It’s time for my first blog post and I thought I’d write a little bit about live music and how it helped Loud Hailer come to be.
Now – people do tell me that I can be a little long winded sometimes and as you can see, this is a pretty long post – but stick with me, I do get to the point eventually.
Are you sitting comfortably………..
I remember the light from my phone casting some strange shadows on the ceiling from my bedside table in the early hours of that Monday morning. At the time I (stupidly) hadn’t turned on the setting which means you don’t get notifications on your phone during the hours you should be asleep. I rolled over to look at the screen and saw two or three news alerts from the BBC news website. It seemed somebody had fired indiscriminately into the audience at a country music festival in Las Vegas killing and injuring a huge number of people. At the time, Kirstine and I had been living in Chicago for around 6 years after making the trip across the Atlantic from the UK so news stories about mass shootings had, unfortunately, become a relatively regular part of life. However, as I lay in the dark reading the news coverage and watching some of the footage from the scene, the horror of that whole thing really got to me. It went totally past the barrier that I (and I think most of us) put up in order to deal with some of the darker aspects of living in the world today. As I set off for work that morning I couldn’t shake that feeling or get those horrendous images and sounds out of my head.
In the afternoon that same day I got a text from Kirstine telling me that there were a couple of news reports saying that Tom Petty had died……… I couldn’t believe it. We had literally just seen him put on an amazing show with the Heartbreakers at Wrigley Field a couple of months earlier. On top of the news from earlier in the day this sent me into a horrendous mood and I walked around for the rest of that day and the next couple of days feeling terrible, providing monosyllabic answers to everyone, and generally behaving like a miserable stroppy a*sehole (or a*shole for the American audience).
But what on earth has that got to do with setting up a music website I can hear you say…………… Well, let me tell you.
When it got to Wednesday of that week, with me still wallowing in my miserable stroppy a*seholeness (if that is a word – I’ll not do the US translation this time, you get the idea), we jumped in an Uber after work and headed to City Winery to see some live music. We’d bought the tickets a couple of months earlier and Kirstine had also managed to get a pass to photograph/review the show for another publication. The band were called honeyhoney and we’d learned about them through Neil Turk, one of our friends in Chicago (who is a great working musician in his own right). A few months earlier he’d told us to be sure to get down to the House of Blues early for the Butch Walker show we would be attending. Apparently his cousin was touring as part of Butch Walker’s band and would also be doing a solo set to open the show. His cousin, as it turned out, was Suzanne Santo and after seeing her perform that night I looked up honeyhoney online, we bought their records and became fans of the band.
As I sat down in City Winery and started to drink the first beer of the night (Kirstine was photographing at this point) Korey Dane opened up the show. Within a couple of songs my mind focused on the music and the dark clouds began to lift (this was despite the fact that Korey – by his own admission – was performing either “moderately sad” or “viciously sad” love songs that night). By the time honeyhoney were midway through their set, the sun had most definitely broken through the clouds and the very last thing on my mind was the miserable horror of what I’d watched in the early hours of that Monday morning or the sadness at the death of a musical luminary. I’m certain that for the rest of the audience in the room that night, the feeling would have been exactly the same. It was a couple of hours away from the worries, stresses and strains of real life, a pressure valve, an emotional pill……….. For those who’ve experienced it, it’s like magic, right? Well, in the words of the great man himself (Tom Petty):
“Music is probably the only real magic I have encountered in my life. There’s not some trick involved with it. It’s pure and it’s real. It moves, it heals, it communicates and does all these incredible things.”
Later that same week, we headed to the House of Blues where Kirstine was shooting Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul. I remember exactly where I was stood in the room as that 15-piece band with a full horn section, three amazing back-up singers, drums, percussion, keyboards etc. walked out onto the stage and launched into a cover of “Only the Losers.” By the time the song was finished I was doing the old heavy blinking thing and looking all around me for the imaginary piece of dust or insect that I wanted people to think had flown into my eyes. As the last notes rang out that night and the venue began to clear I remember thinking to myself that it felt like I’d just completed a course of music therapy that week.
I’ve used honeyhoney and Little Steven as an example here as it was a relatively recent time that sticks vividly in my head as a great example of the power of music (live music in this case). However, there are countless other examples I could give from my life and I’m sure that, if you’re reading this, you’ll have hundreds of your own examples. I’d also be remiss not to mention the fact that, following those horrendous events in Las Vegas, Musicians on Call, a charity that I am very proud to be a part of (whose mission is “to deliver the healing power of music”) went into overdrive and sent a number of country musicians to perform for those that were injured in that incident by their bedside in hospital.
