your patience thus far, hopefully you will find my forthcoming entries a bit more entertaining. For now if you didn’t get my Asterix reference earlier here is the scene I was referring to: