Arts

Noise Annoys: Independent Venue Week returns in virtual form for 2021 and Senseless Things man Mark Keds remembered

Independent Venue Week returns in virtual form for 2021with regional ambassadors and Senseless Things man Mark Keds remembered...

Jordan Adetunji is the north's ambassador for this year's Independent Venue Week

:: Independent Venue Week 2021 comes to Belfast

DESPITE the ongoing live music drought induced by Covid regulations, this year's Independent Venue Week (IVW) is still going ahead – albeit in virtual form – between January 25 and 31.

The purpose of IVW is to highlight the cultural and economic importance of our independent live music ecosystem, from the venues themselves and the fans who pay to see artists play at them, to the promoters, managers, crew, labels, merch, ticketing and tour transport companies who make the gigging world go around. Or rather, made it go around, in what are increasingly being referred to as 'the before times'.

Nearly 100 venues from across Britain and the north have signed up to take part this year, with the 2021 event assigning each 'home nation' its own IVW ambassador for the first time ever. Thus, fronting for their respective region's live music spaces will be Arlo Parks (England), Gruff Rhys (Wales) and Amy McDonald (Scotland), with hotly tipped Belfast hip-hopster Jordan Adetunji repping for Northern Ireland.

"Independent venues play a vital role in creating economic opportunities," says Jordan, "while at the same time showcasing and promoting the works of many local artists like myself. This is a fantastic opportunity to bring together venues, artists, events operators and the public – especially in these challenging times – to highlight the importance of independent venues."

Usually, the IVW organisers stage a load of showcase gigs, workshops and guest panels to help get their message across. However, with venues still shuttered due to the pandemic, this year's effort will involve a selection of online events – 'in conversations' with artists, labels, promoters, gig goers and music industry organisations, plus album listening parties, pre-recorded live show streams and even comedy and quizzes.

For up-to-the-minute information on exactly what they have planned for this year, point yourself at Independentvenueweek.com.

:: RIP Mark Keds

EARLIER this week, the tragic news broke that former Senseless Things frontman Mark Keds had died. He was only 50 and had recently struggled with health problems which affected his respiratory system.

For those who don't know (most people under 40, sadly) the Senseless Things were a brilliantly tuneful English indie punk band who made some incredible music in the late 80s and early 90s, quite a lot of which came packaged in the eye-catchingly cartoonish comic book imagery of their pal Jamie Hewitt, creator of Tank Girl and later the artistic mastermind of Gorillaz.

Heavily influenced by the music, DIY ethos and emphasis on relentless touring of indie peers Mega City Four, in their early days the Senseless Things channelled the frantic tempos and armour-piercing melodies of punk pop forerunners like the Buzzcocks, Undertones and Descendents, before gradually embracing more sophisticated songcraft in much the same way as their American heroes The Replacements.

They were a brilliant live act, with the effeminately beautiful Keds – who co-founded the London band with funk-fingered bassist Morgan Nicholls and Keith Moon-esque drummer Cass Browne while they were teenagers – providing an effortlessly cool hair-flinging focal point for their joyful and relentlessly energetic gigs.

A fantastic 'singles band', ST made their mark on the indie charts before eventually signing to Sony in 1991, scoring a couple of Top 20 hits the following year with Easy To Smile and Hold it Down. They really could have been huge were it not for the fact that they were in no way 'grunge' or Britpop and refused to play the pop 'game' – Keds and co insisted on releasing their anti-homophobia anthem Homophobic A**hole as a single from their make-or-break second Sony LP, Empire of The Senseless.

It could also be argued that the band never quite managed to make the start-to-finish classic LP they were surely capable of – although all four of their albums do still stand up nicely today, from 1989's punk pop-tastic debut Postcard CV through to 1995's rockier and criminally underrated swansong, Taking Care of Business.

Keds' throaty yet sensitive croon was the perfect foil for their angsty yet in the main uplifting songs and the frontman always made time to talk to fans when they approached him, personally responding to their letters in the days before social media. He looked like a 'proper' rock star on stage, but acted more like one of your mates in person.

Perhaps because of this, the internet is currently awash with heartbroken former 'pop kids' (as the band's popular t-shirts once labelled them) from around the world sharing fond memories of their interactions and encounters with Keds – who also penned the Libertines' best song Can't Stand Me Now and was fronting the excellent noir pop outfit Deadcuts at the time of his passing – usually accompanied by blurry scanned photos in which everyone looks young, drunk and blissfully unconcerned about the future.

Although I missed seeing Senseless Things first time around, I was lucky enough to catch Mark and co in action a couple of times in recent years, firstly when he, Cass and lead guitarist Ben Harding reunited for the Four 4 Wiz charity show at Islington Academy in 2007, which commemorated the life of the Megas leader following his unexpected death the previous December.

What was billed as a Mark Keds solo acoustic appearance turned into a thrilling 30 minute (almost) full band blast of ST classics, including most of their debut LP, provoking a rapturous response from the crowd which pretty much upstaged the hugely anticipated Carter USM reunion which happened later in the night.

Naturally, our euphoria was tempered by collective grief for another fallen indie hero gone too soon – I remember Mark fighting back tears during a lull in their set as he lit a candle in tribute to his late friend, peer and musical mentor to place atop his amplifier.

The next time I saw Senseless Things, it featured 100 per cent of the original members and was 100 per cent celebration: their 2017 reunion show at Shepherd's Bush Empire was basically a massive party for fans old and slightly less old, with Mark, Ben, Cass and Morgan in ferocious form despite it being only their second proper show together in over 20 years.

Sadly, it would also be the Senseless Things' final show – something which honestly seemed impossible at the end of that incredible night, given the power of the band's performance and the uniformly overjoyed reaction of the punters who later spilled out onto the London streets, sweat-soaked and grinning from ear-to-ear like they were teenagers again.

Me and the rest of those folks will be playing their Senseless Things records loudly this week and for many years to come. RIP Mark – thanks and god bless.

:: THIS WEEK'S MOST ANNOYING NOISES: SENSELESS THINGS SPECIAL

Girlfriend

Come Together

Too Much Kissing

Got It At The Delmar

Christine Keeler

Hold It Down

Homophobic A**hole

Something To Miss

Best Friend

Touch Me On The Heath

Fishing at Tesco's

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