In praise of matinee shows and why there should be more of them

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Amanda Palmer at Get It Loud In Libraries

The matinee is a splendid thing and there should be more of them, Getintothis’ Peter Goodbody makes the case for afternoon gigs.

I once spat on Billy Idol.

As a claim to fame, it’s pretty dubious, less than pleasant and not an easy thing to admit.

But, in my defence, well alright, mitigation, I wasn’t the only little teen punk doing the same thing that afternoon at Eric’s. We were all at it. It’s what punks did. And, I so wanted to be a punk and part of the gang.

Afternoon?

Trouble was, in 1979 I was only 14-years-old. I was just getting into John Peel’s 10pm to midnight show on Radio 1, fingers poised over the record button on a borrowed cassette recorder ready to make a listen again tape of the best bits of his eclectic taste. I’m not the only one.

That story has been told lots of times and recently on this website. Not much new there.  But then, and I don’t really remember how, I got to know about a nightclub in Liverpool called Eric’s.

Except it wasn’t always a night club.

Bands who played there at weekends were often expected to do two slots, one of which would be a matinee, at about 5 o’clock. The older kids would have their fun later at night, but for me and my mate Tim, this was perfect.

Old enough to be tolerated by our parents for us being out until about 8ish in the evening, but no later, thank you. We were good kids, mostly. We did what we were told, mostly. And we were home well before there was any need to send out a search party.

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This also made sense from the point of view of both the promoter and the band themselves.  Bands would be booked for a Manchester show on the Friday or Sunday and two shows in Liverpool on the Saturday.  This meant it was financially viable for national bands to make the journey North for three shows.

Also, this was a time when a lot of bands primarily played one-off gigs rather than tours, so the attraction of three gigs 45 miles apart was an enticing one. So that is how I came to be in Eric’s one Saturday afternoon going crazy in front of Billy Idol’s then band, Generation X.

It wasn’t all quite so smooth, though. I do remember one exit from Eric’s onto Mathew Street where we were met by a large gang of “casuals” looking for trouble. And we were right in the firing line. We had a choice. Run. Or dive back into sanctuary. We chose the latter, but it was a close one.

Eric’s was the safe space. I remember that bit vividly, sitting on one of the benches, getting my breath back and calming my nerves.  I don’t remember which gig it was. It may well have been the Generation X one from which Billy Idol still carries a piece of my DNA.

But maybe it was Killing Joke, or Spizz Energi.

Or even The Raincoats, who played their half-hour set to be pretty amazed they were asked for an encore. “We don’t know any more songs, so we’ll just do the first one again”. I was sufficiently naïve to think this was both cool and normal.

My memory is a bit vague now as to who we saw on the Saturday afternoon matinee shows. We’d go regardless as to who was playing. There was no quality control in our heads, save we knew the chances were we’d likely see something amazing (mostly).

So, Generation X, Spizz Energi, Killing Joke, The Raincoats, The Slits, Pink Military, The Pop Group, The Modettes, The Frantic Elevators (Mick Hucknall’s first band) come to mind. There will have been others, but it was a long time ago.

The point is, I was able to see these bands because Eric’s had arranged for them to play matinees.

Erics  – Creative Commons

I’m not sure it could work in quite the same way today because the market has changed. It’s unlikely there are many promoters who would wish to dilute their audiences for most gigs by asking the band to play twice.

For sure, if you have a sell-out, then there may be a case for it, but we’re operating in very different times.
Having said that, there is still an issue for the adolescent teen music lover in actually getting out to see the bands you love.

That said, the folk at Eric’s felt that the matinee shows were a genuinely symbiotic relationship and that the club benefited from the energy and the input of the younger, less jaded audience.  Big in Japan dedicated their only record to ‘the Eric’s matinee crowd‘ as a result.

This attitude is not common.

I remember one night coming back from Manchester on the last train home (so getting on for midnight) having been to see PJ Harvey at the Academy. There was a guy opposite me with his two, just about teenage, daughters who had been to see Britney Spears at the Arena.

The girls were completely wiped out, it was a school night. They’d had a great time, but he told us that Britney didn’t arrive on stage until about 9pm.

