VicsGigs got the beat

A new initiative is aiming to put Oundle on the map for live rock music performances. VicsGigs was created by Anth Hodson-Curran and Bob Cheatham, who both share a love of live music and an ambition to bring some excitement to Oundle’s night life.

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Mr Cheatham retired a couple years ago and moved to Oundle, and was disappointed that there was no live music to listen to. He has friends and colleagues who organise music gigs in Leicester and Corby, and thought it would be fun to join in and promote live music around town. He first punted the idea of live music on Facebook to see whether there was an audience for it, and that is where he met Anth, who had also recently retired to Oundle, and shared his love of music.

They decided to use the Queen Victoria Hall as their live music venue, and have promoted their programme under the name of VicsGigs.

“It says fun and it says music. We try to give people more of an option in Oundle to do things in town, and the stuff that Bob has done so far and that we’ve got planned really start to build a range of music, stuff with different taste. We kind of want to bring modern progressive rock into town and build up another venue for bands,” said Mr Hodson-Curran.

They feel that Oundle should be a good fit for a new music scene. “Oundle has got a funny little kind of left field music history to build on, with Billy Bragg having lived locally and back in the 70s the then infamous Doctors of Madness played at Oundle School,” says Anth.

The drummer Ginger Baker was a familiar sight for a short while in the 1970s, and Oundle School hosted progressive rock band Van Der Graaf Generator in 1972, and the ‘industrial’ band, Throbbing Gristle in 1980.

There used to be hundreds of small clubs, halls and pubs that hosted music, and most bands built their success touring across the country and playing at small venues. But with a third of small music venues in the UK closing down in the last decade due to noise objections and increasing costs of overheads, such as business rates, there are fewer platforms from which bands can build a reputation and progress to bigger venues and festivals.

The vision for VicGigs is to break that trend. They are not in it to make money – and there is a good chance they could lose money – they are just trying to establish a new venue for bands. The dream is to get VicsGigs recognised around the country and attract a momentum for music of all different styles, starting with progressive rock, and diversifying in the future, with a following from people in the local area and nationally.

When Mr Cheatham first presented the idea on social media, the response from Oundle residents was very enthusiastic.

“But actually turning that into real people turning up is a challenge. My strategy is to get some regular events happening almost once a month at least, and we’re well on the way for that next year.”

They have been to a lot of gigs in the past, and have got quite a few connections, which has enabled them to book some well-known progressive rock bands.

Their first gig in September featured a band from Corby, The Contenders, plus Jake Cunnington, a young local singer-songwriter.

They are still finding their feet for what sort of audience they can build on from the residents of Oundle and beyond. “The first gig was almost like a practice gig to work out what you have to do, because I didn’t have a clue to be honest. There were a few from Oundle but there weren’t as many as the responses on Facebook,” said Mr Cheatham.

For their November gig they used the back room at the Ship just to try a different venue for heavier 70s rock covers with Eight Foot Under, a tribute band to classic 70s rock music, playing a selection of songs and bands from AC/DC to ZZ Top, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, and Led Zeppelin.

“We were playing it quite safe, using a tribute band theme, because for whatever reason people want to go see something more familiar than something entirely new. And it just helps us get an idea of what people are prepared to pay for some live music a five-minute walk from where they live,” said Mr Cheatham.

Mr Hodson-Curran noted that some people in the Oundle Chatter group have discussed how there is nothing to do in Oundle at night. “We’re trying to find stuff for people to do, to make a Friday or a Saturday night out.”

The music scene has always built on its grassroots origins, but it needs the small venues to thrive. VicsGigs is hoping to be that much-needed stepping stone.

In the coming year, their programme begins on January 24th with Pandamoanium, winners of the 2018 Visual Radio Arts poll, and finalists in the Herne Bay Rocks 2019 competition.

Upcoming shows at the Queen Victoria Hall include Lifesigns, a big progressive rock band, on March 13th; Letz Zep, Europe’s official number one Led Zeppelin tribute act, will perform on May 29th; a fantastic Prog double header on June 26th featuring The Gift, a symphonic progressive rock band based in London, and the John Hackett Band, created by the brother of Steve Hackett, the lead guitarist of progressive rock band Genesis; the Pure Floyd Show, a Pink Floyd tribute band based in South Wales, will perform on October 17th.

Information about their programme is available on the VicsGigs Facebook page.

Meagan Iu
December 5, 2019