ALT-J are one of the most successful bands to emerge from Leeds in recent years – now one of their members is to return to the city to support a showcase night that gave them their first break.
Keyboard player Gus Unger-Hamilton has co-curated two bills for the 360 Club, run by Richard Watson, which supports up-and-coming artists, at The Library pub on Woodhouse Lane.
The two nights – on Thursday January 31 and Friday February 1 – are part of Independent Venue Week, a nationwide celebration of small venues and the people that run them.
“Independent venues generally are something that a lot of people don’t really think about too much,” Unger-Hamilton told the YEP.
“When most people are going to a gig they’re excited about the band or the artist they want to see and they wouldn’t give too much thought about what venue it was at and what its kind of business status was.
“I do think across the industry we are slowly but surely seeing the big companies taking over, buying up venues, buying up promoters, even PA companies. It’s going to become practically a monopoly.
“Independent venues have historically been where lots of smaller artists who have gone on to become giant artists have started out and cut their teeth. Without the kind of support and willingness to take a gamble that these kind of venues and the promoters that use them have it’s hard to see where certain kinds of artists would be able to get their first gigs.”
Unger-Hamilton says Alt-J, who met as students at the University of Leeds, initially faced some difficulty themselves in getting shows. “We’re not from Leeds, we didn’t grow up in Leeds and we did come up against a certain resistance I think as a result of that. The 360 Club, on the other hand, was always very welcoming to us and I think it’s the place that we played most during our time in Leeds. It just worked really well, there was always interesting acts on the bill and Richard was very supportive. He was somewhat of a mentor to us in the early days and it was great. We didn’t feel at all unwelcome because most of us were from the south of England.”
The idea of co-curating two nights for the 360 Club came after a visit to Leeds with friends last year. “I wanted to show them the place where we used to do most of our gigs – The Library pub – and we went upstairs to have a look at the live room and I’d forgotten that Friday nights were 360 Club and ended up wandering in and bumping into Richard and we’ve been back in touch since then. It was a lovely coincidence.”
One of the bands that Unger-Hamilton saw that night, Purple Thread, will launch their new single, Something Good, at the gig in January 31; also performing will be Edited People and inFade. On February 1 it’s the turn of Victors, Kata Ranya and Elle Call.
The 360 Club was always very welcoming to us and I think it’s the place that we played most during our time in Leeds.Gus Unger-Hamilton
Doors 7.30pm. Tickets are available in advance via skiddle.com
For full details on Independent Venue Week visit www.independentvenueweek.com.