The History of Music in Leicester
The noughties (2000 onwards)
Work in progress
This is by no means a definitive account of Leicester’s music; it is work in progress, a tentative exploration of some of the aspects of the decade, compiled as a basis for a forthcoming work. Contributions and comments are welcome.
The noughties in a nutshell
This period saw a huge growth in music festivals and live music venues. Leicester developed a live music economy as venues, bands and festivals began to grow. As the number of live music venues grew, adding to pubs and clubs as places where live music could be performed, bands and artists began to put on their own gigs. It became unnecessary to be signed to a record label to achieve anything and for thousands of young men and women in Leicester, producing their own music for their fans became a realistic possibility. The age of the DIY music artist had begun. Hundreds of bedrooms became recording studios. Shops began to sell recording equipment; in Leicester, retail outlets like Maplins did a roaring trade in microphones, amps and mixing devices. As laptops became increasingly affordable, musicians could download software and begin to mix and master their own work in a way that was impossible before the arrival of the Internet.
Local festivals began to grow in number through Britain. In Leicester, the start of Summer Sundae in the year 2000, would see a major music event come on to the local calendar. During its heyday the festival became an important event on the national live music scene. Local bands were given a chance to play their first big festival there, alongside bands of national status.
There were several live music venues in the city, including The Charlotte – 1989 to 2010, The Shed – 1994 to the present day, The Attik -1985 to 2006, The Donkey from 2005 to the present day. By contrast, the rise of the big festivals, raves and the construction of high-capacity arenas, brought back a social element to the experience of music, one not seen on this scale since the demise of the music halls in the early twentieth century.
Leicester saw the opening of two new venues: the O2 Academy and Sub91. The latter did not last more than a couple of years and we also witnessed the opening of the Auditorium, in the city centre, another venue with a short life-span. The O2 is still going though its impact on live music was not what was expected and it can be argued that it has made only a moderate change to Leicester’s life music scene.
The growth in the Internet fuelled interest in music and gave wider access to it than ever had been possible before. On the Internet Twitter was launched and Facebook replaced MySpace as the dominant social media platform for bands. YouTube started in 2005. In 2007, Soundcloud was launched in Sweden and soon took off around Europe. These outlets gave DIY musicians the tools with which to promote themselves and their music.
From the millennium year onwards, bands took to the Internet in increasing numbers, opening accounts on MySpace, attracting fans, joining music websites and some made their own websites. The growth of the Internet, from 2002 onwards, brought huge changes to the way that music was distributed. It also allowed bands to reach a wider audience through the world wide web.
Many bands started up in this period; some are still around, but many, many more have ceased to exist. Some of those bands achieved local stardom; others were brief occurrences, groups that played a few times and then disappeared without further trace. Musical tastes and fashions changed from year to year; the age-old genres always played a part – punk and metal, the more folky stuff – as they do today. But the one genre that stood out was indie – at least that is what we called it then and perhaps some of us still do today. Indie, in this sense, was popular rock; music that had a more melodic and tuneful approach and was more likely to push the boundaries of musical traditions. Its successor, if it has one, is what we see today in ‘alternative’ (though what it might be alternative to is never clear.)
Across the country live music venues were closing down in their hundreds; the introduction of the smoking ban, the increasing cost of running venues driven by public spending austerity and a declining interest in going out to gigs – all have been blamed for the contraction of live music. Against this backdrop, Leicester has fared less badly than many other areas; we still have the same eight venues we started with in the early days of the decade and although attendance generally has declined, the venues have responded by putting on fewer gigs and, to some extent, by putting on gigs that attract niche fans.
Music tastes have changed over the decade so far; punk has declined, metal continues to attract large numbers but to only a limited number of shows and the mainstream is still rich in what we now call alternative music and covers and tribute acts. From 2013 onwards, the supply of new bands in Leicester has all but dried up. Fewer teenagers have come forward to offer start-up groups than was the case in the earlier years of the decade.
The timeline is offered as a concise resume of the more outstanding elements of Leicester’s music scene from the year 2000 through to 2013. In compiling it, I have chosen items that illustrate and characterise the year in question; it should in no way be seen to be comprehensive.
Timeline: The year 2000
At the turn of the millennium, Leicester’s venues included The Shed, The Attik, The Charlotte, the Jam Jar in Park End Street and a variety of small pubs that booked live bands now and again; big bands played at The Granby Halls and the DeMontfort Hall.
Alan Freeman’s account of bands in the 2000s appears on the Internet.
