It has been a truly unique year, nowhere more so than in the world of music, there have been highs and lows with some incredible gigs, some brilliant new music, but we’ve also said farewell to a number of musical icons. So, lets attempt to wrap it all up, with plenty links to the individual articles mentioned, as we look back at the past year.
To listen to on Spotify while you read: The Garage Flower’s 2016
As most years do, 2016 started in January, and perhaps the most shocking news that David Bowie had passed away. The news, on January 11th, sent shockwaves around the world and internationally people mourned the death of one of the most influential artists of all time. In the UK, we celebrated one of our finest exports that this country had ever presented to the world, looking back at famous performances and influenced that stretch beyond music to popular culture and almost every 1970s and 80s household. My first article of the year on this was a difficult one, it was a fantastic honour that it was so popular.
The tragic news didn’t subside, though, at the other end of the musical spectrum, a young band from Warrington with careers making music ahead of them were killed in a horrific motorway bridge accident in Sweden. Viola Beach had been around on the support circuit for a while now, I’d been lucky to see them and there was an awesome sense of enjoyment that came from the stage when they performed. Happy and talented, they were carving their way into the eyes and ears of crowds and had barely started when they were taken in February. It was at Leeds Festival later in the year, with a tribute to “the Boys That Sing”, where it really hit home how they’d be on stage there and not just on the screens either side. In the industry, it was cause for the delay of then up and coming band Blossoms’ EP ‘At Most A Kiss’ – it was far from the last we’d hear of them this year, plenty would have predicted their rise throughout 2016. It was my very next article, a review of a gig at Manchester’s Albert Hall that they really started to make waves, a crowd seemed a little less hopefully and a little more expectant, word had spread from the EP and tickets had flew out late. Never had a band suited a venue more. In March, they played in Liverpool, too.
April, and Bobby Gillespie stood above the front rows, again at The Albert Hall, as Primal Scream showed-off their new album on April 4th. ‘Chaosmosis’ had been successful in amalgamating all of their genres, and the generational span was wide that night. A band that had soundtracked my early teenage years were to call it a day a few days later. Not for a lack of trying though, The Enemy published a message in which Tom Clarke said that, “there is without doubt less room for bands on the airwaves these days and whereas once acts used to be able to get their big break on a sixth record, in this climate radio and the media is bored of them by their third”, something to think about there.
Later in April we would lose another legend, Prince passed away aged 57 on the 21st. The man that sung of of the best opening lines ever in ‘Sign O’ The Times’ was too celebrated internationally. By now, only a third into the year we had had enough musical talent taken to last significantly longer.
Of course, The Stone Roses arrived on cue in June with their unprecedented nights at the Etihad Stadium. Arguably the gig(s) of the year, I went on the Saturday night. From the bass of I Wanna Be Adored to the shimmer of Reni’s drums at the back end of I Am The Resurrection it was a memorable night. It might not have been as exclusive as those dates at Heaton Park in 2012 were, but for those that weren’t lucky enough to get to those gigs, this was a mass celebration. This time they were armed with two new songs, and later in 2016 they announced more gigs for next year, of course I’ll be at Hampden Park too, an unbelievable Round 4.
The back end of July, and another successful Kendal Calling. Madness, Catfish and The Bottlemen, Maximo Park and Blossoms, to name a few, and the small matter of Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds with one of the most memorable headline sets the site has ever seen. With a growing capacity, seldom is there a music fan found in the North that hasn’t heard of KC and neither should there be anywhere in the country. The ever-present Blossoms released their debut album in August, with a hugely credible reception. New music from favourites The Courteeners, too. ‘The 17th’ their first single from their upcoming album. Branching out to Leeds in late August was a 2016 highlight, the preview couldn’t ever have predicted what was to come over the weekend. Leeds Festival had long been the rough and ready festival in the UK, and with Biffy Clyro the first headliner it was all action, from obscure heavy metal to fresh new sounds from the likes of The Sherlocks and The Vryll Society as well as from the BBC Introducing stage. The Courteeners, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Maximo Park were amongst the best from the weekend. Next year is almost a certainty.
