The first of a series of posts identifying and explaining two notable UK scenes. Teenage emo culture, stemming from a variety of genres, mainly emo, pop-punk and pop-rock, the 00’s culture still has a legacy and a presence today. We explore through 5 songs that were biblical to identity within the scene.
Cute Is What We Aim For: The Curse of Curves
Fall Out Boy: A Little Less Sixteen Candles, A Little More Touch Me
With many of us spending quarantine at home, and the most spare time since our school days it is no wonder that nostalgia is rife. Spotify recently reported a 54% increase in searches for ‘oldies’ or ‘throwback’ since the lockdown, with a surge in nostalgic playlists.
But why do we embrace nostalgia? Put simply, in psychological studies nostalgia is seen as comforting in times of distress. We associate music with memories, the majority of those positive. The same way we look back at a photo, music is a transporter and what strengthens this connection to the past is individuality, with every song having a different meaning to each person. Thus embracing nostalgia, is re-living a segment of a personalized timeline surrounded by the culture at the time.
Whether that be through fashion or lifestyle, recent bands are embracing nostalgia within their scene. Take Yungblud for example, growing up in the peak of the emo-scene. His sound and style is a true throwback that he has re-woven and taught a new generation of this era.
Memories constructed through music or visual take us back to a place. Songs take us back to gigs, memories are made within a show. There is always a sense of history not repeating itself twice, songs may never be performed in that way again. Take sporadic cover versions for example. It’s up to chance. Now, when venues are closed for the foreseeable, we look back, at those unique experiences.
Nostaligia is not necessarily a bad thing, if viewed constructively. The basis of living somewhat in the past helps us to protect what was important and what built contemporary society. When we apply this to music venues, we could look back when a generation truly changes, but as identified in the last few years, this would be too late and the cultural fabric would long be gone.
Luckily, streaming platforms and archival content on Youtube, aides nostalgia. In no other time in history have we been able to re-live to such an extent. You can re-live an entire set and even share memories within comment sections, layering and layering the experience. The problem seems to be though, that history starts at a certain point and with certain characteristics attached. Plaque’s exist when the artist has deceased or has achieved ‘x’ amount of sales. Protecting in this manner ignores the many, and the ongoing lo-key beat of the music scene.
As part of Music Venue Trust’s #SaveOurVenues campaign, venues have been sharing content linked to nostalgic shows, early Arctic Monkeys content have made a regular appearance, to highlight the venue’s importance in history, but also to the present. This is a time to embrace nostalgia, the recent history and heritage of venues are the foundations for their survival.
Dan’s Gig Nostalgia: I’d say Foals are a band who are so tied to their live performance, seeing them countless times last year really cemented that. Prince, who I was lucky to see before he died in Leeds is a very powerful memory. The rest take me back to school days, waiting for hours outside the Carling Academy in Birmingham or meeting Hayley Williams in HMV Leicester, all felt like colossal moments in time.
Will’s Gig Nostalgia: Ska Wars – Capdown. Always takes me back to the first Slamdunk festival in Leeds Millennium square. The line up generally consisted of the Fuelled by Ramen label movement (Fall out Boy, Hello Goodbye, Hush Sound etc), so Capdown really stood out. Rage Against the Machine – Testify at Pinkpop 2008, I think it was the first European show of their reunion, so people had descended on the festival site from around the world. I thought my ears were going to explode, the anticipation and atmosphere was incredible! The War on Drugs – Red Eyes, Manchester Apollo. The song takes me right back to when I first heard it, travelling down the I5 road in the Pacific North West, Mt Rainier in the distance at sunset. When they played this in Manchester it took me right back and it was our first gig with a large bump (now my daughter) so great memories, you could say it was her first show!
In the coming weeks we will be sharing content from some of the last true scenes, 00’s Indie and Emo. Key touch points for nostalgia. Understanding a movement that spread across music, fashion, film and most importantly, characterizing venues.
