The new music nights exploding across Portsmouth - Breakthru, neu waves, The People's Lounge and more | Big Read
THE push of the crowd, that feeling of the bass throbbing through your body while the singer is howling just feet from your face.
While this may sound horrific for some – particularly after two years of Covid conditioning teaching us to keep our distance from others – others have been hankering for live music to return to ‘normal’ as soon as possible. Particularly at a grassroots level.
There is a definite hunger for live music, with music lovers spoilt for choice right now. There are two years’ worth of backed up national tours, plus newly announced tours which mean the established venues’ schedules are stacked.
But in recent months a series of new regular live music nights have popped up around Portsmouth to help cater to this demand.
Breakthru is one such night – set up by well-known local musician Amba Tremain and sponsored by Mayfield Records, it aims to showcase up-and-coming artists from Portsmouth and across the region, specifically those playing original music.
Taking place monthly at The Jolly Sailor in Southsea, the opening night in February was headlined by popular local acts Hannah Reem with Dani Uziel and Marley Blandford and was packed to the rafters. The March outing with Mary Red, Jordan Duke and Jeanie White was equally busy.
Amba says: ‘I'm really chuffed with it and how it's building momentum.’
Why does she think there’s such an appetite for this kind of night?
‘It's hard to put my finger on why – there is so much popping up, but I feel like a lot of people, and I can speak directly how I feel as a singer and songwriter myself, we had time to get creative during the lockdowns.
‘Not only are those supporters of music, and promoters of music getting creative and wanting to see things back, but we have so much busting out of us as performers, we need somewhere to play it!’
Amba wants to offer the next step up from an open mic night – of which there are plenty around Portsmouth – where it’s typically just a singer or someone with their guitar.
‘With more nights popping up with this showcase model, it's a chance for people to let out their creativity that they've had pent up for two years.
‘I still love going out and stripping down a song with a guitarist, but I also love that next step which is getting the band together and playing a night like this. The next step is getting to a bigger night and selling tickets. There's got to be this interim step.
‘There's so much creativity, they just need an outlet, and now there's these nights to play at which is great.’
And importantly, through their sponsorship by Mayfield Records, the Drayton-based recording studio and label, all acts get paid. And as entry is free, they also ‘pass the hat around’ at the end, with any donations going direct to the performers.
‘I really wanted to be able to pay my artists, so I thought what can I offer in exchange for not being able to pay them? So I thought we could film them, do some stuff they might need for promo, but then (label head) Dom and Mayfield came on board saying: “We have money to fund things like this”, so they're putting money in for the artists, and my organisation, The Musicians' Network, we pay for Steve, the lovely sound engineer and all the promo. It's a really nice collaboration.’
Sam Leadbeater of Calamity Cratediggers promotions and Ella Ash of Missing Events started the neu waves club nights last September in The Loft above The Kings pub on Albert Road. Each Thursday it combines up-and-coming touring acts with local performers from across the alternative music sphere.
Twenty-four weeks in, they regularly draw sell-out crowds.
‘We're really fortunate that it has been really well received by the local gigging community,’ says Sam.
‘Whether that be the more mature gig-goer or the kids coming to uni or just finished college who are starting bands themselves, or just into new music and the alternative scene.
‘It's not a gig of old punks or young kids listening to K-pop, it's a bit of everything and everyone has a great time.
‘There's no judgement, there's no pretence, we regards ourselves as a safe space for people from all walks of life and preference and interest. It's a safe space to enjoy creative works, whatever that may be.
‘Some of the bands they'll know, some of the bands they won't and you hope that within in any given week there'll be something they've really enjoyed and they'll go and listen to their music further, buy their records or have a new favourite band.
‘And some weeks it might not be your bag and it's a bit of a lottery, but no two weeks are the same – we try and ensure we have a diverse line-up.
‘My colleague Ella helps a lot with the organisation and running of the events and curating the line-ups, I couldn't do it on my own, and her partner Liam does all the visual side of things.
