Archive for May, 2011

Logo by Ross Love

This matching of ambition and location is ripe with possibilities. Facebook tells of “a monthly night of live music where the artists commandeer the venue and steer it with gleeful abandon into the sunset/toward some rocks.” What this equates to is the people of Glasgow and outlying areas being afforded the chance to experience up and coming bands in a context that outstretches that of the typical gig.

And the name of this transcendent night of innovation and opportunity? Sneak. This one syllable conjures up all that is immediately exciting about the night, with its connotations of secrecy and concealment from the mainstream. It whispers of an inner circle of people passionate enough to do some digging and make some discoveries and teases with the ever-appealing prospect of being in on something early on.

When trying to ascertain what sets Sneak apart from every other amateur music night in every other music venue in every other city, it makes sense to begin with the venue itself.

Leave Central Station, walk for a minute, descend some stairs and open a door. You’re in a pub, much like any other in the city. Not to worry though! Visit the bar, pay your entry fee (more on this later) and head through to the area partitioned off for use as the music venue. Now that you’ve reached the epicentre, it’s time to take stock of your surroundings.

You’re in a reasonably small rectangular room, with a mixing desk behind you, stage at the far end, open space in the middle and tables lining either side. The venue is dimly lit and the decor black except for a Pivo Pivo mural adorning the wall behind the stage. Painted in an old school tattoo style, complete with nautical star and swallows, this helps ensure that the time spent waiting for the bands is filled with thoughts of pin up girls, rum and sailor-esque debauchery.

The most important elements of the venue’s layout, however, are the stage height of less than a metre and the lack of anything separating it from the standing space. This serves as the first indication that the Sneak vision hinges on the audience’s will to get inolved.

And it works. With the sleazy, grass-roots vibe and layout, it’s difficult to avoid the overwhelming feeling of being in your space. There is the distinct impression that this is the type of venue just itching to lend itself to passionate outbursts of rock ‘n’ roll hedonism; the perfect setting for the right moment when the right band with the right attitude comes along and takes the local music scene by storm.

If all goes according to plan, artists and fans alike will take the advent of Sneak as a call to arms; the monthly opportunity  to forge something a little bit different.

Playing tonight? Well, by all means, dazzle all and sundry with your musical stylings but make sure not to neglect this chance to show off a bit and help create a memorable evening. Invoke the Townshend spirit and smash your guitar! Cause a spectacle! Abandon the stage and get in amongst your audience! Leave them reeling!

If you’re watching tonight, you share this responsibility. Leave the seats for the jackets and head down to the front! Get moving! Create an atmosphere! Make sure you’re heard!

Sneak has been created for the enjoyment of both auidence and performers but the twist lies in the scope that both have been given to facilitate this enjoyment. To put it simply, this will be what those involved make it.

When considering the Sneak ethos, what really stands out is the promise of the artists being allowed to “commandeer the venue.” This is the part where the onus is truly on the bands themselves. These nights do not have to be occasions where the input of those on the bill is limited to a designated stage slot. The freedom to innovate is there for the taking and the performers that are headed for big things are the ones who will understand, and take full advantage of, the wealth of possibilities available to them here.

Also helping to set Sneak apart is the care and effort that has gone into ensuring the occasions have a bit of a hype around them. Of course, there is an eye-catching logo and, yes, each of the events is preceded by relentless postering campaigns across Glasgow, but efforts do not stop there.

From the night’s inception, ‘sneak’ previews (clever, eh?) of each gig have been made available a week in advance. These take the form of videos and are created in partnership with the bands scheduled to perform, thus providing a channel through which the prospective audience are afforded a glimpse of what’s in store. This links back to the concept of creating an experience outwith the realms of the average gig and carries forward the bands’ unrestricted influence upon proceedings.

In addition to this, regular attendees of the nights can get themselves a decidedly suave Sneak button badge which cuts the normal £5 entry down to £3. A nice touch which, as well as being worthy of inclusion in money saving and fashion columns alike, shows an admirable willingness to reward loyalty.

So there you have the Sneak vision: a fitting venue, free creative reign for performers, ample reward for loyalty and people running the show who not only know their stuff but care about going the extra mile to deliver a richer, more involved experience.