Established: 1985 (date not confirmed); Closed: 26 March 2000
Notable acts: Nirvana (25 October 1989), Pixies, Pulp, Oasis, Coldplay, Radiohead, Manic Street Preachers, Blur
Sticky carpets. Awful lager. (Hann 2014)
Situated at 71 Vicar Lane, passers-by would now be completely unaware of the building’s vibrant musical past. Currently a Hugo Boss shop, the venue closed on 26 March 2000 and was subsequently replaced by the current retail premises.
Described as the “hallowed pop shrine” (Simpson 2000) of the North, the venue was much loved for its patronage of emerging bands with Oasis infamously playing there in 1994 to no audience whatsoever (Simpson 2009). The venue still holds a strong communal resonance, with a dedicated Facebook page, “I Miss The Duchess of York Leeds” with over 1200 members.
Upon entering the building, the bar was on the right, in front of the kitchen and stairs. On the immediate left was a small open section facilitating conversation, with another small snug on the opposite right-hand side. Opposite the bar were the toilets and the main stage at the far end of the building, obstructed by internal structural walls. The venue was, “hot and sweaty, but with great energy” (Miranda McMullen, Band Manager), a factor of the internal layout, where the band was only visible from a section of the room. The building was not designed for live music, being an adaptation of an existing pub layout. Upstairs, the interior was open plan with walls adorned with archival tour posters and graffiti.
Known as the “Robin Hood Pub” from the Second World War, the venue was allegedly blacklisted by the US military because of prostitution and drug trafficking. Toward the end of 1985, the name changed to the “Marquee.” However after the threat of a lawsuit from the Marquee in London the venue became known as “The Pub With No Name” for the majority of 1986. Renamed as The Duchess of York, the venue started hosting music from the mid to late 1980s and was at its height between 1988 and the late 1990s when dance/rave culture was at the height of popularity. The venue held strictly to its pub opening hours, with bands performing at 7:30pm and headliners from 10pm. Bands played almost every night. The Duchess of York offered variety, regularity and quality of performers, as well as being a place where bands learned their trade.
Nirvana’s performance at the venue has gained legendary status when singer Kurt Cobain crashed out in the upstairs dressing room after the gig and spent the night on the sofa. The setlist somehow survives. The tatty sofa gained a prolonged life as it became customary for bands to sign it when playing the venue. Originally purchased for £6 the sofa was included in Sheffield’s National Centre for Popular Music. Although the venue’s capacity is reported to be 250, memories of the venue state as many as 500 being present on occasion. However, toward its closure, the venue was mainly hosting tribute acts and Battle of the Bands competitions. The final gig at the Duchess of York was Chumbawumba, a band who had played the venue multiple times.
I’m really saddened that the Duchess is closing, because we couldn’t get gigs anywhere else when we started out.We actually got signed by playing at the Duchess because it was one of the few venues where record companies would be prepared to come and see you. (Embrace singer Danny McNamara — Simpson 2000)
The Green Day gig was so full kids were trying to climb through the skylights at the front to get in….I even think one got stuck. (Miranda McMullen, Band Manager)
The venue itself was like a creaking old ship, sometimes it would be like the Marie Celeste, other times we would be throwing people over the side. (John Keenan, Owner of Duchess of York)
I saw nights when we actually ran out of beer! It was lunacy. 7 rows deep at the bar…we were ROCK-N-ROLL. (Commenter — SecretLeeds.Com 2007)
Discover some iconic tracks performed at the Duchess of York on our Spotify playlist.
On the first Friday of the month throughout June and July, Bandcamp are waiving their fees to ensure more money goes to the artists themselves. Over $4.3 million was spent via the site during the last fee-free event so we’re hoping this one is even bigger. Below is 5 key purchases to diversify your music selection and support some fantastic artists during this time.
Black Midi: Live in the USA
Always an eccentric set, Black Midi combine live footage across their recent american tour including a cover of Tequila.
Love Claire, Love Claire
90s slowcore band Love Claire, were from Portland, Oregon. This release was the band’s demo tape. The label is offering a pay-what-you-feel for this download.
