Girls To The Front: Female Promoters Revitalising UK Punk Rock

We explore the recent upsurge of womxn in putting on gigs in the North of England, the ingrained sexism in the DIY community and what we can do to challenge it.

Written by Sarah Williams. Photos by Cold Front Photography.

We’ve created a ‘New Women of Punk Rock’ Spotify playlist to accompany this article – listen now.

Although it’s one of the more progressive communities, even in 2019, UK DIY punk rock remains a veritable sausage fest.

Attending shows as a woman alone, I’m often asked who my boyfriend is, which band member I’m banging, or whether I’m actually interested in the music I’ve paid good money to listen to. When working at shows, there’s an assumption that I’m there to help out on the door or sell merchandise, and that I wouldn’t know the difference between an XLR and a Speakon.

I organised Shout Louder Fest in February 2019 but, in the run up to it, multiple people assumed that I’d employed Ian ‘Tree’ Robinson of Anarchistic Undertones to book it for me – I was just tagging along at my own gig (comments which he did his best to quell). As someone who frequently writes about punk rock, I’ve often had folks on the internet assume that I’m a guy, even when Shout Louder profiles are full of selfies with my hair running amok. Out at gigs with our resident photographer, Josh, it’s often assumed that he’s the running things and I’m simply there to hold his lenses.

So, although the punk scene is an increasingly inclusive space, there’s definitely still work to do. Continue reading “Girls To The Front: Female Promoters Revitalising UK Punk Rock”

Why I’m Not Coming To Your Gig Tonight

Social anxiety in live music can be a challenge. Support your scene, but not at the expense of your own mental health.

This article written by Sarah Williams is part of our #MentallySound series, discussing mental health in music. Trigger warning: anxiety.

Today, my anxiety has anxiety. I am experiencing my own personal apocalypse.

I am entirely aware that the visions of catastrophe in my head are irrational, imagined and impossible (or at least implausible), but they’re there nonetheless. A cacophony of intrusive thoughts, false assumptions and self-criticism rattle round my hollow skull, a jarring, overwhelming rush.

Counting to ten isn’t helping. Telling myself I’m being illogical isn’t helping. Distracting myself isn’t helping. Self-care sounds like a waste of time, when I’ve got so much work to do. I need to just sit, ride this wave out and hope it doesn’t ruin my evening.

I’m going to a gig. I love gigs. I love live music more than anything else.

I desperately do not want to go.

I’m lying facedown on my bed, trying to muster the courage to put a jacket on and locate my house keys. Everything is impossible.

Continue reading “Why I’m Not Coming To Your Gig Tonight”

7 Punk Rock Bands To Stalk In 2019

Our recommendations for ones-to-watch this year – these bands are set to explode.

Written by Sarah Williams. Cover photo by Cold Front Photography.

Now that we’ve completed our round-up of 2018 (check out our top albums, EPs, festivals and live bands) it’s time to look ahead of the future.

The DIY punk scene is thriving in Europe currently; it’s feels like we’re on riding the crest of a wave that’s growing into a tsunami. Online connections are enabling us to share recommendations and enthusiasm across continents, so word is spread quickly about exciting new acts.

It’s easy to find new music nowadays, however I’ve believe there are two methods that stand out above the others: watching support acts at gigs and listening to recommendations from your friends. In 2019, I implore you to get out and see as many new bands as possible. To get you started, here are Shout Louder’s top recommendations:

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Wolfrik

Canadian thrashers Wolfrik are unlike any other band I’ve heard… although it’s safe to say they’re fans of Alexisonfire, A Wilhelm Scream, Protest The Hero and Belvedere. I’ve been keen to get their EP Skeleton City into the ears of anyone I can find and, so far, everyone’s been bowled over by their awesome sound.

Fortunately Skeleton City also found its way to the ears of the Manchester Punk Festival promoters, who pretty much instantly added them to the bill. If Wolfrik are as good live as they are on record then they’re going to tear the faces off the whole UK punk scene when they arrive in England in April. Erring on the metal / rock end of the punk scale, they combine a variety of genres, but it’s all fast, raucous fun with a healthy dose of experimentation. Continue reading “7 Punk Rock Bands To Stalk In 2019”

We All Fall Apart At Our Own Pace

Reaching out to your friends is hard, but we’re all going through this together.

