How not to be a tourist…

The two main cities which I have called home in the UK can both be described as “touristy”. Their economies reliant on both domestic and international visitors flocking to them to spend cash. I myself have worked in several tourism industry jobs. You would think that the people who live in popular tourist destinations would be thankful for the influx of people providing them with income. Sadly the growth of international tourism has proven to be anything but a positive thing for many residents of tourist destinations.

A booming tourist economy can put basic costs of living far out of reach for many employed by the traditionally low paying tourism industry. Why would developers build affordable housing when they can build holiday accommodation? Why would landlords rent monthly to local tenants when they can charge by the night as an Air BnB? I am not going to advocate cities setting strict limits on the number of hotel rooms or holiday apartments, that would just lead to a black market in unlicensed/illegal holiday properties. I feel the economic issues of living in a tourist city could largely be addressed by paying tourist industry workers a fairer wage. Much of the anger towards tourists stems simply from the fact that tourists in large numbers often make a place simply unpleasant to live.

As a frontline worker in a busy tourist city not a day goes by when I don’t see tourist behaviour that leaves me at best speechless and at worst outraged at the total disregard that tourists often show to the locations that they visit and to the people who live and work in them – even to the very staff that are working to make their visit a pleasant one. As such I have come up with a few guidelines that I feel people should attempt to follow when playing the role of a tourist at home or abroad. All of these are based on my personal experiences working in front line tourist industry roles but I would love to hear suggestions for further guidelines based on other peoples experiences

  • Be aware of other people around you – Whilst it can often be bewildering finding yourself in an unfamiliar place, particularly one that is busy or where you may not speak the language or understand the customers, you should at least recognise that you are not the only visitor there. If you are unsure about what it is you wish to do when visiting a tourist attraction maybe step aside and take a minute to make your decision rather than getting in the way of everyone around you whilst your entire group attempts to come to a collective decision. If you are in a large group all shouting over each other to be heard in a conversation then you are probably drowning out everyone else in the room too.
  • Don’t attempt to stage a full blown photoshoot – Similar to above, if you are taking two dozen shots just to get that one perfect instagram shot to impress a few total strangers online the chances are you are not considering that your fellow travellers may also want to grab a photo too and they shouldn’t have to wait for ages for that one overly vain individual who wants to try out a full range of poses and a couple of costume changes. Ditto for group shots, if your group wants to take a photo outside a famous landmark maybe don’t do it in front of the main entrance preventing your fellow travellers from getting in and out of the place whilst you all arrange yourself. Also not everyone in the group needs to take turns snapping their own photo, the joy of digital photography is that you can take a shot on one camera and easily share it with the rest of the group. Finally if you are using a selfie-stick in a crowded area then you ARE in everyones way and they all hate you for it.
  • Respect customer service staff – Our job is to help you have a pleasant time, listen to what we have to say and speak to us respectfully and we will usually go out of our way to ensure you have a pleasant visit often providing you discounts or free upgrades/extras or even just some local knowledge to help make your trip an easier one. We understand that often you may be in a hurry or may not entirely understand us but show us the respect that you would expect from us and 9 times out of 10 you will be better off for it. Ignore us, talk over us, walk away from us mid sentence and I guarantee you are getting the bare minimum service for your entire visit.
  • Tell staff what it is you want – This is not just a case of respect, we are not mind readers, if you walk up to a ticket desk and just thrust money at us without saying a word expecting a ticket you actually make our job harder. We cannot always tell how many tickets you want or if you are eligible for student/senior discounts. Tell us what you want and we will be able to serve you much quicker and sometimes may even be able to get you a better price too. Also trust that we will give you the best deal we can, if you are family with a few kids don’t stand there trying to work out all the various pricing permutations (all you are doing is holding up the queue and annoying everyone around you), just tell us how many adults and how many kids and their ages. If its cheaper to get a family group ticket we will do that for you. – I know this may not be the case at all destinations but at UK tourist attractions its a pretty safe assumption you don’t have to do all the maths yourself to get the best price, the cash register will do that for you.
  • Remember that you are in a living working city – Cities like Barcelona, York, Prague, London, Venice, etc may look nice but they are not Disneyland (or Westworld). They were not built specifically for your amusement. Walking three abreast across a narrow pavement is guaranteed to piss off the locals who are trying to get to/from work. If something is fenced off chances are its private property you are not meant to climb over that fence to go and explore it. Even many visitor attractions, particularly historic monuments, were not designed with to allow tourists to do what they please. They are managed in a way to allow enjoyment for all not just for you. Deliberate damage or vandalism will never be tolerated but also try to show some awareness that maybe the reason a historic site has lasted so long is because it hasn’t continually had parts of it kicked of it to ensure they are still sturdy

