Thursday, 20 September 2018

Mixed Bills - A Public Disservice Announcement

After nearly a year of putting on shows, we’ve noticed that there’s been a few conversations with friends asking, politely, what we think we’re doing – and we’re expecting a few more now we’re putting on a Queer Vegan pop punk band with what is basically an Oi! influenced hardcore punk band.

So, the pre-emptive short answer is: putting on some bands every couple of months so that there’s something for us to look forward to. Which isn’t to say that there aren’t other things to look forward to or that other things aren’t happening. But really, A Public Disservice Announcement collective is just two blokes putting on music they like just in case no one else does.

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Only, it’s sort of not. Because there is no one way to book a show. This means that we have to make decisions that are shaped by larger ideas, decisions that are often informed by a broader vision of what DIY is. We have choices that we have to navigate whether we like it or not - and how we do that creates meaning.

One of these choices is how we build community. On its most basic level, we have to think about this because - although we’re putting in the leg work to make something happen which gives us a degree of ownership over the whole thing - we need people to attend to make our shows viable. At a very minimum, building community means we want people in the room so we can pay bands. We’re aware that there are complicated reasons why people don’t attend shows, but it also seems that part of the responsibility for that not happening is the promoters’. We’ve got many jobs to do but a lot of them involve making sure people turn up.

We think that this is setting bar pretty low in terms of community building, although we suck even at this. But still. We want people to turn out but we also want them to come back. We are aware that we’re following in the footsteps of a great many DIY hardcore punks in Southampton, both those remembered and beatified and those forgotten and scattered. One of the things that most of those scenes got right was that they brought likeminded people together semi-regularly. From this, other projects grew, including a slew of bands and zines, distros, labels and other collectives. We’d like to help contribute to providing and sustaining an environment where this happens and we try to make choices that support this goal.

Those shows were fairly musically diverse. Some of this diversity was pragmatic and those pragmatic choices remain relevant to us. We aren’t convinced that there’s enough of x scene in Southampton to sustain shows of x type of band. We worry that this logic leads to micro scenes of poor turn outs, frustration, financial loss and burn out. There is, then, a basic reason to bring together diverse line ups: bringing all these people in to a room together on the assumption that three different types of punk/hardcore band means three times the crowd.

But less pragmatically, between us we like lots of different sub-genres of hardcore and punk. If you draw a Venn diagram, there’s plenty of overlap, but also plenty of overspill. This means that we’re likely to put on a wide range of bands totally unapologetically (and for stuff we won’t touch, we’re really happy for someone else to put on in our absence (we might even show up)). We’ve also been around long enough that we’re sort of bored of seeing six bands that sound the same. We would rather see three different sounding bands and like only one - much more than we would being lulled by the same sound over and over.

We are also wary of compartmentalising. We don’t get punks that don’t like any hardcore and hardcore kids that don’t like punk. There’s differences obviously, but there’s plenty in common, including the DIY ethic and we’re trying to recreate that space where these commonalities can coexist, talk to one another and build something viable.

Finally, although those scenes were politically progressive, we’re now at a stage in punk and hardcore where for whatever reason, it seems like there are far more people playing in bands that, demographically, aren’t just straight white dudes like us. It seems to us that you have to look a bit harder to find these bands, but why wouldn’t we do that regularly? We’re looking backwards to learn from the ways things were done before but that doesn’t mean we aren’t looking at what’s going on around us and trying to create spaces where people can see their identities represented.  

While we have always tried to make our line-ups diverse in these ways, we've of course fallen short quite a few times. Sometimes the practical aspects of putting on monthly shows, or not being able to do a show when a band with non-male, non-straight and non-white members is looking for one, leads to lineups that aren’t diverse in gender, sexuality or race and ethnicity. But we’re trying and we’re going to keep trying to make sure what we do more accurately represents the DIY community without resorting to the tokenism of putting on shit bands we don’t like. This is another choice (and one that leads to many further choices) and we’re stumbling through the implications of this rather than presenting a pre-emptive set of excuses.   

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All organising is basically guess work. It’s having a goal then a theory of how to achieve it. This theory may or may not be correct and even if it is, it’ll always need tweaking - not least because there are factors that are unaccounted for and beyond anyone’s control. Part of writing a blog like this is working through problems and coming up with theories that might be robust or might disappear into the ever growing pile of shit ideas and financial losses.

We’d struggle to define success but still - A Public Disservice Announcement collective has been mostly successful so far, whatever that means. But there’s also been bands that broke down on the M4 and never made it. We put on an amazing show that 5 people paid into and had to do the walk of shame to the cash point. This project might fizzle out next week. But it might go on for years until one of us drops down dead. We’d like to say that we’ll never let our egos define us or become territorial - but we’re both getting older and we’ve both got access to Twitter.

Basically though. Were two blokes putting on bands we like. We appreciate the support more than you know. 

Mixed bills forever (or until we decide otherwise).     

Tuesday, 3 April 2018

Bad Apples: Fifteen

Part ten of a series of posts reflecting on almost a decade of DIY culture - focusing this time on acoustic music. For an introduction to this series, click here.

Fifteen:

2008: Work out how to go acoustic. Then you can play ANYWHERE. One of my favourite shows ever was GGA acoustic in Tommy’s living room. Clearly this doesn’t work if you sound like CROSSED OUT.

2017: This post is an edited group discussion inspired by fragment #15. Ben plays bass in Latchstring and books DIY shows as part of the A Public Disservice Announcement collective. Geraldine as involved in booking punk shows as part of the STE collective (and its afterlife). Jordan co-runs Circle House Records, books shows as part of DIY Exeter and plays as Phaedra’s’ Love. Kristianne is a spoken word artist involved in the DIY Southampton zine fest. Enjoy.