America On Line (AOL) was one of the most widely used Internet provider services in the UK.
Darren Nockles becomes a promoter at the Musician. Previously it was called The Bakers Arms. Another live music venue, The Musician joined other places like The Vaults, The Phoenix, Royal Mail, Jolly Miller and The Fountain Inn, Sileby.
An accredited course in HTML and web design was put on at Stayfree music’s cybercafe in Conduit Street. Some of the students on it were musicians. Increasing access to knowledge and software allowed bands and music artists to make their own websites.
February. A big show was held at the DeMontfort Hall ‘featuring the very best bands from Leicester’ and ran from 2 pm to 11pm On the advertised line-up were Saracuse (the forerunner of Kasabian), Pendulum, Last Man Standing, The 13twelve, Marvel, Slider, Fusion, The Incurables and several others.
May. Travel to Leicester website was one of the first local websites to promote live music and bands. It was the forerunner of Arts in Leicester, which launched in 2005.
Formation of the band called Ist, a Leicester band that was signed to Pink Box Records.
Prior to its demolition in 2001, the Granby Halls served as a venue for music concerts, alongside its use as a sports centre. Opening in 1915, it was built as a training hall for the army in World War I. Having stood dormant for three years, the City Council pulled it down as it became an increasing cost burden. During the time when it was used as a large arena for rock concerts, it hosted shows by The Rolling Stones and Louis Armstrong among others.
The first Summer Sundae festival was held in 2001. The event was also called The Summer Sundae Weekender, although when it started it lasted for only one day. It grew to become an important national event for indie and alternative music bands and artists. The festival was held in the De Montfort Hall and its surrounding grounds and lasted from Friday to Sunday. The last event was held in 2012 when the festival was brought to an end. Later, Simon Says provided a festival in the same location using a similar format. The Festival ran from 2001 to 2012.
August. Trevor Locke attended the Reading festival and is converted to rock music. Without this he might never have got into music and might never have started this magazine.
The BBC held three events on Victoria Park, each attracting a crowd of around 100,000 people. One Big Sunday was in Leicester in 2001, promoted by BBC Radio 1, with Coldplay, Kylie Minogue, Nelly Furtado, Dido, Victoria Beckham, Faithless, Craig David and Jamiroquai on the stage.
BBC Radio 1 held another big event on Victoria Park attracting a massive crowd.
The domain name kasabian.co.uk was registered in 2002, one of the earliest domain names to be used by a band that originated in Leicester.
June. Live rock music in the city centre. More than 1,000 performers packed six stages across Leicester city centre on Bank Holiday.
June. There was an event called Music Live that involved more than one thousands performers across six stages. A Golden Jubilee stage was held in Humberstone Gate and a Youth Music stage was situated next to the Clock Tower. World music was represented at a stage in the Town Hall square and classical music was provided at The New Walk Museum. Local bands that played included Ist, The Splitters, Stiff Naked Fools and many others.
The Abbey Park Festival started and ran to 2005 (another source indicates that The Abbey Park music festivals began in 1981 but this is as yet unverified. Wikipedia states that the Abbey Park festival was held from 1981)
Myspace became the dominant international social networking platform. Leicester bands were mainly on Myspace from 2003 to 2005, when Facebook began to replace it as the Internet outlet of choice for the majority of bands and artists. With the birth of Myspace, every band and singer was able to have a presence on the Internet. Fans were able to befriend their favourite acts and original bands could distribute their recorded tracks free of charge or for a small price.
Leicester band ICTUS registered its own domain name for use with its website.
Mosh night club opened.
July – One Big Sunday takes place on Victoria Park with a huge crowd and performance by bands and singers of international calibre.
Mosh night club opened and was, at one time, a very popular choice for rock fans and the city’s students. Only a small handful of live gigs have ever been held there.
Before the rise of Facebook, from 2004, Myspace was the dominant platform on the Internet.
In 2004, the domain name arcticmonkeys.com was registered. The Sheffield band Arctic Monkeys, which formed in 2002, was signed in 2005 but before that they had established a sizeable fan-base on MySpace.
Someone registered thescreening.co.uk in 2004 for Leicester band The Screening. These were early adopters of the do-it-yourself breed of Internet users.
March – maybeshewill.net registered. One of the earliest domain names registered by a band from Leicester.
September. Kasabian release their debut album, having started life as Saracuse, playing one of the first gigs at The Shed, in 2009. The Shed opened in 1994.
The old Musician closed it’s doors for the last time on 31 December 2004. It re-opened in 2005.
