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11th October 2021

Gigs and Bands Society live in 532

Contributor Kerry Mack interviews the creator of the Gigs and Bands society, Robbie Beale, detailing their first live outing!
Gigs and Bands Society live in 532
Photo: William Bullas @WillBullasPhotography

The story of the Gigs and Bands Society’s first gig starts with a student, half a drum kit and a noise complaint. Moving to Manchester for university, with its renowned music scene, Robbie Beale naturally assumed that opportunities for student-formed bands would be plentiful. Or at least that there would be music rooms to practice in and not the kind with only a piano. Sadly this was not the case and after months of angry emails he was granted access to a room in postgraduate halls where he was greeted by the aforementioned partial drum kit and nothing else.

His band were promptly told to keep the noise down, realising that popular music is not well catered for at this university which reflects the classical focus of the music department. Frustrated at the lack of an organised student music scene, Robbie has made it his mission to change this starting with the Gigs and Bands Society.

GABS quoted £800 for Club Academy which sat empty!

Fast forward to the night of the gig and I’m sitting upstairs in the student union with Robbie who informs me that he inquired about the basement room (Club Academy) and was quoted £800! For a student gig, hosted by a student society, in the Students’ Union! The basement consequently sat empty all night while the crowd pressed in around the makeshift ‘stage’ at the corner of 532.

None of the band members got paid despite drawing in a healthy crowd to the bar. Robbie explained to me that for student bands to find any level of success they need a scene. That the scene needs structure, which is what he and his society are hoping to build up and provide. Robbie worries that, at least judging from his experience so far, the university is disinterested in fostering a popular music scene. 

“a creative use of harmony, straying from traditional popular music”

King Mob opened the night and smashed their first ever gig. All in spite of some technical issues with feedback due to no fault of their own. King Violet followed with raw energy and fire grooves. My musician friend’s faces lit up a few times at their “creative use of harmony, straying from traditional popular music”.

Big Foot then upped the momentum, with Robbie on guitar playing with as much passion as he has for his musical mission. They got the whole place dancing and closed off the night to cheers and applause. The enthusiasm of the crowd proves that there is an appetite for these student gig nights, Robbie is definitely on to something here.

You might ask; but what about the Music Society? As Robbie stated on the night, the Music Society caters for people who play instruments “invented over 300 years ago”. What about the rest of us?

Robbie’s ideal goals are as follows:

  1. Access to at least one practice room equipped with a drum kit, PA and mics for student bands
  2. Access to the smaller Academy rooms for free or at least at a discount to put on gigs featuring student artists 
  3. Opportunities for those artists to support the acts which visit the Academy venues

These all seem like reasonable requests to me. There is of course the issue of paying staff to run larger gigs in the academy venues and other associated costs but this could perhaps be mitigated by enlisting student technicians and sound engineers from UoM, BIMM and Salford. In fact the society’s long term goal is to collaborate with student musicians from all over Manchester and forge links with other educational institutions which would benefit everybody.

Given the popularity of the society’s first gig night, granting these requests and making these connections would do wonders for Manchester’s student music scene and the finances of all involved. After all, this is our Students’ Union and we should use it to champion student acts.

If you would like to follow the progress of the Gigs and Bands Society, find out about future events or get involved, please go to @gigsandbandsmcr on Instagram or search the tag on Facebook.

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