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Phil: This fragment was written when there was a house show scene in Southampton but it wasn’t an electric house show scene. There was this sort of sense that if you put an electric band on in someone’s house you were gunna get shut down pretty quick. And I don’t know if that was ever founded on anything other than the idea that it was something we shouldn’t do. But it was definitely something that didn’t really happen. I can think of maybe 2 houses where like electric bands played but it was literally like mattresses over the window, kind of expecting to get shut down territory. So the fragment was about “how do we do house shows with punk bands that aren’t singer song writers?”When I was in Gordon Ganos Army, we built a drum kit out of tupperware and we had an acoustic guitar and we had a really small bass practice amp that I was running my bass through and we played those spaces where people would normally play acoustically. We played the conservatory at the Homested and we played a living room in Portsmouth that was fucking mental, probably one of the best GGA shows that I played. I was asking if we can do this in this context why can’t other people? Also I’m not the biggest fan of folk punk cos I don’t feel like for me it lived up to its initial potential in terms of like just doing shows in fucking weird places. Like so I can remember putting on a show on the common and I can remember seeing videos of Blackbird Raum playing like in a BART carriage. I was just like “man, this is cool!” you know, because it’s like doing something specific with the fact you don’t need electricity. But that doesn’t happen enough.

Jordan: I really like what you were saying actually about gigs in the park and things like that, I’d love to see more of that. I don’t know if many of you know about the Grafton Street busk? It’s organised by a singer-song writer called Glenn Hansard who was like the star of a musical called Once. He organises this busk every year on one of the busiest High Streets in Dublin. And he gets members of the community who are quite famous as folk singer song writers such as Damian Rice and they raise money for local homeless charities. It happens from about 7 to about 11 every Christmas eve.

Ben: Fragment 15 ties in to 14 a lot with me about holding events in certain spaces. I think of the common, the idea of the “common” and public land, at some point, it’s not going to be “the commons” anymore. So the spaces in which you have the opportunity to do certain things like that are gunna be lost. And a lot of people that moan about losing “the commons” very rarely actually use them for anything. So in my mind, these two are maybe not the way you intended it, but for me they are different sides of the same coin.

Kristianne: I’ve asked punk bands to do DIY Southampton and they work out how to make themselves acoustic so they can play it – I had a house show where Young Attenborough played a acoustic set and they were a punk band. They wrote a xylophone into it. Maybe they didn’t do it more because no one asked them to, but I’ve seen Just Blankets, who are some members of Young Attenborough do similar stuff since. Sometimes you have to put it to somebody that this isn’t a way you can function. We want you to be part of this, find a way to do it.

Geraldine: Its gunna depend on people’s creativity as to whether people can do that. Whether people are prepared to play a set of tupperware drums. I mean I’m all for it. But some people wouldn’t wanna do it. And that’s up to them isn’t it, they can say no…

J: I used to busk loads. Cos I live in Torquay which is a very touristy place. And on the harbour side are all the pubs and clubs and when I was sixteen, on a Saturday night I used to go down and sit outside Debenhams and Weatherspoons from about ten pm until two am and I’d make hundred quid and I’d go back home. It was so good, I’d just play Wonderwall 7 times in a row [laughs]. I used to busk in the day time, we used to sit outside Primark and it’d be 7 people having a cool jam. I think that’s maybe more of a small town thing, I don’t know, or a hippy Devon thing.

P: In terms of getting moved on if you did that in Southampton, one of the things when I was in Vancouver, there was a flyer for a guy that was putting out a poetry book and he was doing like a bus stop reading tour. The flyer had the times when he was going to be at certain bus stops so that obviously deals with the issue of being moved on because he was moving himself on. He was doing a tour of the city.

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K: Number 3 and Rat Haus obviously – all the noise! No mattresses on the window. I would not put on a show like that in my house. I really like my house and I’ve seen the way that people treat the fucking house when they go into those shows. And there seems to be a different level of respect with house shows when it’s an acoustic house show as opposed to a full band house show.

B: The entire mood has changed. I think that the way the sound affects the people in the room is the way they will maybe act in that room. And also the particular bands they put on at Rat Haus were party punk bands. I don’t think it’s unfair in saying that that the bands they enjoyed listening to are conducive to an atmosphere of crank the amps, get your beers out. I’m not saying they should have to put on bands they don’t like, I’m just saying that’s probably why people don’t trash acoustic house shows but damage happens when you put a band on.

K: But the same people were coming to my house shows that were going to those house shows.

J: I think there’s a huge difference, from the excitement of an acoustic show to when I put on a hardcore punk band. I see a massive difference in numbers in attendance – hardcore punk gets more any day of the week because I think people go to an acoustic show, they sit there, you know, have to be quiet, respectful. And I mean, I love it, but not everyone does because you get you know, young sixteen year olds coming in for their first ever punk show or whatever and their friends are pushing each other around, and they’re having a great time and they’ve got an adrenalin thing and they think “wow this is great! I want to come back to this.”Whereas if they were sitting at an acoustic show, I guess they’d kind of think “this is a bit boring, I don’t get the same thing.” Which I’m not endorsing “that’s what a punk show has to be” or anything, but I’m saying that that’s something I see in a lot of people that they really need to have or get excited about. And I definitely will say that I’ve been more excited in myself about going to see a fast punk band, cos there’s this, I don’t want to say dangerous because that’s horrible, but there’s this like air of it’s all going to go off in a minute, like it’s all gunna go crazy, it’s like a wild show. And its just not the same when you go and see a calmer show.

