Category Archives: Features

Top 10 must-see acts at Electric Castle Festival 2017!

Electric Castle is a five day Festival in Romania, inside the walls of a 15th Century castle. Encouraging great music, great food and booze from prices as low as just $2. Summarising what you can imagine to be a great summer atmosphere.

Each year the Festival announces a handful of some of the best acts. This year the line up includes a of variety of music genres from some of the most must-see artists.

Starting on Wednesday 12th-16th July, the 24 hour music policy Festival is destined to give you a great experience.

Furthermore, here are the TOP 10 ACTS NOT TO MISS at this year’s Electric Castle Festival:

  1. Deadmau5: Deadmau5 will be headlining the festival, bringing to you a collaboration of urban house tracks that you just simply cannot miss.
  2. Slaves: Kent based duet, Slaves, are a charismatic act full of everlasting energy and are certain to give you that ‘feel good’ adrenaline rush for your upcoming weekend.
  3. Alt- J: Originally formed in Leeds, the indie trio have gone from strength to strength. Dabbling in indie rock and folk, the sweet Alt-J are definitely ones to see at this year’s Electric Castle Festival.
  4. Franz Ferdinand: Scottish four-piece Franz Ferdinand, are a indie pop group who in 2004 published their earworm track ‘Take Me Out.’
  5. House Of Pain: Hip Hop legends House of Pain, are back in the music scene and will be making an appearance  at Electric Castle this year.
  6. Duke Demont: Duke Demont, another house inspired DJ that you can’t miss at Electric Castle Festival this year. In 2013 he released ‘Need You 100%’ which reached over 150 thousand likes on YouTube. He has since released a number of house bangers.
  7. Eats Everything: Showcasing fun, psychedelic dance music, Eats Everything are at the forefront of transcendent beats and are definitely an act you want to see at Electric Castle this year.
  8. Zedd: Solo musician, Zedd, will be kicking off  day one at Electric Castle alongside Slaves, Moderat and many more. Playing his set at the main stage at 12:30am.
  9. DJ Sneak: In the words of DJ Sneak he is happy to present you with heavy “house music all night long!”
  10. Nero: Finishing off with Nero. Those in which are Famously known for their futuristic and unique music videos and are essentially the heart of dubstep. If you’re like myself and are a fan of electronic or drum and bass then Nero are 100% a must-see act for you this year at Electric Castle.

 

Make sure to like/ follow the Festival on social media:

Electric Castle Festival Facebook

Electric Castle Festival Twitter

Electric Castle Festival Instagram

Words by Laviea Thomas

 

[FEATURE] MEDIA BRAWL – WHEN WILL IT END?

We’ve all seen the stories, paparazzi becoming aggressive in order to get their stories and all in the name of money. Following celebrities endlessly and provoking them until they lash out. This is something that is a known tactic for the paparazzi to use because these stories will sell and everyone wants to hear news of a celebrity behaving badly. In recent events we’ve seen Louis Tomlinson, a former One Direction member being involved in a physical altercation with one photographer at an Los Angeles airport due to the photographer refusing to stop taking pictures of his girlfriend Eleanor Calder after he declined Tomlinsons request to stop and give them privacy. During this one on one drama,Calder was in another brawl with two unidentified females, Tomlinson then saw this and tried to separate the women and is heard to have shouted ‘What the hell is going on’.

ImageThe public have seemed to have come emotionally immune to these stories as they happen all the time. Seeing viral videos with the infamous ‘TMZ’ watermark in the corner is something that crops up on social media almost weekly, many viewers jumping to comment on who was in the wrong during these Celebrity – Paparazzi showdowns. Paparazzi have built themselves a reputation within the media as being aggressive and have done nothing to change this, instead they have embraced this label, showing everyone that they will go to great lengths in order to get their story.

Tomlinson is clearly not the only one to be involved in such altercations, there have been many celebrities before him who have been targeted. Back in 2013, Paparazzi were a little too eager to get photos of Justin Bieber leaving his London hotel. There was an altercation of words, with one paparazzo member shouting ‘Go the fuck back to America you moron’, and with this remark being heard, Bieber was filmed jumping from the car, being held back by his security, giving that particular man a piece of his mind. This isn’t his first altercation with paparazzi and undoubtedly not his last.

A well documented paparazzi incident was in fact Britneys Spears’ ‘Meltdown’ back in 2007. Paparazzi captured the footage and photographs of Spears shaving her head and then trashing a car. The paparazzi presence was making her more upset, causing her to them attack a paparazzo (who in a weird turn of events, is auctioning off the umbrella, and willing to give half the money to a charity of Britneys choice). News reports surrounding this incident did mention that the paparazzi knew that something wasn’t right, yet still continued to pursue the story. This is one of the most famous moments captured by the paparazzi and can still be considered ‘relevant’ 10 years later.

