2020: Looking back
3rd January 2021
Most of us who were used to going to gigs will look back on 2020 as the year that was a non-event. Very few live concerts were held, here in Leicester. The lockdown was imposed on us because of the coronavirus epidemic. Leicester suffered more lockdown than any other major city in England. Even so, there was a brief respite when some of our small venues did manage to put on live shows and it is a considerable credit to them that these events went ahead despite almost insuperable odds. Some of these gigs have been reported in this column and in other parts of this magazine. Now that people are starting to be vaccinated against COVID-19, we hope that shows might start-up again at some point in 2021. Leicester went into lockdown in March, along with the rest of the country and stayed under restrictions ever since. Now, our city is elevated to tier 4. The upsurge in the virus means that we will be under restrictive rules for some time to come.
Not all musicians, singers and rap artists sat around this year twiddling their thumbs. This is was the year of the virtual concert. Many local bands and artists gave live performances online or recorded new songs which they made available over the Internet. You will join me, I am sure, in applauding the efforts of artists who were determined to share their music with the world despite the odds.
Music education continued to be a theme of some importance and this was emphasised by the work of Barry Dufour. The visiting professor at De Montfort University has made a name for himself through his continuing work to promote music education in schools and his research had received recognition from notable figures including HRH Prince Charles and Julian Lloyd Webber of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Barry’s work can be read online https://dora.dmu.ac.uk/handle/2086/18882
Right now, 2021 looks like being our year of hope. We hope to see live music return to our stages to lift our spirits and help us to remember those happy days before we were locked in. For my part I have been re-living those wonderful days, that now seem so far-off, when I went to concerts nearly every night to report for the magazine I had created – Arts in Leicestershire. I have been digitally transcribing my reporter’s notebooks from 2008 onwards. Now and then I have posted, on Facebook, old photos of the bands or artists that impressed me twelve years ago. I did this as part of my research for my magnum opus on the History of Music in Leicester, a work which will surely consume the rest of my days. So far, I have published well over two dozen instalments on the Internet, both here and on my own website.
As more and more people receive the inoculations now being given, our hopes will rise that later this year we might return to some kind of normality and will once again see the bands and artists we love on the stages of our small venues.
Friday 23rd October
Another visit to the Soundhouse. This sold-out show featured three top-notch soloists. It felt like the gigs we went to in the old days, before the lockdown. Opening the show tonight was Alex Gardner, a singer from Kettering. Playing the ukulele, Alex’s performance was entrancing. His voice had a fine quality – sensitive and full of colour and character, often giving his phrases a degree of vibrato. His tune Glass Houses was one that he usually performs with his band. The lyrics were enthralling and the way he sang the words was tantalising. Altogether a superb performance and a fine opening to the show.
Emily Carr’s clear and vibrant vocals were warmly welcomed by the audience. One of her songs was from her debut EP When You Leave which came out in September. Another excellent performance.
Here is a picture of her performing back then.
On stage, tonight, with Joe was a singer and their voices were beautifully harmonised. Headlining tonight’s show was Joe Morrell, performing as Humble He. Joe has been a key artist on Leicester’s music scene for many years, both as a soloist and as a singer with his band.
Humble He’s song Bye Bye has been recorded and is available on YouTube:
What we heard was music laden with atmosphere. Joe’s work on the guitar was exquisite. The whole experience was completely captivating. Scintillating guitar-work.
Humble He on Facebook.
What struck me about tonight’s atmosphere was the massively enthusiastic response of the audience. The Joe Morrell fan club as out in full voice and it reminded me what live music used to be like.
Save our venues
The Soundhouse recently received a grant from the Arts Council. Like other live music venues, the lockdown has made life very difficult. Other of Leicester’s small venues have also received funding from the government to help them afloat during the lockdown.
Less fortunate are the annual music festivals. Glastonbudget failed to take place this year, as far as the live event was concerned. I asked organiser Muz when the festival might come back. His response was predictable enough – it would be impossible to predict given the current circumstances.
