From enjoying an ice pop that has been frozen since 2006 on Shoreham beach to the scantily clad people running around Cissbury Ring on a regular basis, to the cult status Dave Benson Phillips has retained for himself in Worthing, Sussex never fails to make me smile. A county where the coast meets the countryside and has London smoking just outside her front porch looking to come in for a coffee when the weather is sunny. Unless you are from certain parts of East London then you need a latte to go because you are moving to Margate.
There’s certainly no other place like Sussex.
About a decade ago, Hector’s House on Grand Parade in Brighton was the place to be. To quote one of my favourite artists it was ‘Where It’s At’. Sam Burgess set up the infamous ‘Buzz Club’ and ‘It’s Alive’ gig nights where some of the finest bands and artists around would cut their teeth. He was armed with the best soundman around in Jack Childs and by keeping it free entry and having top bands the venue was usually full to the brim.
It was the place where I first saw Tigercub, She Crazy and Dolphin Parade and had the chance to put on the incredibly underrated Semper Teens. I was proud to play a Buzz Club night on Saturday October 23rd 2010, with Blue Stragglers, and the following summer headlined a sweatbox of a debut performance with Tied To The Mast. Hector’s became The Blind Tiger Club, which was good, but never the same, and is now a Brewdog after being shut down due to a noise complaint, a common threat for many superb grass roots venues. Something Steve Lamacq has touched upon recently with Independent Venue Week on BBC 6 Music. Eddie the Goatman almost unintentionally carried the baton from Sam by starting Late Night Lingerie at Sticky Mike’s. It was the fertile soil that Demob Happy, Tigercub and many others grew in, influencing other bands around including Vant, Loa Loa and Sick Joy.
If there's a time for new bands like Beach Riot, The Sly Persuaders & Calva Louise to break into the mainstream then it’s now. I've watched the fluctuations in the underbelly of the music industry for over a decade now, deliberately being a fly on the wall in the past few years as I, like many, was disillusioned and exasperated by how fickle and image orientated it had become. Image and marketability will always be focal points, but between 2007-2014 things felt consumed by it and the airwaves were saturated by watery trite indie bands with no substance. All juice no seed as I like to say. It seemed so many bands focused more about what shirt or brand to wear than what they were going to play at rehearsal that week. The sinking leviathan that was the NME is the archetypal example of how times have changed. Nowadays it was more focused on asking people in the street what they are wearing and advertising hair products, whereas throughout the previous decades, especially for me in the early noughties, it was still one of the best avenues to discover new music – not any more. BBC 6 Music, Diymag.com, Clash and Drowned In Sound are my constants. And there is still nothing better than word of mouth with a recommendation or playlist from a friend. If youmake me a good playlist I’ll be your friend forever.
Outside of Brighton, Horsham for years has been a melting pot of many very good bands and exceptional musicians; culminating in raucous battle of the band competitions in front of 1500 + crowds in the town centre, and currently Hastings is hotbed of new artists, with Kid Kapichi, The Lucid Experiment and Al Mitchell and the New Born Sinners showing huge promise.
Demob Happy & Tigercub, fully deserve to be where they are. They have grafted for it. Earnt their crust. They are both genuinely great bands. It has been a pleasure to support them both at The Boileroom in Guildford on separate occasions. What makes a great band? In my opinion, you need at least one member to be a master craftsman or woman of their trade. It's all about whether a band possesses a fantastic songwriter, a phenomenal guitarist, singer, pianist or a drummer that still makes your thorax shake 10 minutes after they’ve performed. All four members of Led Zeppelin were examples of this. The ultimate 3 pieces - Cream and Nirvana also had a full house of players that were at the top of their game. The Foo’s have a couple in Grohl and Taylor Hawkins, Tame Impala is Kevin Parker and Q.O.T.S.A. have a constant in Josh Homme – although no one can deny that Queens were at their best when they had a full house with Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees), Dave Grohl, Troy Van Leuween and Nick Oliveri on the same ship. Whispers of ‘what a line up that is’ must have echoed backstage at Glastonbury 2002 (‘they’ve got the drummer from Nirvana and the most bad-ass singer in the world in Lanegan. We don’t want to go on after their afternoon Other Stage slot!’) Looking at the weak Reading and Leeds festival line up this year, it's hard not to agree with recurring criticisms that organisers don't involve enough acts with females artists in. There is a plethora of talented female artists out there with Hannah Lou Clark, Cami from Beach Riot, Kitty from Saint Agnes, Jess from Calva Louise & Daisy from Clever Thing are just a handful of examples in my playlist below.
The average listener might think of the Brighton ‘rock scene’ and instantly think of Royal Blood. I first saw them live (being supported by Tigercub) at the Tunbridge Wells Forum in 2015. Ben and Matt both know they aren’t the only ones making an unholy racket in Sussex. They're good at what they do and there’s no denying their talent, but it’s the new breed of bands that give me the most excitement.
This new breed starts with Demob Happy and Tigercub. They're the future festival headliners. Again, on a personal basis having written about both bands for years on LITM it was exceptional to see Tigercub destroy a packed out Scala and C2 in February and for Demob to receive 5 stars from DIY for their second album Holy Doom this week. My friend Rick Lennox who has worked and performed in the industry for decades knows his onions when it comes to new music and he always told me that the cream will rise to the top, it's just a matter of how long it takes. He’s not wrong. Royal Blood got straight through the net. They got the best Community Chest card on the Monopoly board, but TC and DH have been the Jamie Vardy and Peter Crouch of the modern game (Jamie from TC and Crouch would make a formidable centre forward pairing actually.) It’s no coincidence that DH and TC both relocated to Brighton from Newcastle and that Ben from RB has a giant Brighton and Hove Albion FC seagull on his bass drum. Watch out for a few seagulls stealing your chips at Glastonbury in 2019 when you see a few of these bands come out and play sets that’ll be the talk of the festival.
Sussex By The Sea Playlist:
Beach Riot: Paper Dress Vintage Hackney Thurs March 15th
Beach Riot: The Suburbia in Southampton Fri March 16th
Sick Joy: Brixton Academy Sat March 17th
Blue Stragglers: The Stag’s Head Hoxton Sat March 24th
Saint Agnes: The Hope & Ruin Fri April 6th
Saint Agnes: The Lexington - LDN Sun April 8th
Demob Happy: The Haunt – Brighton Fri April 13th
Demob Happy: The Borderline – LDN Sat April 14th
Blue Stragglers: Sticky Mike’s – Brighton Sun May 6th
Mayday bank holiday show with Tigercub DJ set afterwards