Is there a line between lashing out and self defense? Why is it different for a celebrity to defend themselves than a regular person? Stories can become minipulated by the press in order to sell more copies with no regard to personal feelings, and the effect of the press’ aggressive behaviour can take it’s toll on musicians, this is something that needs to change.

Words by Jasmine Greggory

[FEATURE] FROM HYPE WILLIAMS TO BABYFATHER: THE FORM DEFYING ART OF DEAN BLUNT

It must have been frustrating following the career of Hype Williams. With memory of life prior to the internet feeling increasingly foggy, any fact which isn’t a quick Wiki search away begins to be treated with the utmost contempt. How dare you not divulge accurate information? What do you mean you’ve joined the nation of Islam? How the fuck did you both meet watching Oasis at Knebworth?

Details of the project’s inception are shrouded in mystery; supposedly an art relay project, each incarnation taking hold of the helm for five years. This particular manifestation was domineered by the elusive artists Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland, although neither of those names turned out to be genuine. To this day the backgrounds of both artists remain relatively unknown, with just fragments of dubious claims emerging – such as Dean Blunt actually being an ex-boxer.

The music itself became notorious for its post-modern bricolage; steeped in irony, with the line between fact and fiction, sample and composition, utterly blurred. Loosely associated with the post-hypnagogic underground, Hype Williams filtered the history of electronic music, movie dialogue, and long forgotten pop through a stubbornly lo-fi, crackled facade, adding dub dynamics and pitch shifted vocal trickery. The sound – like their persona – consistently evaded clarity, revelling in the distortion of perception. As Chal Raven noted whilst writing for Dummy back in 2012, “No amount of quasi-academic scrutiny can reveal the “answers” to Hype Williams. The music is its own armour.”

It’s a curious contradiction; the elusive nature of Hype Williams seemed to run against a vital internet mantra – ‘share everything’ – yet conversely, so much of the groups identity seemed utterly dependent upon digital culture. From crediting the artwork of their album Black Is Beautiful to Danny Dyer, to releasing an output of such gargantuan size that it would put Mark E Smith to shame. This hyper exposure to culture – as well as a hyper production of their own – makes them a quintessential embodiment of the digital avant-garde. With an over-saturation of music within our daily lives, what unavoidably emerges is a state of demystification. In the case of Hype Williams, the duo managed to re-achieve a sense of mystique through relentless dishonesty.

Prior to the release of their two most widely available albums – under the Hype Williams moniker – the duo had already forged one of the most potent articulations of their sound. 2010’s Untitled comes across as if it were formed from an impromptu jam session, the track Untitled 4 building steadily around a central trudging drum procession, with a seasick drone growing increasingly erratic. Meanwhile the albums opener, Untitled 1, miraculously achieves a kind of vitally modern, ambient pyschedelia; an ambience that stems from the manic bombardment of endless information.

They followed Untitled with two more full lengths as Hype Williams, though neither were truly able to achieve a similarly bizarre concoction. Both 2010s What Happens When People Stop Being Polite, and Star Gettin’ Real and 2011s One Nation felt largely lost within a foggy miasma, unable to take a truly worthwhile form. In 2012 However, the duo released the album Black is Beautiful, under the names Dean Blunt and Inga Copeland. Though Black is Beautiful shares much of the woozy demo-esque sound that defined both One Nation and What Happens When…, where the album differs is its altogether bolder feel. The project in no way harnesses or tames the ardent experimentalism, but manages to make it all the more impressionable. The misshapen, battered footwork of 12; the garbled flow of 9, which sits atop a kaleidoscopic Casio jam, sounding simultaneously cheap and cosmic; or the LCD laced digi-dub of 10, with Copeland seemingly attempting a ritualistic incantation, whilst wildly mutating synths screech and wheeze in the background. 

