Inspiring New Music:
The Rise of Boileroom
By Sam Liddicott
Wednesday 29th July, 2015, 09:00
ONE of the bittersweet things about living around Surrey…
is the- not all, but a (worryingly) high amount of- people and attitudes (okay, technically two). Buried among the sweet and lovely people (there are a fair few) is a much large malaise: a lot of rather ‘unlovable’ humans. An aesthetic of insane/slow drivers, extinction of common manners (among a lot, but not all); unwarranted sense of self-entitlement (ditto). The youth/young- again only a certain percentage- lack drive and any ambition; are demonstratively profane: Guildford is particularly culpable/to blame. There are some horrible aspects to (certain parts of the county) but some rather good ones- firm among them is the terrific music. It is the great people of the county who produce and support the music: make it an attractive place to visit (rather than stay in/live). Unfortunately, there is a trend towards London- and something I am desperate to do very soon- because Surrey produces fewer chances (for new musicians/music-loving folk). The coffee shops- a sanctuary where an adult should be able to unwind- are filled with wailing children (and their ‘parents’); the pubs either too crowded or too distracting (we’re there to drink, man). When one wants to unwind/escape they look towards venues- a chance to hear great music in a terrific setting. London still houses the most influential bases- including Roundhouse and Koko- yet Surrey (and areas like Guildford) is starting to forge real estate.
As jaded/purely fed-up (as I am with) a lot of Surrey people, there needs to be more foresight: recognise that- among the problems and social flaws- there is a demand for live music; music-lovers do not want to commute to the capital/further afield (every time they want to see their favourite act). Having experienced issues with the A.C.M.- refusing to conduct a feature; being very ungrateful when I sent their students a gift (a big-ass pile of music no less, bitches!)- I turned to Boileroom: the best and most impressive venue in Surrey (in my opinion). An undoubted salvation of Guildford, it is a venue with an immense amount of fight: a hot-spot that deserves a happy life- it does the town a lot of credit. Being familiar with their work- and the acts they housed- I was keen to catch up; champion the work they do- introduce them to the wider world. There are many acts I know- from Yorkshire, Scotland and afar- who would love to play here/are seeking somewhere great- I hope they finally get in touch (with Boileroom)…
The Intro.: About Boileroom
“Founded in September 2006 by an independent collective dedicated to promoting the highest quality live music, creative arts and club events, the Boileroom has quickly garnered a reputation as one of the South East’s best live music venues. Now in its’ seventh year, Guildford’s most established and respected independent live music venue books an eclectic and varied programme of music and events.
The Boileroom has a national presence as a destination venue, and to date has played host to no less than 10 Mercury Music nominated artists, BBC 2 Folk Award Winners, MOBO Award Winners, Ivor Novello Award Winners, BBC Sound Of Artists, and Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Inductees; booking emerging touring acts as well as well-established stalwarts like: Ed Sheeran, Foals, The Bronx, Marmozets, First Aid Kit, Catfish & The Bottlemen, Soweto Kinch, Fairport Convention, David ‘Ram Jam’ Rodigan OBE, to name a few.
We have also had the pleasure of curating several different stages and events such as: Vintage Guildford at Guildford Cathedral; Lewis Watson at St Mary’s Church, Martin Carthy & David Swarbrick at Holy Trinity Church; curating stages at Magic Summer Live 2013, Redfest, Staycation Live, the Guildford Beer Festival; curating the stage and running a cafe at The Artist and Makers Festival; plus many more.
The Boileroom is the first port of call for music fans and creative minds to come and visit.”
Boileroom is chief of the tribe- among the new music venues of Surrey- and is leading the revival: the creation of charming and inspiring houses (for musicians). Having overcome adversity- I shall touch on later- the venue has managed to host some truly wonderful acts- including Wolf Alice and Ghostpoet. Among Guildford’s streets and avenues sits Boileroom: if you were to drive past, you may whizz by without realising. Whilst London music hotspots are pulling in the modern-day legends, Boileroom is not exactly a shrinking violet: huge names play there regularly (in-between festival dates to boot). In addition to its proximity to London, Boileroom is a perfect venue: it has intimacy and character; it’s capacious and accommodating; there are great loyal crowds (who flock to see the latest acts). Having an award-winning bar (and exceptional food), the reviews speak for themselves: patrons have provided numerous laudatory statements; italicized Boileroom’s multiple merits- word-of-mouth and reputation has cemented (the venue as an essential stop) for any act worth their salt. That said, there is work to be done; renovations/improvements afoot- Boileroom is a venue that deserves a long (and prosperous) survival.
Verse 1: What Makes Boileroom Special?
