By Ken Strummer
Ask anyone familiar with Blackpool about its music culture and the response would probably be “Yeh, some good local bands, a few venues but what can you do with that stag/hen culture? You are never going to have a ‘scene’ like Manchester, not enough students”.
The Blackpool image (in my opinion) subconsciously festers in the back of people’s minds and in turn this creates a certain arrogance and conceit amongst the indigenous population. Almost a “We can’t do anything about Blackpool’s image, we’re always going to be tarred with the mindless and ugly seaside town anecdotes, so f**k ‘em we’ll do what we want and let’s see what happens”.
What happens is we get embroiled in slagging off The Syndicate and the type of people it attracts without really doing much to espouse the point of view which promotes individuality and creativity.
It’s a sensitive point but I’d contend that we (as a town) are insular. We’ll perform in front of our mates (and I’m obviously generalising here) but we won’t go and see other bands, especially not bands from out of town (god forbid). We’ll happily go along and see a ‘major’ band for £30 at the Winter Gardens but an unsigned band for free or at worst £4 is a definite no no.
An unsigned band night is obviously a case of pot-luck but I’ve yet to attend a gig where all the bands have been poor, and quite often you’ll see something really special. I reckon we should welcome bands from out of town and go and support local promoters brave enough to put them on. The West Coast regularly has such bands on a Friday or mainly Saturday night and then there’s Muse’s Club Fandango nights which actively bring in bands from out of town whilst giving one or two local acts the chance to share the bill with breakthrough artists.
Local bands should also venture further afield as much as possible. It shows commitment and ambition. You’re never going to get anywhere if you only play in Blackpool. We’ve produced some excellent bands in the past (Section 25, Tunnel Vision, The Membranes etc) who have all been the extra mile and gigged relentlessly often for no reward. I recently interviewed David Gedge (The Wedding Present, Cinerama) and I believe his advice to up-and-coming bands was spot on when he said:
“My advice would be to remember that the music is the most important thing... so many bands seem to forget that. You get these groups who hang around in London and who become excellent at self promotion... going to all the right places and stuff. They're always going on about the 'record company interest' that they have... but they spend so much time on networking that the actual music they're making suffers. Those kinds of people might end up in the music industry, sure, but more often than not they'll become press officers or A&R people. My advice would be to just focus on being a great, original band. And then think about getting a deal. But then... what do I know?!