Black is Beautiful marked the dissolution of Hype Williams, and the emergence of Dean Blunt as solo auteur. On his mixtape The Narcissist – later re-released as The Narcissist II, with alterations on the tracks – Blunt’s baritone first truly emerges, largely becoming the musics foreground. The Narcissist II and his 2013 debut album, The Redeemer, offer dual perspectives on the same destructive relationship; one in the midst of the carnage (Narcissist) whilst the other delivers some form of reflection (Redeemer).
Both The Narcissist II and The Redeemer have been compared to a play or soap opera, with The Narcissist II being flat out cinematic – journo cliche, I know. It provides a voyeuristic scurrying through various dimly lit city flats, conjuring images of couples bellowing at each other, whilst lower floor neighbours screech in dismay at chaos unfolding above. The music of The Narcissist II is a sludging, beaten ‘n’ bruised R&B. A kind of knackered soul persists, the genre worn thin and drained of euphoria, a narcotic induced hysteria taking its place. Documenting the bitter demise of a relationship, The Narcissist II is relentlessly pessimistic. A dour, rain drenched account of modern romance, identifying the point at which extreme passion teeters over towards acts of jealous violence. Despite the turmoil and anguish seeping out of each faulty synth stab and shattered vocal, in the title track we find a song destined to achieve classic status. The devastating interplay between Copeland and Blunt; its melodicism submerged in an ocean of tape hiss; a symphony of sirens ebbing in and out of this deeply unflattering private affair.
The Redeemer may very way be Blunt’s greatest achievement to date – an album spoken of in hushed tones among certain circles. Throughout, Blunt deceptively adopts the role of dishevelled crooner. A semi-competent mimicry of the heartbroken troubadour, his voice overreaching and cracking at regular intervals, it being impossible to discern between yet another sly divergent tactic and feelings of genuine heartache. The Redeemer may toy with the confessional singer songwriter archetype, but its fragmented – wholly disjointed – narrative stubbornly evades any cliches associated with “the breakup album”, able to inject absurdist humour within deep spats of lethargic depression.
Despite The Redeemer’s title – obviously suggesting a shift in morals or desire for personal growth – surface level perception has never really been at the height of Dean’s goals. There are unavoidable questions that demand positing. Is this relationship genuine? If so, what about his account? Blunt is as much playing with the form (breakup/emotionally redemptive album) as he is attempting to find emotional catharsis through his art. The Redeemer – though equally open to melodrama – is a more solemn affair than The Narcissist II, the instrumentation stripped bare, Blunt’s voice withering to a hazy drool.
 
Sonically the instrumentation deceptively mimics the more confessional tone, with fake midi strings sitting across various samples, Joanna Robertson adding finger picked guitar work – all building up these seemingly more honest songwriting tropes. What is perhaps most endearing about the project is its scope and ambition relative to its actual technical ability and resources. The desire to say something grand or epic, despite not having the tools at hand – which an acclaimed/famous composer would have access to. This also comes across on the accompanying mixtape/album Stone Island, a release supposedly made entirely in a Russian hotel room. The most breathtaking example would be on track 6, which samples an iconic portion of Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, adding almost absurd levels of drama to Blunt’s forlorn narrative.
Despite the acclaim Blunt had achieved by this point, he was dismayed to discover the reach of his art. “I made this stuff so black people would be impressed”, he confided to The Wire, “I didn’t know white people were gonna get in on it. But it’s mostly a bunch of sexless guys that buy my records.” The subject of race has always been a crucial aspect to Dean’s art, but on both 2014’s Black Metal and his work as Babyfather, it became its most prominent topic.
Black Metal was themed around the black appropriation of dead white tropes, with Blunt believing this to be a regressive act, as those who are truly radical should venture into something new and undefined. It may then seem odd to discover that the albums first half is comprised of nothing but white tropes – musically anyway. Chiming, sun-kissed indie; rustic folk explorations; Blunt continuing to develop the string laden balladeer persona; its only when we arrive at the mid section when we start to delve further into genres like dub or hip-hop – although even then they’re given titles like Punk or Country. In regards to his decision behind all this, well… as always with Dean, its difficult to decipher within interviews whether he’s providing helpful context or further blurring the picture. What the album does do is bring in to question a number of key issues young black artists face, issues to do with wider appropriation and pressures to assimilate rather than investigate your own culture. But unlike a thinkpiece or social realist art piece, the album isn’t simply providing a straightforward critique of real world issues, rather exploring these themes in an engulfing surreal environment.
The last two years have found Blunt drifting towards a far more overtly hip hop sound, coming into full fruition on 2016’s “BBF” Hosted By DJ Escrow. More pirate radio transmission than album; mixtape-like in it’s fluctuation in sound; grime beats sit side by side with brutalist noisescapes, whose layers of corrosive static leave a molten mess in their wake. The utterances of DJ Escrow give shards of narrative, a hopeful MC worn down the pressures of inner city life; meanwhile Blunt’s detached flow reveals a thinly veiled rage. The near instrumental Deep – with production aid from Arca – threatens an inevitable combustion; lysergic synths wail, replicating a woozy bent out of shape string section; an oppressive atmosphere, Escrow intersecting with desperate lines, doom laden utterances, a claustrophobic insistence that he’s “in too deep.” His most politically engaged, radical release, “BBF” was considered a novelty endeavour by some; understandable given his reputation as a prankster, but there’s a crucial lesson to be learnt with Blunt… he might sometimes be taking things seriously.
Words by Eden Tizard

[FEATURE] THE DANGERS OF BEING A CELEBRITY

Everybody is a fan in some way. It doesn’t matter who the person is or what they do, we all have our preferred celebrities. But what happens when it inches over the line towards a dangerous obsession?

On the 25th of February, Brendon Urie of Panic! At The Disco had to move out of his house.