The Soundhouse was not the only Leicester venue to be struggling back to life after the lockdown. Over at Firebug, there have been some live sessions in the ground floor bar area.
It’s interesting when your friends make music. Fresh music for a simulated soul. I was glad to hear a recent track from a friend of mine. Electronica. Deeper Down. EP. by Atlantisphere
Suits & The Streets (Official Music Video) by Homeless Shakespeare & The Pigeon Theatre. Featuring some well-known faces.
Sunday 4th October
For the first time since 25th February, I went to a live music gig. At The Soundhouse I saw Robert J. Hunter is a gig put on my Casbah Music Promotion. It took time to get used to the new arrangements. Sitting down at an allocated table. Having to wear a face-covering when walking around the room. Waiter service. Other than that, it was wonderful to go be back at a live music event.
I have seen Robert J Hunter before. I was at the Musician on Friday 21st September. Headlining that night was the Robert J Hunter band with special guests The Jupiter Blues. another gig promoted by Casbah. I remember back then thinking that the lead singer, Robert Hunter, really rocked it. Lots of personality, I noted at the time. A band laden with musical energy. A really stomping set of songs. Songs that were full of presence, I commented at the time. Under the restrictions of the current COVID lockdown, bands are not being allowed on the stages of small venues. Single performers doing vocal acoustics sets are. I’m glad to say that Hunter is the kind of artist who one could listen to all afternoon. A singer with a strong voice, unlimited powers of expression and a stage presence that is second to none – all combing together to make this an unforgettable experience. Superb vocals. Excellent artistry. A performance by an internationally acclaimed artist. Well worth leaving the house for.
As I walked to the venue I saw that the centre of Leicester was almost deserted. Okay, the weather was not good but even so, few people were in the streets around Curve. As I write this, I note on the news that Leicester has been in lockdown for 100 days (7th October). The impact on our local live music scene has been devastating.
5th June. Leicester forced to endure another two weeks of lockdown as COVID-19 cases increase in the city. Pubs will not reopen on 4th July around here.
When will the venues reopen? Listen to our interview with Sue Lavender from The Soundhouse about how COVID-19 has affected them on
MIL continues to interview musicians and artists about the impact the lockdown is having on them.
Hello again. Trevor here. How are you all? Well. I hope. Live – a thing of the past. Gigs – what we used to be before the lockdown. Last time I went to a gig was 10th March. I went to see Jonezy perform at the Soundhouse. Seems like a long time ago now. These days, musicians and singers are streaming performances over the Internet. This magazine has started a page about musical streams – Coronavirus – Live Streams. It’s one way of keeping the music going. Thanks to Kevin for doing all that. So. Not a lot more I can say really. Except “stay safe folks.”
As Coronavirus impacts Leicester, live music is hitting the dust. Many concerts and gigs have been cancelled. All events organised by Regent Jazz have been postponed until further notice. At the Musician pub, some gigs have been cancelled, others postponed. In some cases, this was because of travel restrictions affecting the bands and artists. The Shed continues to operate, albeit on a limited basis. Some gigs postponed. Interestingly, the Shed now refuses to accept ‘hand money’ a.k.a. cash accepting only payments by card.
The Music Venue Trust has published advice about live music and the COVID-19. The article draws attention to Government support for live music venues. It says’ The following is the latest information available (as of 11 am Wednesday 18 March) of the various measures that are being made available by Government to support Grassroots Music Venues (GMVs) in England during the COVID-19 crisis. In each case, this is the best information that Music Venue Trust has been able to acquire from the government at this time. We are in contact with departments across government to ensure that as soon as additional advice on how to access this support becomes available we can deliver it to GMVs, together with instructions on how to qualify for it and access it.’
The article advises ‘The government will support small and medium-sized businesses and employers to cope with the extra costs of paying COVID-19 related SSP by refunding eligible SSP costs.’ and explains the eligibility criteria.
