Imagine the situation. A legend of the music business approaches you on London Road, Twickenham. And we’re talking someone of the calibre of Jay Z, Rihanna or Joe McElderberry here. They say: “Howdy pardner, I was on my way to Feltham to go ten pin bowling with my homey friends but I got off the train at the wrong stop. I thought I’d check out your lil’ town while I’m a killin’ time. So tell me, blud, what’s the music scene like round these here parts?”
You say, "Good question Jay Z!" (or whatever is appropriate) and you reel off a couple of facts. You say that back in the 60s & early 70s Twickenham, and in particular Eel Pie Island, was the centre of a thriving jazz, rock and blues scene. The Stones, Eric Clapton and even Mr David Bowie all played there. You'll say that more recently Twickenham has been just about been put on the map again by the likes of Noah and the Whale and The Mystery Jets. But you'll also tell Jay Z (or whoever it is) that Twickenham lacks a decent venue for aspiring bands. Jay Z (yeah, whatever) turns to you and in his Brooklyn drawl says, "Thanking you kindly. That was real informative but my train will be along soon so gotta dash, you mutha. Cheerio."
Not likely? Perhaps you're right. Jay Z is known to prefer Laser Quest to bowling any day of the week. This fabricated exchange got us thinking about the local music scene and so we decided to rope in a couple of locals to give their views on it. Remember these are their views, not yours. But if you've got better ones we'd love to here them. As ever, you can comment below.
So, in our first slice of opinion, local gig connoisseur LSM provides his view of the Twickenham music scene. In the second, Joe from local band Karvel gives a view on what it’s like trying to break through:
LSM – the gig goer:
You may possess a dream audio system, some Krell-based collection of electronic doo-dahs and gewgaws, but you’ll sometimes get that itch, that persistent irritation that won’t be sated until you hear real, live music. Be it scratchy guitars or bangin’ beats, what is there available in our bourgeois-boho bit of the borough?
If your ‘taste’ runs to the pompous, pious Irishmen, ageing rockers rumbled for researching things online they shouldn’t have or the tantric pseuds that play the stadium, keep it unreal and don’t bother with the rest of this article. Just turn it down, and don’t pollute the rest of ‘Nam with your bad bombast.
What is out there for the rest of us? It comes down to a small number of venues and some peripatetic players that are a cut above pub-rock covers merchants. This is not an exclusive list, but gives a reliable guide:
The Patch @ The Cabbage Patch. The home of the rhytmn & blues focused Eel Pie Club that has little to do with the island or pub of the same name and also of Twickenham Folk Club. As a result you can either see up-and-coming, and cult, folkies or, on occasion, bands such as The Kast-Off Kinks, and The Pretty Things. One of these bands is currently advertised as containing ‘two original members!’ Draw your own conclusions.
The Fox has a regular Irish/folk evening, and irregular gigs from local bands such as St Jude in the upstairs function room. This also hosts the Sunday jam session, that is excellent if you wish to hear classic songs tortured and murdered by the same players each week, often in the same order: These guys, (for they all are) should consult the Musician’s Dictionary for a definition of Jam, then go and learn their instruments properly. Avoid, unless you are having suicide ideation.
Paws @ The Bear is an emerging indie night – every Tuesday there’s an indie DJ playing the classics and some good new stuff, and once a month has a promising new band. As Alexei might say, ‘people come from Guildford to play it!’ Pawsfest at the end of April, put together by Darren Parker, will be an all-day live event that looks exciting.
The Turk’s Head in St Margarets usually has a pub band on the weekend evenings, often of good quality. Similarly The Albert features many of the same bands on Friday and Saturday evening. A familiar roster is seen at The Crown. This includes Dr Bob (with his band The Nurses, or as a duo with Big John – a deceptively excellent guitarist), Sugar T & The Swells, fantastic swing and R&B merchants that centres on the horn section of local groovers The Herbaliser, and Papa George, an impressive blues and rock and roll player, who essays his foot-stomping vibes on a tin acoustic guitar.
Since The Red Lion metamorphosed into Tesco we have lost a regular venue, but there is more than enough provision of extemporisation and electrical ozone to keep the discerning ones happy. Get out there and listen. Drinking and dancing, and having a good time may prove compulsory – it’ll be free, and you may wanna get loaded…
That’s one gig goer’s guide but what about bands trying to make a name for themselves? Joe from Karvel explains….
Joe – the band member:
What or who is Karvel you ask? We’re a new, young, alternative rock / grunge band from Twickenham who have been really lucky to work with award-winning producers such as Jim Abbiss (Arctic Monkeys, Adele, Kasabian) and Adrian Bushby (Foo Fighters, Muse, Smashing Pumpkins). We’re now looking to bring back the local rock scene!
Karvel comprises of three members: Joe Mallory-Skinner (who writes the songs, plays guitar and sings), Ben Soan (who “Slappa da bass!”) and Tom “Woody” Wood (who bangs the drums and sings the high notes). Joe used to be obese, Woody has a memory like a goldfish and Ben is 1 ft away from being classed as a Hobbit. Some of our main influences include Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Elliott Smith, Foo Fighters, Bon Iver, Radiohead and My Bloody Valentine, to name a few. We’re also inspired by McDonald’s breakfast, Nando’s and KFC (Big Daddy Box Meal). We’re not going to lie… it’s not incredible being a band in Twickenham nowadays, there is hardly anywhere to play anymore since the local Filthy’s venue was transformed into a Tesco Express and Eel Pie Island is now a residential area, which is a massive shame because it used to be the hub for live music back in the day (read up about it if you don’t know). In addition, there aren’t any rehearsal rooms other than Heatham House which is great but for under 18s only. We rehearse at Bakehouse Studios in Wimbledon as it’s the nearest rehearsal space to Twickenham that isn’t a dirty bar, a church hall with sound restrictions or a government funded project that has a limited space of availability. Other than Bakehouse, we sometimes rehearse at The Ritz Studios in Putney, which are also great.
But not to worry! We plan to regenerate the music buzz in the local area with the magical powers of rock! We are planning to do loads of gigs at The Bear in Twickenham as they have some of the best promoters and indie nights this side of the universe. We love it there. We haven’t done many local gigs because of the aforementioned. We normally play in central London. Our last two headline gigs were at the Camden Barfly. It’s only recently that we decided we want to play a lot more local gigs, as most of our mates are useless and can’t be bothered to get a train but we also want to support and bring back the live music scene to Twickenham and to build a local following.
In short, you’re going to be seeing the name ‘Karvel’ a lot more around Twickenham – watch out, we’re coming for you!
Gig Info: Karvel @ Paws Fest – The Bear, Twickenham York St. Free Entry. Karvel on at 9:30.
On Twitter? Tweet us @Karvel_Joe @Karvel_Ben @Karvel_Tom
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