Any average fan of the American rock band knows that Urie loves that house – he’d previously built a home studio in his garage where the entirety of most recent album Death Of A Bachelor was written (and some of it was recorded there, too), and the cover of the album was shot on the roof of the house. It’s very much a large part of Urie’s inspiration, not to mention his image.

And shortly after he moved in, his address was widely circulated around the internet. A short Google search will bring you the information, and some fans have taken that as an invitation to camp outside the Urie house.

In a statement posted to Twitter, the frontman explained that while he appreciates receiving gifts and letters, visits from fans made him feel unsafe in his own home: “Everyone has a right to feel safe […] so I’m taking my family somewhere that might make that a possibility.”

Read the full statement below:

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Urie’s concerns are understandable. If you can’t be safe in your own home, when can you be? And it’s not his fault – unavoidably, one argument that has come to light is that it’s his own fault for being in a band. But what’s wrong with wanting to share your art? I’m not denying that music isn’t about the person behind it. Of course it is, when those people write the music and the lyrics from their experiences. But sometimes, appreciating a musician goes way too far and this is a prime example.

But sometimes, fans don’t realise they’re doing anything wrong. When, exactly, does a admiring a celebrity turn into something more sinister? It’s an idea that’s been tossed around for years, decades, since the very early days of Beatlemania.

Celebrity Worship Syndrome was first properly identified in 2003, with an accompanying scale to identify the severity of the issue:

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These are only the first twenty questions, but they’re pretty harmless. Most people have probably felt like this about a celebrity at some point in their lives, whether it is through admiration or adoration – it’s just that Celebrity Worship Syndrome explains that feeling to the extreme.

 

There are three individual dimensions of Celebrity Worship Syndrome:

 

  1. The entertainment-social dimension. This describes a person who is attracted to a celebrity on the factors of their perceived entertainment skills and to become a social topic among like-minded people.
  1. The intense-personal dimension. This describes a person who has intensive and compulsive feelings about a celebrity.
  1. The borderline-pathological dimension. This describes a person who displays uncontrollable feelings or fantasies about a celebrity.

It is believed that one in three Britons’ celebrity obsession amounts to Celebrity Worship Syndrome – with one in four’s obsession affecting their daily lives. And this figure has more than likely been on the rise. These figures were released fourteen years ago, and the invention of social media platforms has made it easier than ever to cyber stalk celebrities. The likes of Twitter, Instagram and Facebook has made your average musician’s thoughts accessible to everyone.

A 19-year-old has told the Sydney Morning Herald that it’s easy to find celebrities through their social media posts. “All you have to know is the celebrity and how they use their social media,” Karla Del Rosario said. “You can find hotels and such by looking at the details in the background.”

I, personally, would call this stalking. There is a difference between being a fan of a celebrity, keeping up to date with the latest gossip, going to see their shows, loving their art. There’s a difference between that and waiting for a celebrity at an airport or their home or their hotel.

But where do you draw the line? At what point does being interested in a musician or an actor turn into a mental illness? There’s another mental illness that covers these symptoms: erotomania. And both syndromes are almost constantly prevalent in cases of stalking, but what about the blurred lines? When does keeping up with celebrity news turn into obsessively following every minute of celebrity news?

It doesn’t seem there are any specific case studies on Celebrity Worship Syndrome, but maybe there should be. It’s claimed that there are links between the syndrome and poor mental health, as well as cosmetic surgery and compulsive spending. These all point towards the most common perpetrators being teenage girls – young and impressionable – and it would be, well, not great, but better if those worshipped were role models.

As it goes, the most noticeable and recent figure is Justin Bieber. He’s hardly someone to look up to, especially in the earlier years of his career. Anyone else remember him spitting on fans, pissing in buckets and crashing cars? Just because he made one good album doesn’t immediately erase everything he did. But it’s not just his actions – it’s the actions of his fans. There was a fan-made Twitter campaign: #cut4bieber. The whole trend was based around trying to stop the Canadian singer from doing drugs and was apparently started by well-known troll website 4Chan, but it’s inevitable that some young girls genuinely believed the hashtag and actually self-harmed.

How obsessed do you have to be to hurt yourself for the sake of a celebrity? That has to be beyond the boundaries of mental illness, surely. It’s not healthy – frankly, it’s a little terrifying, considering that these fans don’t even know the person they’re obsessed with. They could be anyone. Take Ian Watkins of Lostprophets, for example.

But can you help the sufferers of Celebrity Worship Syndrome? Is there any way to stop it? There must be a rational part of them that figures it’s not right, that celebrities are human too, that they need boundaries. Individuals like this need to be stopped because not only is it dangerous for the worshipped, it’s also dangerous for the individuals themselves.

The rise of technology and social media is only going to make it easier for people to get obsessed, so is there any ways of curbing it? Or will it just keep growing until it’s too late, until someone takes it too far?

