Cosmopolitan2016

6th August 2016

Leicester’s Cosmopolitan Carnival

2016

Coming up in August

Cosmopolitan Arts presents – Leicester’s Cosmopolitan Carnival
on Saturday 27th August 2016 – from 2.00 pm to 9.30 pm
Leicester City Centre: Jubilee Square, High Street, Clock Tower, Humberstone Gate and BBC Radio Leicester.

The Cosmopolitan Carnival arts festival is taking over the city centre hosting an impressive line up of live music, dance and art.

Calvin Jeffrey in 2010 Photograph: by Harjinder Ohbi
Calvin Jeffrey in 2010
Photograph: by Harjinder Ohbi

BBC Radio Leicester’s Kevin Ncube and Toni Finney, will compere the main stage in Jubilee Square. Artists include Leicester’s very own The Brandy Thieves, national awarding winning rapper Curtis Clacey, The Orator, UG and the world’s best DJ Jon 1st DMC will be performing an exciting collaboration, rhythmic Afrobeats by Afro-Kubanza, rising soulful star Dominique Brody will be singing, Jesse Wright will wow the crowd with her amazing voice, “Britain’s Got Reggae” stars from across the country will be performing.

London-based band Code Ninety will inject to pop music element to the stage, soothing gospel music from Kaine Mass Choir and the fabulous Illusive Quartet will perform stylish jazz.

A range of free arts workshops will be available including Chinese calligraphy, origami and dragon making and lantern making plus much more.

There will also be a grand finale performance “Cosmocular” in Jubilee Square 8.30pm – 9.30pm, conceived, project managed and artistically directed by Amanda Leandro of Cosmopolitan Arts. This dazzling performance will involve a fantastic large-scale film projection piece by Amanda Leandro, French and English pyrotechnic performances by Pyrox and Select Dance, beautiful lanterns and giant puppets from Same Sky, an amazing live music performance created by Lead Composer & Music Director Richard Everitt and Co-composed by John Berkavitch, Carol Leeming and Miranda Booth.

Astounding spoken word from Leicester’s best wordsmith  John Berkavitch and spectacular vocals from Carol Leeming, of which both have specially written new pieces of work for this performance.

The ensemble includes the best musicians from Leicester: Will Todd from By The Rivers will be playing bass, the highly acclaimed pianist Mike Sole, skillful drummer Malcolm D’Sa, well known jazz saxophonist Marcus Joseph, heavenly harp by Miranda Booth, exceptional tabla by Hari Trivedi and awesome trumpet by Julie Maxwell.

This dazzling and spectacular performance is a unique one off experience, showcasing Leicester’s most talented artists along side national and international artists, this is one not to be missed!

There will be a stage at the Clock Tower compered by well known comedienne Kirsty Munro, hosting a vast array of cultural music, comedy and spoken word, including: Euphoria a seven piece Chinese folk group, Hari Trivedi will perform amazing Tabla and Sitar music, Ian Hall and Lindsay Warnes-Carroll will bring side splitting comedy to the event, The Orator Rhetoric Literary Society Poetry will be present wonderful spoken word, from London AOA will perform a unique blend of hip-hop enthused songs, Billy and Jody’s acoustic experience will inject some fun to the event, Calvin Jeffrey and Deven Stuart will both sing songs that will lift people’s spirits and Mr Shay livens up the crowd with some MC’ing.

Andrea Kenny of The Brandy Thieves at Simon Says... 2015 Photo: Kevin Gaughan
Andrea Kenny of The Brandy Thieves at Simon Says… 2015
Photo: Kevin Gaughan

On the High Street there will be an exciting blend of activities and performances, including an amazing dance performance area hosting every imaginable genre of dance. There will be a humorous street theatre performance, African drumming workshop and activities from Talent Match.

On Humberstone Gate there will be a funky open top bus stage with live reggae and acoustic music and a range of free arts activities, hosted by “The Drinks Bus” and “Britain’s Got Reggae”. There will an art gallery in BBC Radio Leicester and lots of free arts workshops including a DJ master class with Jon 1st, DMC World Champion 2013.