All the elements are in place for this to be the start of something. Now it’s up to the music lovers of Glasgow to build their own scene around it.

Sneak on Facebook

The Sneak previews

Photograph by Cassandra Clarkson

You arrive at the Harbour Arts Centre, pay your entry fee and furnish yourself with a drink. Having never been here before, curiosity gets the better of you and you pop your head through the door to the auditorium where the gig is to be held. You are perplexed.

All seated?

Your mind takes you through what you know about Forester. This is the band who teased audiences of local open mic nights with preliminary names for a musical project which  would not be heard for seven months. This is the band who spent those seven months holed up in a rehearsal studio, presumably intent on making sure their  live debut embodied all that the burgeoning Ayrshire scene has been waiting for. This is the band who leaked a demo of a single track a few weeks before their debut live appearance. This is the band who appeared to have it all planned out from the start and this is surely not a band who would have failed to understand the possible implications of such a layout.

You wonder if it’s going to be what you expected.

Fast forward an hour or so and you take your seat in time to watch tonight’s host, Allan MacGillivray, introduce the band. Guitarists/vocalists Lee and Adrian, bassist Chris and drummer Struan take the stage and launch into He Was Beside Himself. Another clever move by a band who haven’t left anything up to chance, given that this is the one song everyone here tonight has already been privy to. You smile at the familiar and relax into the performance…

…and the performance is good. This isn’t a mish-mash of musicians trying to make it work as a group. This is a band who are ready for the stage. There’s certainly a heavier edge, but not at the expense of atmosphere. Adrian, Lee and Chris seem perfectly at home in front of an audience and Struan keeps them tightly in check with the rhythm. Guitars, bass, drums and vocals are all on top form and to describe this music as “powerful” would be an understatement. There’s too much technical prowess here for it to be a punk rock lambasting but you get the distinct impression that this isn’t going to be a quiet journey and the band don’t disappoint. The well-known He Was Beside Himself is followed by Live Don’t Just Exist, Black and Light and Far From Near, before Nature and it’s Flaws brings proceedings to a close. With the rapturous applause, (some fairly explicit) shouts of encouragement and general air of satisfaction, it’s easy to see that the rehearsal time has been beneficial.

What’s not so easy is fitting the music into a genre. It’s a relief to note, however, that the band themselves appear to be struggling with the same difficulty, their Facebook describing them as “Alternative Dynamic Post Progressive Rock (we don’t really know).” Whatever it is though, it sounds spectacular and tonight’s crowd lap it up. As debut gigs go, this one is a definite triumph!

Arguably the most significant part of the evening came at the end of the second song, when Lee invited everyone “who enjoyed the first two songs” to abandon their seats, defying the restrictive layout of the venue, and join the band on the small ring of floor around the stage. This proved a pivotal point for both band and audience and the overwhelming majority of those present did what was requested of them. In the space of about thirty seconds, the frontman exuded the confidence he and his band should rightly possess, the crowd showed their unwavering support and the divide between performers and audience was not so much bridged as eliminated entirely. Result!

This could be written off as a stroke of inspiration in the heat of the performance but those with their hopes invested in tonight’s performance will be much more content to believe that it was another part of what looks, so far, to be an impeccable plan.

Take a second to consider the long wait between the first whisperings of Forester’s formation and their live debut, along with their decision to unveil themselves in a venue so contrary to what is known about their heavy sound. Now, consider how the band harnessed the faith of their crowd in order to overcome what looked, at the outset, to be a limitation. Finally, take a look back at the setlist. Only five songs. Just enough to press the audience firmly into the palm of their hand and then leave them gagging for more…

The next time they’ll see Forester? Five days time, in a venue with plenty of standing room…

The conclusion? This is not a band who have left anything up to chance and the resultant musical adventure is becoming more exciting at every turn. To those not present, it may seem like the request for everyone to leave their seats could have gone either way but for those in the room for the first two songs, there was never any doubt. Is this one of those moments where experience, talent, confidence and planning all come together in just the right amounts? It certainly looks like it!

Forester on Facebook

Sneak preview of next Forester Gig – Pivo Pivo, Glasgow – 26/5/11