Lynks Afrikka – Pandemic!
Bristol based, Lynks Afrikka returns with a series of Covid-19 related tracks, Pandemic! is a lively and timely addition.
Juvenile Juvenile – Don’t Tell Your Friends
Asian Shoegaze band Juvenile Juvenile formed in 2011, after a the release of their album in 2014. This is an EP released in July 2012.
Mathrock (ish) DIY Band Yufi, Yufi released their latest EP in March. Final track remixed by 100 gecs.
“Theres so much to see and so much to do, but I somehow still find myself doing nothing at all” – Matt Healy
I’ll admit it, there was a time when I just didn’t get The 1975. I once said the same about My Chemical Romance and come 2005 I would be watching them live and my perspective quickly changing. The 1975 are an English pop-rock band formed in 2002 in Wilmslow, Cheshire. The bands third studio album “I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It”, released in 2016 was the first real push the band experienced and projected them into the global picture. The trajectory into the big time continued with the release of ‘A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships’ in 2018 on Polydor records and 2020 will see the release of ‘Notes on a Conditional Form’. “It was just down the road where we played our first official show as The 1975, at the Leeds Cockpit” Healy announced to the packed Leeds arena earlier this year. Indeed, The 1975 are one of a handful of bands that played their first Leeds show at the Cockpit and have gone on to also headline the Bramham Park, Leeds Festival and its sister Reading in 2019.
The band presents a mix of influences and this eclectic mix has been well documented. Brian Eno compositions, A$AP Rocky Hip-Hop, Horn Laden Jazz, soaring Indie rock with The Pixies / Radiohead-esque anthems and it’s hard to ignore how Healys beat poetry resembles some kind of love letter to The Streets. Healy himself has put on record his passion for artists such as Converge, Glassjaw, Minor Threat, Refused and Gorilla Biscuits to name but a few. Critics frequently turn to Prince, Fleetwood Mac and Talking Heads as points of reference. Watching the band live I recall Blondie, Queens of the Stone Age, Bowie, The Clash, Sigur Ros and Michael Jackson were just a sprinkling of names that ran through my own head – as the group thrashed, grooved and jived through their mammoth set.
Beyond the busy production, no substance is lost within the style. It is the subject matter that remains one of the most endearing aspects of the band. Having spent three years touring nonstop while frontman Matty Healy coped with severe depression, eroding relationships, and drug issues, it is no surprise that these darker topics run in tandem with observational social and political commentary. Yet, both personal experience and contentious themes are effectively molded, packaged and presented in a form that doesn’t alienate anyone in the fanbase. Healy himself recounts one description he heard in that “The 1975 is kind of a Pixar movie where it’s for younger people and it’s exciting and pretty, but there’s so much there for the older generation too…”.
The punk connotations of The 1975 experience has left the most striking impression on me. Punks origins, of course, can be identified as rooted within the economic and social strife of Britain through the mid-1970s. It was a period of the past in which unemployment was high and a lack of jobs impacted upon communities and the younger generations. Artists such as Debbie Harry have explained how the British punk movement in its formative years responded to such social strife in that “everybody was very outwardly driven and politically minded and it was all in the music”. Harry expands on this in that “it was really all about their economy because their economy had turned to shit. A great percentage of people were on the dole, and there really was no future for these kids. People forget what a wreck the place was in the early 70s” (Debbie Harry quoted in Blake, 2008). Punk, in particular became a counter-cultural rallying call as Neoliberal policies inspired an intimidating mix of hatred and contempt, which fanned the flames of the American and British punk scene for years to come.
Punk and hip-hop are often viewed as the only genres to be given the label political and both genres were rooted in place while providing a culture which always seeks to define itself against the mainstream and hegemonic elite. As more of our lives become consumed by the online world, I have often wondered where mainstream punk, or punk as a concept is left. I was reminded of O’Hara (1999) who writes in that one major problem in trying to explain punk – is that it does not fit neatly into a box or category. Of course, post-punk and new wave are viewed as what came next, but where do the ephemeral core principles of Punk, which O’Hara refers to above – progress to in the digital world?
