Going to gigs round 1

Going to gigs

Wednesday 5th July 2017.

Instalment 1.

What is it about gigs?

by Trevor Locke.

In this issue: Why we go to gigs. Trevor’s hat. Reading festival. Nights at the Shed. Websites. Golden age of gigs. Working with bands. All about the venues.

Why do we go to Gigs? Interesting question. It’s something I have posted about before – on my Facebook page. It resulted in a very long discussion. Today I might shed a bit more light on the question; but I doubt it. Let’s start with the basics. Researchers at a university have found that going to hear music makes us happy. Oh yes. Now we know it’s true; the Guardian says so.

I go to gigs in Leicester. It’s something I have been doing for a long time. In this series, I want to look back on some of the gigs that have meant something to me and on the bands and singers who have made that experience of music so valuable and entertaining. I am still seeing bands today – as I guess you are. Do we want to remember them in several years time – possibly, long after they have ceased to play? Well, I certainly do. So that’s why I am writing this column; to ensure that those happy memories are not lost forever and so that the bands, that gave so many people pleasure back in the day, are not forgotten with the passage of time.

So why do we go to gigs? Where can I start? Well let me start with an icon.

Trevor’s hat (the original one)

I used to wear a hat. Why? Because in those days I cycled to gigs. If it rained I had to keep my spectacles clear – otherwise I would not be able to see where I was going. So, I got myself a baseball cap; the large brim kept the rain off. My hat became an icon, a brand, a recognisable feature; people recognised me because I wore that hat. It seemed to attract people to me. When I got into the room at The Shed, people would ask me if they could put my hat on. Then they would take a selfie. I got the idea. Before long I had a whole photo gallery on Facebook – of musicians and their fans – wearing my hat.

Fans wearing Trevor’s hat

See my photo album called Trevor’s hat, on Facebook.

It soon became a craze to be photographed wearing Trevor’s hat. I like to think that is was not just the hat that made me stand out. What went with it was my editing a website that was visited by pretty much everybody at the time. It was the one place where bands from Leicester could read stuff about themselves. It came at a time when websites mattered – before the age of social media – in fact websites were the social media of the day.

Lead singer of Enraged wearing Trevor’s Hat

Not only were the bands highlighted but also the musicians; lead singers were of particular importance; so no change there then. If a band has a singer with presence and charisma then they and their band were well on the way to making it.

Owen Moore, 2011

Some bands stood out then, just as they do today. The whole rock scene was portrayed as a tree. Some bands were at the top. Not everyone could be there. Like a flock of birds, the bands of Leicester were distributed around the branches of the tree.

Alex Totman of The Heroes

My hat was what made me stand out at gigs. Well, not just the hat. More to it than just the hat. I launched a website called Arts in Leicestershire. That was in 2005. In its hey day it was a very popular destination for surfers interested in Leicester’s music scene.

Trevor’s hat

So, for me, going to gigs was bound up in covering the rock music scene – as a working journalist. When exactly did all of this take place? My records go back to around 2004. Rock music came into my life in a serious way in 2001. It was in that year that I went to my first rock festival. Reading. A small selection of the acts I saw when I was there: Travis, Green Day, Manic Street Preachers, Eminem, Marilyn Manson, P J Harvey, Papa Roach, Iggy Pop, Feeder, Queens of the Stone Age, Eels, Rancid, System of a Down, Weezer, Soulwax, The Cult, Fear Factory, Boy Hits Car, Mogwai… and very many more. It was a rounded introduction to the music of the rock world. I loved it. When I got back to Leicester I started to buy CDs of my favourite bands. While I was there I bought the hoodie and got the T-shirt. With all the acts on the back. Then I started going to gigs.

Nights at The Shed

The Shed. Everyone went to the famous venue in Yeoman Street. The date: 27th November 2002. That was the day when I went to The Shed for the very first time. It was very different then. I had never been to a live music venue before, so I had nothing to compare it with. From that day to this, I have been going back regularly to see thousands of bands and singers. From there I branched out to the other venues that were around at the time – The Attik, The Charlotte and Sumo being some of them. Since then, I have met many people who have said to me “The Shed was the first venue I ever went to. I was 14 at the time.” OK. The Shed is a very different place today then when I first stepped inside its door. I think what you remember most about the place is the big gigs. Yes. The very big gigs. More about them later.