B: Energy is dictated a lot by volume and tempo, regardless of if something is intense or if the crowd is vibing to it or not, volume and tempo, it’s a cheap way of doing it but it’s an easy and effective way of creating an atmosphere.

G: You do generally get more energy with like a band playing. But then if you’d seen Tim Barry playing the Joiners then easily you get same amount of energy.

B: If we were to put on an acoustic act and it was purely an acoustic bill, I’d imagine that we wouldn’t get the numbers through the door, I don’t know why. If we had someone like Ryan Harvey, say, come over from Baltimore and play, I would definitely put him on but I’m well aware that we’d probably make a loss to make it worth his while because we wouldn’t get the numbers.

K: I have a question. Why would you only do a hardcore show or an acoustic show, why are people so afraid of mixing stuff up?

G: We do mixed bills. We came back from holiday and the gig was the following week and the floor had cracked in that room in the Hobbit. So we did it in that concrete space outside the room, it was all sheeted off to try to keep the noise in. And Kelly Kemp played that for us and at the end, Rich said that he thought Kelly was the most punk person or band that played that day, she played unplugged and she was brilliant, really good. But we often had El Morgan and Kelly both play and other acoustic people play those shows.  

B: We also mix bills - we’ve put on El and Dave Miatt, but I also think that an incredibly important aspect of putting on a gig is flow and currating the line up to build up to something. If I feel like they’re going to put a massive pin in the balloon you’ve been inflating in terms of how that line up has been progressing on the day then the acoustic act is going on early regardless of whether they feel like they should go higher up the line up. And I would probably be livid if I was an acoustic artist, I would probably get really wound up about always going on first and having the fewest people see me.

K: That’s why at DIY I’m like it goes music, spoken word, music, spoken word and I do that throughout the day on the stages. I kinda know what you mean about building up to something but why can’t you build up to some really good spoken word or some really good acoustic? I genuinely do not get this “this keep it all separate” shit, like I’ve asked a particular festival whether I could come and do spoken word and they were like “we’ll have to talk to everybody about whether or not we can have spoken word”. So I do have a bit of an issue personally. But also I can go and watch a band play and then watch an acoustic act - I don’t mind, it doesn’t have to end with really loud mental music at the end of a night, I can start with that and move to something else.

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Jump to fragment (links added as fragments are posted): Intro // One // Two // Three // Four // Five // Six // Seven // Eight // Nine // Ten // Eleven // Twelve // Thirteen // Fourteen // Fifteen // Sixteen // Seventeen  


Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Bad Apples: Fourteen

Part nine of a series of posts reflecting on almost a decade of DIY culture - focusing this time on non-music related hang outs. For an introduction to this series, click here.

Fourteen:

2008: Organise something that doesn’t involve music so we can all hangout and chat without shouting over bands. Maybe you could just make a flier saying to meet somewhere and we could have a picnic? Having a picnic with your mates – cool. Having a picnic and inviting everyone in the scene, even those you don’t know – a way to break down barriers and preconceptions, build community, get to know each other better, break out of our comfort zones, start new projects, let each other know what we’re up to. From talking to older punx, it sounds like this used to happen (thanks Nath).

2017: This post is an edited group discussion inspired by fragment #14. Ben plays bass in Latchstring and books DIY shows as part of the A Public Disservice Announcement collective. Geraldine as involved in booking punk shows as part of the STE collective (and its afterlife). Jordan co-runs Circle House Records, books shows as part of DIY Exeter and plays as Phaedra’s’ Love. Kristianne is a spoken word artist involved in the DIY Southampton zine fest. Enjoy.

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Ben: Yeah, I really like this idea. If we’re talking specific about a punk community, loosely described, that community should if it’s really well functioning, in my mind, be getting together to do things outside of just putting shows on, whether they’re just nice socialising things or a lot of punk communities branch off into activist networks. I think holding an event like this would be a really good sign of a very, very healthy community. And just really pleasant. Like more than anything, just super nice [laughs].

Geraldine: It would be great. I think what might have an effect from the older ones of us is that there’s just so much other stuff going on, but yeah in theory, we’d be up for it and be happy to help organise whatever. I haven’t really [been to a previous Southampton punks picnic]. It’s just I think there was more people. I think everyone just saw each other a lot more than they do at the moment so – it just kind of happened because everyone was out anyway and there were fewer responsibilities and what have you and not everyone’s got children but a lot of people got kids now and yeah, people used to be together a lot more anyhow because there were a lot more gigs going on, people involved in groups putting the gigs on so it was just more – I think it was just easier. But if we could do it and get a lot of people out, it’d be brilliant.

Kristianne: We are doing it next week, it’s not a picnic, but a Christmas pizza. I invited people that I guess I know and I’d never say if somebody said to me can someone come along, I’d never say no so there are people coming that I don’t know cos other people said “can I bring this person with me?” But the food thing aside, doing other things, there are small pockets of it happening. Like Libby is amazing at this kind of stuff and we’ve done knitting nights, we have done just helping Libby make stuff nights, which is getting stuff for Libby done but also people come together and sit around. I’ve used that kind of idea enough to help me with DIY [Southampton], to get things ready for it where I said “who wants to come and help with making all the signs that we need to make?” or doing this or doing that. I think the really big thing that is really difficult about this is finding any one date that everyone can do, and like, if you don’t mind putting and doing something and saying anyone can come to this and people can invite whoever they think might be interested, knowing that you might be sat there with one other person. If you don’t mind that then that’s cool and I’ve done that some nights.

