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Brighton Journal | 27th May 2020

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What’s up with Brighton’s music scene?

What’s up with Brighton’s music scene?
Hannah Midgley

Recently, there has a great deal of debate surrounding Brighton’s music scene, with a band even going so far as to claim that “The Brighton music scene is on its knees and has become a laughing stock”.

 This statement led to lots of negative comments online, but also inspired loads of residents to defend the scene, saying that it is ‘thriving more than ever’.

The Brighton Journal attempted to sum up the debate…

It’s Failing

On the ‘It’s Failing’ side of the debate, people are claiming that:

  • ‘Brighton has no sense of musical community, the bands don’t come together enough and there are too many bands expressing too many different genres.’
  • ‘Compared to ten years ago, the music scene has really gone downhill. We’ve lost half of the true clubs and live music venues, and nothing equivalent has come to replace them. It was much better in the 60’s when Zap and Tonka existed!’
  • ‘Brighton generally lacks venues with permission for live music into the late hours, or shared spaces for art to develop.’
  • ‘Brighton seems to have a lot of talent, but there are few venues that have regular live music compared to other towns, which have local live music all the time.’
  • ‘For the size of the city, the music scene is very poor’
  • ‘Brighton used to be great for big gigs at The Brighton Centre and the Dome, but it seems it no longer appeals to performing artists. Why is this?’

It’s Thriving

And on the ‘it’s thriving side’…

  • ‘Brighton has one of the best underground scenes outside of London’
  • ‘There are loads of gigs on in Brighton, The Cowley club, Pipeline, Hope and Ruin, Latest Music Bar, Green Door Store, The Prince Albert, Quadrant and the Bees Mouth have events on all the time.’
  • ‘There aren’t many commercial bands, but there are loads of subcultures going on in the Brighton music scene. The DIY scene here is definitely up there with the best in the country.’
  • ‘Per capita, Brighton punches above its weight, other famous music cities are way bigger than Brighton. Bristol, Liverpool and Manchester are significantly larger, and London is massive!’

It seems that a lot of Brighton’s best-loved venues have been lost or have changed, but that there are still some good venues and a varied selection of bands about, with something on most weekends.

We called in local DJ and music student Jacob Mair (aka Ferra), who has lived in and performed sets in both Brighton and Bristol, to help mediate…

Do you think Brighton’s music scene has changed over the years?

CLUB: “I think that the lack of variety in Brighton’s nightlife is what eventually drove me away to Bristol. I’m personally a big fan of house, techno and disco, and I always found myself going to the same place, Patterns. It is an absolutely fantastic club in my opinion, but even I got a bit disgruntled with the fact I only had one place to visit on the weekend! There was, of course, MONO which was a great club when it was open, but it struggled with having consistently busy nights which I think was ultimately its demise. It is greatly missed. “

LIVE: “I think that there are still as many bands playing within Brighton as there used to be, if not more. I just think maybe the size of the acts has reduced over time.”

Do you agree that Brighton’s music scene is failing? Or do you think its thriving?

CLUB: “I think it’s all down to what you’re into. If you love drum & bass or bassline then you’re in for a real treat in Brighton. You’ve got Patterns, The Arch, Concorde 2, Volks and many more club venues putting on nights that cater to that. However, I’ve yet to see a venue to rival Patterns for a house & techno ‘hotspot’ if you will.”

Concorde just suffered from a really dry spell for a long time, but have been putting out some really good events recently. They’ve booked in Mall Grab soon, for his ‘Looking For Trouble’ tour which will be a roadblock I’m sure.”

LIVE: “For venues within live music it’s definitely thriving. I could list so many venues off the top of my head and know there is so many more I’ve missed!”

What is your experience of seeing live bands in Brighton?

“Anyone who knows me will know that I always want to go to see live bands! The limited gigs that I have been to in Brighton have been really really great. I’ve been to some at The Haunt, which always has a great atmosphere. I don’t want to repeat myself but Patterns is a great live venue too, I saw UK Subs there with my Dad and I just couldn’t fault it.”

What is your experience of clubbing in Brighton?

“I’ve never had a bad time! I absolutely love it. I’m aware it exists, but I can’t recall ever seeing any aggro or negative stuff when I’m out. Obviously being in Bristol now I don’t get to do it as much as I used to but I’ve got friends working in some venues and the nights being run look really well attended and like everyone’s having a great time.”

Was it hard to get your name out as a DJ in Brighton?

“It definitely wasn’t easy, but it could’ve been a lot harder. I was lucky in the respect that I had friends who were promoters and would need DJs for their events (shout out Strictly Bangers, Materials, Ascot and the rest). However, I also did other club related stuff such as flyering, social media promo and got some warm-up slots in return. If you do your bit someones bound to repay the favour!”

Jacob at Churchill square

What is your experience of playing sets in Brighton? 

“The best sets I’ve played are in Brighton. I played a sold out MONO on Halloween once which filled up pretty quickly. Later on in the night all the DJs got together and did a quick fire back to back which was great because anything that got played got a great reaction from everyone dancing.”

“Brighton’s great for that, people just wanna have a great time and it doesn’t feel pretentious.”

“One of the last ones I played before I went back to uni was at Komedia and I just felt like I had complete freedom to play whatever I liked, which isn’t always the case. I feel like artists have the opportunity to excel in those situations.”

What do you think should be done to change Brighton’s music scene?

“I think that there needs to be more variety for people that aren’t into the mainstream clubbing circuit. I’ve seen some great events are being done at Al Doumo, the Italian place and also at Railto theatre. But a new permanent venue is needed with an events calendar that people can look forward to, whether that be for live music or for club events.”

“My favourite music venue is definitely patterns. Whether you want to see bands, solo artists, or DJs, it caters for all and I can’t really think of another venue in Brighton that does that so consistently week in, week out.”

If you had infinite money to invest in Brighton’s music scene, what would you do with it?

“First of all, I’d book some huge artists that are loved within the city and get them playing our most famous venues. I haven’t seen a booking that’s caught my attention at the dome or anywhere like that in a long time! Theres so much I could do, I’d invest in promoters to put on their dream lineups as I’m sure some of those could bring people from all over the UK and beyond!”

If you could summarise the debate to people on both sides, how would you phrase it?

“Brighton definitely does lack venues for live music into the late hours, I’ve always said to my friends it would be cool to switch up our nights out with some live music. Brighton does also have loads of talent but I think we’re living in a time at the moment where people don’t want to risk losing any money and will play it safe by booking big, well known names. This still opens up support slots that could be filled locally though.”

“The music scene is definitely not poor. There are so many venues in Brighton with music on. I’ve looked at some listings recently and to name one, the Haunt has something on pretty much every other day. The music is out there, you just have to find it. The club scene is definitely healthy, there just needs to be more venue competition within certain genres to keep it fresh and exciting.”

Jacobs newest release for his new project ‘By-Fer’  is due to come out late May:

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