The Shed, before its refurbishment

Get your mag on

I became a magazine publisher. As I noted in my diary: I registered the domain name artsinleicestershire.co.uk on 22nd February 2005. That proved to be a watershed in my career as someone who wrote about music. Using this domain name, I created a website about all forms of arts in Leicester, including music. It was much later that it was called a magazine. It gave me an outlet for writing about the bands that I saw and gigs that we went to. Others started to write for it too – people like Kevin Gaughan; back then the Gigs Editor.

Between 2005 and 2013 that was my main website. It grew and grew. At its high water-mark it was getting around 28,000 hits a month. If you typed the words ‘Leicester’ and ‘arts’ into Google, it would always come up top. It soon became the one website that everyone went to if they were interested in popular music: by that I mean the genre of music that includes rock, indie, punk, pop and so on. There was no shortage of things to write about – the gigs, the bands, the singers – Leicester was a happy hunting ground for the rock music enthusiast. In fact, we also wrote about classical music, opera, ballet, musicals… we did it all.

The golden age of gigs

The website evolved into an online magazine. Originally the website was about the arts generally, in our local area. As time went on, over half of all the content (of around 600 pages) was about rock music and the bands that played it. It was at this time – around 2005 – that I started going to gigs on a regular basis. In some weeks I went to gigs every night. For weeks on end I was out night after night at one venue or other.

Band members outside the Musician in 2012

That is what this story is about. Going to gigs. Gigs at the live music venues of Leicester. No car. If I went anywhere I either got on my bike or walked; sometimes I took the bus. That is why it was all about local music. Getting outside of Leicester was very difficult; it happened only when a band organised a coach trip to London or Birmingham.

The Heroes on stage at the Dublin Castle in London in 2008

Once I had got the arts website established, I went on to bigger things. I also registered the domain name getyourbandon.com, on 22nd February 2005 and developed it as a website about bands and music and how they could begin to climb the ladder of success. It got to the top of the search engine rankings for “band management” and brought in a lot of work. As a result I became the manager of several rock bands. In its hey day it was highly successful.

The Get Your Band On office in 2009

Working with bands

That website was part of my growing music empire. Bands were the centre of my life, my work. More than just listening to them, I began to work with them. The first band I got involved with was called Nocturnal; they later developed into The Utopians. Arguably, one of the most successful bands to come out of Leicester, in that era.

Nocturnal at The Shed

From 2005 through to about 2010, I spent most of my life working with bands and going to gigs. Bands from this period that really stand out for me include – Autohype, Ictus, The Heroes, Razmataz, Formal Warning, Backline, The Mile, Breek, Capture the Flag, The Screening and many more; I could write a very long list. I will mention many more in the articles to come.

Nocturnal on stage at The shed

Not just bands; I also worked with singers and rappers. In the 2005 to 2009 period, singers I remember most included Jake Manning, John Anthony, Olly Dickinson and rappers like Strider and Pinball and Ricky C. More about them later.

The Heroes at the Shed in 2009

In fact there was a time when I decided to start my own boy band. It was called Horizon.

Horizon boy band

It included five of the best solo artists in the city. They rehearsed for months. They gave only one performance and then split up. Musically I thought they were pretty good; what I failed to appreciate was that they would never be able to work together as a group. That was because they were five solo artists. Not good material for a group. Still, it was an interesting experience. I was never in a band; I was never a musician. That is telling – for a music journalist and band manager. Other skills were needed than the ability to understand how guitars are played.

It was all about the venues

The Musician pub

At that time there were many live music venues in Leicester – The Shed, the Musician, Sumo, The Donkey, The Charlotte, The Attik, The Jam Jar and various other places. These were the proper live music venues; the ones that were venues in the strict sense of the word. In addition, many of the local pubs put on live music nights, from time to time. Just as they do today. Bands got to play in all sorts of strange places. There were also some places that put on some very strange bands.

The Shed, before its refurbishment

Next time:
In the next instalment (on Wednesday 12th July)  I look at the rise and fall of Leicester’s live music venues and tell the story of the more unusual places that provided stages for gigs and bands.

Read about the Going to Gigs series.

See also:

Round-up of live music for June 2017
Live music in 2016 – review of the year.