This exciting FREE event has something for everyone and is one not to be missed.

 

Music

17th September 2015

Articles I have written about music

This list brings together in one page the articles I have written about music.  Not included in this list (as yet) are the articles I wrote for the old Arts in Leicestershire magazine. I plan to re-publish some of these in the archival collection on this blog.

An X-factor for bands?

Band promotion

Bands and singers

Classic rock is dead

The Economics of local live music

Editorial bias in music

Flash gigs

History of music in Leicester

Local music – does it matter?

Major new festival showcase for Leicester

Music history

New bands starting up

Standards for live music venues

Thoughts on singing

Venues: friends or foes?

What makes a good band?

What makes a good gig?

What makes a good live music scene?

When should gigs start

Where is live music now?, in Arts in Leicester magazine, 2014

Writing about music

See also:

A list of all my published work

BandsAndSingers

23rd October 2014

10 Essays on Bands and Singers

Bands and Singers:  Ten essays on rock bands and singers.

By Trevor Locke.

Over the years, music journalist Trevor Locke has seen and listened to thousands of bands. Not just bands but singers, rappers and acoustic artists.

In these ten essays he looks at some of the fundamental elements of being a successful music act and what is needed to be a good band or singer.

He also looks at the business of live music; however good an act is at performing music, they have to make it in the real world of venues where music provided.

Some of the essays are published in this document for the first time;  others have been re-edited from articles he has previously published on his blog. These have been updated for this publication.

Ten Essays on Bands and Singers is published by Arts in Leicester, in a digital format.

2014, 30 pages, provided in a PDF format, sent by email, price £2.50

To order a copy, go to  our page on Arts in Leicester

Contents

1. An X Factor for Bands? (revised and updated)

2. Band Promotion. (New)

3. Promoting Artists. (New)

4. What do we learn from the obsUnplugged?  (revised and updated)

5. The Economics of Live Music in Leicester.  (revised and updated)

6. What Makes a Good Band?  (revised and updated)

7. Entertainment. Should Bands be Entertaining? (New)

8. Teamwork (New)

9. Talent. Is Talent the Key to Everything? (New)

10. Why do some venues make us pay to play there?  (revised and updated)

New bands starting up

17th August 2014

New bands.

How do bands cope with the pressure of starting up?

Watching a new band playing on stage for the first time, I asked myself ‘how do they cope with playing at their first gig?’

When you watch a band playing on a stage, you are looking to see how they appear – are they relaxed and confident or are they nervous? Are they enjoying being in front of people, playing their own music? Some new bands look like rabbits caught in the headlights. As a writer my task is to observe musicians intently and try to feel what they are feeling. In a way, this is about trying to empathise with them. I watch for the signs: what do I see on their faces? Do I see excitement or fear? Or both? Do I see a bunch of guys who are confident, relaxed, exited? Or, do I see a group of people who are nervous, fearful, worried? Being under pressure does not mean that they will make mistakes or play badly. When they get on a stage and lights go up the adrenaline kicks in. They probably can’t see the audience in the glare of the stage lighting. Their hearts start to beat twice as fast; their minds start to work at a furious pace. They have a lot to concentrate on, whether it’s singing, remembering the lyrics, remembering the tunes they have composed, watching the strings of their instruments to see where their fingers should go. Determination sets in. It might not be until the last couple of songs, of their half-hour set,  that they really get into the swing of the music.

You can tell when a band really wants it. Their faces and the way they perform on stage show how their ambition is burning. They want to be successful. They want their fans to love them, they want to win over people who have not seen them before, they want to leave the room with adulation and their reputation secured. They want to play a set which is going to mark them out and make a name for their music on the scene. If they are to win over audiences, they have to really want it. They have to win over the sceptical and the curious. People who might be hard to convince. People that are not there to see them. These are people who are watching closely to see what this new band is made of.so when they start to play they all have to say to themselves ‘let’s ‘av it.’