Jordan: I’m not against this but I’m very sceptical of it because so many times I’ve seen this kind of thing happen or even really involved with shows like the house shows, it often turns into an excuse for a piss up. A lot of house shows I’ve been to even have just become like a house party where everyone’s drinking and there’s some bands playing in the corner. Everyone’s outside and like, there’s 5 people watching the bands in the living room and it’s kind of weird. There’s a punx picnic that happens every year in [a city in the West country] and people come all the way from Cornwall, Devon, Sumerset, all around really, people have been to it for years and years and everyone goes – and I went last year and it just a load of people in leather jackets drinking cans of Strongbow and not really actually doing anything productive or anything.

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J: What I like about certain scenes and certain communities and certain cities is that you have these kinds of friendships all based around an actual place, like a venue. And I guess in Southampton you don’t have that as much. Where I’ve spent the last 3 years in Exeter, no shows in a DIY punk manner or any punk manner really happen outside of the Cavern in Exeter. Once every six months you’ll have some really weird occurrence where there’s a gig going on in a coffee shop upstairs somewhere. But the Cavern is like the basis of it and in the daytime it’s open as a vegan cafĂ©. And it’s kind of this place that never really closes, it’s always there, you go down and you discuss “shall we put on a show?” or “do you want to make a band?” There’s a big, big long table at the end of the bar and anyone can sit down and chat, there will always be people working there. There’s loads of workshops that go on so you might come in one day and there’s a zine making workshop or learn to use a typewriter for the first time or something, you know. In terms of money, I’m not 100% certain who covers the costs, if someone’s got a typewriter and a load of paper or whatever and they say “do you just want to play around with a typewriter and things?”, it’s as simple as that sometimes. And sometimes it’s a whole new thing with loads of people in there selling zines and things like that, or you know someone’s doing a zine making class and things and the only costs they’ve got to cover is some paper. The Cavern stays open, would be open in the day time as a cafe regardless whether there’s a workshop on or whatever and making some money from people buying tea and coffee and stuff.

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Phil: I wonder how DIY Southampton fits into this, what we’re talking about here, cos one of the things I was interested in is this present in other spaces? I was thinking about club nights, because you could pretty much guarantee most of the Southampton punk scene of a certain age would be at the Rhino on a Wednesday, you know, when that was open so it’s almost like we didn’t need to go sit in a park, do you know what I mean? Or when the Alf was there, we knew that you could go to the Alf whether you were into the bands or not, most people would be there. Do you see DIY Southampton as a space where people go hang out and make those connections twice a year?

K: I do, I know they do, I already know they do because that’s what people come back to me saying, people come back and they say “We met one year ago at DIY Southampton whatever number it was and we’re still together today” or “I did my first ever” – Josh Jones did his first ever reading, he came to DIY Southampton 2. I spent a whole load of time helping him make a zine when I wanted to go watch somebody else do something else. Two DIY Southampton’s later he came and preformed and then Jordan’s doing tours with him. I know it works which is why it makes it really difficult to say “That’s it, we’re not doing it anymore”. Cos I don’t feel like it, it’s mine to say that with in some respects and people do come and spend the whole day there. And people of all different ages which always amazes me that people that walk in and then you see them there for 2, 3, 4 hours later still there. And some people come in they watch their friend play and they leave, or they come in, they have a quick look round and they go. It’s that kind of fluid, that space, which is why I guess it’s grown quite a lot.

B: That year that a couple of social workers brought a day care of people with physical and mental impairments down to experience it was one of the nicest things I’ve seen in Southampton – it was wonderful, it was really, really cool.

K: What is nice about it is that without trying, it has become diverse of its own accord. So it would tick everybody’s boxes for any kind of an event and I don’t doubt if we wanted to apply for funding for it we would get it, but that’s not what it is about because then you have to answer to somebody else because that’s their money that goes into it and they want to know what you’re doing with it. It is about that space that Tim provides for free at Planet Sounds just being somewhere lots of people can access, and now we have like the Science Room people come in and [being an] actual part of the event, twice now. First time, first two times they did a table and last time they were actually part of the event, they had a science room there on the Saturday, so even more people who aren’t necessarily into the music or the arts came and we’re part of it. So I know that it’s growing like that, but again, people are like why don’t you do it next month? Cos you wouldn’t get 170 people walk through the doors every month for one thing –


G: When we stopped doing the Hobbit gigs, we were getting what, 30 people out if we were lucky, we used to get like 80, 90. And the amount of time that goes into organising a gig with 8 bands and that and it’s just – and then you can’t book bands from far away if you’re only gunna get 30 people in cos now that, when Rich was single, on his own, it was different, he often lost money on gigs, the STE they lost money. People grow up and get more responsibilities don’t they, so I can’t put on a gig and risk losing £150 because I can’t bring somebody down from the north of the country and not pay them their petrol.

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Jump to fragment (links added as fragments are posted): Intro // One // Two // Three // Four // Five // Six // Seven // Eight // Nine // Ten // Eleven // Twelve // Thirteen // Fourteen // Fifteen // Sixteen // Seventeen 

Friday, 2 February 2018

Bad Apples: Thirteen

Part eight of a series of posts reflecting on almost a decade of DIY culture - focusing this time on door prices. For an introduction to this series, click here.

Thirteen:

2008: Back when I first started going to shows, there used to be two door prices. One was for those people in work, and the other was usually a pound or so lower and for those people who were unemployed. It was a system that worked on trust and honesty. I don’t know if it was successful – I haven’t seen any one do it at show for a while and I used to get sick of asking if people were waged or unwaged – but I like the idea that as punks, we try to support each other in hard times and try to give subsidies to those who otherwise might be put off coming. Naive? Perhaps. Other ideas for creative door tax include – raising the price by fifty pence and giving this extra money to a charity. Offering discounts to people who donate tins of food for the homeless (both the STE and Andy Fairfight have done this in the past to great success).

