We've all done it. Looked at the big names up on stage and thought of how it must feel to have the satisfaction of playing your songs to thousands of adoring fans. Meanwhile friends and relatives tell you to give it up, get a real job, get your head out of the clouds (or variations on that theme), and frankly – it's not hard to see why. The truth is that there are tens of thousands of original bands – some dire, some decent, some absolutely brilliant – and nearly all of them you will never hear from again. Despite all the time they spend on social media advertising and plugging gigs, despite sending out demos to local radio, these guys will trek for hours to gigs to play to... well, usually the dozen or so people they brought with them. And the rest of the population sits plugged into “X-Factor” and bemoaning how there's no decent music these days.
I've been off the original circuit for years now but I remember it well as a hard road, and the only thing that keeps you going in the face of total apathy is a passion for the music you create (and a lot of caffeine, especially when you're gigging a hundred miles away on a week night). This weekend I was dropped back into it again as Dave The Rock Band played a couple of cover sets as a favour to our friendly neighbourhood venue owner to open for a some new punk and metal bands (Versus Ursus, Kid Klumsy and Death To Indie if you're interested). Being a hundred million years old now, punk and nu-metal isn't really my thing anymore, but the guys were very pleasant, very professional – no tantrums, everyone co-operated sharing amps and bits of drumkit, everyone ran to time wothout any problems – and when it came to showtme they absolutely gave it their all, even to an audience that barely scraped double figures.
Frankly, it would have been very easy for them to simply go through the motions, treating the whole thing as a rehearsal before hitting the bar. It would have been just as easy for them to write the evening off and just get blitzed before even taking the stage, because who cares if you do a good show and there's no one there to see it? Especially for Death To Indie, who had traveled three and a half hours to get to the gig only to find that the only new faces belong to the bar staff and the other bands. Clearly, each of those guys took the decision that we've come all this way, we may as well put on the absolute best show we can – and proceeded to hurl themselves around the venue as if it was Wembley Arena.
The moral of this story? Nearly every original band will fail to make the big time. That's the sad truth. But there are a great many phenomenal bands out there who are easily the equal of the big names, and they do it not to fulfil record contracts but because they believe in what they do so passionately that each week they schlep from one end of the country to another in ancient Transit vans for poorly paid (usually unpaid), often poorly attended gigs simply for the privelige of playing their music. So turn off X-Factor, get out there and give these guys the support they deserve because without people like this creating original music there will be no original music.
Parting note – two of the best musical experiences I've ever had have been pub gigs with original bands. The first in a dingy pub in a Leeds backstreet watching a band called Four Day Hombre who were just incredible – the songs, the sound, the harmonies, they had everything absolutely perfect. I'd rate that as one of, if not the best gigs I've ever been to, famous names included. The second came in another backstreet pub in Leeds, playing with my own band – having got set up and soundchecked in the function room upstairs, we realised that literally no one had shown up to see us. Still, we figured – we're here, let's just go for it and see what happens. After all, set up and pack down is the hard bit, it's the playing that's the fun part. So off we went. Midway through the first song, a girl appeared in the doorway, nodding away, and told us to “stay there”.
Well, that was pretty much what we had in mind anyway.
Over the course of the next half hour, she ferried pretty much the entire population of the pub upstairs to come and watch us, and a disaster turned into an epic, voice-wrecking evening where we wore ourselves out playing everything we knew at least twice, eventually falling off stage exhausted and bathed in sweat to a room full of applause. So sometimes it comes good.
So, do yourself a favour. Go and see at least one band this month that you haven't already heard of and don't personally know the members. Just go and see what's out there. These guys put so much into what they do, all they want in return is a chance to be heard. Give them that chance and get inspired.