Scan over any tastemaking festival lineup this summer and you’ll see a host of emerging names without any recorded material available. Instead, these buzzy upstarts have been beamed out by way of immersive live videos shot by a growing community of videographers. Just a few names due to hit festival stages in the coming months include Picture Parlour, Fat Dog and Mary In The Junkyard, all of whom introduced themselves to the world via videos of their visceral live shows – much like The Last Dinner Party, before they emerged with the huge ‘Nothing Matters’ in April.

Joe Love from London-based newcomers Fat Dog – who have been booked to play Reading & Leeds this summer – says the movement is a testament to the venues that are the backbone of the south London scene. “Places like The Windmill in Brixton allow artists to try out new shit, sometimes it goes down well and other times it doesn’t, but people are forgiving,” he says. “These venues put bands on that people don’t know about and take risks on them – it’s about having faith and giving artists the chance to do their thing.”

This sentiment is echoed by Katherine Parlour of fast-rising four-piece Picture Parlour, who recently stormed The Great Escape festival in Brighton. “When you’re playing these smaller venues, there’s just magic and excitement there,” she tells NME. “You’re just thrilled to be at The Windmill or The Social – venues we dreamt of playing when we started, so having those shows captured is just so special.” Take a look at the professionally recorded clip of the band’s current set opener ‘Norwegian Wood’, which shot at The Social – you can practically smell the beer and dry ice as her voice crackles with gut-punching emotion.

As an emerging band without the resource to instantly deliver their vision on record, Parlour explains that these videos have helped to kickstart the band’s career. “There’s a level of accessibility behind getting out there and playing shows,” she says. “We couldn’t just go and record a single up to our standards and put it out into the world, but you can definitely just do a live show and have someone enjoy it, capture it and whack it on the internet.”

Guitarist Ella Risi explains that the content is much more than just fan-shot footage, citing filming veteran Lou Smith, who made his name shooting the likes of Fat White Family and Shame at The Windmill over the years. “People watch Lou’s videos because they know they’re going to discover this new talent,” she says. “The videographers have their own communities around them.”

Picture Parlour live at The Great Escape. Credit: Garry Jones

Things took a particularly unpredictable turn for Picture Parlour when Courtney Love shared a snippet of one of Smith’s live recordings to her Instagram, which saw the band’s followers count skyrocket. “It goes to show this kind of exposure is so important for smaller bands,” Risi adds.

After purchasing a DSLR camera, Smith was originally inspired to start filming gigs after seeing Fat White Family perform at London’s longest-running acoustic club, Easycome. “Those sessions reignited my love for live music which I had back in the post-punk yesteryear with Joy Division, The Clash and the bands I saw on the circuit back in the day,” he says today.

Having made a name for himself in what he calls the ‘first wave’ of the underground south London scene with Fat White Family and their offshoot projects like Warmduscher, Smith says his videos really started to gain momentum as contemporary bands like Black Midi and Black Country, New Road emerged. With Smith’s YouTube channel now at three million combined views, there’s an element of pride in his work that helps emerging names cut through the noise.

It’s understandable, then, that Smith’s inbox is full of new bands seeking his seal of approval – though he’s determined to staying in touch with word-of-mouth buzz among new music fans. “It’s that element of finding bands in the right place at the right time, when they get signed I see my job as done,” he adds.

These videos aren’t just helping emerging bands, but also the industry at large. Tim Perry, booker at The Windmill, stresses that livestreamed videos were invaluable in the independent venue’s survival through the pandemic. “As far as the venue goes, those videos have been crucial because we didn’t get Arts Council Funding so we had to do fundraising,” he says. “Through being able to do live streams, we captured a huge audience – and they pretty much saved the venue.”

But why is it happening now? Perry cites a global sense of discovery of live videos through the long pandemic, when we were starved of personal live music experiences. “During lockdown, we did a stream with Black Midi and Black Country, New Road and they did a livestream fundraiser along with merch exclusive to the stream. I was just looking at the orders coming in live and so many of them were from overseas.”

Windmill Brixton
The Windmill, Brixton. Credit: Alex Amorós

He continues: “I’ve been doing this for twenty years, and I was thinking about bands like Metronomy back in the early days and how they never had this kind of opportunity. Looking back, there were hardly any DIY videos of bands from the scene in the noughties.” He says even in the last decade, things have improved massively. “Somebody came down when The War On Drugs did their first UK show at The Windmill and brought a pro camera – even that looks a bit crap now compared to what people can do on their phones.”

Perry adds that it also builds a sense of excitement and community as opposed to traditional outlets like streaming services. “The videos don’t just go out into the world and exist on their own,” he says. “You can leave comments and interact with it, like ‘Oh I saw this band live in Leeds the other day and they were fucking brilliant’. It’s great if you have a million Spotify plays but you don’t really get that same sense of community – the video builds a dialogue.”

London’s Mary In The Junkyard have made a name for themselves in The Windmill with a blend of strings, angular guitars and Adrianne Lenker-style vocals. However, they are yet to officially release any music. Speaking to NME over the phone just moments after coming off stage at London’s Wide Awake Festival, they say that their audiences now take cues from what they’ve watched of them online. Vocalist Clari Freeman Taylor explains: “People know when to howl in our live set, which is amazing. It feels quite punk and raw.”

With a slot at Dorset’s End Of The Road on the horizon, drummer David Addison says this exposure has also offered the band some breathing space during these early stages. “Having these videos means we can exist in this period of not releasing anything for a while, just because the word of mouth traction has done so much for us already,” he says. “It’s nice not to have to worry about promotion yet – having people do it for you is really nice and wholesome.”

At the heart of it all though, remains a thriving community of independent venues and DIY artists worth buying into. Freeman Taylor concludes she feels part of a vital new scene: “It feels like people are craving that realness that you don’t always get elsewhere,” she says. “You can go on YouTube and watch a whole set from a band; it’s like watching theatre, it’s something fresh and so many artists are benefitting. Long may it continue.”

The post How DIY live videos are taking your new favourite band to the world appeared first on NME.


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