2017: This post is an edited group discussion inspired by fragment #13. Ben plays bass in Latchstring and books DIY shows as part of the A Public Disservice Announcement collective. Geraldine was involved in booking punk shows as part of the STE collective (and its afterlife). Jordan co-runs Circle House Records, books shows as part of DIY Exeter and plays as Phaedra’s’ Love. Kristianne is a spoken word artist who also runs the bi-annual event DIY Southampton at Planet Sounds. Enjoy.

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Jordan: There’s a lot more divisions in a society which stops one having that disposable income in order to go to a gig than waged or unwaged. I don’t know if that’s an age thing because a lot of scenes I actually play to are university based. So when I first read this, it wasn’t something that seemed wholly relevant to me. And I recognise that is completely privileged saying that but instead of the things like putting the price down by a pound, I like donation shows and it’s based on honesty, people just put in what they can. And even in a more honest setting, when you have the tin of money there, you can put in a fiver and you take out a pound without someone watching you like a hawk. Cos asking people if they’re waged or unwaged, that can seem a little bit intrusive to some people who might find that really sensitive to be asked that. And that’s why maybe that honesty thing is really great. Or instead of having like I said the two pound suggested donation, we put on a queer punk fest in Exeter earlier this year and we had suggested donation £3, £5 , £7 and underneath it no one turned away for lack of funds.

Ben: I’ve not got many nice things to say about Barrow in Furness, but a lot of the hair dressers have got an unemployed rate for hair cuts for people who are going for job interviews. They have an unemployed rate and everyone else rate and I see that as quite a similar thing. I largely agree about the honesty situation –I feel deeply uncomfortable asking anyone “waged or unwaged?” I don’t think anyone should feel awful because their unemployed but you can’t help it if someone does because people are taught that they should feel bad about that. I do think out of all of this there’s loads of permeations as to how it can be done well or badly, that no one turned away for lack of funds is pretty much the prime thing that – it would be odd if I found anyone that disagreed with it. My thing I’m concerned about is how to implement it well and in a way that’s relevant.

Geraldine: The whole waged unwaged thing goes back thirty years to the mid to late 80’s. Thatcher’s Britain - when I suppose generally a lot more people coming to shows were unemployed. That’s where it stems from, the politics of the time.

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G: It did get to a point where people would ask to be let in for free and then go and buy six pints at the bar. That didn’t go down well. So that was kind of managed, as it were. Gigs that have been organised by people that I know, people that genuinely qualify as unwaged were let in at a discounted rate or let in for nothing on the grounds of you wouldn’t want people to miss out on seeing bands who couldn’t afford it, but there’s a certain amount of human nature isn’t there that if they don’t have to pay, some people won’t.

Kristianne:  I really kind of feel like if you want to go to the show, that’s your first thing, you know, so if it’s in a venue where you’re gunna make sure you’ve got money for a couple of pints, you buy your ticket and you make sure that those bands that are travelling get their petrol and get fed and are able to get to wherever they need to go to because that’s their job, you don’t turn up at Tesco’s and say I don’t work so I’ll just pay for a little bit of the shopping  – the way I see it, it’s a luxury to be able to go out and see bands playing, it’s a nice thing to do and when I haven’t got much money, I’ll go and I’ll have water at the bar. That is just my opinion on it. And I know it’s not a popular one. I’ve had times when I’ve had no work, when I was at university as a single parent with a child and no family support. When I really wanted to go see a band, I found the money to go and do it. If there is a good enough will there is a way. And I really think the world is unfair, you know, and sometimes it’s really hard to get a job. But there are so many things that we live within our lives these days that we consider that we should be entitled to. You know, we all have to have mobile phones, we all have to have, I don’t know, satellite TV and I just think actually we don’t. And perhaps we shouldn’t.

B: When we were talking about fragment 13, we were talking about the value that we ascribe to things and that its totally fine to need a “luxury item” to get by – what if you were to put a gig in that content? In terms of someone really needing that thing to get by, like reading a book or listening to a record or getting some food they need to make a really nice meal – just because someone is poor doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a quality of life that involves enjoyment and I would say that having two separate door prices would be a way of allowing that. I can draw a parallel between those two things that we’ve discussed and I found it interesting on the one hand you were very pro the former but saw it slightly differently for the latter  –

G: It’s two slightly different things, isn’t it? You’re swapping something you don’t need any more and you want somebody else to be able to use it rather than it going in the bin because you don’t want it clogging up the house. But if you’ve got a touring band, they need to get round the country and they need to get home –

K: And they need to be fed and they need to pay for the maintenance of the vehicles touring with them. But, and I do see where you’re coming from Ben, I totally feel that going to a gig is a bigger luxury. We do need music and the arts to stay well. But when you need something that much, you can find ways to participate in it, to get access to it that don’t require other people having to stump up those costs for you.

Phil: One way of thinking about it might be that one of those things you desperately need to get by might be a sense of community. Money that stops you going to a show is kind of a tax on your ability to access that community, isn’t it? In some ways. I just wondered if that kind of is worth thinking about in that sense. I’m thinking when I used to go to shows regularly, I’d walk into the room and I’d know like 75% of the people there, but there would be no other context where I would have that. If I couldn’t afford to pay to get in then I wouldn’t be able to access that particular resource.

B: Particularly as you get older, cos people don’t hang out as often any more cos they don’t make the effort to do so. But if I need a big jolt of socialisation, which I need quite a lot, I’ve learnt that the older I get, the more I notice that I don’t hang out with friends as much, I would hate to be a lot less waged. And it wouldn’t be the case that I didn’t get to see a band I wanted, it would be the case that I don’t get to go and have a shared experience with a lot of people which I needed.