Facebook founded. By 2009 it had become the most used social networking site on the planet. By the end of 2012 over half of the UK’s internet users had a Facebook account.
The first OBS (Original Bands Showcase). The winners were Dirty Backbeats.
Ainleys record store closed. Wayne Allen was the manager of the store between 1983 and 2001. It was situated opposite the Clock Tower. He is credited with bringing some of the biggest names in music to the Leicester store, including Englebert Humperdinck, Radiohead, Del Amitri, St Etienne, Stereophonics, Shed Seven and Bananarama. He died in 2012. Several other record shops in the centre of Leicester are remembered, including Back Track Records and Boogaloo, and in current times HMV, 2 Funky and Rockaboom records. People remember Revolver Records, Cank Street Records, Virgin records, BPM, Archers, Reef, Chakademas, Pliers, MVC, Village Square, A G Kemble, Archers, A T Brown, Brees, Dalton & Son, The Record Cellar, World Records in London Road, and Carousel.
The years 2005 to 2014 have been christened ‘The Facebook Generation’; a period when a entire generation of young people grew into adulthood using Facebook as a social media outlook. This had many consequences for the music industry. MySpace – its predecessor – sinks into obscurity.
Launch of YouTube. It was purchased by Google in November 2006.
May – the first Glastonbudget festival. To hell and back, Meatloaf tribute band, Ded Hot Chilie Peppers, One Step behind (Madness tribute), Oasish, The Jamm, were amongst the bands that played. A copy of the programme for that year is on the Glastonbudget website.
Arts in Leicestershire founded. The domain name was registered on 22nd February. Soon followed by the publication of the early version of the Arts in Leicestershire web site. This took over from its predecessor site – Travel to Leicester. Music soon constituted over half its pages.
The Donkey in Welford Road becomes a live music venue. Many pubs put on live bands from time to time but only a few of them developed into venues in which live music was offered regularly.
Kevin Hewick started on Facebook. An early adopter, Kevin’s presence is still there today.
The Musician reopened on 1 February, actually smaller than before because of the toilet repositioning, and live music continued unabated until May.
Formation of Leicestershire band Roxum.
Launch of Twitter. A slow start in the UK, it gradually picked up in this country and many bands and singers began to use it as another weapon in their social media armoury.
Another social media outlet to launch this year was Reverbnation.
Trevor Locke joined Facebook. Previously he ran accounts on MySpace associated with his project called Get Your Band On. GYBO had its own website and achieved top results on Google for band management searches.
Gaz Birtles started working as a promoter at The Donkey.
Horus Music established in Birmingham, later to move to Leicester which is where it is now.
The Glastonbudget Festival starts to put on local original bands such as The Authentics, UgLi, Jack of Hearts, The Stiff Naked Fools, Ego Armalade, Proud To Have Met You, Platinum JAR, Ictus.
Beginnings of Fringe Festival and Fringe Thursday. Fringe Thursday had it’s beginnings as the Summer Sundae Warm Up Party in 2006. The Fringe rode on the back of the Summer Sundae festival.
The last full year of the Charlotte! (Under the management of Andy Wright)
Original Bands Showcase won by Proud To Have Met You.
The Attik, a city centre live music venue, closed. It has started in 1989.
The start of SoundCloud. It was launched in Sweden and quickly spread across Europe.
The first gig reviews published by Arts in Leicester website.
Val McCoy joined Facebook.
The Utopians band was an early adopter of Facebook.
Original Bands Showcase won by The Chairmen.
Many more local original bands (‘new acts’) play at Glastonbudget, such as Ictus, Patchwork Grace, Skam#, The Mile, Subdude, Jack of Hearts, Black River Project, Utopians, Squid Ate Lucy, Codes, C*Bob, Purple and the Rains, amongst many others. Playing at Glastonbudget was for many of the new, original bands a premium achievement when this was one of the new local festivals of any importance.
Original Bands Showcase won by M48.
Formation of several bands from Leicester including Neon Sarcastic, Little Night Terrors, The Chairmen, Axis Mundi, The Boobytraps.
Leicester band The Chairmen win the national Surface Unsigned competition.
Pick of the gigs for 2008 published by Arts in Leicester.
July. the Heroes win a competition to be opening band on the main stage at Summer Sundae.’Thousands of you voted and the results are in… The winners are… Leicester band The Heroes are to open The Weekender in Leicester.’ Guitarist Alex Van Roose went on to form Midnight Wire and lead vocalist Alex Totman went on to form Selby Court band.