Starting at staff-level; the people who work there have a clear passion: dedicating their time and lives (to the pursuit of) terrific music. This passion and dedication spills over into the working day: Boileroom is maintained to a high standard; the food and drink is faultless; the service wonderful- ensuring that the consumer has the best possible experience. In addition to the environment/team, Boileroom does not just stop at the music: multiple events are held/backed- ranging from activism and debate; vintage fairs to street parties.
What is your Activism?
“A series of workshops discussing activism and personal politics…
Over the course of five workshops, participants will discuss their ideas of what activism is, what kind of activism they are personally involved / interested in and what their personal politics are – whether it’s simply buying organic food as and when they can or chaining themselves to railings at protests every weekend!
The sessions will involve group discussion, talks from guest activists and artists, arts and crafts workshops, a trip to a radical political zine archive and research into local political history, amongst other things.”
As a group we will be thinking about collective work and action and what we can learn from each other.
There will be an introductory session on Wednesday 15th July; where we will discuss the issues that are most important to us. We will then programme the following sessions based on the interests of the group.
If you would like to attend, please drop firstname.lastname@example.org an email. If possible, please include some information on why you are interested in attending, and your particular areas of interest within activism.”
“To get in touch about having a stall, running a workshop, or playing some music, use the following lines of communication below:
Email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Call the office phone on 01483 440022 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)
A bit more info about our Vintage Guildford events
Having successfully run our own Vintage as well as Artisan market at the venue for some years, we’re stepping it up a gear and moving to local landmark the Guildford Cathedral.
As Guildford’s Independent, Alternative Live Music venue, we pride ourselves on championing our local music and creative community. Which is why we are delighted to announce that we will be hosting Vintage Guildford: a fair that provides a platform for the finest local vintage sellers, designers and makers to exhibit what wonderful items of yesteryear are available right on their doorstep! There will be stalls selling vintage clothing, homewares, vinyl, and more!”
STAYCATION LIVE 2015
Saturday 1st – Sunday 2nd August 2015
Midday – 7pm each day
Phillips Memorial Park, Godalming
Free entry – Donations going towards the Teenage Cancer Trust, and the running of the festival.
All Ages welcome
Godalming’s community music, food, and arts festival is back for it’s fifth year. Held at Phillips memorial park in the heart of Godalming, over the first weekend in August; this free family-friendly event brings together some of the finest local food offerings, live music, and family-friendly activities.
The bandstand is transformed into the main stage for the weekend, and will see the likes of Americana blues legend Martin Harley Band headline on the Saturday, and folk-rockers Leatherat on the Sunday; alongside local electro-swing act Captain Flatcap, Stevie One Bloke One Mandolin, and many more besides!
The Boileroom stage is back for the second time. This year bigger and better than ever, with the help of the Music Works School in Milford. Expect to see some of Surrey’s rising musical stars perform in the Cloisters area of the park. There will also be 20 stalls of local Vintage sellers with a mixture of women’s and menswear, home-wares, accessories, and much more besides! Come and pull up a pew or browse the rails while listening to some tunes.
Staycation Live started off life as a pub gig, raising funds to support local and national charities, and despite it’s rapid growth as a community arts, music and food festival, it’s ethos remains the same. After joining forces with Godalming Town Council, TST Live have raised over £3000 for the likes of Disability Challengers, Shooting Star Chase Hospice, Rhythmix and Oxfam.
This year, Staycation Live will be in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust (TCT), with the help of local fundraisers Teens4Teens in Godalming & Surrey. The Teens4Teens choir will also be opening the main stage each day – get down early to bag a spot at the front, or buy a CD and support the cause!
For full line-up info, head over to the Staycation website: http://www.staycationlivefestival.co.uk/
BOILEROOM 2ND STAGE LINE-UP
The Joshua Martin Band-Midday
The Joshua Martin Band is a unique sonic experience, performing in their own original and mind-blowingly groovy style.
The Keep Cats-12.30pm
The Keep Cats are brothers Jonah & Eden writing songs, twanging their guitars and beating some drum… & now introducing Fin, the ‘Axe’ & Louis, ‘Stix’!
Acoustic singer-songwriter Marcus Coyne plays melodies inspired by the likes of Swoon-some Ben Howard, Bon Iver and Passenger.
Otis Mensah is a flipside alt-rap artist that has risen from a new wave; age and era which embraces a contemporary, experimental epidemic of nostalgic authenticity in rap music. The music he creates often captures a melancholic vibe & a mellow atmosphere however accompanied with lyrics which transcend to something much more prolific and poetic.
