BurningFist is very proud to present a fantastic feature by guest writer Knox, who explores the very limits of the north-eastern Metal scene. Hold on tight, it’s about to get bumpy…
Shame! Shame on you for not getting the Immortal reference.
Anyway, enough posturing and attempting to endear you by showing a vague knowledge of an important band and album from “back in the day”. We’re here to evaluate that state of the North East metal scene. Not an easy thing to quantify in a few hundred words but what appears to be evident is that there are some generalities endemic throughout the country, to a certain extent.
And “scene”, what an ugly word that has become, affiliated with haircuts and eyeliner and genuinely terrible horrific abortions of what is termed “music”. Nevertheless, the generalities I speak of are probably nothing new, and maybe I undersold the endemic. Pandemic sounds about right, we’ll stop there. If only the musical industries would.
I have been a mostly active member of the local scene for around 12 years or so now, playing in bands that usually played to their mates in shit pubs in Northumberland, eventually graduating to the heady heights of Newcastle and its live music scene, the melting pot of various different musical cultures and styles that, to a naive young metalhead, appears enlightened. It’s a crying fucking shame that this is not the case.
At a base level, Newcastle appeared to cater for all, but now I sit struggling to even begin defending the place. There is one, ONE!, rock(ish) bar left in Newcastle. Trillians. It closed at some point recently and reopened after some people got all bent out of shape about not having a ‘cultural hub’ for the alternative scene, or something equally as bullshit as that statement. Thousands of people getting all nostalgic about a place they used to go when they used to be in a scene they used to understand. Fucking morons. Where are they now?! Are they propping the bar up in a packed out venue for the latest local act to hit the stage nearly every single night of the week at that place? Are they fuck.
It’s hard to not appear to be just another cynical, apathetic keyboard warrior, quasi-intellectually eviscerating a subject for the hell of it. But my point is that I want the best for this place, I want the best for our scene and I want the best for the bands here. So before I get too specific, we all know the four essential things needed to create a healthy music scene…
Bands, fans, venues and promoters…
…all working as one, to create a Utopian musical haven for the community it serves. Put like that, it sounds pretty fucking easy and slightly grandiose admittedly but, shouldn’t it be that easy? Well, no, obviously and isn’t that sad.
As far as bands go, like any place in the country, we have some incredible bands and some amazing musicians. I’m not about to start name-dropping bands because they don’t need their egos massaged by me and if you care enough, you’ll seek them out like any interested fan of music would. They are willing to work hard, play anywhere and for very little if not anything at all. I know this because I still do it now, even with the small level of success and attention we’ve had as a band recently. From a bands’ point of view, why should we pay a venue to play there? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
Venue’s do not have the faith that a band will fulfill an imaginary quota of people to spend enough money to line the pocket of whatever chain that controls them. If your venue/bar was any good, you would have a bunch of regulars that came there all the time, interested by the way you ran the gigs, promoted them and got more people to fill the place and, you know, booze and that. When did it become the bands’ responsibility to promote the fucking gigs? Surely the job title of “promoter” means that you should take some responsibility in getting people to these gigs?
Definitely and resoundingly no.
Apparently it’s cool to stick a couple of posts on the old Facebook and maybe, if you can be arsed, create a group and send out a million invites that nobody reads or cares about. Whatever happened to the guerrilla promotions of old? Standing outside a venue, not even the one you were playing, at 3 in the morning waiting for the thronging masses of extremely pissed up wankers piling out and making sure they got a flyer, maybe a demo CD and having the time, date and venue screamed at them until they got it. Nah, that would be out of the question.
Now again, as I said, I’m only speaking in generalities. To some extent it is on the band to make people aware of it, especially on a local level where you’re able to harangue your mates into coming, but touring bands, international bands to be even more specific, I mean come on! Give the fuckers a chance. Case in point, I did some similarly lazy research by asking my friends, via Facebook, about their thoughts and opinions on the state of our music scene. Someone then sent me a link to a touring international bands post whereby they’d turned up to a venue in Newcastle and were left completely to their own devices. They weren’t paid, they weren’t even spoken to by the fuck that booked them or anyone he could have sent in his place to relay information and money to. Horrible little cunt. This is why a good portion of metal tours leave the North East out of the tour. Because no one gives a fuck.
And on the subject of not giving a fuck, where do the fans sit in all this? I mean, all the shit that comes before the actual gig itself is something that most punters don’t see or care about. And rightly so. No fan wants to sit and listen to how hard it is to make it work in a vampiric industry ready to suck the life and fun from something that you started as a hobby because you had a passion (and hopefully a talent) for it. They want to see a tight as fuck band play some great tunes and get royally fuckfaced whilst they do it. Or at least I do. Save the sentiment, crush their skulls in. Simple. But attendances are down, or are they? Fuck knows really, I don’t go to every gig but again, using my cop out of generality, it overall seems that they are.
Is it these times of austerity? Are people feeling ‘the pinch’ so much that they can’t go to a free gig and support a good local band. Maybe but in the grand scheme of things, bands start off small at venues like the ones littered around Newcastle. They’re of a certain size so that it’s pretty easy to categorize what type of band can play where. The larger the venue, the bigger the band. But how are any of our local acts supposed to transcend the dive bars and graduate to a higher level? By going elsewhere sadly.
What was the last huge metal band to come from Newcastle? Venom? Come the fuck on! That’s the best we’ve been able to do since Iommi used the tri-tone for the first time. Local people do not seem to care for their local bands which seems mental to me. That is the one and only thing that I would say that the US has us beat on. A band plays a hometown show in America, everyone is there – they’re hailed as returning heroes. Because we’re such cynical apathetic bastards, we see success and sneer in revilement.
I guess these may be my own hang-ups, my own problems with the local scene, but I don’t think I’m alone in the way I view it. Don’t think for a second that this is the case completely, I’ve been to and met some fantastic people, promoters and venues, it just seems that they are an exception to an overwhelmingly shitty rule. I’m not saying it’s dead. It may well be dying, like most things, but it can be revived.
We can do better.
I’ve not got the perfect plan to fix it, only the observational skills to condemn what is wrong with it. For now.