How do young, inexperienced musicians cope with that kind of pressure, at the start of a music career as a performing band? Can they get to that level of stage craft where they can portray themselves as a strong, confident, determined group of people who believe in themselves and their music? How do they do that? Maybe that is not what they are actually feeling on the inside, but what do we see on their faces? As a group of people, do they all share the same level of commitment? Do they want it, individually and collectively? Are they really ready to make the sacrifices needed to become a serious band?

When you watch a band performing on stage, it is not always easy to tell what is going on their minds. Some musicians have a knack of smiling and looking happy, whatever they are really like on the inside. Do they look like they are just playing another gig or is this a special event for them? Are they feeling the crowd and are they getting that buzz, that reaction,  that is flowing on to the stage? The older a band gets in its musical career, the more difficult it is to see what they are feeling. Mature musicians tend to get used to live performances (just another gig) and have a professional manner that hides anything going on inside. If something goes wrong,  they joke about it and carry on. It’s just what happens to bands. It comes with the job. They appear as polished professionals, doing a job, well rehearsed, steadily working away at their chosen craft. Some young bands can also look like this.

You can never really tell what’s happening on a stage. You might be able to watch carefully and write about it in such a way as to convey (to readers) what it was like to be there. But all gigs have layers of experience, seams of reality, and you can never really report everything. Fifty people might go and see a band; they will take home with them fifty different reactions and experiences.

(Written at a festival in July between gig slots)

Editorial bias in music

18th March 2014

Editor admits his web site is biased.

Following claims that the content of Music in Leicester is biased, Trevor Locke commented: “Yes it is.”

As Editor-in-Chief of the Music in Leicester web site (responsible to the publishers for its day-to-day upkeep,) I want to make it clear that it is biased. Neither I or the publishers have ever said that it would be unbiased.

This blog article clarifies what that bias is and why it exists. Firstly, we are biased to Leicester and Leicestershire in our coverage of live music. That is why this website is called Music in Leicester. We do cover bands that are from other areas of the East Midlands and bands that come from elsewhere in the UK (and the rest of the world) to play here. We have no pretensions of being a national music outlet.

Secondly, we are biased to what, in our opinion,  is good music. We do not write reviews of bands that we consider to be less than good. We do not publish reviews that run-down, deride or negatively criticise bands that fail to meet our standards of good music. When I say “our”, I mean the writers who contribute to the website and of course the company that publishes it. If someone offered a review that was very critical of a band and dismissive of its musical abilities, I doubt we would publish it, even if the article was technically argued and the analysis carefully set out.

Unlike some reviews we have seen on the Internet, we do not want to take this approach to musical criticism. If a band is  bad we prefer to say nothing.

We do sometimes comment on the short-comings of a music act but that is usually in a review that offers a generally positive stance on the band and its performance.

We do see bands, at shows we attend, whose performance is less than adequate and we see singers whose work is below standard.

If we have failed to publish a review on a gig or a band that we have seen, it will be only because we have not yet got round to it. So, if you know we have seen your band but have not yet published anything, that should not be taken to imply that we think it is bad in any way.

So what do we define as being “good music”? To my mind there are three main criteria:

1. The band plays music that is listenable and enjoyable. That applies across all genres of music – from hardcore metal to soft folk. If it is music, then we will write about it.
2. Music is good if the audience reacted reasonably well to it. Leicester audiences are nearly always polite – they will applaud any act, however bad. Unlike some crowds however they do not boo an act or even worse ignore it completely. So we have to look for other signs of appreciation or disinterest. You can tell a lukewarm response when you see one.
3. One band might have good points and bad points. It is possible to watch a band that was generally fairly good but lacked something important. Some bands have remarkably good front singers backed by musicians who were ok without being impressive.