There will be Vintage clothing, jewellery, homewares and furniture from the lovely Vintage Mabels, take a look at their lovely wares here
And some face-painting too!
RISK is a 3 piece, modern british rock band. Alex Griffith on Bass/Vocals, Tom Ofield on Drums/ Vocals and Alex Frow on Guitar/Vocals.
Singer songwriter recently graduated from ACM, and currently gigging around the locality with her unique and original songs.
One more TBA-3.30pm
All of the acts performing each day have come through our ongoing programme at The Boileroom named The Project; helping aspiring young musicians through showcase events, mentoring, workshops, Q&A panels, and more. For more information on The Project, email email@example.com.”
The Chorus: Question and Answer (Part One)
Having reached that stage in the feature/’song’, we come to the important part: the heart of Boileroom. Determined, not only to put my thoughts on paper, I wanted to question the staff: see what life was like at Boileroom- and which acts have stuck in their mind. Having done so much great work, it would be only be fair to give them a say: let the people who make the magic happen, speak. Thanks to the staff at Boileroom- especially Lydia Stockbridge- for donating their time: giving an insight into ‘Boileroom Life’- and the year’s highlights. Without further ado, here’s what (they) had to say…
Boileroom has overcome some difficult times- including a threat of closure- and overcome them all. How has the last year been (for the staff at Boileroom)?
It’s been quite an intense year and a half here! From going through a challenging 2014 with the license review, and then coming out the other side and building bridges with our local community; to winning Best Bar None Awards (overall winner for our attention to detail with our policies and adhering to our licensing conditions) – the upstairs revamp courtesy of our Patreons, transforming the garden with plans to turn it into a community garden. An amazing 2nd Independent Venue Week at the start of this year with our penultimate, amazing show with You Me At Six: it’s fair to say we hit the ground running in 2015, with no plans to stop anytime soon!
You have Patrons (people who donate to ensure the venue remains open and supported). How is that progressing? Is there still a long way to go?
This has been such a positive and encouraging process for us here. The Patreon site is unique in crowdfunding – although we will be rewarding our Patrons when we reach our 275 target with a big party; our Patrons support what we do as a business as a whole financially, with their help we launched Originate Studios, and our community garden- it’s great to be able to reach out to our supporters directly. As a small, independent venue we receive no funding, so for us to communicate in this way with our customers is a real game-changer for us; in helping us to push forward and actually put into progress all the changes and scope we have for the venue.
The venue is noted for its intimacy and character. How would you say it stands out from other venues?
Thank you! We put a lot of effort into creating a unique, alternative atmosphere for all of our events. Attention to detail is key for us here – all of our artwork is done in-house, all our venue artwork was created by local artists in the area; even the labels of our Little Boileroom beer have been hand-designed by our illustrator friend Dan Bowden (he does some amazing gig poster designs for our venue Birthday party too). We want it to be a memorable experience coming to an event here, I feel personally that shows at smaller venues are the most exciting ones – being able to get up close and personal to your favourite band or artist is always an unforgettable experience.
A lot of attention- when it comes to venues – tends to be focused in London. Do you think the music scene is growing (in counties like Surrey)?
I think that tends to be because the focus of national press is aimed at cities, because they tend to be based in the capital. However, I think regionally there has always been a scene – it’s just not talked about as loudly! Online publication Noisey recently did a feature on regional scenes including Guildford, I also think we’re (comparatively) young as a venue- so it’s taken a bit of time to build up a rep too. Surrey in itself has a rich cultural heritage – so many legendary acts have come from this county – The Jam, The Stranglers, Reuben, Hundred Reasons, Vex Red, and so many more – and also for hosting legendary shows: Rolling Stones at The Wooden Bridge pub, David Bowie, AC/DC at University of Surrey, The Beat and The Selektor at Guildford Civic; Fleetwood Mac at the Gin Mill club in Godalming – the list goes on!
Vintage Guildford- held at Guildford Cathedral- is one of many Boileroom events. Can you tell us a bit more about it (for those looking to come along)?
Sure thing: we run 4 Vintage Guildford events a year at the (Guildford) Cathedral and it’s great fun. A family-friendly event (under -5s go free!); with a vintage market of 35+ stallholders selling vintage clothing, homewares, furniture, records, accessories and vintage-inspired handmade bits and pieces too. We also have a pop-up salon for vintage hair-do’s and nail art; craft workshops that are child and adult-friendly, a café selling tea and cakes, and live music too. There’s a lot to pack in in a day!
When it comes to booking acts- and finding the best underground music- how does that work? Is there an audition/interview process, or do you check out (the acts’) songs before booking?
