“It’s a difficult one,” muses Lilliput’s Joe Collins, “obviously you look at what gets invested in those gigs and think ‘well, I wish they’d spend that sort of time and money on the local bands’ but at the same time, they’re putting on loads of other events to help make the most of them.
We’re helping organise this grass roots event that’s on the same day as the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, which is great but we know the Council wouldn’t be able to put it on if there wasn’t a stadium gig that night. So there’s pros and cons.
“You just have to hope people seize on these opportunities because if an event like that’s really well attended, then it shows people, like the council, that there’s a thirst for local music in the city. Ultimately though live music’s good for the city. It doesn’t matter how big or small it is. We’re going to book the Stadium of Light for ourselves in 2020, City Hall for 2015, get the ticket sales started really early, £20, good support.”
Stadiums and city halls are all well and good, but right now Sunderland’s undisputed home of live music, Independent, is feeling the coarse fabric of the hangman’s noose slowly slide around its neck. With a proposed demolition of Holmeside now considerably more than just speculation, Lilliput could soon be out on the streets.
“We’re already worried because it’s been our home for ages. Not just for when we’re playing, but where we go to see our mates and where we write our songs. When it goes we really hope it’ll make local bands think ‘well, now we need to find our own venue, so let’s go put our own gig on’.
“It’s really hard to try and sort out other venues in Sunderland though,” interjects bassist Josh Hawick. “We’ve tried organising things at places like The Royalty Theatre but it’s never come off. Hopefully when more people start pushing for it, people with more influence than us, something might happen. The Minster’s there as well, and I think everyone would love to see The Empire put the odd gig on.”
For a city that has so much local talent worth shouting about, the potential closure of one venue shouldn’t be the terror inducing end of days scenario that it is. But while there’ll be no shortage of pubs and clubs willing to open their doors to bands, whether or not the bands will want to play there remains the big worry.
“To be totally honest, if there is a gap between the Independent closing, and something else opening, I don’t think we’d play Sunderland,” Joe tells me, as the rest of the band wince in acknowledgement. “Unless we could get somewhere like we’ve mentioned to do a one off quirky show, there’s not really anywhere that’s got the set-up to accommodate bands who’ve got a clear idea of what they want to sound like live.
“That’s not the venue’s fault mind, because they’re bars first and foremost. Putting bands on, for them, is just one of the things they do and they’re running a business at the end of the day. Whereas somewhere like the Independent, their business is putting bands on, even if it’s not massively profitable.”
The idea of the pub circuit putting off almost any band who are particular about their sound is as startling as it is understandable. Lilliput exist as a band, but they also exist as a product, and it’s one they have to charge people to listen to. If they can’t find a location that’s going to do justice to that product, then they’re doing both themselves and their audience a massive disservice. Sadly everyone, from the bands, to the venues, to the promoters are running a business here.
Thankfully though, drummer Dan Waterston has it all figured out. “I’m going to start selling fruit at gigs to make us some money. I’ve got it all planned. I’ll call it Lilli-fruit. I just hope it does better than Lilli-pot”.
Lilliput play Hoults Yard in Newcastle on Sunday 8th and Independent, Sunderland on Saturday 21st July.
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