Now (and I’m starting to get to my point, I promise……..) in all of this, what was not lost on me was what these musicians (whether it be Korey Dane, honeyhoney, Steven Van Zandt and his band or the country musicians who pitched up to play in the Las Vegas hospitals) had likely gone through to be there and provide that service to an audience who so desperately needed it that week. Honeyhoney will likely have endured some mammoth cross-country road trip, lugging their gear and maybe staying with friends or in motels on the way. Steven Van Zandt and his band, I’m sure, will have had a pretty nice tour bus and hotel accommodation along the way but I’m also sure that quite a bit of money must have come out of Steven’s own pocket to put on that show the way he thought the audience deserved to see it (not many people can sustain taking a 15-piece band on the road without fronting some of the cost themselves). On top of all that, all those musicians were, in that particular week, dealing with the same shit that their audience had come to get away from, as well as whatever else may be going on in their own lives (as they say in the entertainment industry, the show must go on………).
That’s not to mention the sacrifices that any band or musician will have made as they are coming up, before they ever get to a place where they are making and then maintaining any kind of living from their work. The crappy jobs to make ends meet, the self-doubt, the broken relationships, the mining/re-living of painful experiences for material, the nights sleeping on friends couches and floors, the shows where the room only has a couple of farmers drinking bitter and a border collie in attendance* (*more likely to be an experience for musicians in England).
It made me think about how many people say that they would have loved to be a professional musician when the honest truth is that that they probably weren’t ever willing to make the sacrifices and put in the huge amount of hard work that goes into making that a reality (I count myself amongst them – although, in my case, the necessary talent probably wasn’t there either which is also an issue!). How many people were, and would never be, willing to make the gamble and go whole-heartedly after their passion – especially given that it’s an industry where you could work as hard as possible, do everything right and still end up not being able to make a living.
It made me think of all my favourite musical experiences; times when music has taken me out of my head when I didn’t want to be in there anymore; times when it felt like a lyric was written entirely for me and my current situation. It made me think of the beers, the laughs, the tears and the times with friends at live shows and festivals (see opposite for an old pic’ of one of those times where the sun was actually out at Leeds Festival in the UK). It made me think of what it actually took for the musicians that provided those magic moments to get that music into my lugs and how we as fans could help them keep doing that!
So……… that’s it – that’s what we were thinking about when we started talking about setting up our own website (the point! the point! he’s finally reached the point!).
Kirstine had shot for a few different websites by the time we started talking seriously about setting up Loud Hailer and I’d enjoyed writing a few reviews or doing the odd interview for those sites but we wanted to do something a bit more than live show reviews and photographs. We wanted to create a site that would feature interviews with not only established acts, but with working artists striving to make a living. A site that would speak to a range of different people in the music industry helping musicians do their thing (publicists, managers, venue owners, producers etc.). We wanted to speak candidly to these people about what it takes to work in today’s music industry and what music fans can do to help create an environment in which musicians can make a reasonable living so that they can keep providing us with their essential services.
And, last but not least, we wanted it to be interactive, we wanted it to be about you – we wanted a site where you can tell us what you want us to cover – we wanted to hear what music lights you up. We wanted to create a site that wasn’t about any one genre of music – just about music in all its forms. A place where everyone is welcome.
So………… those are some grand plans right there and to be honest, given that we do this in our spare time, it’s going to take us a while to bring every one of these ideas to fruition on the site. Whilst Kirstine has done an amazing job getting everything up and running in record time my contributions, outside of shouting out different weird ideas every two minutes, have definitely been lacking so far. The early days have primarily been about building some solid content, bringing on contributors and working out the technical kinks. We think it’s starting to look pretty nice and we already have some great interviews and show reviews up. In addition, here are some things that are coming up in the near future:
- Interviews with more music industry professionals – starting with music writer/publicist Selena Fragassi which is up on the site now.
- Some regular columns by working musicians and fans.
- A monthly themed playlist competition.
- Edmer Abante’s new podcast: “What Music Taught Me,” in which he will speak to musicians about how their musical skills helped them succeed in other areas of their working/personal lives.
- Loud Hailer Podcast: Planned to feature local musicians and whatever guests we can get our hands on to speak about anything and everything music (this one may take a while to happen but we’ll get there).
So that’s it for blog post number one. If the above reads to you like a love letter to music and musicians then I’m glad because that’s exactly what it’s meant to be – and that is whole-heartedly the spirit behind this website. If you’ve made it to this point, thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings – we really hope you enjoy what we are doing here at Loud Hailer. And if you love what we’re doing so much that you would like to become a contributor then feel free to get in touch with us via the link at the top of the page – we’d love to hear from you.