Words by Lucy Wenham

[FEATURE] MENTAL HEALTH IS NOT A MEME

Mental illness is not exactly uncommon. According to the Mental Health Foundation, one in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime and mental illness makes up 28% of all diseases in the world – the biggest by far. Going by this, several people you know will have suffered with a mental illness. It could be your mother, your brother, your cousin or your best friend. It could even be you. So why are we so insensitive when it comes to celebrities and mental health?

Recently, Kanye West announced he had cancelled an upcoming tour for undisclosed reasons – undisclosed until it was reported he’d been rushed into hospital for a psychiatric evaluation. Since then, more details have emerged: a combination of sleep deprivation and a robbery involving his wife Kim Kardashian in Paris a month previous has left him ‘shaken and paranoid’.

It’s a serious matter, but some reactions to the entire situation are disgusting. First, we need to look at the Paris robbery: why do people think this is funny? The Kardashians are not the public’s favourite family, granted, but this doesn’t change the fact that Kim Kardashian is a mother, a daughter, a sister and a wife. Nobody deserves to be held at gunpoint. ‘But she flaunts her wealth!’ you cry. Yes, her life revolves around social media and marketing herself, but I’ve seen sixteen year olds from small towns flaunting their new Pandora ring or brag about their iPhone upgrade on Snapchat too many times to count. Pot, kettle, anyone?

A gunpoint robbery is a traumatic experience for anyone. It’s not about the jewellery that was stolen, or the amount of money received from insurance. A robbery takes material items, but it gives you something too: pure fear and a need to look over your shoulder constantly. Imagine if that happened to someone you loved, if it was your wife that was threatened. Would you laugh it off, say she deserved it? Or would you say that it’s okay, because she can afford it anyway? No, you’d be angry, you’d be terrified and you’d feel guilty and that’s probably how West is feeling right now.

So why should we act like his mental problems are a joke? A meme is currently doing the rounds on Facebook, comparing West to the late Lemmy:

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You’ve probably seen it. You probably read it, agreed and laughed it off, because this doesn’t tell you the true extent of West’s problems. And anyway, since when is it acceptable to one up each other using health issues? I personally don’t think these two situations are even comparable – mental health and physical health are two vastly different worlds with their own consequences, and everyone uses a different coping mechanism with their own issues so why do we feel the need to judge others?

But it’s not just Kanye West that has publicly faced mental health problems. At the start of the year, Justin Bieber controversially cancelled all booked meet and greets, with a statement on Instagram claiming that he feels “mentally and emotionally exhausted to the point of depression” after meeting fans. In this statement, he also addresses the exhaustion of having to meet people’s expectations. It’s all very valid, and fans seemed to agree with most comments showing nothing but support for the singer. But most negative comments seemed to come from those who aren’t even a fan – people claiming that he owes it to his followers, and once again comparing him to other celebrities.

Justin Bieber is well known, that much is obvious. He has a massive following, which is made up mostly of young girls who look up to him. He’s something of a role model, and to have to play that act on the days you’re feeling a bit off must be tiring to say the least. There’s also the reports that fans have previously pulled his hair, torn his clothes and purposely made him ill, so it’s clear that it’s not worth risking his safety, let alone his health.

And then there’s Zayn Malik, one time member of boyband One Direction. In September, he announced that he would be pulling out of a concert in Dubai due to “extreme anxiety around major live solo performances”. Once again, this is very valid but fans were left fuming. It’s a totally different process, playing a show by yourself vs. with a group, and more so because Malik is used to performing with four other men. In an interview with ES magazine, he said “I speak about [my anxiety] so that people don’t understand it doesn’t matter what level of success you have, where you’re from, what sex you are, what you do”.

It’s important that celebrities address these issues. Not only does it bring a better sense of understanding to mental illness, but it also removes the stigma surrounding it one person at a time. Mental health is not a joke, it’s not something to be mocked or laughed at. You wouldn’t make cancer the punch line, so why make it depression?

This is the way I see it: fans are not entitled to anything. They’re not entitled to a tour or a meet and greet because they bought an album. And when they say, ‘well, this artist shared their music with the world, they know what was going to happen’, I say you didn’t have to buy the album, you don’t have to listen to that music. The public does not dictate a celebrities’ life, and we seem to forget that those in the limelight are human too. They all have feelings and friends and family, and they deserve their rights to good health and wellbeing as much as the rest of us do.

Artists should not be stripped of their human rights because they shared their art. They didn’t have to, but they did, and because of that we get to enjoy it so we should all, at the very least, be thankful for that.

 

Words by Lucy Wenham

[FEATURE] Why is there a struggle with small venues when live music is booming?

“If small and independent venues were to disappear completely, where would new bands come from? How will we find the new big thing?”

