FEATURE: American Idioms and the Oxford Coma: Sociability and Community in Live Music: Celebrating Independent Venue Week 2018



American Idioms and the Oxford Coma: Sociability and Community in Live Music



Celebrating Independent Venue Week 2018


NOT only is the title of this piece an awesome…


IMAGE CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

idea for a possible album – or two song-titles – but they are representative of a point I want to make. The ‘American Idioms’ is a reworking of the Green Day song, American Idiot (from their masterful album of the same name). The reason I drop this into proceedings is the anger and vitriol evident in that song. The entire album, in fact, was Green Day’s return to the snarling, puked-up Punk of their formative years. Their seventh album, released in 2004, resonated with critics and arrived after a lukewarm Warning – an album that was not quite as overtly urgent and necessary as its title suggests. I feel there is a lot of anger and annoyance inside the most placid and calm heart. The world is constantly throwing in random tragedies and moronic politicians; a slagheap of disappointment that can derail one’s life. Even the most passionate music-lover – for whom music balms the blood and provides unquestioning companionship – feels the bite and turbulence of the world. We all have something to vent and express: the physicality and connections we get from live music is almost tribal and spiritual. I want to bring in the Independent Venue Week that BBC Radio 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq is involved with – and which spots are going to get coverage. The second part of the feature’s title relates to hesitancy and social punctuation.



We all get waylaid and fatigued by modern life and the demands of the working day. It can be hard finding time to get out into the ether and connect with your fellow ‘man’. I have written about this subject a few times before: why we need to preserve the live music scene; how music is becoming digitised and intangible; the soft positional bargaining stance of the Government when it comes to protecting music venues. I know there are measures to preserve venues so that noise complaints do not sacrifice those buildings that have provided great live music for years. There is not being enough done to ensure each town/city sees their venues protected and funded. In fact; it is not soft positional bargaining at all: the reality is, our current incumbent has no real knowledge of the music scene and why it is so important. I am angry we all feel the need to isolate and ‘save money’ by sitting in and neglecting what is out there. I am guilty of that, for sure. I am angrier at the Government and the negligent attitude towards live music. Every time I think about some people’s attitudes to music; I get Blur’s Coffee + TV’s stuck in my head – or the chorus-refrain of “Sociability/Is hard enough for me…” A lot of people are spending their after-work hours watching T.V. or sitting on the Internet.


IN THIS PHOTO: Moonwalks (who will take to the stage at The Hope & Ruin on 4th February)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

One of the reasons I am like that is because of my energy levels. I am exhausted by the catawampus degradation of the working day. The effort needed to drive to a venue and connect with fellow gig-goers is a struggle. Nadine Shah launched the Independent Venue Week 2018 event late last year. I was excited seeing the venues named and the hard-working people who will get their dues. The event is in its fifth year, now.  One-hundred-and-sixty venues throw their names into the hat – they wanted to be featured and celebrated. Ambassadors Nadine Shah and Adrian Utley (Portishead) will act as leads for this year’s venues celebration.


IN THIS PHOTO: Nadine Shah/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

The two will curate their own shows for Independent Venue Week – Shah will perform at Hebden Bridge on 3rd February. I know IDLES are primed to close the week with a (one would think, blistering) set in Liverpool. There are a couple of reasons why I am pumped for this year’s events. From this Monday (29th) to a week tomorrow (4th February); it will see artists get their first chance to perform to a willing and anticipating crowd. In alliance with Arts Council England; the event unites breaking and established artists, promoters; labels, bloggers and tastemakers together. You can get a full rundown of the venues involved next week by looking at Independent Venue Week’s official site. The sheer width and breadth of the event mean so many great venues will get more people in – encouraging locals to get involved and come see some great bands.


IN THIS PHOTO: Steve Lamacq/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/BBC

I mentioned Steve Lamacq is touring the nation and bringing his show live from five venues through that week. He kicks things off on Monday by heading to Stowmarket’s John Peel Centre; he heads to Boileroom on Tuesday (I should go as I am only down the road from the place!) and hits Leicester’s The Cookie the day after. Then; it is to Hebden Bridge, The Trades Club on 3rd (February) before a finale at Liverpool’s Studio 2 – where IDLES will be in attendance. I have sprinkled a few posters – from the Twitter page of Independent Venue Week – to show who is playing it various spaces. The Lamacq-backed venues will bring a load of new people out from their sofas and into a communal space. Not only do new artists get exposure and a rare experience: many will attend their local venues for the first time! I will tune into Lammo’s show next week and get that second-hand experience of the venues week. More than that, being close to a featured venue; it is a chance to spend an evening away from the laptop and among like-minded people. That is why next week will be so special: music fans coming together with some fantastic new artists. It is a thrilling, much-needed spotlight on a corner of music that is more like a backbone – it has been here for decades and, faith willing; it will be around long after all of us have gone.



Check out the link above and see which venue is closest to you. If you go to that venue’s website; they will provide details of the artists playing on the bill. Make sure, above all, you get involved and show your face. Too many of us are slaves to work - and feel reluctant engaging with anyone once the day is through. It does not have to be every day: a once-a-week gig can lift the spirits and improve mood; provide fresh impetus and bring fans and artists together. I have been determined to get out more since 2018 began. I spent a lot of time last year hypothesising and theorising my love for music; reviewing artists from afar and interviewing people by email. The social aspect of music was hidden and, as such, I got into a routine. So much of today’s music involves us being sedentary and idle. Live music is, in fact, one of the last avenues for exercise, expression and community. Many of us take live music for granted: many ignore it through fear it is too expensive and tiring. If we all make a conscious effort to see the odd gig here and there; not only are we supporting these fine and vital spaces – our happiness increases and we get out and see some great music! Independent Venue Week kicks off on Monday and, if you get that chance; make sure you get out there and support these great places. Not only will it enrich your own life but support a community who needs these venues/musicians now…



MORE than ever.