It must be something in our Celtic blood. Music may be encoded and downloaded these days but, at heart, we’re still an unplugged city. Just give us a stage, a pleccy and a pint, and we’ll strum and sing for our supper. All the more reason Liverpool Acoustic’s regular shindigs are essential events for those for whom the singer and the song will always win out against the hype and the hit machine.
This week’s event (this Friday, 28 Jan, View Two) looks like kicking off the new year in style. Time, then, for SevenStreets to have a quiet word with Liverpool Acoustic’s Graham Holland (pic r).
Liverpool Acoustic – what’s the big idea?
I’ve run an open floor poetry and acoustic music event,
Come Strut Your Stuff, for the past 10 years at Liverpool’s Egg Cafe. During this event I was often asked by musicians if I know of anywhere else they can play. I knew there were other acoustic events around the city but it was really difficult to find out about them. So in early 2008 I decided to create the Liverpool Acoustic website as a central resource for the local acoustic music scene, and its followers.
The Liverpool Acoustic Live event started in February 2009 when a young musician friend from Cambridge asked me if I could find him a gig in Liverpool the day before he was due to play in Manchester. There was nothing already on that night so I decided to put on my own gig. I asked local musician Stuart Todd if he’d like to help me and he agreed. We had so much fun that we decided to make it a regular monthly event.
How healthy is the scene at the moment?
It’s healthier than ever. Sure there are lots of open mic nights that start up and only last a couple of months, but they’re balanced out by a solid core of established, long-running open mic events, such as Back in the Jac. Added to that the folk clubs, showcase events such as Liverpool Acoustic Live,
Mellowtone, the Family Folk-up, and the Songbook Sessions, and the high profile talent booked by the likes of The Philharmonic, and you’ve got an exciting and vibrant acoustic music scene.
Would you say that the Liverpool acoustic scene is progressive?
It’s progressive in that there’s always something new and different popping up.
The Liverpool Folk and Roots Festival was a welcome addition to the calendar back in November 2009, and Under The Influence puts on a great night with a unique slant (at Studio 2 on Parr Street). Almanac’s themed nights also add something that’s different from the run-of-the-mill open mic and showcase events, and Mellowtone, the Family Folk-up, and Harvest Sun all book some incredible talent from across the UK and around the world.
How does the acoustic scene fit into the city’s larger musical community?
There are distinct musical camps in the city, and I’m not sure that the street punk scene has much to do with the jazz scene. However, acoustic music has the ability to cross the boundaries of musical genres, with acoustic performers in the worlds of jazz, blues, indie, folk, classical, Americana, and roots. And a lot of the pop/rock/indie events are supporting the acoustic scene.
Liverpool Sound City, Liverpool Music Week, the new Threshold Festival next month at the Novas CUC, the Mathew Street Fringe, Above the Beaten Track – they all feature acoustic music to a greater or lesser degree, which is very encouraging.
What about live venues and promoters – how receptive are they?
There’s a much better selection of venues than ever before, and the addition of Leaf (both sites), Mello Mello, Sefton Park Palm House, and The Kazimier have been great for the music scene as a whole. I take my hat off to the guys at Harvest Sun who’ve utilised venues such as St Luke’s bombed out church, Williamson’s Tunnels, and The Well at Liverpool Cathedral – great music in fantastic venues!
I occasionally get frustrated when venues and promoters don’t pass on their gig details to be added to the online diary. All it takes is an email, and there’s nothing worse than finding out about a great gig after it’s happened…
Who should we be looking out for this year?
There are new albums due out from the Kevin Critchley Orchestra, and TJ & Murphy. The Threshold Festival in February is set to be the largest single-venue festival in Europe, while the return of the Working Class Life and Music Festival in April will see the festival spreading its wings from its musical roots to include discussions, exhibitions, theatre, sport. comedy, film, philosophy, history, and a music unconference.
What can we expect at this week’s gig?
We’re really excited about this. It’s our first Liverpool Acoustic Live of the new year. We’ve got Zoe Mulford coming over from Manchester to play for us. Zoe’s from the USA and her music is a blend of American and British traditional and contemporary folk mainly played on the banjo. Property of Nadya Shanab play a really interesting blend of British and Egyptian sounds. Nadya is a LIPA graduate from Egypt and her musicianship is top class. Ste Hedley is another LIPA graduate in the traditional singer-songwriter mould, who writes and performs songs that are honest and clever, with great melodies and quirky lyrics. Finally we’ve got Northerndaze (top pic), a Liverpool duo influenced by all walks of music and life. Their performance and music has been described as folk rock with a combined mixture of enchanting vocals, hypnotising rhythms, killer melodies and fantastic musicianship.
Any highlights planned for later in the year?
In February we’ve got Stephen Langstaff playing at Liverpool Acoustic Live’s second birthday gig. He played at our first birthday and our first ever gig the year before, and it’s really good to have him back again. He’s such an amazing singer, songwriter and performer and makes new fans wherever he plays.
We’ve got so many musicians on our waiting list wanting to play at the Liverpool Acoustic Live event that from March we’re adding an extra night on the second Friday of each month, at the View Two Gallery. This will enable us to give more performance opportunities to more local, national and international musicians.
In April we’re moving one of our gigs to Sefton Park Palm House for the wonderful Leon Rosselson. Leon is one of the most respected folk performers the UK has to offer, having made his name during the folk revival of the 1960s. He’s bringing his one man show to Liverpool for the first time – My Life As A Songwriter (or How I Failed To Become Rich And Famous). Leon’s one of my personal songwriting heroes so I’m chuffed to be hosting him.
What’s right with Liverpool now?
There’s a real ‘can do’ attitude in the city. When people see something missing they get off their backsides and do something about it. There are examples of this right across the city, with venues (The Kazimier, Mellow Mello, Leaf), magazines (
Bido Lito!), events (the Woody Guthrie Folk Club, Under the Influence), and websites (SevenStreets).
What’s wrong with Liverpool now?
Who Turned The Music Down? debate (thanks SevenStreets!) shows that there’s still a great deal of passion surrounding the Liverpool music scene, and I firmly believe the local newspapers could and should be doing much more to support it rather than ignoring the bits that aren’t considered high profile enough or aren’t the personal favourites of the journalists. I understand the need to interview Sir Paul McCartney and JLS when they come to town, but there’s a huge amount of local music that rarely, if ever, gets a mention. Liverpool Acoustic Live , January 28, 8pm
View Two Gallery, Mathew Street,
Tickets £4 adv (£5 on the door) from wegottickets.com/liverpoolacoustic