‘Everything we do in terms of the organisation and running it is local, the sponsorship is by Southsea Sound, they kindly provide a backline and equipment.
‘We encourage and support local artists to use their facilities. I'm always pro-collaboration – if it's going to be of mutual benefit for everyone, if it's for the greater good of the Portsmouth music community, I'm all for it.’
Other nights in Portsmouth include the return of Future Folk, by award-winning singer-songwriter Megan Linford – a regular night pre-Covid, focussing as the name suggests on folk, which is making a comeback in April.
Or there’s No Requests, run by brothers Nathan and Ryan Hill of Idol State, every Monday night at Southsea’s The Fawcett Inn. Encouraging inclusivity, it’s part jam, part social – their only proviso is that all music performed is original.
And promoter Nick Courtney is back with a regular night every Friday at Lord John Russell. While it is free entry, performers will be paid for playing.
Another night due to start at Portsmouth Guildhall’s Studio in April is looking globally for its influences.
The team behind the World Music Village at Victorious Festival – The People’s Lounge, are curating the night.
Moses Milner, director of The People’s Lounge, says: ‘Since we've gone into Victorious and they've given us the space and platform for what we've been doing, we’ve been seeing different things bubble around the city.
‘It's always been the ambition to put these types of nights on, but having the concern that perhaps the audience isn't there, the risk of not being able to meet the costs has been a worry.
‘But now I think the audience is there and the cultural, artistic and music scene has really developed in Portsmouth.’
Working with Portsmouth Guildhall Trust on the monthly series, The People’s Lounge aim to bring a wildly diverse range of acts to town.
‘There's still a huge way to go with regards to the type of music we're trying to promote,’ says Moses. ‘There's nothing much to challenge the boundaries of what's quite normal for Portsmouth. Indie rock is what this city does and it does it amazingly well, but that tends to be what's on offer.
‘We want to give a platform to some of the really interesting contemporary stuff going on. It's not genre-specific, it's crossing the boundaries – there's so many intersections between different styles, from jazz to soul to funk to world to Afro-latin, all of these styles are being fused together. There's so much happening in the UK right now – it's really pushing those boundaries.
‘We wanted to fuse that together with the interesting new local music that's coming up as well, music that I think has been inspired by these sounds going on around the country and putting their interpretation and spin on it. So we've got the national and local acts and then the DJs as well.’
Moses has also been involved in another new music night – focussing on jazz – at the Prohibition Cocktail Club on Granada Road, Southsea.
‘For the last three months we've had jazz there every Thursday from 8pm. The Southsea Groove Collective is like the resident house band, it's me on bass and Russ Tarley on drums, then each week we have different guest singers, saxophonists, guitars, keys player. It's done so well, every night has been sold out.
‘It's amazing what they've done in there – that space has been dying for it. Upstairs is the Moon Shine Club, which is more the big dance music nights – they've been getting some real big name DJs in. But downstairs they've refurbed it to this 1920-style prohibition club, which is where we've been doing these intimate jazz nights.’
A few up-coming nights
:: Breakthru Showcase Nights take place on the first Friday each month at The Jolly Sailor in Southsea. The next one is April 1, featuring Amba Tremain, Bradley Jago, Roddy Ryan and Izzi Evans. Entry is free. Go to facebook.com/themusiciansnetworkuk.
::Neu waves is at The Loft in Southsea every Thursday. On March 17 are Peeping Drexels, JJ Summer and Sun Spot. Tickets £6. Go to facebook.com/neuwavesportsmouth.
:: The People’s Lounge at Portsmouth Guildhall Studio starts on April 21, with Colectiva, Muttnik and DJ Sophie Darling. Tickets £10. facebook.com/ThePeoplesLounge.
:: Nick Courtney presents Friday Night Live at The Lord John Russell, Southsea, features a Kushty Takeover on March 25. Free entry. For more information go to book.events/thelordjohnrussell.
:: Future Folk present Electric Eden and Megan Linford at The Square Kitchen in Guildhall Square on April 19. Tickets £3. Go to facebook.com.
A message from the Editor, Mark Waldron
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