Stand Atlantic, RØYLS, Superlove: The Zanzibar, Liverpool

Now, that’s all kinds of wrong. For her target audience that is unacceptable and shows, if not outright contempt for her fans, at the very least, a lack of care and understanding. She should have been on stage at 6 or 7pm and all done by 9. It was completely unfair on the audience and the parents who went along.

It’s the treatment of our youth as though they work in the same space as adults that makes little sense.

There are opportunities for kids to get to see live music, but they’re not always easily accessible. Both Bluedot and Rebellion are especially child friendly. At the former, under 16s get discounted tickets and under 12s go free at Rebellion. But so long as there’s an adult going too.

And the tickets aren’t that cheap for the grown ups. So, if your parents can afford it, that’s fine. But what if you’re scraping gig cash from your paper round takings? Oh, yeah, that’s not an option, either.

We were walking up Seel Street a few days ago having been to see Tess Parks at Phase One. There were lots of kids outside The Zanzibar who had been to see Stand Atlantic. This was an over 14 gig, so fair play to the venue for the age inclusive policy, but it was still gone 11pm in Liverpool city centre as I walked past.

That’s not for every parent.

Stand Atlantic

It was with these thoughts in mind we were really pleased to see the announcement of the upcoming Henge tour in which they have deliberately scheduled a few dates as matinees. This allows the “the big humans to also take their little humans”.

Big up to Henge for the idea.

Get It Loud In Libraries also schedule many of their gigs as afternoon slots. And we’ve been to a few where we’ve seen lots of children grooving to the likes of Pip Blom, Our Girl and Bodega.

This is to be encouraged and is a Good Thing.

So, too have some of the recent album launch / signings at Phase One been organised as an afternoon or early evening gig.

Don’t get us wrong, there are times when the adults can happily leave the kids at home and there are gigs that really aren’t suitable for the young and impressionable.

But the fact the Henge announcement of matinee gigs made us flag the email in our inbox suggests there is a considerable amount more to be done to make live music more accessible to a wider (and smaller) audience.

They are, after all the music consumers of the future.

Crowds outside Eric’s

The Eric’s matinee shows were where I came of age.

Being 16 in 1978 I was perfectly positioned for punk.  At 15 you are a sponge, soaking up what is around you, trying out different opinions for size, seeing which fits you best.

In 1978 there was no shortage of opinions.

But, at such a tender age, I was also a but too young to fully join in the initial rush. Punk bands played clubs and I was too young to gain entry to these places, where rock n roll magic happened.

As mentioned above, clubs were for those who at least looked over 18. I did not. Yes I could just about get served in the local pubs, but back in the 70s you could walk into at least one pub in most towns still in school uniform wearing a big red badge that said ‘I am under age’ in glowing yellow letters and still get served.

Clubs were different though. At the age of 16 I had no idea what happened in these hallowed places, but I knew their doorways were guarded by creatures known as bouncers, who were unlikely to let some kids from the sticks who got £2.50 pocket money per week get past them.

So punk was something we primarily heard about on the TV news and read about in the papers.  We could hear it grow and spread by listening to John Peel in our bedrooms when we were supposed to be sleeping.  But who had time to sleep in 1978!

If it wasn’t for the Eric’s matinees, that is where my involvement would have had to stop. At the edges.  On the sidelines.

But it didn’t end there at all. Instead I joined in with the kind of enthusiasm a 16 year old who had just discovered his own future can muster.

My first matinee show started with Joy Division. The second featured The Specials and The Clash. I also saw shows by the likes of The Slits, Iggy Pop, Gang of Four and Ultravox!, amongst many, many others.

But more than this, more than just the spectacle of watching these bands, I was part of something.  I was part of a local scene that would go on to reignite Liverpool’s music culture, something that would become the stuff of legend and would have books and serious documentaries dedicated to it.

Me! How the hell did that happen.

The answer is, of course, the matinee shows. They gave me and a few hundred others like me, the chance to join in. And I shall be forever grateful for that.

So maybe it’s time to do all this for another generation. – Banjo, Getintothis features editor

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