Our sense of “good music” is fairly ‘broad-church’ and very inclusive. We do not have set attitudes to what is good and what is not; we do allow writers a lot of latitude to write enthusiastically about the bands they personally admire. In some websites I have seen, a guy has turned up at a gig, dissed off a band he personally did not like and has given readers his own bias on music – telling us nothing about the gig or the audience that was there and leaving us only with a knowledge of him as a person.

I hope that we are not as bad as that. I do however recognise that some people regard the art of music criticism as requiring closely-argued reasons as to why a band’s music was good, indifferent or bad. I sometimes read the Guardian’s rock music columns, as well as those in NME, The Fly or other publications. Styles of music journalism vary a great deal. Some of these column inches go right over my head; others seem to portray negatively critical reviews as being cool. I personally don’t like music magazines that are written by 20 year olds for other 20 year olds –  where being seen to be cool or hip is the over-riding requirement.

Most of our reviews are not written for music buffs. As I have said elsewhere, our writers are just fans of music and they are writing for other music fans. Few of us are musicians. When I am at gigs I will sometimes ask musicians in the audience about some technical aspect of what we are hearing, e.g. “Did you think that band is tight?”, or “Is that person singing in tune or off key?”

Most of our writers do not talk about the way a band made key changes in the third bar of the intro or used a riff that was straight out of [insert a name of a well known band here and one of their more obscure albums].

If most of the people who stand before the stages we frequent do not understand the technicalities of the music they are enjoying, it does not need us to blind them with musical science and to prattle on about erudite aspects of rock.

What we try to do is to celebrate the feeling of the set, the atmosphere of the night, the vibe of the band, the enjoyment value of the gig. We have adjectives that we use to describe what we heard and the emotional impact it had on us and the crowd and we might also tell readers something about the band and give a link to its website.

When I have been at gigs, I might ask a variety of people what they thought about a band. In some cases that results in a divergence of onion – from “ace” to “shit.” Any group of people at a gig will vary in its reaction to a band, from very positive through to negative.

Some have complained that we [at Music in Leicester]  are biased to certain kinds of bands and certain styles of music; I find that very difficult to believe. Ours is not a wiki website; it is not intended to be an encyclopedia of Leicester’s music. If it was it would have to be unbiased but since it is not,  we stick to our intended bias and this article has tried to make clear what that is.

The bias of this website is towards good music; we don’t run votes or polls about this – we just trust our own judgement.

 

 

 

Where should we go from here?

13th April 2013

What we planned

This post is part of an exercise to engage with our readers, friends, fans, customers … in order to find out what they value in the work that we do.  As an organisation (ArtsIn Productions) we do a lot of different things – run an arts magazine, put on training courses, represent bands, singers and rappers, provide a publicity service … the scope of our work is wide. The resources we have available however is not.

This consultation is to ask the public to share their thoughts and comments with us about what we do best.  If we should be focusing in,  then what should we concentrate on?

My concern is that we are spreading our resources too thinly across the field of our activities.  If we narrowed down we might achieve more impact.  The problem that I have, as the head honcho around here, is what?   I can see all the things that need doing.   I am well aware of all the things that I like doing. But, it’s not all about me.

What is difficult for me is letting go of some of my pet projects, my passions, my skill-areas; but that is what needs to happen.  ArtsIn Productions involves a number of people – all of them volunteers.    I am the only one that does things on a daily basis. Clearly, far too much lands on my desk and I cannot cope with all of it.

I can delegate some things,  to some people,  some of the time. The more volunteers we get, the more time it takes to train, brief and organise them all. As we say on our web site “Volunteers lie at the heart of all we do.”  Ours is a social enterprise and a constant stream of people apply to join us. That increases our capacity but only to the extent that we can train, en-skill, supervise and motivate them.

I am particularly concerned to get feedback and comment from those in the music community;  music represents the biggest part of our work. After about ten years of working with music, we feel we have made a contribution and we want to continue to do that.

Of all the things that we do for music,   what things are most valuable?   If we had to focus on one or two things that would be of real benefit to bands, singers and rappers, what should they be?