December. Curve Theatre opened in Rutland Street. The £65million state of the art theatre put on shows that included live bands playing for singers and dancers but has never hosted a rock concert.
In an article for The Scene magazine Trevor Locke wrote about music gigs and shows taking place in Leicester over the Christmas period. he referred to bands playing at The Charlotte including Bad Manners on 18th December, The Dobsons on 23rd December. he mentioned that The Chairman would be playing at Praha in Hinckley on 31st December. On 14th December there was a gig with UK Subs, The Nags, Mannix and March to The Grave at The Shed on 14th December. Evil Scarecrow was to play on 18th Dec.
Melting Pot promotions started in July.
Formation of Leicester bands The Weekend Schemers, Formal Warning The Furies, Arms of Atlas,
January – ‘I remember the police shut the doors of the Charlotte to stop any more people getting in and shut the bar down .. was fun that night.’ January 16th.
Original Bands Showcase won by The Heroes.
May, Glastonbudget Festival. The Glastonbudget festival, now in its fifth year, held auditions for acts to appear on its stages and these were held at The Shed from August 2008 through to April 2009.
April – Leicester fans went to London on the coach with The Heroes. The gig was held in The Fly in Oxford Street. Also there were The Pennyhangers and Fearless Vampire Killers (20/4/09)
List of Leicester rock bands in 2009 and earlier published on Arts in Leicester.
Alan Freeman publishes another list of Leicester bands.
Dawson Smith is on Facebook.
Pick of the gigs for 2009 published on Arts in Leicester.
February, rapper Jonathan Jones (Jonezy) joins Facebook.
August – At The Musician the Get Your Band On Summer Sundae Fringe show with Primal Device, Smoking The Profit, The Waits, The Stiggz and The Utopians (12/8/09)
September – Leicester Gay Pride took place in Belgrave Gate and on the main stage were The Heroes, the indie band from Leicester (5/9/09)
October – Winner Takes All finals show at The Shed with The Fuss, Product Recall, Weekend Schemers, White Ashes, Kill The Batman, Azidify and Formal Warning (3/10/09)
November. Leicester band Autohype plays to a crowd of over 20,000 at the Abbey Park fireworks.
Formation, in the Spring, of By The Rivers band by Nile Barrow and Jordan Birtles.
Northern Soul nights are held at the Palais.
The Auditorium music venue opens, adjacent to Leicester Market in September. The building was formerly the Odeon cinema and after that a bingo hall.
January. Dutch Courage, The Dobsons, Razmataz, Autohype play at The Shed. A very cold night with deep snow in the county. Reporting on this gig, Arts in Leicester wrote: ‘Autohype are Autohype! Like Razmataz, they don’t sound like other bands; they have developed a sound that is unmistakably their own. The crowd, having been ignited by Razmataz, erupted into a riot when the five lords of the dance got underway. Here is a band that turns a gig into a show. A small tip about how to tell a top band from the rest: they don’t have to look at their instruments to play them. The four instrumentalists could have done it blind-folded. Front-man Seb however needed plenty of light to see where he was going, as he set off into the crowd, up the steps into the control booth to sing to Andy the sound engineer and, after a couple of trips along the bar in his red ballet shoes, he’s back into the crowd and heading to the stage. “This is the year when we are going to make it.”
January. The Donkey puts up a page on Facebook.
February. The last 14+ night at the Charlotte. On the programme were Skinny Bones, Formal Warning and The Weekend Schemers.
March. Heat 2 of the Original Bands Showcase took place at The Shed. On stage were Drive By Disco (a member of which was David Lewis who is now the lead singer in Once Vagrant Souls); Identity Parade (from Coalville); The Pennyhangers and Ashdowne.
March. Saturday night: a big crowd turned up at the Music Cafe off Braunstone Gate, to hear three quality bands including the amazing Twisted Wheel. Supporting were Kids in Cars and The Chairmen.
March. The Y Theatre was the setting for a show that featured the music of Minnaars and The Screening.
May. Original Bands Showcase won by James Lewis Band.
May. The Young Knives headlined a show at The Music Cafe with support from The Weekend Schemers and the band touring with the Young Knives – Race Horses.
June. Third Time Lucky headlined a show at The Y Theatre with White Ashes, The Weekend Schemers, White Fix and Six Lost Souls in support.
July – The Soundhouse opened in Southampton Street; firstly as a pub with regular music gigs it is now a live music venue.