Sometimes it is down to location, other times it is lack of public interest and other times it is down to the rise in council rent. All along the country independent music venues are closing down, yet live music itself is booming around the country. So, what is it that is making venues close? It’s no secret that independent music venues are struggling to how they were even ten years ago, but a lot of that is down to the economy, smoking bans and the increase of home entertainment and social media. But venues should always remain relevant to the industry as these are the breeding grounds for scenes, and help build creative communities.

Mark Davyd, co-owner of The Tunbridge Wells Forum told The Guardian “The valuation of the Forum as a music venue is about £375,000. If we sell it to be flats, it’s worth about £1.2m.” It’s no surprise that due to gentrification that venue owners are selling up and you can’t blame them for it, however it is what is becoming the death of the independent venues.

In 2014 Leeds saw the closure of one of its longest running independent venues, The Cockpit, due to an inability to afford its upkeep, BBC wrote at the time of the venue’s closure that is was due to a “changed industry” according to Colin Oliver of the venues promotion company, Future Sound. Two years on since the closure of Cockpit, things haven’t really changed for small venues and still venues across the country are having to close and although the UK music industry grosses £3.8 billion a year, the origins of it is being taken away from us.

Although UK live music has been increasing in popularity in recent years, it is mainly commercialism of music venues which is keeping the music industry a billion-pound contribution to the UK economy. The 02 Arena in London, the SSE Arena in Glasgow and the Phones 4U Arena in Manchester are three of the best-selling arenas globally. Most cities within the United Kingdom have an 02 Academy venue, all of which get bookings from international bands which most of the time manage to sell out capacities of 4,500 people or more. Looking at the vast audiences that these venues get and the international reputation that they give our live music industry, how are we meant to look at these venues? As a commercial monster, which is destroying what live music venues once meant? or as pioneers with the money to keep live music venues going strong. London alone has three Academies, one of which is Brixton academy. Although it is not a small venue, it is an historic venue with the 02 franchise being a lifeline, it has kept the venue open and kept live music coming to the borough of Brixton. “I believe the academies provide a substantial amount of live music that cater for a wide range of audiences, and I think they have kept famous venues such as Brixton up and running.”a spokesperson from Brixton 02. “I think the [02] Academies are good for cities, Yes, the reason is down to the consistent array of gigs and club nights. London has three [Academies] located all around the city meaning there are events almost every night of the week accessible to almost the whole of London”.

An average ticket price for an O2 Academy venue ticket can be over £60 for a standard stalls ticket – take RnB star Ne-Yo’s Brixton show. Tickets are priced at £63 for a standard, no frills entry ticket, with VIP tickets costing almost £180. Now this seems ridiculous in comparison to smaller independent venues which charge half this price. For example, Koko in Camden also sees RnB acts such as Bryson Tiller and Snakehips, without breaking the banks of their fans.

But both the artist and venues are responsible for these high ticket prices. Although Academies tend to price most of their tickets between £20-£40, the odd triple digit price will pop up. However, for independent venues, a ticket priced £20 is seen as expensive. Keeping ticket prices low is what makes independent venues stand out from commercialised venues, but these low ticket prices often means they are unable to book the more popular acts or be able to put on acts every night of the week unlike the 02 academies. “Small venues have always been the grassroots for local artists” states small venue/club owner Mark Page. “In this sense any ticket over £10 is expensive for local music. If small venues can’t charge any more than so [£10] for a ticket, and only have a capacity of no more than 200 people they’re not going to be able to make as much money as an Academy venue which has a capacity of over 4000 and are charging £20 or more for a ticket. With the pressures of the rise of rent, it’s no surprise really that smaller venues are struggling or closing.”

348sIt’s no doubt that the digital age has altered the music industry. The increase of social media users has created a platform that musicians could have only dreamed of before the access of the internet providing a worldwide audience. “Online presence is as important [as performing live], but not more so” says venue owner, promotor and booking agent Mark Page. “Online of course is the greatest marketing tool of the 21st century to performers, but bands still need to play live to hone their skills, and learn their craft. Playing in front of live audiences breeds confidence and can give artists so much more feedback than a like on a Facebook post. If an artist is happy to only hide behind their computer, success can still be achieved but their art becomes too one dimensional.” As much as this may be the case, more and more bands are gaining further popularity using social media rather than playing live. Hertfordshire The Hunna for example managed to get themselves thousands of followers on their social media before they had released any music. By the time they put out their album in October 2015, as terrible as it was, they managed to sell out a UK tour and their album made it into the UK charts. If The Hunna can achieve this without using the support of their local venue, with the music industry one of the hardest to break through in, maybe other bands will do the same and although the quality of music will drop and perhaps this is how the industry will be in the not so distant future.