What happened

ArtsIn Productions Limited was closed down.  Having failed to achieve its goals, the company was costing me money to keep going, so I decided to close it.

Having announced that I was going to ‘retire’ in 2014, I have postponed that because I am too busy and have too much work to do.

I am keeping both web sites running Arts in Leicester and Music in Leicester.  I have taken both sites over from the company and am now the sole publisher of them both.

Narrowing down would be nice but, as with many of these things, there are inter-linkages and cross-benefits that make it impossible to remove one card from the house without the whole thing being in danger of falling down.

Comments about both of the websites are as always very welcome.

Please post your comments.

 

Thoughts on singing

Trevor Locke reflects on what he (as a member of the audience) learnt about singing when he attended the obsUnplugged programme of Acoustic shows in Leicester in 2013.

Performing covers

There are three kinds of covers

(a) Karaoke

(b) Just singing the song as it is in the original version – what pub singers do

(c) Taking a song and putting the artist’s own, original stamp on it, giving it a unique interpretation that has not been heard before.

When I listen to a well known cover (performed as part of a singing competition or vocal showcase), I would be looking for interpretation – what the performance of that song tells me about the artist in front of me and whether their unique take on that song shows me something about the singer. The better known the original song or artist, the more important this is. For example, Wonderwall by Oasis is a very well known song and I would prefer to not hear it sung karaoke-style, or as  just a faithful rendition of the original recording.  I would rather want  to hear what the artist in front me can do with it, to bring out aspects of the song that might never had heard before. I have listened to some very remarkable interpretations of well known popular songs, where the singer has taken the song and made it their own, producing a version that is markedly different to the original and given me a whole new insight into that song, using exactly the same lyrics and most if not all of the original melody.

Putting together a set list

If an artist is  given an allotted period of time in which to perform, he or she  can probably do about five or six songs.  In a showcase event, the  goal for,  a  performer, is to illustrate the range of their repertoire, demonstrate  vocal and instrumental skills and entertain the  audience.  A good performance is not one in which the artist sticks to safe, comfortable songs, any more than going for the really hard, challenging stuff,  throughout the set. The singer should open with a song which they know they can perform well, which is likely to capture the attention of the room, engage the audience and prevent people from going for a smoking break, the toilet or to
the bar from a drink.

Keeping them and holding their attention is the tasks of the opening song. The last song should be a vibrant, robust number that rounds off the set with something that will cap the set’s achievement and illicit sustained applause.  In between, the singer  has to show those in the room  what the artist is  capable of.  Things to avoid: too many songs which sound the same in tempo, style and content – most listeners appreciate variety – and too many covers that every one else is doing (yet another Ed Sheering song, oh no not Lady
Gaga’s Dirty Ice Cream again!)

Performing the songs

What engages audiences is feeling – the singer’s ability to get inside a song, believe in what the lyrics are saying, understanding what the song is about and then living the song,  while  on stage.  Inexperienced artists learn the words, the melody and the instrumentals and think that is job done.  It’s not.  Excellent artists spend some time trying to get into the role – just as actors have to get into the role of a character and live the part, so too singers should be thinking long and hard about the lyrics, the meaning of the song, what they are singing about and how best to portray the whole piece on stage. That might even mean deciding when and where to make gestures and facial expressions, the requirements of piano, forte and pianissimo passages and the internal dynamics of the piece. Whether
it’s their  own original song or their own original interpretation of a well-known cover, it’s about singers putting yourself  into the songs and acting it out on the stage.  An excellent singer will get this just right; one who is less good will over act.

Telling people who you are

It is unlikely that the audience will be sitting there with a programme.  They might or might not have read the running order (if there is one) on the way in.  Most of them will have no idea who the singer is. The job is make them aware of you – your name and where you come from.  Either announce yourself to the room before you start singing or after you have finished the first song. It’s no good telling them your Facebook address – they will not remember it – but if you have cards or flyers with it on, leave them around the room.

