Take a look around. There’s something happening.
Words by Dominic Penna.
Catfish and the Bottlemen have gone from pubs to selling out Wembley Arena. In 2014 Blossoms had one single out and were playing to thirty people – fast forward two years and Blossoms’ debut album spent two weeks at number one last summer. The likes of Foals and alt-J have seen their hard work result in festival headline slots. Love or loathe them, The 1975 have crossed genre boundaries and become huge. Social media shows the loyal followings the likes of DMA’s, Slaves and Peace have rightly built up, with word of mouth playing a big part.
This year, the cohort of indie bands on the verge of big things is the largest and most exciting in a good while. Manchester promoter and podcaster Mr Peeps – one of the best advocates for new live acts out there – has described 2017 as the year “Proper Music Strikes Back”. Speaking to LFM, he said: “Nostalgia is alright in small doses, but we need to look to the future now and get the new breed to take over.”
It’s easy to see where Peeps is coming from; the ‘new breed’ is absolutely full of acts who, with the right backing and support, have the capacity to become huge this year. One listen to Dantevilles shows why they’re one of Blossoms’ favourite bands, the post-pop disco funk of No Hot Ashes brings a unique blend of sounds to the table and Fronteers’ music is rich in hooks and harmonies.
The Big Moon, Cabbage, VANT and April are just some of the other bands rightly in the ascension at the minute. Encouragingly, many of these are making a name for themselves through brilliant live performances and their ability to offer something different. All being well, they will make huge progress this year.
Across all genres, in fact, acts are taking risks and increasingly reaping the rewards. Innovative songwriters like Rag ‘n’ Bone Man and Raye, alongside countless grime acts, are getting increased chart and radio exposure, impossible for the mainstream to ignore any longer. There’ll always be some monotonous, disheartening tunes in the hit parade, but more quality and vibrancy creeping in is undeniably a good thing.
There are several promoters out there doing incredible things for live music, notably This Feeling, which recently turned ten. Starting out as “a club night for mates” featuring breaking live bands, the night has grown into a huge success, with events across the country now selling out. Scruff of the Neck is also expanding to several cities, again putting on alternative acts at good prices. In addition to this, hundreds of local promoters continue to do their best for their local music scene.
There are many causes for optimism, but more must be done. Despite the breakout success of so many acts in recent years, they are still fighting against the odds. Many major labels are reluctant to take a chance on small or alternative acts. Lots of people either listen to little beyond the top 40 or fixate on the same indie bands, overlooking the fact they were once new themselves and required support from people willing to give new music a chance. An increasing number of small music venues are under threat due to councils, funding issues or sheer apathy.
Make a habit of seeing local bands at nearby places, ensuring both bands and venues make ends meet. When you go to big gigs, watch any and all support acts; with the right backing, those acts will start doing well in their own right. Buy, stream and share the best new music from up-and-coming artists.
While you’re ‘sitting in your bedroom all alone’ listening to the same Courteeners album for the tenth time in a week, take a chance on new music too. All bands were once small and developing, reliant on people to come to tiny gigs and spread the word about their first tunes.
Take a look around. There’s something happening. And there’ll be even more happening – for more bands, at more places, for more music lovers – if you help make it happen.
Written by Dominic Penna, you can follow Dom on twitter here.