We always keep an ear to the ground for local acts, attending other local shows when we can and reading local blogs. We tend to check out people online, whether it’s a video or songs uploaded to Soundcloud or Spotify. We also encourage people to get in touch with us, and our Youth Programme (The Project) is all about nurturing upcoming talent.
On that note: who are you particularly looking forward to hosting over the coming weeks/months?
Ah, we have some great shows coming up: Rat Boy, Hooton Tennis Club, Darwin Deez, Keston Cobbler’s Club, The Milk, Martin Carthy (and a few more we can’t tell anyone about yet)!
Verse 2: What the Supporters/Public Say
Working in the area (at The Stoke Pub and Pizzeria- just down the road from Boileroom) many regulars wax lyrical: expound the virtues of the venue. The Smyths recently played Boileroom: a gig that is talked about in fond terms. A particular couple I know (from my pub) are regulars at Boileroom (Dave and Jane)- some of the venue’s most loyal clientele. The Smyths were lauded for their fantastic performance and authenticity- a lot of cover bands are not overly exceptional; The Smyths were. Keen to catch any act that plays, the people I speak with all agree on the same thing: not only are the acts (that play there) top drawer; the venue is both homely and grand- a rare mixture in this day and age. Boileroom has that quality to it: it could easily nestle itself with central London; rub shoulders with the ‘big boys’- I could not imagine (the guys at Boileroom) would want to move there; what with the reputation and loyalty they have. Having overcome a lot of adversity, it is word-of-mouth that does big business: the people who come time and time again keep it going- those with a huge passion for music. What impresses me most (about Boileroom) is its diversity: you do not just get Rock/Pop acts; there is a staggering range- from Hardcore to Acoustic; Alternative to Indie-Rock; all in-between. As stated earlier, it is not just sapling acts that play there: the big-hitters are keen to grace the venue. It is this blend of brand-new treasures (and established acts) that seduce the public imagination- speaking with people- that is what compels them so. With regards the aforementioned couple- I hope they don’t mind me name-dropping them- they want to see everything they can. Their eclectic tastes- they love Wolf Alice and current sounds as much as anything- is well catered for- Boileroom is the perfect setting for them. Outside of (Dave and Jane), the venue attracts a great young crowd: a few days back I saw a line of teenagers (to be honest they looked about 10) queuing for an act- they must have been dehydrated/knackered by the time doors opened. That is the charm of Boileroom: you get a wide range of ages coming in. The enthusiasm and professionalism the staff display (is oft commended); each person is dedicated and friendly. Some venues exist/thrive simply by the names/acts they pull in: Boileroom manages to boost so much more; a combination that is hard to beat.
The Middle Eight: Upcoming Events/Dates at Boileroom
It is not just the music (Boileroom offers the people) but a vast array of events- from vintage fairs to family days. Keen to draw in the whole community, Boileroom makes such they are always busy: nary has a week gone by without something colourful or compelling happening. From social activism to fairs, the venue has a lot going on (no excuse not to get involved).
What’s On (Selected Highlights):
The Chorus: Question and Answer (Part Two)
Recently, Boileroom has been hosting workshops- discussing activism and social issues. What has the response been like? Have you seen a lot of people turning out/getting involved?
It’s been great – we’re trying to grow the community events organically, our Craft Club has been running now for 3 years and we now get between 12-20 attendees. We’re aiming to do the same for our new workshops, it’s been great fun meeting new people in the local community, and branching out into new areas.
What have been the proudest achievements for Boileroom- over the last couple of years?
Ah there’s a lot! Overall winner of Best Bar None (this February) was a really proud moment; for myself and the team to have our hard work on all our policies recognised. Being a flagship venue for Independent Venue Week and taking part in that has been a great success for us, and we’re very proud to be a part of it-and Music Venues Trust too- and fly the flag alongside other independent venues. Being the 100th venue to sign Attitude Is Everything charter- improving deaf and disabled people’s access to live music. There’s been a lot over the years; I’m really looking forward to celebrating our 10th birthday next year.
I know a lot of people who are regulars at Boileroom- come in time and time again, impressed by the great music. What would you say keep people coming back?
I think it’s a combination of things – an eclectic programme, bringing in new, local, and renowned national and international talents, being as inclusive as we can, and also good customer service – being welcoming, friendly from the moment a customer comes in the doors to when they leave – manners cost nothing!
Boileroom has a particularly impressive and informative website- in addition to great social media channels. Do you think it is vital to have up-to-date and full online presence?
Absolutely – we’re in a digital age, as well as the traditional routes of promoting in print, a lot of our customers use the internet and social networking, we try to reach as many people as we can.
Being a music reviewer/writer- and someone looking into music P.R./promotion- what advice would you offer; to anyone looking to go into music P.R./promotions?
