Where is the live music scene?
As someone who grew up a tube ride away from Camden, glutting myself in my teenage years on a diet of lively, if overly trendy, London bands, one of the things that disappointed me most about Durham in my first weeks here was the apparent lack of any live music scene.
I couldn’t understand it – a town full of students and no obvious local gigs? Were there no student bands, no smorgasbord of fresh talent who’d been described by some magazine as ‘upcoming [insert genre here] band of the year’?
I concluded that there must have been some kind of brainwashing upon university entry that I hadn’t received, nullifying interest in any kind of music other than drum and bass.
This all changed on my entry to the minute but undoubtedly cool couple of square feet that is Fishtank. Tucked away in an alley between Bar 19 and the Tesco Express on North Road is Durham’s most individual and atmospheric bar; arty Blondie, Frank Zappa and word art posters adorn the walls while clustered tables and low lighting complete a dingy petri dish of character.
Fishtank has hosted an accomplished and diverse range of musical talent in its time, everything from the Funeral for a Friend-esque emo punks Calvinball to the lyrical electrochique of Modernaire.
A usually well chosen collection of less famous one-man-and-his-angst acoustic sets also frequently grace the scene, but despite this maelstrom of manic activity one thing seems to be lacking and that’s audience!
Are varied music venues such as Fishtank or the DSU’s Jazz Café advertised well enough?
Walkabout’s attempt to create, in its own words, a ‘Bait Shop from the OC’ night The Glade failed dramatically with no follow up to its under attended launch night with the Coronas. But why is that? To stop the average Durham student and ask why they don’t appear at such events, it’s that often they just don’t hear about them.
There seems to be no connection between the organisation of live music and motivation to get the word out to entice people to go.
Speaking to some of the more accomplished bands at Fishtank, they have described the turnout of their gigs in Durham as perplexing; often no more than 20 to 30 people showing up to a free entry gig such as Blunt Monkey, when the band can usually pull in over 50 people at a ticket price of £4.
Yet wherever I go I hear students complaining about the lack of live music. With a vibrant underground music scene and the will to witness it, what seems to be the problem getting Durham’s students together with an eclectic set of bands is lack of knowledge that there are any.
Organised by the alternative music society, upcoming acts at Fishtank include the gentle indie folksters The Rosie Taylor Project and experimental Gameboy act (you read correctly; they play music on Gameboys) Neville’s First Nintendo on the 3rd and 10th of December respectively.