July. The Auditorium hosted its We Are Leicester festival; on the bill were over 45 local bands and artists. To mentioned only a few of the acts – Skinny Bones, The Hordes, Dobsons, Ska Bands, The Midbeats, The Furies, Sunflower, Rassoodocks, Free Control, Roxum, Ictus, One Suspicious Monkey and Silent Resistence.
August. Start of the Strawberry Fields festival in North West Leicestershire.
August. A big show at the Shed attracted a capacity crowd to see White Fix, the Dobsons, Weekend Schemers.
August. By The Rivers band register their domain name.
August. Super Thursday and the venues of Leicester fill up with fans and bands for a feeding frenzy of rock and live music. Artsin reporters were out to cover as much as they could of this amazing festival – the Summer Sundae Fringe. Arts in Leicester reported on The Musician, The Shed, The Firebug and mentioned the Independent Arts Centre. Buses provided fans with free transport between the venues.
August. Opening night of the new big venue in Leicester – Sub91. Headlining the show was The Damned.
September. Harjinder Ohbi reported from The Donkey where he had seen The Raghu Dixit Project, a band from India and Out Of Karma opening the show.
September. The launch of Leicester’s brand new O2 Academy took place with a performance by Professor Green and a champagne reception attended by 300 of Leicester’s rockerati.
October. De Montfort University’s Level 1 (the students union) was the unusual setting for a gig. The line-up included Scarlet Soviets, Little Night Terrors, Silent Devices and Autohype.
October. Retribution night at Sub91.
The Soundhouse venue issued a flyer for their gigs in Autumn/Winter 2010. September included – 28th – Kids Can’t Fly with Last Edition, Breadchasers and Third Time Lucky. In October, examples were – 8th Great Imitation and Storm the Front. 14th – Black Page Turns with Skam and Go Alex. 29th – The Black Tears with Sons of Beaches, Severn and Rise Again. 30th – Autohype and The Chairmen. November included 6th – Superevolver with Paladin. 9th – 12 Dirty Bullets and Glass Onion. 13th – Minnaars. 20th – Forever Living Dead and Dethonator.
A list of bands known to exist in Leicester in 2011 was published by Arts in Leicester magazine.
January. The Exchange Bar opens, in Rutland Street.
May. Formation of Midnight Wire band.
May. Glastonbudget music festival takes place.
Formation of Raptusound band; their earliest known performance was at Oxjam (at The Soundhouse.)
Original Bands Showcase won by Kenworthy.
December. Sub91 venue closes
Wake Up Promotions (Paul Collins) put on his first show in September at the Exchange.
February. Leipzig based electronica band DIN Martin are to play at the Firebug on Tuesday 20th March. The band is making a return visit to Leicester, having played last year at Lock42. The band is also playing at a number of other English towns before returning to Germany. The band’s new album is due out in March.
March. Leicester indie band Midnight Wire played tonight at London’s legendary 100 Club. The band played where The Sex Pistols, The Rolling Stones, Ocean Colour Scene, Muddy Waters, Oasis, Travis, The Clash and The White Stripes once performed.
May. Original Bands Showcase won by Midnight Wire.
July. The Decade Runners are to play the Live and Unsigned National Final at The O2 in London. After battling it out in live heats across the country and beating over 10,000 acts who entered the music competition, The Decade Runners, from Ashby de la Zouch, are now going to be playing at The O2 on Saturday 14th July.
September. Skam has announced its UK tour for November, when they will be supporting Bonafide. The tour will take them to Nottinghamshire, Gwent, Southampton, Bristol, Kendal, Sheffield, Bingley, Newcastle, Wolverhampton, London and Glasgow. Full list of dates is on the band’s web site. Skam is a long established original rock band in Leicester.
November. Leicester band The Fores has won best newcomer at the Download Music Awards, the band announced on its Facebook page today. In 2009 the Best Newcomer was won by The Saturdays.
The start of the Hand Made Festival.
Original Bands Showcase won by Leaving Party
June. Music in Leicester magazine goes live and takes over the publication of music content from Arts in Leicester, its sister magazine.
Kasabian’s home-coming gig, held on Victoria Park, attracted a massive audience
November. A massive crowd at Abbey Park hears rising boy band stars The Vamps with support acts from Leicester’s Curtis Clacey and Jonezy.
November. The film 40 Years Of Black music in Leicester was celebrated with its premier at Phoenix arts.
Singer Sam Bailey (who lived and worked in Leicestershire) won the popular television series The X-Factor.
For more of 2013 and other years up to the present, see our contents page.