On arriving in the arena quarter of Leeds, the usual buzz and atmosphere of thousands of people descending upon the arena for The 1975 was met by ticket touts, buskers, activists, and the now standard airport style arena security. “Extinction Rebellion” flyers were distributed and news had recently spread of Greta Thunberg’s inclusion on a new track.
The 1975 have become very outspoken on many topics within the music industry itself – stating the need for strong gender-balanced participation in festival line ups going as far as to say the band will now only sign up for festivals offering equal line ups. At the time of their greatest popularity, presenting a message of gender equality and lobbying for a higher proportion of women participating as creative artists on major festival bills both in rock and mainstream pop culture is a striking commitment.
The band are not afraid of controversy. In August 2019 the band protested strict anti-LGBTQ laws in Dubai, as they made their first appearance in the United Arab Emirates. Homosexuality is illegal and punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and comfortable in this knowledge Healy took the decision to kiss a male in front of the tens of thousands in attendance. Shortly after the concert Healy told his twitter followers “I don’t think we’ll be allowed back”.
Healy has hinted towards the bands new found empowerment and the artistic license such prominence has afforded them in that “we knew that […] we could do whatever we wanted and write whatever record we wanted [discussing Love it if we Made it]“, and consequently decided to make a song similar to Princes “Sign ‘O’ the Times” inspired by the political events and social commentary from 2016 to 2018… I love being played on the radio next to Ariana Grande, but my lyrics being the way they are is because I could do that in punk music”. Healy extrapolated on this topic “We could have been a punk band. We could have been one of these bands, but I wanna actually be punk, but you can’t actually be punk in punk anymore, I wanna be punk”. Punk is something which made the explicit aim of trying to destroy such boxes. As O’Hara notes “punk cannot be pigeonholed into some spiky-haired male [sic] wearing a leather jacket with a thousand metal spikes listening to music really loud”. Surely, punk and / or subculture merely responds to what is put in front of it be it the online world riddled with pop-culture, politics and influencers or the isolation of the 1980s Pacific North West.
“And hey, would you
Like to look outside sometimes? (No)
I’m just with my friends online”
Love Me – The 1975
As music scenes are less rooted in place, music has an increasing tendency to revolve around digital communication, infrastructure, and distribution and through this, essentially digital scenes emerge (Bennett 2002). One must ponder where punk goes in such a world and how punk and such countercultural art will manifest itself.
For the 2019 tour The 1975 announced that the band would not be manufacturing any new merchandise following the release of the album, ‘Notes On A Conditional Form’ because the band had recognized that it was “not sustainable”. Instead, the band utilised earlier tour merch and invited fans to bring their old music t-shirts (from any band) to the merchandise stalls to get them reprinted with ‘Notes On A Conditional Form’ designs. The 1975s move was praised by many, including punk icon Frank Carter who wrote: “This is genius. Well played. Time to get in the loft and dig out my old ones”.
I have often been fascinated by the role of material culture, iconography and art in Punk. There is something striking about other artists t shirts, old t shirts been pasted over like an old poster on a wall, being superseded, disposable or lost to time. Merchandise is materially integral in how people identify with a group, a fanbase. Of course, marketing is a key part of any band’s decision making, especially in the online world. However, I could not help but re-visit points put forward by scholars such as Hebdige (1979) in considering how through punk, the meanings attached to commodities are intentionally distorted and personalized another discussion for another day, but an interesting point none-the-less.
A fascinating band, to some. Not to others, and that’s part of the fun of music. As the band themselves noted at their recent Leeds Arena show, many dislike them, and as with many great punk bands, they appear perfectly happy with that. In fact, they embrace this confrontational trait so much so, that they utilize some of the commentary they receive within the digital back drop of their show. Healy’s presence on social media is also an interesting musical gateway for his core fan base. Those who gravitate towards more youthful pop-culture are frequently introduced to his eclectic tastes and fondness of Job For a Cowboy, Refused, My Bloody Valentine, Converge and such.