G: If you’re saying £5 or £4 if you’re unwaged, is a pound really gunna make a difference to whoever’s paying in? If you really wanted to go, are you gunna pay £4 but stay at home if its £5? When it started, it was £5 waged, £3.50 unwaged, which made a bigger difference 30 years ago than it does now.

K: Probably used to get a pint and a bag of crisps for that! [laughs]             

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G: I’ve been at donation shows before where there’s been three of us there and we’ve put £10-15 in, and people are shocked. But I’d pay that £5 each for DIY on the door of a show. If I was seeing 4 bands in a house, what’s the difference? Other people just like put a pound in. If a pound is all you can afford, then fair enough but if that gig had been in a pub and you’d have paid £5-6 to go to that gig in the pub, then you could put more than a pound in.

K: I’ve been to shows where people have collected next to nothing because they’re relying on their mates that come to the show to put some money in and they’re all just more interested in the fact they’re getting hammered on cheap beer. And I’ve done the same as you, if I’m at a house show and I’m seeing 4, 5, 6 bands, I don’t have a problem with paying £5-10 that night. I’ve seen people go “Woah, are you sure you  want to put all that in?” And I go, “Yeah, it would cost me more if I was at a venue because I’d have to pay a fee to get in on the door and to pay their stupid drinks prices!”

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G: Food donations doesn’t happen round here that often now, it did used to be more common and Charlotte in High Wickham does it at the Phoenix and gets an awful lot of donations there. I think the pub let her have the space for free but then obviously she can’t charge on the door so she just does food donations. And the other place I’ve seen it done recently is Wonk Fest. They do an all dayer thing up at the Dome in Tufnell Park – there’s free food there all day for everyone that attends and then there’s donations for a food bank. You do have to pay in as well but there were like two massive wheelie bins full of food and they were overflowing and there was just heaps of food, it was really successful up there. So that’s really good. Adding 50p on, I mean, that’s fine long as you trust the person whose gunna hand the money over. Cos there was a famous benefit show where that didn’t happen in Southampton [laughs] that still gets mentioned now! But yeah, so that’s fine long as people don’t take the piss. Which is basically, what all of these things are, aren’t they? Don’t take the piss.


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Jump to fragment (links added as fragments are posted): Intro // One // Two // Three // Four // Five // Six // Seven // Eight // Nine // Ten // Eleven // Twelve // Thirteen // Fourteen // Fifteen // Sixteen // Seventeen 

Friday, 22 December 2017

Bad Apples: Twelve

Part seven of a series of posts reflecting on almost a decade of DIY culture - focusing this time on swapping. For an introduction to this series, click here.

Twelve:

2008: Swap things. I’ve got a book or shirt I don’t want. So do you. Maybe we could get together and trade. Maybe we could get a few people together and trade? Also, I like the idea of people contributing or sharing things to cover the costs of an event. An example of this is a potluck, where everyone brings a meal so that one person doesn’t have to cover the cost. Or the scavenger hunt I planned years ago where the entrance fee was something we could give out as a prize.

2017: This post is an edited group discussion inspired by fragment #12. Ben plays bass in Latchstring and books DIY shows as part of the A Public Disservice Announcement collective. Geraldine as involved in booking punk shows as part of the STE collective (and its afterlife). Jordan co-runs Circle House Records, books shows as part of DIY Exeter and plays as Phaedra’s’ Love. Kristianne is a spoken word artist who also runs the bi-annual event DIY Southampton at Planet Sounds. Enjoy.

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Geraldine: I’m all behind the theory of swapping, I just got a problem where Rich likes to keep everything he’s got! [Laughs] There are some things I like to keep because I really want them, but if I’ve bought and read a book from a charity shop, I’m quite happy to give that away or take it back to the charity shop. But Rich will even keep those books! [Laughs] In ten years time I don’t know what our house is gunna look like!

Jordan: Possessions are kind of a weird thing and people in these scenes have really different views. Some people can read a book and say “someone else can have it” but a lot of people – and I kind of find myself in this boat, it’s not about finances, I like to have something with me. If it’s say, a record I love but I’m not even using it much, I love the fact it’s sitting there on the side of my bedstand.

G: It’s not a financial value. Rich will listen to records and even though he’s had them years, he’ll have that cover and he’ll be looking at the artwork and the words and it’s the whole package. So we’d never be able to rip that collection and get rid of the physical copies because to him, it’s not just the music that he really enjoys.

J: I like when you play in bands you swap a cassette for a cassette or a t shirt for a t shirt. In a world where everything’s about money and value, its nice to just strip that back and actually just relax about it a little bit more. It gives more value to the things you own - it gives sentimental value. 

Ben: People ascribe different value to different things, like I would ascribe a personal level of value to my record collection and I can’t see me any time soon getting rid of that. I don’t feel the same way about books and DVDs. DVDs I go “I’ll watch that a couple of times, I can probably find that online” and I’m quite happy just like, Googling a ripped copy of the film online, whereas I don’t feel exactly the same about a record. I like having a record, even though I’ll have the digital version to carry around with me.

Kristianne: For years I never thought I would get rid of a book. Books were sacred like vinyl, really special. And then I just realised that things were piling up everywhere and actually, my head couldn’t cope with it all anymore. And I kinda went, “you know what, I have to do something about this” because actually, I need to be well and I can’t be well with all these amazing books around me. I started pulling out books I thought I could give to people I thought they might like, then I realised that was going to absolutely wipe me out. So I just went, “no, I’ll do it and see what happens. I’m not gunna die.” And I kind of did it and actually, it was quite freeing and it lifted quite a lot of weight off of me.