Written by Sarah WilliamsPart of our #MentallySound series, discussing mental health in music. Trigger warning: depression, self-harm.

During an especially dark and turbulent bout of depression I endured recently, I found a familiar Iron Chic lyric rumbling round my skull:

“We all fall apart at our own pace.”

That one cadence repeating itself over and over; an old, beloved song suddenly taking on new meaning. I was wrapped up in my own personal apocalypse, but that one line reminded me of the importance of reaching out to my friends.

For me, depression comes in waves. Some days the sea’s calm and I’m stood on a beach in the sunshine, digging a moat around my sandcastle and enjoying a Calippo. Other days there’s a light ebb and flow, lapping round my ankles. Sometimes it’s choppy in the waves but my head’s above water, I’m staying afloat.

In this particular period, it was like a tsunami had hit. I’m toppled by giant waves, levelled by the force of it, choking on salt water, crushed by the weight of it on my chest. This is as bad as it gets: I can’t eat, I can’t speak, I can’t get out of bed, I can’t wait to get the courage to kill myself.

Sometimes depression just feels like a part of regular life, like an itch you can’t scratch but you can just about ignore it. But on these occasions, it becomes frighteningly apparent that it’s an illness. It’s utterly, hopelessly debilitating.

I lie still and wait for it to pass. It takes days. Continue reading “We All Fall Apart At Our Own Pace”

How To Beat Post-Festival Depression

Written by Sarah Williams, cover image by Josh Sumner. Part of our #MentallySound series, discussing mental health in music.

The struggle is real. We have all been there after a great weekend: suddenly alone, wanting to grin and cry in equal measure. Post-festival depression is the worst part of loving live music.

You’re mentally exhausted from the sheer amount of fun you’ve had. At best you’re a hungover, sunburned mosquito-feast, at worst you’ve sustained an actual injury. You’re bruised and broken from the physical exertion of a ‘holiday’: mosh pits, human pyramids, sleeping on floors.

You’ve showered but you can’t cleanse your insides; sitting in the office on Monday morning feeling like a ragdoll stuffed with shit spaghetti, desperately hoping none of your colleagues notice your mental state.

In the weekend punk-bubble it’s completely appropriate to curl up in a ball on the floor if you need to, to joke about your hands shaking or your jaw aching. You can show off your pit bruises and laugh about all the stupid things you did when you were peak drunk.

Suddenly, Monday comes and you’re crash landing into the reality of your day job, forced to keep schtum about this ‘other life’ you’re living. When your colleagues have innocently spent the weekend ferrying their kids to swimming lessons, doing a spot of gardening and redecorating their kitchens, you can’t exactly counter it with tales of gincidents, Class A’s and a complete disregard for your own physical well-being. When you’re enduring this inevitable dip, the worst part is that you have to keep quiet and pretend you’re totally fine.

Having experienced the crushing loneliness of post-festival depression umpteenth times now, I wanted to share my advice on overcoming it.

Reach out to your friends

There’s a good chance that they’re feeling just as shit as you are, so reach out to your mates and make sure they’re okay. Share the pain. The post-fest depression hits us all at different times; for me it’s usually about half an hour after I say goodbye to the last person I see, when it’s had a little time to sink in. It might vary a bit depending on the strength of your bangover, how long your journey home is or who you’re going home to. Continue reading “How To Beat Post-Festival Depression”

5 Things I Learned From Touring Japan [by Almeida’s Tom West]

Tom West of Almeida imparts some valuable advice to anyone touring or visiting Japan (a.k.a. the Punk Rock Holy Grail).

Article by Tom West (Almeida).

Last month, thanks to RNR Tours, Almeida realised our longtime dream of playing a run of shows in Japan – and had the honour of sharing a stage with Belvedere, Waterweed and our cruddy buddies Darko every night.

In my experience, playing in a band – particularly a DIY punk band – means that your proud achievements don’t always translate when talking to regular folks with regular lives. Cramming into a smelly van for hours and rating the service station toilets out of ten isn’t the most jealousy-inducing boast, no matter how many different countries you’ve rocked the fuck out in.

But there’s something about touring Japan that seems to really resonate with people and help them (accurately) realise, “Wow, you’re really serious about this!”

For this and a million other reasons, going to Japan was a highly gratifying landmark experience for Almeida, and if you’re in a touring band I’d highly recommend you start networking in order to get out there as soon as you can.

