“The scene is starting to settle now (in a nice way). People are beginning to ask what music is on this coming weekend, rather than ‘Is there anything on?’ which is a massive change and a great reflection on the venues, the quality of the acts and the local promoters who have taken the risk in time and money to have a go this year. 2017 I hope will continue with that support from music lovers. I also hope people will take the plunge more and go to see acts they’ve not heard of before. After all, live music is a great night out whether or not you can sing along” – The Underground Revolution Music Director, Rich Lovell
From the day I set foot on Hereford turf I felt a special magnetism to its quiet green fields, open air city centre unobstructed by big heavy concrete monsters you find in places like Birmingham, its proximity to Wales and a view of the Black Mountains in the distance that at times seems like a mirage. There were perks like its reputation for cider making – witness the many orchards around the county – a magnificent Cathedral and history that just keeps on giving, such as, the remains of a Saxon child discovered in a lottery-funded Cathedral excavation project that unearthed many ancient artefacts revealing even further details of its war-torn past and how people lived all those years ago.
Pink Elephant Circus, Sin Palace and The Booth Hall Circus Performers and Masquerade Ball
It is a city steeped in history and beautiful light that attracts the likes of many creatives looking for inspiration. The energy, as mentioned before is magnetic. The natives have often been called simple, and perhaps there is some truth to that – Hereford is isolated from any main motorways, yet boasts a highly-respected art college and is home to many interesting people who find refuge in its beautiful surroundings. They come from London, Manchester and other continents, but these natives have had it made for centuries, it’s a lush and abundant agricultural county, and perhaps they are happy that way.
The problem was there was nothing to do. A few pubs, a few nightclubs playing the same pop and dance tracks with the only variation being the shell of the venue or pub it was happening in. Some of them are still going strong, they have their place in any city. When I arrived in the county around 2011 it was the last leg of a live music scene, or shall we say a funeral. I repeatedly heard of “the days when Hereford was great” during the 90’s, the late 70’s, 80’s and various spurts of occasional revivals.
PUNK / SKA REVOLUTION
I couldn’t find an adventurous meal and often even an attentive member of staff to make me feel welcomed in any establishment. It was bleak. I found solace in a good pint of cider and an ok jukebox here and there, but even those started to get removed. The Barrels was my spot, and still is on sunny afternoons.
There was the Jailhouse, now the Venue which has always been a good place for live entertainment and Dj’s (and still going with all their might), Mamma Jamma’s and The Victory. They all really tried to do their bit, but it seemed the people also lost their umph. You know, that drive to support live music and any venues worth attending; trust me these venues were offering plenty of goodies but not a lot of punters. It was just silence and sadness all around the city as more £2-£4-£6 establishments took over the once thriving pubs such as The Spread Eagle. Just a heavy fog of dreariness and no where for us types to find comfort.
POETS AND ARTISTS
Hardcore / Post-Hardcore / Pop Punk / Garage Rock / Grunge
When I say us types, I mean those hungry for diversity, who don’t let the dust settle in our lives, who seek inspiration in beautiful things, find beauty in ugly things, need a challenge, thrive on stimulation – whether it be live music, a new dish, listening to the stories from immigrants coming from Poland, Africa, Mexico or any horizon we have not yet visited in the flesh, and who bring positive energy into their communities and help others while being a bit wild and carefree. Us types, the culture hungry. Some of us are anarchists, poets, artists, writers, musicians, chefs, designers of things, accountants, nurses, gardeners, taxi drivers, carpenters and on and on.
So, it was off to Cardiff, Birmingham, Gloucester or Worcester to see anything worthy or just settling in front of something dreadful like X-Factor. God that was really stooping. The noise thrash bands were throwing their own gigs in hidden away places and the Weirdshire folk music nights were well-loved and possibly the best option for Hereford, but sometimes you were lucky to know they were happening. Reggae Pie was still occasionally putting on some good shows, and even the skate park was holding gigs, but the optimism was missing from the music community.
Folk / Blues / Rock
Then suddenly 2016 happened – Weirdshire spread its wings, the noise-scene found a platform, a Blues Festival was born, Reggae Pie hosts regular well attended events and the Underground Revolution, the naughty child, threw a tantrum and got its way making The Booth Hall its home for the counter-culture music scene. In fact, a variety of music promoters came onto the scene along with the ones that were already up and running, such as Club Dead, Hey Little Monster, Student Sounds, No Poetry Promotions, Hereford Heavy and the longest running promoter in Hereford, The Wild Hare Club. They all began hosting gigs at The Booth Hall, The Left Bank (Also the Speakeasy) and De Koffie Pot and started something magical. So it goes to say that emerging and established bands no longer have to commute and now there is nothing we won’t do in this city. We deserve an award because it all happened in the span of a year!!
ACOUSTIC / SOLO / OPEN MIC
There are masquerade balls and even a well attended, and very whimsical River Carnival with live music in various locations along the River Wye. The Courtyard continues to bring us independent film festivals and entertainment. Hereford is a city of culture in its own right whether we are granted the title in 2021 or not. We will be thriving even by then.
This has been in part due to The Left Bank, De Koffie Pot and Hereford’s latest version of a CBGB-esque music venue and community, The Booth Hall. A new group of promoters have said “we’re not gonna take it anymore” and Hereford has also found its place in the foodie world and many new independent businesses have popped up. It was like a light was switched on and the city is buzzing again. Music everywhere! As a music promoter myself, I will mention that The Underground Revolution is an offshoot of Hereford City Centric – although I am trying really hard not to be biased here.
INDY / ALTERNATIVE / GARAGE & BLUES PSYCH / AVANTE GARDE
As The Underground Revolution, we suddenly found ourselves in a position where we could put on acts like Attila the Stockbroker, TV Smith, On Trial UK, The Youth Within, Subhumans, Culture Shock and Folk Punk bands like Freeborn Rising and other anti-establishment poets like Rapunzel Wizard and Jonny Fluffypunk. Locals no longer have to commute to find themselves among the legends of the punk revolution, we bring those acts to them.
We aren’t necessarily punk promoters only, we put on various local acts of all genres as long as they are willing to adhere to our agenda “No cliques, no egos, no mainstream, just cool music that is played with passion”. We bring indie, garage psych, garage rock, and even noise bands to the table. We love everything counter-culture, everything that is part of the lifestyle and we love our followers attending the shows.
So I suppose for Hereford, it’s a simple decision, sit there and complain or make a change. We all did it voluntarily without council funding, but imagine how great it would be if we DID have funding? I hope they are reading this. So please continue to support these venues, events and promoters by attending the shows. We do it for you Herefordians, we really do. The majority of the promoters do not profit in the least bit and also hold fantastic charity music festivals.
THE BOOTH HALL / DE KOFFIE POT / SPEAKEASY (THE LEFT BANK) / BUSKERS BANDSTAND
Photography credits to the various photographers who contributed to the images used in the collages:
Nickie Bates – Distorted Image Photography
Nick Vidall-Hall – Booth Hall Photography
Apologies if I left anyone out please contact me and I will add you to the list of credits.
Editing and Design by Michelle Cuadra