B: I’ve got a very few books where there’s a story about how I came across that book that’s extraneous to the contents of the book. So like my copy of ‘The Mountain inn’ by Guy De Maupassant, I was reading a book where the main character of that book was reading the ‘Mountain Inn’, it was woven into the narrative. When I finished that book, there was at Boscombe bus stop a 50p book table. The top book was ‘The Mountain Inn’ by Guy De Maupassant, so I’m never getting rid of that. But I’ve got way more stories like that about records and I think that’s why I probably ascribe more value to my records and I’m probably less likely to turn up with a carrier bag full of them and say “help yourself”.

K: There are some things that I’ve kept. I’ve got books that are signed by the author with little messages inside them, there are some sequences of books that I have read over and over again that I know I will read again and again and again, fiction that I love reading and can lose myself in. And I won’t get rid of those because I know I’d only have to buy them again. And I have a lot of very valuable kind of art books that I think “oh, I could sell all these and make loads of money”. And then I’m like “I really like it so they go back on the shelf!”

G: I could go through our books and cull them, I’d be quite happy to do that… But the records would only go in an emergency situation, if we were desperate for the money. We’ll get our records out, and there’s tickets in them, there’s letters from people when you had to be writing to people and reading zines to know what was going on. And you’d buy something and you’d get the record and it’d come with a little note and I would always keep that note in with the vinyl – I’ve got little notes from Dick Lucas – and yeah, and then all that are in there so it’s like you say, it’s the whole, it’s the whole story of how you came by it. And it’s not just going into HMV and buying it or downloading it, it’s so much more assessable music now then there ever used to be. If you weren’t involved you didn’t know what there was to buy. You had to be involved and engaging to know what was going on, to know what was out there and what was happening. And when you drop out of that it’s hard to get back into it again. You have to put the effort in don’t you? So having a lot of the records and stuff is tied up in the effort you put into engaging in the scene. Which is why they’re so important. Because they’re like the history of a lifetime.

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J: I’m a promoter but I feel myself very like graphically impaired in the sense I just can not create like a poster that’s good. If I have a friend who’s really good at design, they can make a poster and that’s their way of contributing to that show, and if I got a really great graphic designer in that’d be very expensive for me so they get free entry.

G: The STE worked a bit like that didn’t it – Ad always used to do the posters mainly and Rich would do most of the organising and then everybody flyering and what have you.

B: But with swapping to say get entry to a show, I can’t see that would happen beyond people who are able to do something to make the show work. You wouldn’t charge those to get into the show would you because they’re part and parcel of organising that event. I don’t see how it can be any broader than that.

G: If you need to pay the bands, swapping’s not going to work is it? Because you’re not going to find something of value to them that’s gunna help them.

J: Circle House records has quite an expansive distro of records put out by different labels. And we never buy those tapes from different labels to stock them in the store, we give them four of our tapes, they give us four of their tapes and so all the people that are interested in our label are able to find out about those bands and records etc. And I think things like that in swapping can actually really help to support bands bit more.

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K: I like swapping and away things I don’t need… I do it a lot. I also like that idea of if I’ve got a skill and I swap it with you then somewhere down the line you might help me out. I don’t think there’s enough of that going on, I don’t think there are enough people participating in that kind of pool of swaps and gives. Some people are doing a lot of it though like Libby with clothes swap and Curb with the food and that’s a bit what I try and do with DIY Southampton, give something away because I can pull all those people together. And Tim at Planet Sounds gives me that space so between us we are giving away quite a lot. 

B: It’s a way of explaining the concept of mutual aid to someone. You have someone doing an event and you’re not expected to bring and drop something off but you can still take something. Everyone can get together and to participate when they might not have the means to. It breaks down barriers to access so that people can still have a good time even if they’re unable to put in like everyone else. There’s a meme doing the rounds where it’s loads of animals all cooking dinner for each other. All the different animals are saying “I’ve got a carrot”, “I have stock”, “I have like, cutlery”. And then one animal goes “I don’t have anything” and they go “But here’s a spare bowl, here’s a spoon, there’s enough for everyone”. And it’s like it’s cute and it’s overly simplifying something but at the end of the day, that’s what it is.

K: When I take stuff to swap, I’m not looking for something in return. If you’ve got stuff and you don’t want it and somebody else does, I’m cool with that. I go to every clothes swap and I always take stuff. But I never take anything away because I don’t want to take something that I don’t need for the sake of taking it. I’ve got what I need, not everybody’s in that situation, which is why I like it and I support it. It’s the same with Curb, I’ve always donate and have something to eat with them but I’m not going to take away loads of stuff just because it’s there necessarily. If we were sat around the table now and I brought a big pile of books to swap, I wouldn’t care if I went home with nothing. I’d be really happy seeing those things go somewhere else.

B: I think within a community, it relies on people to self regulate. There’s a big difference between one day not having anything to bring, but you see something and you go “I really want those,” that’s fine. But if this happens regularly and you’re always a person who always takes and never gives, it’s down to that community of people to say “how do we resolve this situation because this has become something that isn’t quite fair.”


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Jump to fragment (links added as fragments are posted): Intro // One // Two // Three // Four // Five // Six // Seven // Eight // Nine // Ten // Eleven // Twelve // Thirteen // Fourteen // Fifteen // Sixteen // Seventeen 

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Interlude #2

This blog post is (sort of) a further reflection on some of the ideas shared in Interlude #1. 