  • Read the signs – If a sign says “No entrance”, “One Way”, “Staff Only”, “Do Not Climb”, “Do Not Touch”  then do as it damned well says. It was put there for a reason.
  • Don’t litter – This should be an obvious one but sadly it still needs to be said
  • Entertain your own kids – As customer service staff are not baby sitters, many of us do not even like children. If you cannot be bothered to supervise your own children then do not expect us to do it for you. That is not our job. Childcare is not included in the ticket price.
  • Remember you don’t have to be here – It seems odd but barely a day goes by that people show up at my place of work and it seems they don’t actually want to be there, they are either totally disinterested or even resentful that they are even there in the first place. If you would rather be at home in front of Netflix that’s ok, I would rather you were there too. I know being cooped up at home with your family can sometimes seem like a hellish experience particularly on a long bank holiday weekend but if you really need to get out of the house maybe leave the attitude at home or at least go somewhere where you don’t inflict it upon everyone else.
  • Remember front-line staff don’t set the prices – If you think something is too expensive don’t go getting arsey and shouting “ripoff” at the poor sod behind the counter. If he or she is wearing a name badge and a uniform and working on a Sunday you can almost guarantee that pricing strategy is way above their pay grade. Trade secret – whilst that poor sod in the ticket booth may not have the power to set the prices they may still be able to offer you a reduced ticket price (I.e giving you a concession ticket instead of a full adult) or even sometimes just turn a blind eye and wave you in for free (In the past I have done this just because somebody was wearing the jersey of my favourite sports team). I will admit it is rare that we will do this as we are not supposed to but you greatly increase your chances of this happening if you are just pleasant to us.
  • Speak to staff as you would like to be spoken to – This is another respect issue but I feel it needs its own point. Basic polite conversation seems to be a dying fashion amongst tourists. If somebody says “hello” to you an acknowledging grunt back is guaranteed to make a terrible first impression. If you mishear or misunderstand somebody the correct response is “pardon” or politely asking them to repeat themselves. Grunting “Y’WOT?!” at them is a sure fire way to test their patience.
  • Learn to queue – I know in some cultures queuing is not the done thing but most tourist attractions require some kind of queuing system to process visitor admissions. The entrances to visitor attractions generally serve as bottlenecks to manage the flow of visitors, if you are part of a group and decide to stand three+ abreast or huddle around in a circle whilst standing in line chances are you are blocking that bottle neck. If you simply try and cut the queue then congratulations everyone now hates you. In either case it is going to take you longer to get in if you cannot grasp the concept of an orderly line.
  • Leave your personal politics at home – I accept that in a customer service job I will occasionally have to serve some racist/sexist/homophobic/generally bigoted wankers. However, if they elect to air their neanderthal views to me they can expect I will be doing everything I can possibly get away with to ensure their visit is an unpleasant one. I haven’t forced my liberal agenda on you so don’t force your narrow minded hatred on me.

I could go on adding more for days but if even half of these guidelines became more commonly followed I know my every day life both as a tourism industry worker and as a resident in a popular tourist city would be exponentially happier.

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.

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:



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.

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.


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.

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.

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


Words to live by


Checking back in and a promise…

Apologies for the recent downtime on here, the recent media focus on how our online date is shared lead me to review my own online accounts and how open to abuse they may be. Its genuinely insane how many online accounts you accumulate over the years and it’s alarming that the more honest you are about who you are the easier it is to identify and track your activity across the various websites you subscribe to. We are often being warned about people hiding their identity online but it seems that if you want to protect your own privacy you have to hide who you are. As somebody who relies on social media to maintain many of my friendships such as with the people I refer to as my “gig-family” and my friends in my hometown I have always tried to keep my online persona as streamlined as possible. This is entirely for the sake of convenience, it take enough of my energy keeping track of my actual persona let alone having to maintain any additional ones. This is why my blog has been offline for a while, I wanted to review how I publish myself online and ensure I wasn’t offering up anything that could compromise my interests (particularly as am planning to begin looking for a new job later this year). As things stand I am not planning to make any sweeping changes to the content on here, I will try to be as honest and open as I can be when I am writing about anything personal, I have no intention of using this blog to throw a written rose-tinted filter over my life but I am also have no intention of dwelling on anything negative. I am probably going to focus more on non-personal posts but with my dissertation being something that has been inspired by my experiences with the gig family it is likely that I will occasionally refer to those experiences. As I am well aware that the majority of the people reading this are probably people who do know me personally I wish to re-assure you that I will not post anything that may allow others to identify you (No names, initials only) and will not post anything about you that I feel you would not want shared (Nothing that I feel we wouldn’t talk openly about in the pub). However, if any of you see anything on here that you feel does reference you that you would rather it not be on here please do contact me to remove it ASAP and I will remove or edit it accordingly.

Again, apologies for the recent downtime, normal service shall resume shortly


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 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.


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.

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.

My gig-family