September, and a relocation to Liverpool, first up was Radio X’s takeover of a bar in the city where Shed Seven played an acoustic set, we also smashed a quiz that weekend. A new city means a closer take on local music and it was The Vryll Society that took most of the attention, to satisfy my taste for them I had to write a little piece on the lads, they will be prominent in 2017. Up to Newcastle for an emotional night with The Enemy as they played one of their final gigs later in September, the chorus of ‘This Song’ echoing around the venue for half an hour afterwards. More Blossoms, another homecoming this time at the Academy in late September.
Dark nights but limelight for Oasis and their documentary Supersonic, an insight and a realisation featuring one of the best bands of all time. It put those early years into perspective with plenty laughs and also some unheard truths about Liam, Noel and the band. Their exhibition in Manchester, ‘Chasing The Sun’ was close by and a real treat.
More new music with Bristol’s The Shimmer Band in Liverpool’s Buyers Club, they’re one to watch. On October 28th, The Courteeners released their fifth chapter ‘Mapping The Rendezvous’, and my album of the year. ‘Lucifer’s Dreams’ and ‘Modern Love’ the pick of the bunch, it’s been on repeat since then and is in my opinion a good case for their best work yet.
4 gigs in 4 weeks in November, Cabbage and Reverend and The Makers both played in The Magnet. The former, sweaty, half-naked chaos in the name of new music and anti-Trump. The latter a more relaxed acoustic set, until the trumpets of Silence Is Talking last up, I love Rev gigs. Then, the big one courtesy of The Courteeners in Liverpool. Their new album put to the test in the Echo Arena, with a terrific Milburn support slot (get on their new album in June next year) and Clean Cut Kid. It was good, so much so I couldn’t resist a trip back up to Cumbria for the Carlisle gig which, in all honesty, surpassed expectations. Expectations for both myself and the band I’d imagine, they left with a promise they’ll be back, so watch out for that next year.
The final month of the year, and a chance for The Vryll Society to further enhance their reputation with a gig at the unique space of the Invisible Wind Factory in Liverpool. A unique gig too, working perfectly with lighting they are a different proposition to what we’ve been used to and they’re working hard to get people on board. It’s not just with their music too, they’re outside inviting people for a drink afterwards to enjoy music in general, you can only wish the very best for them. On a larger scale, back in the Echo Arena, the final gig of the year slot was given to The Charlatans and James who could’ve sold tickets individually pretty easily. Tim and Tim, with their bands, gave the crowd a night of superb quality sprinkled with ‘I was there’ moments, Burgess singing Laid, Booth joining for Echo and The Bunnymen’s ‘Rescue’. It was nothing short of a top notch way to end the year.
One more kick in the teeth from 2016, the death of George Michael, another trailblazer in music left fans asking exactly what else this year could do in the year that some would say the music died. Sir George Martin, famous for his production with The Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Pete Burns, Rick Parfitt…
There’s so much promise ahead for 2017, but it would be irresponsible to ignore the worry surrounding live music at the minute. The controversial closure of Fabric in London was a high-profile example of how music venues are clinging to their sites. In Liverpool, 24 Kitchen Street, home of the Shit Indie Disco and much more is fighting council planners to keep it’s space alive. Bands like The Enemy can’t find the funds to justify continuing their careers, and as we lose legends at the end of their lives, it is tragic that we’re using musicians due to supposed lack of interest. Go out and listen to new music, give those new bands support to continue, lets not have it known that this generation reduced music to a handful of genres, there is so much to be gained from visiting these small venues and seeing these bands.
All that remains to say, at the end of a what has ended up a pretty long summary (sorry), is a big thank you. For all the support to write a record number of articles and achieve a record number of views, I’m very grateful. I’ve decided to put it into a Spotify playlist, so if you’ve had a scroll down through the words or fancy hearing what 2016 sounded like with The Garage Flower, here you have it:
(let me know if anything should be on there…)
Thank you so much, Happy New Year, and all the very best for 2017.