Sunday, 14 February 2016

Some Words About Viola Beach (R.I.P)

As a few of you may know, due writing this music blog last year I got involved in running a new independent music festival in Portsmouth named Dials, which was set up to replace the long running Southsea Fest, which was taking a year out. 

As part of the team I helped bring the likes of Black Honey, Alice Jemima and Chloe Black (all Breaking More Waves favourites) to the event. The festival itself ran incredibly smoothly, with no hitches and lots of very positive comments from punters about the quality of the music, the good value, the friendliness of the staff and the number of female musicians (not just lead singers) that featured on the bill – something for which many other festivals have been criticised for over the last year or so. Dials also managed to operate on a broadly break-even basis, which we were very pleased with being fully independent and having nobody finance the event except our own pockets. (You can read more about our experiences of running the event here).

Due to the success of Dials, some of the team, including myself, decided we wanted to continue further even with Southsea Fest likely to return, and so it was agreed that we would put on a series of events under the banner Dials Days / Dials Nights. Dials Days would be an all-day 2 stage event in Portsmouth’s most famous venue – the mighty Wedgewood Rooms – whilst Dials Nights would be regular evening gigs. We started planning and booking Dials Days for this April.

Like any other event putting on a number of bands, from small scale all-dayers like Dials Days to huge outdoor festivals, quality curation of the line-up is essential, as are the headliners. For Dials Days I make no apology for saying that until very recently we were struggling for a headliner that the whole team could agree on, that was available and wanted to play within our relatively limited price range. In fact the team had become a little despondent that with just over 2 months before the event was due to take place, with a decent supporting line up confirmed, we’d not been able to book a headliner.

Then last Friday the mood turned from concern to jubilation as news came through that we had 3 bands who were at various stages of being close to, if not fully confirmed, that we all agreed on. Talk turned to having a co-headline billing. Suddenly the line up of Dials Days looked superb.

One of those bands and in fact the one who had fully confirmed subject to some minor I’s and T’s being dotted and crossed was Warrington’s Viola Beach. We were all very excited about this. Viola Beach was a perfect fit for the festival and what we were trying to do. They were new, fresh, talented, exciting and definitely on the way up. They had support from BBC Introducing and were due to play for them at this year’s SXSW Festival. They’d been played a lot on Radio 1 and Radio X as well. They fitted the mould of many of those classic indie rock bands that came out of the north. Arctic Monkeys had been mentioned several times. They were the kind of band that we felt would go down very well in Portsmouth and would shift tickets. Their music had a certain swagger and energy to it, but a definite tunefulness as well. It was easy to see why they were being tipped as ones to watch for the future.

Last Saturday one of our team emailed to finalise the booking and we were waiting for the deal memo to come through. Now we realise that it never will.

My excitement at bringing one of the most exciting new indie rock bands in the UK to Portsmouth was shattered this morning and in its place a feeling of shock and sadness has taken hold which I'm still unable to shake off whilst I write this.

As you have probably read on line or heard on the radio, all 4 members of Viola Beach and their manager were tragically killed after their car fell of a bridge into a canal in Sweden. They were there to perform at the Where’s The Music Festival in Norrkoping, their first show outside of the UK and were then due to travel back to the UK to play with Blossoms at Guildford’s Boiler Room venue last night - a show which quite rightly was cancelled, (A full news report of the tragic events can be found here)

When any young life is lost it is always sad, but when those lives were full of such promise, bringing with them the ability to fill other people’s hearts with joy and happiness through their creative talents and ability to make music, for me as a music fan it seems even more awful.

Today my teenage daughter woke up and came downstairs with her college iPad in hand. “Hey daddy, have you seen the news?” she questioned softly holding out the device with a picture of Viola Beach on it. “That band that you were playing in the car yesterday….”

On Valentine’s day, a day of love, it made me stop and realise that you need to tell those around you, how much you love them very often, as you never know when they may be taken from you - even the youngest and brightest.

RIP Viola Beach. My thoughts are with their family, loved ones and friends. I’m truly sorry I never got to saw them play live. They were taken before we all got the chance to see what they could have become.

Viola Beach - Boys That Sing

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