22 April 2007
On Friday night, we visited Sheffield’s Under the Boardwalk. As far as live music venues go, UTB (as it is sometimes called) is quite a strange place. Most venues usually start off empty when the first band is playing and then get gradually busier as the night goes on. UTB is the complete opposite. We arrived just before 9PM and there were quite a few people there. Around an hour and a half and two bands later, the place had almost emptied. Maybe the audience hated the first two bands. Or perhaps they’d gone upstairs to The Boardwalk. Either way, I’d recommend that anyone thinking of playing there should try to get an early spot rather than a headlining one!
We’d gone to support Bolton’s Out Of The Gray embark on their UK tour, as I mentioned back in February. For an unsigned band to take time out from their day jobs and invest their own cash to go on a national tour for several weeks takes guts. Yarky (lead guitar) said in a recent interview:
I think we’ll be spending the best part of a thousand pounds on petrol and accommodation for the tour, then there’s the initial outlay on merchandise, and there’s really no guarantee of making any of it back. It’s hard for people to understand that when you’re doing this as an unsigned band you’re generally losing money hand over fist – everyone wants to come in for free or get a free copy of the album, and sometimes you just have to learn to say ‘no’.
I agree entirely. In this digital day where unsigned bands dominate MySpace, everyone wants free music downloads. And whilst it’s much easier for unsigned bands to get noticed, it’s still difficult for them to make any money – or just break even. At the time of writing this, Out Of The Gray’s MySpace profile has received 158,659 views, has 53,331 friends and they’ve had 6,711 comments – most of which are from ‘fans’ saying how much they love their music and can’t wait to see them live. Yet when I purchased and downloaded their latest tracks from their online store last week, I was their first customer, and I think I was one of only two people to buy their CD at the gig (which I guess wasn’t too bad given most of the audience had already left). Why more people can’t put their money where their mouth is and do more to support these unsigned bands, I don’t know...
Anyway, here’s a quick review of the bands we saw that night:
Frame 3-13 – myspace.com/frame313
For three young lads from Swansea who describe themselves as being the love child of Placebo and Jamiroquai, these looked and sounded pretty good. Their funky indie music is sufficiently different to most of the droning same-same indie stuff out there, although they would clearly benefit from their lead singer/guitarist learning how to play a few more solos (each one sounded pretty similar from where I was standing) and toning down his obviously-rehearsed-stage-antics – i.e. “At this part of the song, I must drop to my knees in front of the bass player and bend over backwards whilst still playing guitar!” Overall, not bad though.
The Smokestacks – myspace.com/thesmokestacks
If you were to go off first appearances, you’d think these were a bunch of weirdos. After a couple of songs into the set, you’d realise these weirdos make great music. Not afraid to have fun on stage by throwing in the odd bit of comedy barbershop quartet style singing, their incredibly tight funky beats, crazy synth sounds and unique look helped them to own the stage.
Out Of The Gray – myspace.com/outofthegray
Definitely the most professional looking of the four bands – with laminated passes, spare guitars and communicating with the sound engineer over the monitor levels – Out Of The Gray were almost a complete contrast in style to the previous two bands. Strong acoustic guitar playing, powerful vocals and meaningful songs make them easy listening and an excellent live band, although maybe a little mismatched with the other acts playing that night. Personally, I think their performance would have been almost perfect if there was a bit more movement and interaction between the band members on stage, particularly from the bassist who looked a little lost at the back and almost bored.
Strategic Intent – myspace.com/strategicintent
I’m not sure whether this band was a bit deflated because the audience was pretty non-existent but they seemed to be just another pretty average indie/rock band. Maybe they perked up a bit later but we left before they’d finished their 2nd song and pretty much halved the number of people in the audience... sorry lads!
So despite being the small, strange venue that it is, we’ll probably go back to Under the Boardwalk from time-to-time to see if there are any more talented bands out there.
Out Of The Gray didn't start off that well for me either, Siempre failed to catch my attention and the second one also seemed a little too easy to ignore. Washed away however turned it around, I found myself listening to the lyrics, but still the song was a little slow for my liking, much like the fourth song Butterflies.
I think this all confirms something, I'm all for fast funky riffs in songs, but nothing too slow or acoustic :o) Each to their own...
Oh, and whilst I'm here my God MySpace is awful, I absolutely hate it, thank the Lord all I had to do was hit play on each page. How this website has become what it is is simply beyond me, I literally can't understand it.
I hear what you're saying about Out Of The Gray - some of the songs are growers if you give them a chance. But if they're not your cup of tea, there's not much we can do about that!
Don't you think it's interesting how varied our music tastes are yet they rarely cross over? Interesting that, innit?
And I have to completely agree about MySpace. It's actually one of the worst websites I've ever used in my entire life for a number of reasons. I blame the kids to be honest...
But then I hate everything Murdoch does. Particularly SKY.
Oh Yeah. By the way, Out of the Grey sounded pretty good. Shame about the Bolton connection though, Innit! ;-)
The new tunes are on our god awful my space page!
Also, i think its a little unfair to pass judgement when you only listened to 2 songs.
The point is that, for whatever reason, they did nothing to make us actually want to stay and listen to more than two songs. Having said that, I would definitely give them a second chance though.