2017 was a mighty fine year for live music in Cambridge. As we approach the start of a new year we decided to catch up with those who helped shape the 2017 calendar and ask them how 2017 was for them.
We chatted with Simon Baker who is the man behind the long running Green Mind Gigs, Dan Carney of Crushing Death and Grief, Neil Jones who books shows both as Operations Director at Cambridge Live and also independently and Ian Perry who both books shows and runs Aaah Real Records, who have this year released a host of releases from Cambridgeshire based acts.
What has been the best show for you this year and why?
Simon: (Sandy) Alex G is pretty much there. Perfect indie rock show. ‘Rocket’ is one of my favourite LPs of the year. If I can add a second then the Jesus and Mary Chain, as they were on great form and were a bucket list band.
Dan: More fun than any was the Cowtown/Double Trouble/Self Love gig at the Blue Moon back in February. A sold out Saturday night gig is a double rarity, and to have a packed room throbbing to three groups playing weirdo pop was an utter delight.
Neil: I’d have to say the inaugural Subterranean Festival at the Corn Exchange [gallery here]. Attempting to put three stages on the floor of the venue with rotating acts and the audience in the middle seemed like a good idea at the planning stages but was not without its challenges. It was very rewarding to have had a successful first festival with a mix of touring bands and some of the best regional talent around. We also launched the first ever City Roots Festival (a sister event to the Cambridge Folk Festival) in venues across the city which was well received and well attended.
Ian: As a promoter, it’s been quiet. Which is no bad thing, especially as I insisted I’m “retired”. The record label side of things has been great though, and the year has ended stupidly busy (with FOUR releases all on 1st December). The year started off with Goldblume’s Go Figure EP and will end with something seasonal courtesy of False Adults xmas single…
Who has been your favourite act to perform for you this year?
Simon:(Sandy) Alex G
Dan: We were all salivating at the prospect of 75 Dollar Bill playing in Cambridge, and they did not disappoint. Being in the same room as their undulating grooves, and witnessing their clear joy in the creative process, felt like a genuine privilege. The vibes were infectious, and there were a lot of indelible grins that night.
Neil: Stone Broken who were one of the headliners of Subterranean. They played a great set which went down an absolute storm with the audience and their booking was just ahead of them being signed to a major label and starting to break in the UK. One of those ‘you can feel it in the air’ moments.
Ian: That I’ve put on? The Kominas at the Blue Moon. Hands down. I’ve loved that band for years and never thought I’d even see them, let alone put them on.
Ian: Again, The Kominas. Although Sam Russo with a full band was life affirming.
Who has been your favourite new act to perform for you this year?
Simon: Noga Erez
Dan: We end up not putting that many “new” acts on, old bastards that we are (not that we’re against it – note that we encourage any new acts who would fit in the broad CD&G ouvre to get in touch). However, the bewilderingly youthful Self Love were an absolute revelation – so much so that I put their excellent tape, “no”, out. Their strange mix of thin, fuzzy, hectic thrashpunk and deadpan, self-deprecating vocals is curious and original and well worth your time.
Neil: An act who made his debut at the Cambridge Folk Festival this year was rock-roots artist Fantastic Negrito who was jaw-droppingly good and who just wowed the entire crowd. Whilst we were confident he was a good booking, everyone at the festival did a double take at the sheer energy and charisma of his performance. I’d also single out local rock band Hollowstar who I have booked at both Subterranean and separately at the Portland Arms. A great local rock band with real potential.
Ian: Asher Baker doing grime. I always knew he was good at it, but had only put him on doing his guitar-based stuff. Seeing him – and guest MC K-Flamez – doing a live grime set was truly special.
Which one of your shows has most surprised you?
Simon: Fickle Friends – great pop show and rammed to the rafters.
Dan: Despite having done the soundcheck, the shear, brutal volume of Sly & The Family Drone as they started was wonderfully distressing. Equally surprising was quite how long the ringing in my ears continued afterwards – I thought that I’d really done it this time. The moral: wear earplugs, kids. It was also a huge surprise to be able to put on Bruce Russell, from NZ noise legends The Dead C, particularly as he was only in the UK for a holiday.
Neil: Punk Floyd at the Cambridge Union Society. Who’d have thought that Pink Floyd songs played folk-punk style by a bunch of Swedes would work so well! I’d originally had them play as part of the Syd Barrett Celebrations at the Corn Exchange after seeing them play in their home town in Sweden. They are such great fun and have invited them back to play the Folk Festival next year. Also I wasn’t expecting PINS who played Subterranean to be my proverbial bag but I ended up watching the entire set and was massively impressed.
Ian: Bloody Knees at the Blue Moon [review]. I knew it would do well, but didn’t expect it to sell out a few weeks in advance.
What has been your favourite Cambridge show this year that you didn’t put on?
Simon: The Pixies at The Junction. Shame it wasn’t the original line up with Kim Deal, but it was a set list made up of a lot of B sides and rarities, which made up for it.
Dan: I’ve been economising a bit this year, so haven’t been to many other people’s gigs – sorry for the lack of support, folks. Of the few I did get to, there were two standouts. were Nervous Conditions’ invigorating set at the NCI and the irrepressible Omar Souleyman getting some kind of Syrian conga line going at the J2.
Neil: Quite a few spring to mind but Rival Sons, Black Star Riders and Glenn Hughes at the Junction all stand out.
Ian: Have I been to any shows I wasn’t putting on or working at?
What shows are you looking forward to in 2018?
Simon: Putting my first show on in Storey’s Field with Pale Waves [tickets], Hot Snakes at The Portland [tickets].
Dan: If anyone doesn’t say Hot Snakes in answer to this they need to have a look at themselves. Nils Frahm [tickets] should be good, but all the decent seats have gone, and Wysing’s annual festival is odds-on to be a winner. We’ve got a bunch of things in the pipeline that we haven’t quite confirmed, but we’re dead excited about our double-header of A Grave WIth No Name and Cam Deas at the Portland on Jan 24th.
Neil: On a local level, Marmozets at the Cambridge Junction. Seeing them do a warm up in Norwich earlier in the year has whetted my appetite for the new album and their bigger Cambridge date. The gig calendar is full of so many awesome gigs coming up though that there’s too many to choose. On a national level, my beloved Iron Maiden are embarking on another UK tour and Ozzy is back at Donington so all feels well with the world.
Ian: Green Mind’s Hot Snakes gig will be amazing. Definitely a highlight.
If you could book any act next year, who would it be and why?
Simon: The list is too long to whittle down to one…
Dan: Steering clear of impossible/improbable desires, I’m aching for Heron Oblivion to make it over to the UK and I was pissed off that I didn’t get to see Horse Lords when they were in the country. If we could figure out some kind of decent club-type venue with a decent sound system there’s a plethora of electronics heads from this country we’d love to book, including Demdike Stare, Andy Stott, and Golden Teacher.
Neil: I missed out on the Silversun reunion gig in London recently so perhaps a local date from them might be in order. Why? Because they are the UK’s answer to Weezer and that’s a good thing right?! Either that or finally getting the awesome Ghost to Cambridge. The image, the stage set, the fantastic music. It’s time…
Ian: Last time you asked me the same question, I said Slayer. I’ve still not booked them, so Slayer. Reason? Because Slayer.