A blog I wrote for the karamelmusiccollective:
It has been some week - I can’t remember feeling this good about music. Paul Aiden smashed the door open on the week in his usual way - it’s finally happening for him with airplay on Radio 1 here, and in Europe and the US for songs he’s written for other people. But I never forget what a great performer he is - really outstanding.
Before they came to the UK, Boho Dancer (who I discovered at Reeperbahn with Roger and Jyri) were told by Danish friends not to bother: They were told that the audience would be threadbare; that those that were there would talk over them; they wouldn’t even get a beer to share between the four of them. I’ve done those gigs - you leave with hornets in your heart and damp cave in your skull. It stopped me playing live. And sadly this, it turned out, was true on thursday when they played an old gig I used to play in the upstairs of a pub (we won’t name) near Westbourne Park tube. Largely ignored by the promoter, and not even a bottle of beer or pack of crisps to share. It’s appalling that this still goes on when artists are giving their time and money to play for FREE for these people. It’s time it changed, it’s bullshit.
So the feeling in Karamel on Wednesday night was one I won’t forget. There was one of those moments, for me, that you have once every few years in life where time freezes for a second on your tongue. I looked around the room… A transfixed audience, listening in absolute silence, every table taken. Some standing at the bar, some in the back peering through the service hatch - age 17-70 - and I saw the joy on Ida’s face, Simun and Asker swinging in slow motion like pendulums of some copper Copenhagen clock tower. They were in absolute harmony with their music, and in love with you because you were in love with them. It’s so easy - for 25 minutes, don’t talk. We feed the band a brilliant dinner that Ian puts his soul into, and get them their drinks. You the audience, and us the organisers, love them - and we get 200% more in the performance. It’s not rocket science. The confidence they get from the appreciation is like a forest fire… and this one finished with the band singing completely acoustic, in the bosom of the audience, engulfed in the flames of a standing ovation. I didn’t sleep a wink I was so hyped. (and full of 3am spare ribs. And a bit ‘oiled’- Ed) And having to follow Lay Low?? That must have been terrifying. She was superb! A headline act all day long - though as you all know, there’s no such thing as a headline on our nights. (We just can’t put them all on at once!) But they pulled it off, somehow.
I spent a lot of time with the artists this week, and one thing was repeatedly made clear: they loved you as much as you loved them.
When you spend a day travelling and lugging your gear from flat to airport to plane to airport to hostel - having spent years rehearsing, recording, and living on thin air and loose change - when you finally stand in front of that audience, you still have no guarantee that they will give you a shot. - especially in London. It is so different in Europe where the artists are afforded respect as a minimum starting point. We are so lucky to get these acts, and word is out that at The Karamel Music Club, and The Karamel Music Club Soho: Northern Embassy, the artists get given the respect and love they deserve. JaJaJa is the same I’m sure. Now - It’s true, we don’t pay them a fee, because we don’t charge. But your tips are so generous - £200 on wednesday, and that all went to the acts. It’s more than they’d get if we gave them 100% of ticket sales at £5 per gig after our costs. And it’s been as much as £380 before. They sold some records, they were fed and watered - we did our best to tell the world about their music. Soon we will be streaming the gigs live in HD with Live Music Stage and raising them money there too with ticket fee and online tips for those too far away to make the journey.
Last night I popped in to the incredible Nordic Showcase JaJaJa Music with Vik to see Lay Low play, and see off the Boho guys before they flew back to Copenhagen - both Monday and Wednesday they were, just …simply… ace. Something will happen for them, I’m sure of it. Lay Low is unique. Utterly brilliant - and one of the warmest folks you’ll meet. Both are real artists. We all had a moment - they enjoyed playing so much, because of the welcome you - the audience - gave them. We toasted another true artist, Chris Helme (and Chris Farrell!) - how ludicrous to have a night where Chris Helme opens!! Yet another scorching set from the Chris’s… But not an ego in sight - just three stellar acts who got off on each other’s stuff. I was so made up that they appreciated Chris Helme as much as we did. He was in my studio earlier in the day and pulled off 4 tunes in one take. That just never happens.
I don’t want to sound preachy, and I know there’s better gigs out there where they sell 1,000 tickets and all get paid handsomely. But what I’m trying to say is that it’s time to change the norm when it comes to the gigging experience for all artists - we all stand to win if the acts love the venues and crowds they are playing in and for. Please keep coming, and keep radiating out this superb respect you have for artists.
Shush people at other acoustic gigs, glare, stare, pull their hair! There’s a difference between noises of encouragement, and talking about your IT supervisor. Next time you hand over cash at a gig, maybe check to see if the act has even been offered a drink or a bite to eat by the people making money out of them. You’d be horrified if you knew how many don’t.
See you on March 13th, and March 25th at the Northern Embassy - Doug has procured the mighty Exit Calm and Saturday Sun. And Nordic act to be announced imminently. Now I’m going for a lie down and a listen to the Boho Dancer album. SKOL!
Photos of the Northern Embassy by kind permission of Arsenia Forgione