I first heard of Nelsen Algren because of Dillinger Four, where he pops up in the words to DoubleWhiskeyCokeNoIce:

Nelson Algren came to me
And said celebrate the ugly things
The beat up side of what they call pride
Could be the measure of these days

If Dillinger Four liked Nelson Algren, I figured that he needed to go on the ‘to read list’. But it was a decade and a half later that I borrowed Never Come Morning off of a band mate, having had Algren pop up in some reading I’d been doing. I don’t want to spoil it for you by giving away the plot but Algren’s 1942 novel is one of the bleakest, nastiest things I’ve read in a while. The protagonists get fucked. Horribly. Obviously since I find grimness strangely cathartic, I was well into it.

But it’s the interview in the Seven Stories imprint that I want to talk about here, specifically a quote from Algren. I’m not really one for passages sticking with me, so this one was a novelty, a gem hidden in an otherwise forgettable interview from 1963:

Innocence is not just the lack of something. Innocence is an achieved thing. You can’t be unworldly without first being worldly. I mean anybody can be unworldly, I mean just duck the world. But to be innocent in the best sense is to have the kind of unworldliness that comes out of worldliness, to be able to see how people waste their whole lives just to have security (p.295).

I posted these lines on Facebook without really thinking them through and a friend replied, prompting a back and forth that amongst other things underlined the deliberateness of the words Algren speaks. Posting a quote on social media has the strange effect of decontexualising the words and gives them a life apart from the text they originally appeared so perhaps this is inevitable; not only is it apart from the original text, it’s also not like the people posting are sat on the bus flicking through sources when they reply on their smart phones. This is a useful observation in that it underlines how easy it is for those memes that float around forever with a couple of ‘meaningful’ lines nicked from something could be quoted out of context or against the authors intended meaning like I ended up doing by accident.

Nonetheless ‘innocence’ is not the first word that springs to mind in the final line in particular – ‘wise’ or ‘wary’ make more sense. I wouldn’t pretend to really know what Algren means by this word (the interviewer acknowledges that he’s hard to pin down on this) and I wouldn’t pretend to be well read when it comes to his work. I’m also not a theologian or any other an, ism or ist who might have some sort of informed handle on the meaning of ‘innocence’. It’s not much of a revelation then if I reveal that I found myself pulling interpretations about why these lines are quote-worthy out of my ass...

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Starting with the obvious, innocence is a minority position – to be innocent in the terms posed is an “achieved thing” and therefore presumably not something easily obtained. I would argue as well that by describing it as an achievement, in its “best sense,” innocence is something to be considered positive. Finally it sits in a vague contrast to wage labour, at least in its worst form, by having the power to see through “...how people waste their whole lives just to have security.”

 If innocence is thought of in terms of naivety, then there could be a sort of tragic aspect to the quote. If worldliness is equated to having tried to get by doing something against ones nature and being experienced enough to move away from this, then innocent-as-naive means coming out the other side with the belief that another way is possible. It is unworldliness in the sense of a faith in another world and being of that other (better?) world.

Naivety is not automatically a bad thing – perhaps a certain amount of naivety is a required to try to live a different life than the secure one the innocent considers a “waste”. If we knew how difficult a path that could be, if the difficulty and failure was really understood, would we start to walk it with the same sincerity? Is it possible under a totalizing capitalism to sustain a consistently radical life at all? If this innocence was ‘lost’, would it become clear that the alternative route taken was a stitch up too? This negative interpretation feels true to the novel and the protagonists’ naive dreams of escape, although here it’s firmly in terms of personal rebellion/redemption rather than any revolutionary aspirations. It’s tragic in the sense of running towards a fire exit that’s bricked up.  

Taken to a logical extreme, the implications of this are fucking terrible - a kind of paradox where the choice is between knowing how life is wasted on false solutions and doing it anyway or looking for another way to live that ultimately is equally pointless but you just don’t know it yet. It’s knowingly wasting your time versus wasting it unknowingly, doing something hopeless knowing it’s hopeless versus doing it with false hope. This ultra-bleak reading seemingly puts the innocent outside of “...how people waste their whole lives...” but it’s a false outside.

Arse.

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Since this is meant to be a blog about hardcore punk, let’s bring this back to DIY in its most radical sense. This interpretation seems to dovetail nicely with the academic concept of “productive failures” I referred in my previous post. It’s pessimistic and ideologically charged argument to proclaim there is no ‘outside’ of capitalism, the attractions of post-modernism not-withstanding. Certainly it won’t be found as a form of practice unless it’s searched for. Since I’m not super smart and I can’t be bothered to read any more right now, I also don’t understand how acts where different logic prevails fit into this argument, like all those Facebook Events promising that no one will be turned away for lack of funds. This seems to me to overtly challenge the underlying logic of profit-is-the-bottom-line/if-you-can’t-afford-it-fuck-off neoliberalism, albeit using a platform that seems more evil every day and in a venue that’s probably a profit making space. Is this just marking the limits of what can be currently done? COMPLEX.

It’s also important to remember that many critics of capitalism either try to live up to its demands and find them impossible or are hobbled from the start – it’s not always a choice position. Hope that fails is better than no-hope that doesn’t try, perhaps not materially but certainly in terms of the quality of how our lives are lived. If we only get one shot, might as well make it an interesting one. Regardless, no one’s going to find a better way of doing things unless they try and we might as well get tinnitus whilst we do it.

Of course, this reading assumes that we’re trying to tear down capitalism. The moving beyond meaningless labour could equally apply to setting up a vegan cafe (for example) and the naivety that this would be easy to do and always more enjoyable than a life of office temping. Naivety as positive is also an interesting inversion of infantilisation – if this means belittling radical ideas as ‘childish’, then this reading of innocence counters it by suggesting that a degree of naivety is needed to see an alternative path beyond a dissatisfying “security”.

Algren, meanwhile, thought he was talking about getting fucked over by Hollywood.  

 (Normal service will resume next month).