I’ve always had a fascination with live music. I grew up listening to bands who cultivated their sound on stage. New songs evolved in the presence of a captivated audience. I collected live albums from my favourite bands. I hunted down rare recordings that showcased the evolution of songs I knew only from their studio versions.
Geographic location limits me slightly from attending gigs other than arena tours that may pass my area. I’ve been to many. Mostly aged rockers playing the tunes I listened to in my younger days. They can be fun, but mainly I see the bands going through the routines. I see note-by-note reproductions of the studio tracks. I see little to no crowd interaction. To put it mildly, my expectations did not always match with what I saw and heard.
Earlier this month I saw an announcement that some of my favourite bands would be playing at the Ruby Lounge in Manchester. Orphan Boy. Velocets. Frazer King. The Antics. Individually, each of these bands produce killer tracks. Needless to say, I greeted the announcement of this gig with excitement. Not because I could attend. An entire ocean does a good job at preventing that. But, I knew bits and pieces of the show would invariably make their way to my ears through the mechanics of the Internet. Within mere hours of the gig I was listening to Velocets. Orphan Boy came next. And, man, let me tell you, my faith in the live gig was restored.
Velocets have a sound I’ve gravitated to from first listen. In this sense, I had enormous respect for them as musicians at an early stage. I was then tweeted a video of them performing a new song at the Ruby Lounge. The title? It had none. It was just a new song. Listening to it, I was blown away. Here was a band cultivating the sound of the track before a very appreciative crowd. I watched from the small screen on my phone a few thousand kilometres away. In a day when big box gigs are more stage performances set to pre-recorded tracks, Velocets had it right. How can a new sound be crafted and matured without some exposure to an audience? Music is a two way street. In one direction is the band who initiates the tune. In the other direction is the audience who absorbs it. The best tracks making their way to the studio are ones that have been sculpted by this two way interaction. This new song by Velocets is going to be massive.
I watched a video of Orphan Boy. Its crazy the energy they brought to the performance. The video was most likely shot by a fan on a mobile phone. I have a collection of DVDs showing live performances from many well established bands. Massive production detail goes into creating these. Teams of videographers and sound technicians gather the raw material. Production companies painstakingly pour through the footage to prepare the best possible visual and auditory experience. Having said this, no matter how much money and resources are fed into the production of the video, it is ultimately reliant on what is happening on stage. The at times grainy video of Orphan Boy performing in Manchester imparted more excitement for the music and energy to me than and big budget production could. If the performer is not feeling the gig, no amount of equipment and production skill will ever change that.
The Antics were among the first bands I followed on Twitter. I came across them quite by accident. It was a very rewarding accident. They have an amazing sound that is maturing and growing with each track. They have the personality and musicianship, the creativity and vision to make tracks that deserve much attention. The Antics are a band I continually try to throw my support behind. Their sound needs to be heard. And, it needs to be heard live. These gents can rock a venue. I have a plan to one day take my holiday in the UK and tour around various venues. Videos are nice. They connect me to the music as it is played. But they do make me envious of those who can attend in the flesh. The Antics are at the top of my list to see if this trip ever materialises. They have the on-stage personality I always envisioned must exist in a band, but never had the opportunity to observe myself.
Frazer King. I had only stumbled across their tunes a few days before this gig was scheduled. I spent considerable time acquainting myself with their tracks. All are top quality. While listening I came across Mother Mary. A phenomenal track. It is not hurried or rushed. It takes its time and builds an impressive sound, hinged on amazing vocals and lyrics. What struck me about this track was the fact that I wanted to hear it live. In person. I have a lot of bands I want to hear, but this track in particular stands out as one I hope to some day witness live. While I waited some time hoping a video of Frazer King from the gig would appear on YouTube, unfortunately, I’ve not been able to track one down. Perhaps that’s a sign I just need to make the trip to hear it in person some day soon!
This article has not been a gig review. They come from people who actually attended. I’ve used this space to draw together so much of what makes the live gig an unbelievable experience. I’ve used it to show that the essentials are alive and well in the music industry. While the principles have often fallen away in mainstream music, bands like Orphan Boy, Velocets, The Antics, and Frazer King are keeping it alive and well.
I leave you with some musical offerings from that night at the Ruby Lounge that I’ve been able to track down. Enjoy!
Michael Dakin // @SirMop26