Having a passion for music helps! Keeping an open mind, exploring as many genres as you can, getting out there and meeting people, checking out shows, staying up to date with how bands and artists are promoting themselves. Also being organised with your time and good communication; as well as always being friendly and polite – as I said before, manners cost nothing!
I know a lot of young upstarting bands/acts (who would thrive at the chance to play Boileroom): is it easy to get under your radar/play the venue?
For sure! All they have to do is drop Duncan@theboileroom.net or me on Lydia@theboileroom.net an email with a short blurb on the band; links to where we can take a listen to their music, and we’ll see what we can do!
Penultimate question: are there big plans for the venue going forth- any developments and events?
Always – we don’t like to rest on our laurels here, we’ve got big plans for next summer and our upcoming 10th birthday – keep your eyes and ears peeled!
A long question, but one for all the staff (and one where I will put some music links/videos here)
Your favourite act from this year (who played at Boileroom)?
This year – it’s a tough one but I really enjoyed Loom last weekend – snarly garage-rock/post-punk noise.
The act you would recommend to readers (who have played Boileroom)?
Cosmo Sheldrake – such an awesome live show – really entertaining and talented performer
Your all-time favourite song?
Sabotage – Beastie Boys
Your all-time favourite album?
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell
Best new song of this year (can be any genre or artist)?
Shamir – On The Regular
The Guitar Solo: Supporting the Venue
With financial realities/strains; pressures of survival, Boileroom is looking for supporters (or ‘Patrons’). If you would like to donate to Boileroom- and why the hell would you not?!- then visit: https://www.patreon.com/theboileroom?ty=h. As Boileroom themselves say:
“For 9 years, we have developed and thrived without financial aid; but due to many factors this has become increasingly difficult, and to ensure our survival we are reaching out to our local community.
We need your help to continue with this work and develop our new creative space, we love what we do with a passion that is limitless.
Please invest in us so that we can continue to invest in Guildford’s creative community.”
Whereas major cities have the money- and the population to keep venues healthy- there are bigger issues in the home counties- there is simply not as much financial support.
For only a few pounds a month, you can make a big difference: ensure that Boileroom continues to operate; support great new music- make a real difference in the community. The venue is undergoing some changes- some refurbishment and a new garden- and making some plans; looking to the future. With so many great acts coming through- and some terrific artists like Wolf Alice doing well- Boileroom is a natural home. A space where bands can feel welcome and comfortable, they are guaranteed fervent support- in a brilliant environment. We all spend so much money on needless peripheries; junk we don’t need: few people take the time to donate to worthy causes/projects. Look at reviews (about Boileroom); watch the videos on the official site- all the cool events/dates coming up. For all this to take place- and keep going year after year- there needs to be backing from the public- do something wonderful with your money.
The Outro.: The Future…?
Barring any challenges and upheaval- let’s hope Boileroom’s struggles are at an end- the future looks promising. Of course, there is a little way to go: great venues require constant finance and patronage; great music coming through the door- bums on seats (figuratively speaking). Capricious as fortune is; fickle as the public can be, Boileroom is doing tremendously- its reputation is solidified; its popularity continues to grow. As much (as I) posses an issue with Surrey’s people (the small number that causes needless obstacles and stress) there is a loyal core of music-lovers: people who want to see great acts play on their doorsteps. There are other music bars/venues around Guildford/Surrey, yet none have the same status as Boileroom- just talking to people and it is evident what an effect it has. Among the upcoming events- full listings at http://www.theboileroom.net/listings/- is the latest What Is Your Activism? (on July 29th); Street Party! (on August 30th). Wheatus are stopping by on October 15th– as part of their 15th Anniversary Tour– it will be a date to remember (although a middle-aged band singing Teenage Dirtbag may be a bit too ironic). Monuments- one of the best new Metal acts- play on August 12th (shall stop by and see that); there is a lot going on- definitely something for everyone! Boileroom has had a tough upbringing; its infantile years have been staggered by challenges and pressures- there is still work to be done. What makes the venue so special- aside from the great music- is the hard work that goes into it. The staff does exemplary work- there are no rank-and-file members in the venue- with everyone showing dedicated passion and hard work. It is only left for me to say a) thanks to the staff of Boileroom (especially to Lydia Stockbridge) for their support and time, and b) go visit the venue- and see some wonderful music. In a world where digital media is taking over; London is stealing focus- it is essential (venues such as) Boileroom thrive. Do something good…
AND support a wonderful venue.
All photos included are taken from Boileroom’s official website- http://www.theboileroom.net/ (and its social media pages)