Between songs,  you can tell them the title of song and something (briefly) about what’s in it and(if it is your song)  when you wrote it or, if it is a cover, why you like it and who originally performed it. Don’t just say “I am now going to do a cover by Ed Sheeran” and leave it at that.  Interesting though that might be, it still tells people nothing about why you are singing a song by Ed Sheeran and what’s significant about it.

People do not want to hear long speeches, anecdotes or stories between songs (in a six song set) but a little bit of personal chat helps people to relate to you as a person. You are not a singing robot. You are a person trying to make a room full of people like you and remember who you are (and, hopefully, will then want to  see you again at your next appearance.)

Solo singers with guitars

Should you sit down or stand up? This is a vexed issue and there are strong opinions for both options.  Singing coaches say stand up because that is the best position for breath control.  Others say sit down,  if that is how you feel most comfortable and relaxed.  Singing at your best is not a comfortable experience,  even for professionals.  When I see an artist sitting down to sing, I tend to think they are newly starting out amateurs (that might not be true but there is always a tendency to assume this if you have not seen this artist before.)

If you are  going to play guitar to accompany your singing, tune the instrument BEFORE you go on stage.  If you put in a new set of strings, do that several days before the performance and allow time for the strings to settle in.  We have seen artists break strings on stage and then ruin a good act while they restring  or waste time borrowing an instrument from someone else.

Make sure the audience knows you have finished

Some songs can have abrupt endings and if so, it is better to say “thank you” into the mic,  so that people know that the song has  finished.  At the end of your set, there is nothing wrong in thanking the artists that have been on before you and how much you enjoyed their songs.  It is a courtesy that is noted by judges and by members of the audience.

Flash gigs

We have just come up with the idea of putting on a flash-gig as a way of getting people to come to our show.

I don’t know what it is like in other cities, but in Leicester it is really, really difficult to get people to come to gigs.  There are over 8 live music venues in this city putting on gigs nearly every night of the week.  There are over 300 local rock bands all of whom want to play as many times as they can in Leicester venues.

This means that competition for the limited number of fans who are prepared to go out and see live bands is fierce. Most of the publicity for gigs is done on the Internet – through social networking outlets and the websites where shows can be posted. Printing vast quantities of flyers and posters is not just expensive – it’s almost non-productive.  If you go into our live music venues the walls are plastered from floor to ceiling with posters and there are always piles of flyers everywhere you look.

You can book a line-up of bands several weeks ahead only to find that by the time your own gig comes round, several other venues have started to publicise gigs that are in competition with your own. This is partly why we came up with the idea of a flash gig – an event date where we spot a date where not much else is happening and then we jump in, book a venue, some bands and then flog the publicity like mad.

It might work.  We shall see.  If everybody starts doing it might loose its edge.  As an idea it had its wow-factor. Every time we have put on a gig we have planned it carefully months in advance.  We have done all the things that promoters are supposed to do. Worked steadily and consistently with the on-line publicity. Printed posters and flyers and trudged round trying to get people to take them.

The big night arrives. We think our bands are really great. We think we have got all the elements right for a top night of live music. We wait for the queues to form at the door.

Then disappointment. Fewer people turn up than we had expected and we begin to wallow in self-doubt, wondering where we went wrong.  This pattern is repeated for touring bands – those who want to come to play in Leicester because they have heard its a place with good venues and lots of popular support bands. They have played up and down the UK but they fail to pull as many gig-goers as the little newbie band that went on first.  It can be a hard life for both promoters and bands.

After several years of putting on gigs I can’t just give up.  There are just so many bands that I really like and want to book for gigs. I want to big them up because I think their music is just so great. I try to think outside of the box, try out new ideas to see if they work any better than the conventional wisdom of how to market shows.

So, we try the ‘flash-gig’.  We will let you know if it works.

Postscript

If you want to see what happened to our ‘flash-gig’ you can read the report on our page

Arts In Leicester’s Flash Gig