Perhaps it’s just an end of an era for small venues and we, as a music community, are holding on to what we remember of our first gigs at a small city venue and we don’t want future generations to miss out on what we remember so fondly. If The Hunna are anything to go off the quality of music will drop and will there be anything worth going to see live left? To say the least without small inner city venues the UK music industry would be a shamble, it would be bread without the yeast, a country without a working class, it simply would not work. You can stop this however, get out and go to your local venues, go see local music and if you’re dubious or sceptical you will be pleasantly surprised. If you don’t want to see your local venue die off, do your best to support it. Creativity is what makes cities and without venues it is taking chances away from people. There is a lot of good music that you’ve never heard of out there and some of it will be at your very doorstep. you just have to go find it.

Words By Jonny Page

London’s Impending Drug Culture Revolution

Three months after the drug related deaths of teenage boys Ryan Browne and Jack Crossley saw the nightclub lose its license for good, the doors of Fabric are open once again. Following a newfound agreement with the Islington council, the world famous venue will start hosting events from early 2017, a decision that sparked huge celebrations amongst all those who had supported the ‘save our culture’ campaign, which received over £300,000 in donations.

However, the decision to allow Fabric to reopen comes at a cost. During the court hearing that resulted in the council’s verdict to reissue the nightclub’s license, a 155-page document was presented by Fabric owners Keith Reilly and Cameron Leslie, detailing the extensive new security features that would be put in place to ensure a complete crackdown on the venues supposed ‘culture of drug use’.  CCTV cameras are to be placed throughout the club, ID scanners are to be installed at the door and sniffer dogs will patrol the queue outside, not to mention that the venue will now ban all under 19s from entry.

These are only a few of the new measures that will be in place once the venue reopens. Fabric now resembles a party at airport security more than it does a nightclub. Strict new licencing conditions such as these paint a bleak image of the future of London’s nightlife, with those in positions of power choosing to implement repressive measures that do more to intimidate nightclub goers than they do protect. Ever-tightening security teams will ultimately result in the joy of clubbing being lost, the flash of strobe lights and the incessant beat of dance music being replaced with the uncomfortable awareness that your every shuffle is being watched intently by a mountain-sized bouncer stood just over your shoulder. Once this becomes a reality it’ll only be a matter of time before attendances at these events plummets and once again club goers will find themselves facing yet another battle to save their culture.

This doesn’t have to be the case. Conversation in the UK is beginning to shift away from what security measures can be implemented. Instead, people are now focusing on what we can do to educate and protect nightclub goers from the potential dangers of drug taking. The relationship between dance music and drug taking will endure and fans will undoubtedly find ways of consuming and smuggling them inside venues no matter the security. Teaching people what they can do to ensure their own safety therefore makes far more sense than putting up a couple of CCTV cameras or adding an ID scanner at the door. Festivals like the Secret Garden Party are giving this notion genuine hope.

The Cambridgeshire festival, founded by Freddie Fellowes in 2004 pioneered a new approach to drug safety this year. Attendees were able to bring their drugs to an on-site testing facility where they were given a short health and safety talk whilst their illegal substances were checked for any dangerous contents, before being returned to their owners who were then free to go and enjoy their festival experience. The service was provided by drug charity The Loop, a non-profit organization whose mission statement is to ‘Promote health and minimalize harm in nightclubs, bars and festivals’ an aim they intend to achieve by providing ‘information, outreach and interventions by trained and experienced staff about alcohol, drugs and sexual health.’

The service was a major success, with over 80 dangerous drugs whose contents has been misrepresented handed in on the first day of the festival alone. By offering information and education rather than opting for a wall of snarling sniffer dogs to navigate on entrance, festival goers were more capable of keeping themselves safe from drug-related incidents and learn the countless list of often toxic ingredients that went in to making their drugs. Steve Rolles, a senior analyst for the Transformation Drug Policy Foundation, was a key figure in the agreement reached between The Loop and the local authorities and revealed that ‘around a quarter of people who brought in their drugs then asked us to dispose of them when they discovered that they had been mis-sold or were duds’.

Unsurprisingly, no drug-related deaths were reported at the festival across the weekend, evidence that progressive and innovative services such as these really do work. If an increasing number of festivals and nightclubs are able to get on board with revolutionary drug safety ideas such as these, events will inevitably become much safer places for music fans. Roelles is understanding however that for now the future of drug testing services lies in the hands of local councils and police forces, saying: ‘Until the laws are reformed, testing and encouraging safer drug use is the least we can do. We hope this ground-breaking service becomes the norm for all such events. It is now up to others to follow, to protect the health and safety of their customers. In truth it would be negligent for them not to.’

Berlin’s world famous nightlife follows a similar ideology, choosing to remain relaxed and take a more liberal approach to drug consumption in the cities venues rather than resorting to the now outdated ‘war on drugs’ approach. Speaking to the Morgenpost newspaper, narcotics commissioner Christine Kohler-Azara said: ‘We want to be pragmatic, our experience has shown that it’s not a good strategy to create too much hysteria,’ going on to detail their approach to drug culture in the city: ‘provide scientific information, that’s much more successful than a simple policy of ‘say no to drugs’.

