DAY 5: Down the River…
Not to end on a sour note, given yesterday’s anti-establishment conclusion, I wanted to briefly mention in my conclusion a whole host of places I have missed out this week. Music was my first real love in Liverpool, it is how I have met all my friends, how I got into the art world and how I have found most of the places I have visited here. So I thought I should mention the tremendous number of gig venues in Liverpool, and more specifically the amazing ones. Top of the list, unsurprisingly to anyone who goes to gigs in Liverpool, is The Kazimier on Wolstenholme Square.The Kazimier came back full force a few years back, reinvigorated by a group of performers, producers, musicians and artists. The club nights and gigs put on here are all-encompassing, and range from Masked Balls, Black-tie NYE parties, and themed covers nights to Battles, Hot Snakes, and members of the Wu-Tang Clan’s solo-projects. I have had some of the best nights out in Liverpool here, dancing and singing even when the band has stopped, until we are politely asked to stop making everyone sing Gangsta’s Paradise acapella. The Kaz are neighbours to the previously mentioned WCS, which lies across the square and hosts some intimate, raucous music events. The exhibition and live music programmes have blended recently with a sound installation created and played live by locals Sun Drums, which has now been integrated into the Biennial exhibition. A little off the square, lies MelloMello, another example of the art/music crossover, this narrow, wood-floored space acts as a small gig venue for jazz nights througout the week and varied, externally-promoted, nights at least once a week: expect anything from female barbershop to hardcore noise and thrash. Mello has recently spruced itself up a bit, fitted a kitchen and a proper bar and now does some seriously good food.
Up Slater Street and past Dumbells gallery, you will eventually find yourself on Bold Street, long considered the bohemian and alternative street in Liverpool. This may not strictly be the case these days, but the further up you go, the more interesting things get. Forget Starbucks, Nero and Costa which fight amongst themselves outside Waterstones, walk towards the Bombed-Out Church on Berry Street and you will find somewhere a bit cheaper, a lot more interesting, and you might even get some life drawing, or live music with your Latte. Leaf Tea Shop does food throughout the day and into the evening, when the music begins. The gigs here are organised by some of the city’s big-hitting promoters, such as Harvest Sun and Evol, so expect names like Nat Baldwin, Two Gallants and Francois & the Atlas Mountains upstairs, and a free-to-attend open mic night happening once a week downstairs. Leaf’s neighbour, Bold Street Coffee sells and makes award-winning coffee, have ever-changing exhibitions from local producers (which have included screen-printed gig posters, to limited edition prints available to purchase) and host some of the best small gigs in the city, a recent one worth mentioning being the packed out visit from Americans Pine Hill Haints.
These are the places where I spend my time, in which I meet friends, colleagues and go to before, after, or to see gigs. These spaces, business and ventures are constantly changing, growing and trying their hand at everything. And that is because they are run by some of the most committed and inventive people I have ever met, even in this city. They are always packed with friendly faces, whether or not you know any of the clientele (which you probably will if you’ve been in Liverpool more than a month…) and always have something interesting happening.
And that little bit of Tourist Information pretty much wraps my week up. Other than to wax lyrical a bit about the spirit of my city, not necessarily culture-bound, and how Liverpool has affected me. Last week’s curator Michael Duckett, asked me: “How has your hometown affected how you see the world? What part of yourself can you put down to the influence of that place?” Well, I think that one of the important things about Liverpool is its size, because it is tiny. TINY. Everyone knows everybody else and you can’t move without seeing someone you recognise. Many see this as restrictive and would rather escape in the (relative) sprawl of Manchester or disappear completely into London, but I have only ever seen this as a good thing. Artists, writers, musicians and performers all know one another and this makes for some very interesting and unlikely collaborations, it also makes for a very supportive and nurturing environment in which to produce whatever it is you want to create. It is an incredibly friendly city because of this, and because of the natural Scouse demeanour, which is basically: Talk to Everyone. You stand still anywhere in Liverpool for long enough, someone will start talking to you, headphones withstanding. Visitors often find this odd and intimidating, thinking they’re about to be mugged, but you soon get used to it and realise it is just an anachronistic politeness and display of general concern for humanity which sadly seems to be maligned and marginalised more and more in modernity. So, if I could pick one brief answer to each question from Michael, I would say that Liverpool has made me see the world as a place which can be negotiated with care and pleasantness rather than stony-faced stoicism. And secondly, I put my sense of humour, and concern for others down to this place, and more specifically, down to my very Scouse family and friends. They are the most helpful, caring, and generous people who exist and there is a small part of me which truly believes they wouldn’t quite be the way they are if they hadn’t been dragged up with the River Mersey at their backs…
Continuing this regional interrogation, my question for Missy Tassles from Sheffield who is returning to the space next week, is this: Which bit of Sheffield could you not be without? Be it a place, a happening, or a particular area?
Many thanks to Chris Meads for asking me to participate in this project, to Michael for his question and to Missy in advance for her answer to mine. Also thanks to my bro4lyf, the terrifyingly prolific Sean Wars for letting me nick his gig posters and illustrations: he has been making noise both nightmarish and joyous, and drawing for years and only ever gets better. Go see, and buy(!), loads of stuff at his website! And lastly, the biggest thanks to everyone I have discussed in these pieces, either directly or implicitly. You will all know who you are, organisations or individuals, and I just wanted to say ‘Thanks’ because my city wouldn’t be the same without you, and if you weren’t here to make it what it is, then, well, I’d probably have to move to Canada….
Primary Image: Gig Poster by Sean Wars for Silent Front at MelloMello