But ultimately, they are a band that are having fun and living a dream simply making music that they like. A desire to challenge the status quo, to embrace and utilise societal frustration and challenge the increasingly hopeless norm. In art such as The 1975 music takes its required leap forward into the digital age while continuing to formulate a confrontational and tactical assault on culture. And, it is in considering culture that Healy himself has said, “culture is politics” and his actions speak just as loud as his words.
Thanks for reading, Will
O’Hara C. (1999). The Philosophy of Punk: More Than Noise! AK
Bennett, A. and Hodkinson, P. (2012). Ageing and youth cultures: Music, style and identity. Oxford: Berg.
Bennett, A. (2015). ‘Popular music and the “problem of heritage”’. In S. Cohen, R. Knifton, M. Leonard, and L. Roberts (Eds) Sites of popular music heritage: Memories, Histories, Places. London: Routledge, pp. 15-27
Bennett, A. and Hodkinson, P. (2012). Ageing and youth cultures: Music, style and identity. Oxford: Berg.
Despite countless Instagram Live videos, there is a huge problem within the music industry. Apart from a rolling stream of comments, the performance is one way, musicians have limited resources at their disposal but most of all, there is little to no income being generated for the artist.
This raises the question, what is required for audiences to pay for a replicate concert experience? Two way- interaction, uniqueness, quality of performance, a sense of community, or more? It’s fair to say, with economic conditions uncertain for the future, audiences are not paying for content unless it offers something different.
Recently, there has been a series of live performances embedded within computer games, which have gone some way to replicate some of these elements:
Marshmello – Fortnite (Feb 2020)
Back in February 2020, Marshmello performed within the Fortnite game, at the same time as Maroon 5’s Superbowl half time show. At a time before lockdown, this was seen as a novel and innovative way to engage with a huge audience. 11 million have watched back the performance, featuring Marshmello on a virtual stage with full festival style architecture. Little did we know that this platform would be seriously considered in the coming months.
Travis Scott – Fortnight(April 2020)
Streamed on Thursday the 23rd April, players moved around a pyrotechnic themed arena under a skyscraper sized avatar of Travis Scott. The event was full of awe, with the pre-recorded performance matched with a changing environment synonymous with tempo. The event was watched by more than 12 million, aided by Travis’ popularity, the event allowed for multiple fans, sometimes groups of friends, to engage together in this event. However, the event was limited in its engagement, essentially watching a pre-recorded hologram.
100 Gecs – Minecraft(April 2020)
On Friday the 24th April, 100 gecs hosted ‘Square Garden’ a festival within Minecraft featuring performances such as Charli XCX and Kero Kero Bonito. The band created a whole festival world matching their unique style, featuring a virtual bar, stage and separate hang out rooms. The experience was strongly engaging, fans explored the world with hidden content and 100 gecs references. The performances encouraged crowd participation, asking users to jump in sync and replicating mosh pits; a factor not felt in other formats.
What differs further with this approach, is that the musicians were live within the game, with some audience members getting a ‘screenshot’ with their idols. Furthermore, 100 gecs have created merchandise linked to the event, creating further funding for Feeding America. Although, the concept of offering merchandise is a great idea, they can be produced to exact quantities on pre-order and allow for a reminder of this unique time.
Whilst all of these formats offer different approaches, the event by 100 gecs can be seen to replicate more the experience of a concert and paves the way for the future of the new normal.
The format being trialed does go some way to establishing a stream of income for bands. Immersive spaces created, similar to festivals, offer a unique experience that I can see audiences paying to be a part of. With bands releasing exclusive music via these channels, this could warrant their worth even further.
The problem would still be access, I for one, am not a gamer, and a platform that can accessed by the general public to offer a similar experience does not exist.
What might the future look like?
As the pandemic develops and rules on social isolation begin to ease, the biggest opportunity is in new live performance content. There are talks around having a limited circle of close contacts within social distancing. If bands can get to a venue or performance space, and record a live-streamed concert, with full acoustics. Potentially playing exclusive set-lists or albums in their entirety. I feel fans would truly pay for this, to a similar degree of a concert ticket, and this may be the answer before venues open again.
