Digging up the roots

Thu 13th September, 2012 @ 2:52pm by jackrichardson

Digging up the roots

Indie is dead, Long live...wait, there is no ‘Long Live Indie’ and this isn’t a cliché, it’s a fact! The days of the laddish Indie-Rock bands, with their floppy curly hair, tight jeans, and love-forsaken lyrics has passed to allow for the return of the comparatively old style of Roots music. And what a return in all of its guises! Jazz, Blues, Folk, Reggae, and Dub are on the up, en force across the midlands.

Since The Black Keys and Aloe Blacc smashed their way into the mainstream, music in the roots sphere has found greater levels of appreciation. Erykah Badu, Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding, José James, and Charles Bradley have also revived the appreciation of the jazzier and bluesier elements and Jamie Cullum and Mumford & Sons are the main figureheads in the revival of Jazz and Folk, spurring on bands like Skinny Lister and Boat To Row.

Luckily for us Blues, Jazz, Folk, and Reggae have never gone away, only their levels of appreciation have changed and currently we’re in a high point. Why? We have a connection to the down-to-earth mindset in roots music. The songs are relatable and honest, often relaying the hardships of life that seem resonant with the current financial and cultural climates. The gigs are accessible and affordable and provide a powerful incentive to connect with music on a human level once again.

What’s exciting about this is that Nottingham, Derby, and Leicester are already full to the brim with roots music and impressive musicians. You don’t have to travel very far to get a taste of homegrown roots. Consider the likes of rising star Jake Bugg from just around the corner in Notts. With each city meriting an appreciation for a certain strata of the roots umbrella, what we have is each one creating a tailor-made, locally-orientated experience that expresses the ways of its people. Diversity between these neighbouring cities allows for an exchange of information gathered from local musicians, venues, promoters, and people who just love to see live music culminating in some fantastic roots sounds.

With roots music breaking back into the scene we asked Ryan Lauder, venue promoter at Derby’s Ryans Bar what he thinks the reason is behind the resurgence. His suggestion is that “It’s born from people stepping away from the un-human sound of Dubstep, Electro, and Dance music and there is a greater appreciation of talent and skill, but there’s also an element of efficiency. Instead of running vans of equipment about, you can just have one guy and his guitar”. It seems that the affordability of the roots style, especially for the more acoustic-orientated Folk and Blues, is more appealing for its accessibility and the joy of playing a live instrument.

Currently Derby’s community sensibilities make it the perfect place for stripped-down Folk music. Ryan’s Bar, is a hub for local Folk and Blues acts on Wednesdays and Sundays. There’s also The Flowerpot, with it’s mix of acoustic Folk and Blues on Wednesday nights. The Venue, with a mix of solo acoustic and full-band nights throughout the week. The Vic, with the well-received “Sausage and Folk” nights. Ye Olde Dolphin which on Fridays covers a mix of Jazz, Blues, and Pop covers. The Silk Mill which, upon reopening later this year, will host gigs promoted by Holy Smokes. DÉDA is proud to host Front Porch, a mix of Country and Rockabilly in The Cube bar.

It’s possible too to find a wide range of genres in Leicester but Reggae, Blues and Jazz are the most abundant. The distinction of best venue for Jazz and Blues in Leicester is a split battle. With its wonderfully consistent listings, guaranteeing live music every night of the year, The Musician still holds firm as a spot for Jazz and Blues musicians of all ages, skills and size to showcase themselves throughout the week. Then there is the Cookie Jar, situated below the Crumblin’ Cookie on the High Street, which has quickly garnered respect for its hosting of bands from a variety of genres including their monthly showcase Jazz At The Jar with them taking the best Jazz musicians the region has to offer and giving them an newly-established stage to conquer.

Another great venue in Leicester is The Donkey, regularly hosting a wonderful array of shows spanning Blues, Folk, Rockabilly, and Reggae. Whilst The Soundhouse and Firebug regularly include Folk and Blues in their listings. Alongside the Donkey, The Music Café and Hub are known for featuring the city’s best display of Dub and Reggae .

Away from the live music The Basement holds the surest footing for a Roots-inspired club night. Every Thursday the night, simply called Roots, runs until 4am with Biscuit Tin Sound system and Jon1st taking control of the music on alternating weeks. Soul Shaker, every Saturday, continues the trend by fronting itself with the descendants of Roots - Motown, Soul, Funk, and Rhythm & Blues - to create a raucously enjoyable night. Whilst The Font and Hub cater for a wide variety with nights hosted by local promoters and musicians.

Roots music also has an appreciation of its own merit in Nottingham - and so it should! Nottingham’s love for music has always been apparent and celebrated giving it a friendly accessibility. Charlotte Hickmott, a Nottingham-based music photographer, told us that Nottingham’s love for Roots is “Born from successfully tailoring to both the happy-go-lucky student and the more ardent fans from older generations simultaneously. Venues are also abundant and diverse.” And she’s right. There’s Spanky Van Dykes and The Contemporary both with their regular Blues, Gypsy, and Folk gigs. The Jam Café hosting a similar set of genres, also hosting an established Open Mic session every Wednesday to give the local talent a place to perform. Tilt, with it’s great cocktails and atmosphere, regularly hosting a range a gigs, revolving predominantly around Jazz. Pandora’s Box hosting Bopp, known for its Motown and blues. Bodega plays host to Highness Sound System on the third Saturday of every month, bringing a strict Reggae & Dub playlist and a custom-build sound system.

Finally then, roots’ strength seems to be growing and it’s appreciation more so, eclipsing the formerly-reigning Indie bands and bringing with it a love for talent and skill in live performance. The diversity and depth of music grouped under the Roots umbrella is one of its best features, fighting off monotony and keeping the music original. And whats great is you don’t have far to go to see some great acts and talented musicians. Long live roots!


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