Mice, gerbils, hamsters, squirrels.....
I had a plan for this coming weekend. My plan was to walk down to The Hubble and Home, that budding new venue in Oxford, find out exactly where it was, and send out info about the closest bus stops, nearby parking, a map, that sort of thing, in preparation for our restart gig there in August. But the best laid plans of mice and other rodents,....
Hubble Bubble Venue Trouble
In another blow to local music, the Hubble and Home is closed. Yes, before I'd even had the chance to go there, it has ceased to be. Like the Norwegian Blue, it is nailed to its perch. Few details at the moment, but apparently it is not just the music which is cancelled. The pub has shut its doors and its website is now blank, a casualty of Covid. It is possible it could re-open again once the world and the economy gets back to normal, but right now it is closed and we are busy trying to secure a replacement venue for our August gig. I'll be sure to keep you all posted as things develop.
After posting about The Cavern Club in Liverpool last week, and commenting that it has a similar vibe to Oxford's now defunct Cellar, I found myself looking through some of the Cellar videos. Here is some sophisticated sound from an Oxford band called Echo4four. Embarrassingly, I cannot for the life of me remember the names of the band members, or what the band was called before they swapped over to the snappy Echo4four moniker, but I do remember they played at Leon's birthday party so at least some of you must have seen them before.
The Cavern Club is, of course, famous for being the venue where Paul McCartney first encountered John Lennon when Lennon was playing in a band called The Quarrymen. The Beatles went on to become the most commercially successful pop group of all time, and I believe they've now sold more than one billion albums and singles worldwide. Add to that there's the live performances, the merchandising, the films, the TV and radio royalties, and that isn't counting their individual careers after the Beatles split up. The economic benefits to the UK have been enormous, and all of that hinged on a chance meeting at a local gig. Surely there is an economic case for supporting grass roots music venues. Instead we subsidise opera.
Perhaps the best out of town band I ever saw play at The Cellar was St Agnes. This London band is fronted by the wonderfully named Kitty Arabella Austen who has incredible stage presence, but the whole band contributes to the buzz they create. This is an example of their sizzling live act, and was filmed in The Lexington, a bar and gig venue in Islington.
St Agnes is a hard-working band. During their first three years they were relentless, played around 200 gigs at small venues across the whole of the UK, gained many fans, and have been producing quarantine videos throughout lockdown. With life returning to normal, the band's next tour will now take place in October, but Oxford isn't on their route map this time around.
Life's free, but you're gonna pay somehow
With so much good weather on the cards, it is such a shame that the majority of festivals fell victim to covid. Here is a clip I like from the Bridgnorth Festival in Shropshire from a few years back. It features a South African hardcore punk duo, The Soap Girls, dressed in their Sunday-best church clothes, playing a toned-down and unplugged acoustic piece. It was quite a struggle to find any Soap Girls' song where the YouTube censorship droid doesn't demand age verification or just reject it outright, but this version is tamer than most. The song is called "Society's Rejects". I really don't think we'd get away with this at Riverside though.
Mie (the shy one) and Mille are sisters from Cape Town, South Africa and their live shows are huge fun, anarchic, outspoken, vulgar, explicit, and most most most definitely not for the faint-hearted. But please do not judge them by their stage personas or their blonde hair or your own preconceptions about punk. They are such friendly people, always smiling, never take themselves seriously, speak English, French, Dutch, Afrikaans, and Xihosa, and can probably swear like a docker in all of them. And they tour the world with their guitars and have fun. Why are they called The Soap Girls? It was a nickname they acquired 15 or 20 years ago, whilst still just children themselves, when they would often be found singing on the streets of Cape Town, dressed in pink, selling their home-made bars of soap to raise money for a charity for destitute kids.
Do not run amok
Monday is "Freedom Day", but if you thought it meant freedom from the virus, think again. The narrative has been rewritten so that the promised freedom really just frees Boris from any responsibility for what happens next. It's all a matter of personal choice, he says. Please remember, you are free to choose what you do on Monday, so you can choose to be kind and considerate to others.