The benefit of this liberal thinking towards drug consumption in nightclubs is the protection and increased safety it offers to those who attend these venues. Door policies throughout Berlin are relaxed and there is even the rumour that some clubs allow drug dealers to operate inside their venues in order to steer attendees away from purchasing dangerous street drugs that are far more likely to contain life-threateningly toxic ingredients.

Nottingham based club-goer Daniel Pearce thinks Berlin’s model is one that should be followed worldwide: ‘It really confuses me that there are groups of people that don’t want to listen to scientific facts about drugs that are by and large safe when used properly and not stupidly abused’. The idea of introducing drug-testing tables like those used so successfully at The Secret Garden to clubs throughout London is yet another prospect that appears to be popular amongst fans of the scene. Harry Tinker, a regular attendee of nightclub TANK said: ‘I think that kind of idea could work in clubs, although I think quite a fair few people would be scared to use it with the amount of bouncers about in that kind of environment.’

This is where the key issue of the matter lies. Club owners need to take a forward-thinking step and replace their armies of security guards with one piece of simple equipment that can do far more to protect the safety of their crowds than any security official could ever offer. With the Secret Garden Party and Berlin as its models, London’s nightlife must surely be set for a drug-culture overhaul that will see venues such as Fabric re-think their approach and what they can do to ensure crowds are able to enjoy themselves without having to put their health at risk.

(Written by Joe Austin)

[FEATURE] MUSIC IN LEGOS – VICELAND PREMIERE

Last week I attended a screening of Noisey’s VICELAND documentary in Kamio, Hoxton. The documentary was based on aspiring artists in the Nigerian city of Legos, perhaps most popular in today’s music culture for producing Wizkid, who featured on Drake’s chart topper – and absolute bop – ‘One Dance’.

After queuing for 20 minutes followed by absolutely blagging my way in (and making my way to the bar for unlimited free beer) I made my way down to the lower level of the warehouse space for the screening. The place was buzzing, with noticeably a lot of young Nigerians hyped up for the show (“Any Nigerians in the place tonight?” Vice man said, “YEAAAAAH” screamed apparently everybody but me). After some brief info about the documentary and some expected technical difficulties, the projector lit up the cellar like space and everyone fell silent. I’ve always enjoyed a good music documentary so I was full of expectation for this one, and it didn’t disappoint.

Legos, has a population of an estimated 22 million, we are told. Vice’s Zach Goldbaum meets Wizkid’s producer Mo Dogg in an area which is clearly poverty stricken – rubbish and dirt covers the floor, and children run wild. This is a place that kids pick up periwinkles (shells) off of the streets to sell. This documentary is loosely built around the meeting of Wizkid, and sets out to explore the world of Afropop and work it back to its roots. Any mention of Wizkid, all the children surrounding them start rapping his songs in their native language – rather than any of his more recent English based songs. What’s most uplifting is perhaps the influence he’s had on the local community. There are young boys on the streets showing off their rapping talents to the cameras, and when even the older locals are asked about Wizkid, they reply “He’s our own. He’s the neighborhood’s son”.

The whole documentary had a very bittersweet feel to it. It introduces you to various different afropop artists, like Yemi, who is a beautiful, amazing young singer who has a habit of singing everything that exits her mouth which was endearing to see. She doesn’t know if she will see the money that her album makes. She goes on to talk about how “the infrastructure doesn’t favour the artists”. But strangely when she is talking about this clearly very saddening fact about the music scene in Africa, she oddly doesn’t seem bummed out at all – either a show for the cameras or an understanding that unfortunately that’s how it goes out there.

Another interesting character comes in the form of ICE PRINCE, one of Lagos’ highest paid artists who is signed to Jay Z’s Roc Nation. His lyrics surround women, money and partying. Nothing new there. Over 60% of Nigerians live in extreme poverty, so it’s interesting that all of his songs are about clubbing and luxury. When he is asked about the government there he seems uninterested, and only briefly stating that he believes in the Government and then swiftly moving on. Again, all very interesting.

All in all, without giving too much away, the documentary is definitely worth a watch. It’s very well made, and it’s Vice so of course there were times where the crowd were roaring with laughter. A touching documentary and Noisey have done well to give it the focus it deserves. Hardly anyone in the room were chatting among themselves, everyone was watching and waiting for the next scene. It’s a nice feeling of community even in such a bustling western world city which maybe loses focus of some of its people’s roots. These evenings are what makes the London community so special. Give it a watch over on Viceland, Noisey season 2 premiers Thursday 16th Feb.

Words by Laura Copley

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