Many people in the music business are self-employed and some are sole traders. This will cause a severe loss of income if these people have to self-isolate or stay at home to care for children or elderly loved ones. There are information and advice for people who are self-employed, on the government website. The Government has published guidelines for business affected by the COIVIS-19 virus.
Many newspapers and websites have published advice and information about help for self-employed people. Search fort ‘support for self-employed UK’
The page from the previous series about the history of music – Round 7 – has been republished. It is about the rise of the festivals.
Read about the current series of articles concerning Leicester’s Music History and see a list of all available articles in the series.
After 20 years…
The Musician is a venue that has played a key part in my journey over the years and it was a huge pleasure to be back there again on 2nd February 2020 to support its 20th-anniversary celebrations.
The Musician at 20
Sunday 2nd February 2020
Trevor Locke at the twentieth birthday celebration
The Musician is one of the city’s celebrated permanent live music venues. It opened in the year 2000. Previously, the building had housed the Baker’s Arms, a pub that occasionally hosted nights of live music for the entertainment of its existing customers. Over the years, the venue has seen many great artists and has played host to many important music events. It was fitting, therefore, that the line-up for tonight included some of Leicester’s most prestigious music acts.
Kevin Hewick, Steve Cartwright, Steve Parker, Kenny Wilson, Ali Sperry (USA), Tony Alles, Sally Hossack’s dream band, The Ruby Doos, Andy Griffiths & Andy Wales, Dawson Smith & The Dissenters. The night also raised money for Hope Against Cancer, local homeless charities and Rainbows.
All the way from the USA, Ali Sperry was on her first tour of the UK. So, performing at the Musician for the first time was an engaging singer from Nashville who captivated us with her own songs and delightful personality.
Tony Alles started playing at this venue shortly after it opened, he told me. He’s been coming back ever since. Many other of tonight’s musicians have been performing here over the years. Alles is one of the city’s most celebrated blues musicians. Tonight, he shows what he could do with a selection of jazz and blues numbers. It was a magnificent set.
Another artist I have known for a very long time is Sally Hossack. Her trio gave us a delightful and dreamy selection of tunes full of atmosphere and resonance.
I have attended many gigs at The Musician and I jotted down a few of those that I could remember. Not least, the finals of the Original Bands Showcase. Always a significant part of the musical calendar, in those days. I remember seeing the singer Siobhan Mazzei performing a solo set there. It was one of the most astonishing performances I have ever seen. I put on a couple of gigs there including one headed by a band called Leaving Party. That was my ‘flash’ gig, put together over two days but which resulted in a sell-out audience. On yes, and that night when the Heroes played with Formal Warning and a fight broke out. The night when Skam and Hell’s addiction shared a line-up. Many others. Many, many others.
When Darren Nockles too over the venue, in the year 2000, it was small than it now is. They enlarged it, extending the room to its present size.
Griffiths and Wales. Two accomplished musicians delivered a set infused with marvellous riffs and melodies. Impressive instrumentals. Fine vocals. Lashings of atmosphere. Lyrics full of poetic images.
Dawson Smith. Another of Leicester’s musical legends. Still going strong. On stage tonight with his Dissenters, I recalled his previous gig where he played a set of songs from the protests of history. Dawson has appeared, over the years, with a number of ensembles including the Dawson Brothers. He makes rock and roll come alive.
What a fantastic evening. Meeting many people who I had not seen for years, catching up with old friends, I was so glad that I had taken the trouble to be there. It was a gig that spoke of Leicester’s impressive musical heritage.
Jazz features in my musical tastes and it was to Regent Jazz that I headed for one of their events of Gypsy Jazz. On 28th January, I saw a performance by Swing Gitan playing songs from the legendary Django Reinhardt.
My first gig of 2020 took place at the O2 Academy. A one-day event, called Together, for which there is a full write-up.
Content from this page is moved into an archive, from time to time, to prevent the page from becoming too long.
Last edited: 3/1/21