‘The Lark Ascending‘ by Richard King, is a book based on the 1881 poem by English poet George Meredith, inspired by the song of the skylark. The book details the many ways nature has influenced musical production over the years, however, the full concept warrants a further blog post for another time.
The beauty, tranquility and often turbulent reality of nature has inspired music for generations, from cave-dwelling ancestors to the acid-house movement. Below is a selection of songs that feature, reflect and are inspired by nature.
Notable Artists: Radiohead, The Cranberries, Pulp, The Stone Roses, The Killers, Bloc Party, The Arctic Monkeys, Oasis, Blur, The Libertines, The Buzzcocks, Primal Scream, Muse and Kasabian.
The venue of my first proper gig, aged 15 years old. Elliot Minor, February 2008. The Charlotte was a pinnacle of Leicester’s new music scene. The Charlotte was a perfect, rotten venue, hosting bands who would regularly miss the city for larger Midlands towns. Below is an extract outlining the venue under heritage listing principles, citing academic articles.
Aesthetic Value: The Charlotte was never particularly regal. “It was a boozer on a grimy ring road, which put on bands” (Leicester Mercury 2009). Externally, the building shows elements of artistic merit, resemblant of 18th century architecture somewhat unique in its surroundings. The Charlotte’s interior however may not be of decorative eloquence. “Its dark, oily walls seemed to have been marinated in stale sweat. A concrete pillar blocked your view, and the evening’s entertainment, usually floppy-fringed indie kids still battling problem skin could leave your ears ringing for days afterwards” (Leicester Mercury 2009a). Regardless, the stylistic tone of the building is representative of the culture that thrived here and provides an illustrative connection to the buildings past. “Heritage is imagined as something old and beautiful” (Smith and Waterton 2009, 29) but there are many interpretations of beauty (Mason 2002, 12) which have long been among the most important criteria for labeling things and places as heritage (Mason 2002, 12). “If it was sanitised like a Swiss discotheque it wouldn’t be rock and roll any more,” argues John Butler, frontman of Leicester band Diesel Park West (cited in Leicester Mercury 2009a).
Social Value: People may value the Charlotte for many reasons. Harrison & Schofield (2009) have criticised the way heritage doesn’t “reflect social diversity” (Harrison & Schofield 2009, 4), supported by the documents People and Places (Department of Culture, Media and Sport 2001) and Power of Place (English Heritage 2000). More specifically youth culture is something rarely considered within Heritage (Schofield 2000, 135).
Certain bands and music genres epitomise adolescent subcultures and lifestyles therefore The Charlotte became a tangible ‘stage’ to portray this subculture identity. Local memories of The Charlotte reflect the youths involvement in its success “school outings to the Charlotte have been a teenage rites of passage for countless Leicestershire kids (Leicester Mercury 2009a). And it was this youth culture which characterised the ‘toilet circuit’ as “vibrant, exciting sites that represent a rejuvenated inner-city culture” (Homan 2008, 244). Attending gigs is something of a symbolic activity, ritualistic and performative (Roberts & Cohen 2014, 252) where intrinsic value is determined by an “individuals experience of heritage intellectually, emotionally and spiritually.” (Hewison & Holden 2006, 16).
Communal value: The Charlotte is a site where ritual performances were held creating “a sense of belonging to a specific music community” (Cohen 2005, 27). For fans and musicians, venues are a “storehouse for social memories in an urban landscape” (Hayden 1997, 9). These collective experiences and memories provide reference points to sense of time and place (English Heritage 2008, 32). Music venues are not just locations of sociable gathering but these are places where “communities are formed, performance skills tested, and reputations earned” (Homan 2008, 243). Music venues emerged through post industrial decline, sparking a rise in social interaction and escapism. These buildings became an integral part of “social cohesion and community identity” (Mason 2002, 12) and formed part of recent cultural memory.