Liverpool Acoustic have been turning intimate, hushed gatherings into something to truly shout about for five years, Getintothis’ Alan O’Hare chats to the dedicated folks behind this radical grassroots movement.
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not venues that define a city’s music scene. It’s the people behind the bricks and mortar.
So, while places like CBGBs or The Cavern Club take all the accolades, it’s hipsters like Harry Kristal or Bob Wooler who are usually the catalyst for an explosion of artists.
Liverpool has lost one or two cracking performance spaces in recent times, but we shouldn’t worry. As there are plenty of creative people out there, happy to work behind the scenes and enable artists to present whatever it is that is eating at them.
Graham Holland is one of these people. He is the brains behind Liverpool Acoustic – who recently celebrated their 5th birthday – and runs the popular group’s website, podcasts and live showcases.
“I came up with the idea of a website as a central resource for the acoustic music scene in the wider Merseyside area, where musicians and followers of acoustic music could find out about regular events, news from the scene and reviews of music and live events,” says Graham, who counts on the valued support of musician Stuart Todd to help run the group.
“Our own live events started in 2009 as a natural spin-off from the website – as I used to run a poetry and acoustic music event called Come Strut Your Stuff at the Egg Cafe for eleven years and was regularly asked by musicians if I knew of other places they could play.”
Niamh Jones for Liverpool Acoustic at View Two Gallery
Like all the purest ideas, Liverpool Acoustic grew out of demand and expanded organically: “I’m a firm believer in the old adage that there’s no such thing as standing still,” he says.
“In the website’s second month (May 2008), I started the regular Liverpool Acoustic Spotlight audio show to help showcase some of the fantastic music that’s out there just waiting to be heard. We’ve grown with our live event too, taking part in festivals like Threshold and Sound City. We also host concerts at Sefton Park Palm House and introduced the Liverpool Acoustic Songwriting Challenge in 2011.”
It’s fair to say that the group is best known for its monthly showcase gigs at Mathew Street’s intimate View Two Gallery. “As an acoustic performance space it’s really special,” declares Scouser Graham. “… and there aren’t too many venues with their own grand piano! Our Liverpool Acoustic Live events are what we call listening events – where the audience members are encouraged to listen and discouraged from talking during the performances.”
The gigs have been a massive success on Merseyside pulling in crowds from much further afield. A lot of this is down to Liverpool Acoustic’s diverse booking policy and progressive ideals.
“I’ve lived in Liverpool all my life and as a child grew up listening to The Spinners, The Seekers, The Beatles, Acker Bilk, Gilbert and Sullivan and Abba,” reveals Graham.
“I now also appreciate classical, punk and so much in between. I started contributing to the arts scene in Liverpool back in 2000, with poets Beryl Phillips and Pat Fearon, and with Liverpool Acoustic have been involved with over 50 live music events since 2009.”
Gary Edward Jones for Liverpool Acoustic at View Two Gallery
Said events have not only offered some fantastic performances from great artists, they have also introduced young musicians to a wider audience too.
“My current favourites are The Science of the Lamps, they write clever and quirky songs. Lizzie Nunnery can do no wrong for me either and her recent album is a belter.
“I’ve been hugely impressed by the younger generation of musicians coming through and making a name for themselves.
“The likes of Dominic Dunn, Vanessa Murray, Sophia Ben-Yousef, Milly Pye and Luke Cusato all stand out… and all under 18!”
The future looks bright for acoustic and roots music in the city. Venues like the Philharmonic Hall’s Rodewald Suite and Leaf on Bold Street all cater towards the more ethereal of performers and it’s a scene which is growing and developing all of the time. Boys with guitars and a copy of Love’s ‘Forever Changes‘ dominate no more.
Last word to Graham: “Our first event was arranged to give a 14 year old singer-songwriter called Luke Jackson a gig – and he is returning to play for us this June as a double Radio 2 Folk Award nominated artist.”
Further reading on Getintothis
Jonn Gomm, The Manouchetones, Nadine Carina: View Two Gallery, Liverpool.
The Grande, Ben Sherwen and Melissa Parker: View Two Gallery, Mathew Street, Liverpool.
Watch Leeds bro Jon play guitar like Chuck Norris in Liverpool.
Find out more at Liverpool Acoustic’s website.
Pictures courtesy of Graeme Lamb – graemelambmedia.net and Annie Seth.