We have teamed up with The Pentatonic, the brilliant online music publication based in Liverpool, to bring you a brand new monthly guest blog feature. The Pentatonic’s head honcho Sam Meaghan will be bringing us a think piece on the Liverpool music scene and we start with this one – Has The Liverpool Music Scene Found It’s Feet Again?
In years gone by, Liverpool was never a city that was full to the brim with talent. In fact, it was one, maybe two or three, parts of the city that changed the way the city played, and how the city sounded. In the 60s, it was The Cavern Club, in the 80s, it was Eric’s, in the 90’s it was The Picket, in the early 2000s, it was the Zanzibar. But now, there isn’t a venue that has instilled in it a culture, or even a scene, that Liverpool can promote.
That being said, the animosity between both the Liverpool Music Scene and the current mayor, Joe Anderson is no secret. But this strangling of venues is one that is not being highlighted as much as it could be. In fact, when thoughts of Joe Anderson occur in my mind (which isn’t very often), I can’t help but think of the mayor in Batman.
Before I left for university in 2013, several venues had already been closed. Mello Mello, had been closed, the showcase of bands in Heebie Jeebies’ courtyard by the fantastic Johnny Sands had been stopped due to noise pollution, early on a Saturday afternoon (it may have returned now) and at this point The Jacaranda had been closed too.
Three years later, in 2016, the fight for bands has gotten a lot harder. There are only a few smaller venues that are willing to take the risk on unknown bands. Places such like The Magnet, (which again was closed, but then reopened), Maguire’s Pizza Bar, The Jacaranda and until recently, Bumper (but that’s now closed for however long too!).
There are more venues out there, but they are run by what can only be named as the Seel Street mafia. East Village Arts Club, is an absolutely beautiful venue. What the owners have done with what was The Masque is truly commendable. For those of you that don’t remember, The Masque had a tiny stage called Ink. It was bloody awful.
In Ink, you had a very, very tiny stage, with a tiny dance floor. Having played there a few times, bands would often wonder why it was still open. Thankfully, they have gotten rid of that and instead spruced up the loft and the theatre – both venues are absolutely gorgeous now, and are still the same size.
Yet, getting a gig there, is incredibly hard. Whilst you may be offered one show, if the ticket sales aren’t all there, you probably won’t be offered one again. It’s also the same with The Buyers Club. Now these venues aren’t at fault for this whatsoever. It’s just business folk doing, what business folk do.
It’s not a matter of “pay-to-play” either, it’s just a matter of luck of the draw. But it’s that turn of luck that could have you opening for some of the biggest bands in the country, or being put back in the confides of smaller venues across the city. And all of this leads to one huge problem.
It is this flaw in the idea that mass-popularity is synonymous with overall talent. But now, we’re entering a new era of bands being asked to play out of adoration of their music as opposed to the business they bring.
Admittedly, the last few years have seemed to be quite decent for Liverpool, and indeed inspirational. Take the steady rise of Clean Cut Kid, or the instant popularity of Circa Waves as an example. Which, in all, is great, but for both of these bands their fame was found in London, not Liverpool. Again, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but the point is, if we are to have a music scene that is one to be proud of, we should be a lot more self-sustainable.
So is now the time for the independent label? Almost definitely. We are exceedingly lucky to be having smaller labels popping up, and releasing some great music from across the city and further afield. Take Baltic Records for example. They’re bringing us Johnny Sands, The Tea Street Band and Dead Buttons from South Korea.
There is also the lesser-known label, Hail Hail Records. One of Hail Hail’s greatest moments comes in the form of Echo Beach’s, Greetings From Echo Beach, EP. The EP itself is currently sat in Bandcamp’s best sellers, right next to Mac Demarco and the like. Then there is Elevant Music LTD. Elevant are pushing the art-rock scene and luckily for us, pioneering, some punk, shoegaze sounds that the city may not have been privy to before.
Whilst this may all be great, as an outside perspective, the Liverpool music scene doesn’t seem to have a Roger Eagle or an Alan Williams. That being said, the return of Liquidation in EBGBs is looking to offer that kind of guidance. Liquidation is one of Liverpool’s longest running alternative nightclubs, and with its mass popularity and fervour around events, the fact that both the messy DJs, Jules Bennett and Chris Mcintosh are now offering a platform to newer bands is entirely commendable.
Bennett, said: “Liverpool’s music scene hasn’t felt as vital and as energised since the heyday of The Bandwagon. So much talent and way more than just a scene. As a city we’ve nurtured the hidden support networks needed which is allowing bands to utilise studios, producers, labels, venues, managers etc that weren’t always here in the past at the level of professionalism needed. Some of the bands have already stepped up into the national and international scenes, and there’s many more just off stage ready to do the same. A great time for Liquidation to have capacity for live bands indeed. The success of the club night means we can keep the live pre club part free entry so people can just drop in and be guaranteed great live music on a Saturday night.”
Another promising aspect to look forward to in the future is going to be the opening of the venue downstairs in Sound. Sound, prior to its renovation, was another place that already had the music fans, it just gave them something new to listen to.
It would be rare on a Saturday that you wouldn’t be privy to a band you haven’t heard of before, but would be all the more thankful for finding. With both Liquidation and Sound on the horizon, we have people who are willing to take the music scene by its collar and lead it to greatness once again.
It’s an exciting time for the movers ‘n’ shakers of the city. There are avenues for musicians, and music fans alike to travel down and have an excellent musical education. Liverpool just might be on its way back, but in this time of change it needs the love, and support, of all music fans across the city for the benefit of everyone.