Monday, 13 October 2014

Small Gigs / Support Acts - Why We Go And Watch Them (And 5 That We're Glad We Did)

Whilst the internet has altered and shaped the way we discover and listen to music in ways that many people (including most of those working in the music industry) never dreamed was possible a decade or so ago, here at Breaking More Waves we’re still very much committed to enjoying music in spaces where the way of showing your appreciation isn’t by clicking a like button, but by applause. In this day and age when the boundaries between amateur and professional musicians can be so easily blurred, when it’s possible to use studio production to make those with very little talent sound incredibly good, the live arena is still the place where an artist can be quickly found out. It’s one of the reasons why at Breaking More Waves we try to attend as many small gigs to see new bands as the bank balance will allow – to get a real perspective on an artist’s ability.

There are of course many other reasons for attending small gigs – the thrill, the all sensory experience, the intimacy, the intensity, the price, the hope that the band we see playing to 50 people in a small room above a pub for a few quid will go on to bigger and better things. Yes, we’ll admit there’s a certain sense of self-satisfied smugness to be derived from being able to recount to friends tales of watching artists that went on to be huge, but there’s also the satisfaction in seeing a band that deliver the goods in a small toilet venue being rewarded for their talents and going on to play much larger spaces with the potential increase in earnings, although sometimes in a band's early stages they haven't yet fully learnt how to deliver the goods - they're still developing.

It’s for these reasons why you’ll quite often find us rushing from the day job to do a 100 mile (or more) round trip to see some up and coming band play 7 songs in a half hour support slot in some grotty club or pub on a rainy Tuesday night in November. It’s also why at bigger shows we’ll always turn up early to catch the support acts, because they could quite possibly be the stars of tomorrow.

Here are 5 acts that we caught in small pubs or clubs, sometimes as the support act, that went on to much bigger and better things:

Adele – The Hope, Brighton

The tickets cost just £5, the venue held 90 people. The then 19 year old Adele sat on a stool tucked into the corner of the dark room and played her songs on just an acoustic guitar. Her playing was rudimentary, her voice already fantastic. Before the gig (our second time seeing her in 2007 after having caught her 3rd on the bill below Jack Penate at the Red Roaster cafe in Brighton at that years' Great Escape Festival) we met Adele outside where she was standing smoking a cigarette – we castigated her for potentially ruining her vocal chords to which she squawked with laughter and told us that everyone said that to her.  That was in 2007. Global domination followed. Hopefully she has given up the fags.

Radiohead – South Street Arts Centre, Reading (Supporting The Frank & Walters)

We remember very little of this gig except that immediately afterwards we stated (bizarrely) that “Radiohead sound a bit like The Jam,” and that they were a “typically average indie rock band,” which to be realistic at the time they were. It was The Frank and Walters with their bowl haircuts, orange flared trousers and sing-a-long anthem After All who won that night. By the time we caught up with Radiohead again, at a headline show at Shepherds Bush Empire around the time of The Bends, they had become a violently claustrophobic and brilliant rock band and were soon to morph into something  more fascinating with their next 2 albums.

The Stone Roses – The West End Centre, Aldershot

“From Manchester….The Stone Roses,” proclaimed the flyer for the gig. Tickets cost £2.99. (Why not £3 we have no idea). The support bands were Jive Turkey and The Colour Mary. We turned up at the venue (a 200 capacity converted school turned arts centre) having read a little bit about the band in the music press but knowing very little else; including what they looked like. In the bar we saw four out of place blokes with bowl haircuts and baggy clothes. “Look at those twats,” someone in our party said. “F*ckin’ posers – they shouldn’t be here,” such was the narrow mindedness of our small town mentality at the time. Two hours later we realised the posers were the band. The music was great, the lead singer couldn’t sing for toffee. We stood at the back and shook our heads in disgust. “They’ll never do anything with that vocalist,” we muttered staring dolefully at our pints. Now The Stone Roses debut is one of our favourite albums of all time. A few years on we saw them play at Brixton Academy – the gig was a glorious celebration, one room full of vibrant head in the clouds atmosphere grooving together. At that point we couldn’t care less if Ian Brown’s vocals were pancake flat or not.

Coldplay – The Joiners, Southampton (Supporting Terris)

“If Coldplay aren’t huge we will actually eat this hat,” we said after seeing them in this 120 capacity back room of a pub. “As long as the lead singer gets his haircut.” Chris Martin got his haircut; Coldplay went on to be huge. For once we were right. We recently sold the Terris album at a car boot sale for 20p. Plenty of copies are available on ebay. If you think that's bad, we couldn't even shift AlunaGeorge's recent album for 10p.

The Killers – The Wedgewood Rooms, Portsmouth (Supporting Stellastar)

Whilst Stellastarr was the headlining band, we turned up to our local venue, 10 minutes walk from home expecting that everyone else would, like us, be there to see the support band The Killers. After all Mr Brightside had received some play on Radio 1’s evening shows. Sadly it seemed not, with much of the audience treating the band with varying amounts of indifference whilst our small group danced madly to tracks that would go on to form the bulk of Hot Fuss, by far our favourite Killers album. Three and half years after this gig the band headlined Glastonbury Festival. We’re not sure what happened to Stellastarr.

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