If you do get around to it, there will likely be a few culture shocks and bits you’ll forget to do, so here are some top tips to help you survive.

Travel

A 15 hour flight may be daunting (and very boring if your in-flight entertainment conks out – grazi mille, AIitalia airlines!), but if you’re used to long stretches of staring at the back of someone’s head on tour, you’ll be fairly well prepared.

Make sure you pack comfy gear like PJs and a good quality neck pillow – if you travel on a budget like us you probably won’t get much decent kip on the rickety old seats. It’s not just vital that you stay comfortable for the sake of your flight, but you don’t want to be spending your whole time on the road in Japan trying to pop your neck back into place.

We took our instruments and drum breakables on as hand luggage, which was a good way to ensure they weren’t getting smashed about by the airline – but make sure you’ve established whether it’s ok to do so, as you may incur heavy charges if you haven’t cleared it with them beforehand.

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Crew

RNR Tours were an awesome well-oiled unit to work with, helping us get from A to B, all the while making sure we got some time in to stroll around a 16th century castle in Nagoya, see the bright lights of Shinjuku, and frolic with feral deer in Nara. As ever, it’s important to not faff about too much in the mornings if you want enough time to see the sights.

We’d have been absolutely hopeless without our team. Unless you have a fluent Japanese speaker in your band, you’ll outright need to employ a tour manager at the very least.

The RNR team are incredibly efficient and assisted us every night with loading our gear in and out of the venues. If you get into a similarly fortunate situation, you can help them (and yourselves) by ensuring sure you label and number your bags to avoid something getting left behind. Probably good practice for any tour, to be honest. Continue reading “5 Things I Learned From Touring Japan [by Almeida’s Tom West]”

Post-Gig Reflections from a Promoter Who’s Prone to Panic Attacks

A brutally honest account of the anxiety and stress that comes with putting on a punk gig.

Article by Sarah Williams. Photos from Friday’s gig courtesy of Sam Dawes at This Is Noise. Part of our #MentallySound series, discussing mental health in music.

Four people have turned up for the gig so far, they’re standing awkwardly in the corner nursing pints and whispering about where everyone else is. The guy taking money on the door is twiddling his thumbs. I need to sell fifty tickets to cover the cost of putting on the show, so I guess I’ll be living on ramen this month.

The sound engineer is frantically trying to fix the PA, which started rattling and cutting out during the sound check. Two guitarists are scowling at the set up – there’s not enough room on stage and the sound is terrible. We’re running an hour behind and none of the bands have played yet; I’m going to cut the set times and maybe cut the opening act entirely. The headliner band is here apart from the singer, who couldn’t get out of work on time – apparently he’s stuck on a train somewhere. There’s a good chance he won’t make it to the gig at all.

“What the hell were you thinking, Sarah?” the venue manager asks angrily. “There’s no point in us keeping the venue open for four people. This is a waste of time – we’re going to cancel the show if you don’t sort this out.”

My parents are here too: “I can’t believe this is what you’re doing with your life! What a waste of time. Couldn’t you have been a doctor or a lawyer? You are a walking disappointment.”

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Worst case scenario. Fortunately, the real gig was a success. No disasters whatsoever. Nonetheless, that was the nightmare I woke up from the morning after I booked the band and the venue. I am riddled with anxiety at the best of times, so putting an event together has reminded me why I don’t do it regularly.

I recently moved to a completely different part of the country and, as a result, had to bury myself in a deluge of job applications, interviews and utility bills. The last thing I need on top of all that is to be driving 200 miles, promoting a show and trying to squeeze in all the other shows I want to attend. Still, there is a part of me that enjoys being overwhelmed, and there’s nothing I enjoy more than live music.

As such, I thought it’d be a great idea to put on a show at The Smokehouse in Ipswich, a few weeks after moving to Manchester. Darko, Actionmen, PMX and Pessimist are playing as part of my birthday celebration and as a send-off from the venue, where I’ve been working for the past few months. On Thursday I’m going to catch PMX and Actionmen in Manchester, my gig takes place on the Friday, and on Saturday I’m catching PUP and The Menzingers in London. In theory, it should be fun.

Continue reading “Post-Gig Reflections from a Promoter Who’s Prone to Panic Attacks”