York is a city which has some remarkable and renowned theatres hosting spectacular shows, from musicals to operas. But for grass roots music, it is less celebrated than other English cities, and quite wrongly so. For here and now, the music scene is vibrant and diverse, with performers and venues making sounds every night of every week all over town. Jericho Keys knows this more than anybody, as host of BBC Introducing in York, where he showcases up and coming musicians from across the local area. Here, he tells us more about the sounds of the city…
If these walls could talk, the stories they would tell….
With an estimated population of 208,807, give or take a few here or there (ta, Google), you’d expect there would be at least some half decent musicians to make some good records that may tempt you, even the slightest bit, to leave your nice warm flat after a dull day’s work and spend your hard earned cash, ungrudgingly. Well, well, well, if you live in the city and are into music, from my experience, your abode becomes a pit stop. You’re skint half the time, from going to the mixed bag of shows. The pioneers at The Crescent, The Fulford Arms, Spark and The Victoria Vaults are all firmly flying the flag for innovative and desired shows in YO1 and are keeping music alive on our doorsteps. Which, as a part of that community, I am truly grateful for.
Every single time, they effortlessly attract the well-respected, the vintage, the new hotly tipped buzzed band, the weird and the wonderful, the brash and beautiful, to a stage near us. They’re always able attract them to this ancient city. York may be draped in history, but this place is very much the future.
This place, little ole Jorvik, can most certainly hold its own and stick its chest out when we’re ever asked. “What contribution has the city made to music, that people have taken notice of nationally?” Erm, John Barry, Shed Seven, Benjamin Francis Leftwich… I could go on…
Venues come and go, unfortunately. York Fibbers, The Duchess, Stereo, The Junction and a whole lot before my time, have eventually burned out after gaining a loyal and cult clientele. I know all expressed their desolation when for the final time the empty plastic pint cups have been swept up and the door padlocked. Those venues and promoters that brought bands to the forefront before the rest of the world caught up. They did not die in vain, but apparently all good things must come to an end… I’m not too sure about that myself.
I tend to think of the music scene like putting a well-stocked iPod on shuffle. You’re very lucky here if you have an open mind and constantly want to hear something different. It’s reassuring to know that you can essentially walk around the city, stumble into a pub or venue and hear something other than murderous karaoke covers. I’m sure we do, like everywhere else, still have our fair share of that. But the gifted most certainly outweighs the garbage.
Just look at some of the musicians who we’ve got to brag about over the last few years, that’ve cemented themselves into the cobbles and gone on to do some monumental things. The Howl & The Hum, King No-One, Bonnie and The Bailers, Hello Operator, Amy May Ellis, Wounded Bear, Skylights, Violet Contours, Kitty VR, Faux Pas, and Laura Kindelan. The punters whistle their melodies and lyrics down the street on the way to and from their shows.
I could carry on for hours and reel off the amount of up and coming bands, DJ’s, singers, rappers and producers, that call York home, but I’ll save you the endless list. Where would the fun in that be? I think our reputation speaks for itself. The scene is enormous. Go and explore it…
Images: Spark @sparkyork, Veneers at Spark @kluens.media, Fibbers @fibbersliveyork, The Howl & The Hum @andylittlefilm