Thursday, 6 February 2020

Do It Together Diary: Part One

Do it Together Fest has now come and gone. Normally I would sit down and write a review of the weekend but that seems like something you shouldn't do if it's a gig you helped to put on. I did really want to write something about it though, as it's something I've been involved with that I'm super proud of. So I decided to recount the weekend as a kind of diary entry type post so you can perhaps get an idea of what it was like for me as a first time promoter helping to run my first gig.


This whole thing started for me in September of last year when I was put in a group message with my good friends Paul from Be Sharp Promotions and Sarah from Shout Louder/Lockjaw Records. They asked if I wanted to be involved in a super secret gig to celebrate our birthdays and the idea soon evolved into doing something to also celebrate the DIY community that's so important to us all.


Over the next month, we put together a line-up featuring our collective favourite bands and many of our good friends. It was looking like a weekend to remember before we even got around to booking the headliners. To my surprise, Paul and Sarah even let me book a couple of the bands which was very exciting. I did my very best professional sounding typing (it's like a phone voice but using a keyboard) and sent emails to Katie MF and Toodles & The Hectic Pity. There's every chance I actually just sent Katie a Facebook message as we're pals and I'm rubbish at being "professional." With only one slight snafu regarding a little miscommunication between one of the bands and the promoters we had a line-up featuring Call Me Malcolm, Forever Unclean, Burnt Tapes, Triple Sundae, Eat Defeat, Goodbye Blue Monday, Uniforms, Just Say Nay, Fabled Mind, Katie MF, Toodles & The Hectic Pity, Our Lives In Cinema and Midwich Cuckoos. This was going to be fun and we hadn't even gotten round to the headliners yet!

When suggesting bands to headline Do It Together, I jokingly suggested Lightyear. It's one of our collective favourite bands ever and would guarantee a big crowd. I didn't actually expect us to book them. But, I forget, this is Paul. Paul managed to do Paul things and get them booked. I forget this is the Paul who managed to do Paul things and get Goldfinger to play NXI. Paul can do anything. When I heard the news of the latest instalment of incredible Paul things with Lightyear, I was at work – I checked my phone and saw that my favourite band ever would be headlining the first event I was ever helping with. I basically did a football celebration around my car park and probably looked like a right weirdo. Especially as I wasn't allowed to tell anyone yet. That night it was actually the album launch party for Just Say Nay's incredible debut full length Maximum Effort. Imagine how hard it is being in a room full of ska punk fans as well as many, many friends and having to keep this massive secret. It was rubbish!


November was largely spent promoting Do It Together. A big part of this for me and Paul was flyering. There was a particular busy weekend in London where Hot Water Music and Reel Big Fish were in London for separate shows. As luck would have it, Paul and I were going to these shows, I was at HWM in Camden and Paul was at RBF in Islington (with Lightyear supporting!). We both handed out hundreds of flyers to folk as they were leaving the gigs (yup, we were those people) and a good amount of people seemed vaguely interested. Paul and I both attended a second date of the RBF/Lightyear tour and again did some flyering at the end. I took it as a competition to try and get rid of my flyers quicker than he did. I succeeded and I'm pretty sure I earned the man’s respect. We also finally confirmed our other headliner – the one and only JB Conspiracy. What an incredibe line-up we had!


For me, I didn't do much for Do It Together in December. I busied myself sorting out end of year lists for Colin's Punk Rock World and working on our new endeavour CPRW Records. Some might say it's not the best idea to be promoting your first event and starting a record label and I would agree with them. However, I don't know any of these people and I have a bunch of friends who encourage me to make these stupid decisions without really thinking about how busy I already am.

Where I wasn't doing much in the way of Do It Together Fest in December, Sarah was working extremely hard on a zine that would become an actual book for the big gig. Titled Papercuts, the book contains pieces of writing from folk from all over the punk rock community (including myself, Robyn and Dan of CPRW) telling stories of being involved in the punk community and how it's helped them in some way. The finished article is an incredible piece of work and I seriously recommend picking up your own copy here. I have so much love and respect for Sarah, for the job she did on Papercuts – it's amazing.


January was mostly spent doing some final promotional work for Do It Together. I posted some interviews on CPRW and Sarah wrote a fact file on all of the bands for Shout Louder. Our good friend Makky also wrote a lovely preview for Broken Arrow Magazine. In fact, the whole build up for the festival seemed to involve the bands playing saying the loveliest things about Paul, Sarah and myself and the work we've done in the DIY scene. There were a couple of things written that genuinely brought a tear to my eye. It's nice to feel appreciated.

The final big job leading up to the weekend was sorting out the fundraising elements of the weekend. We wanted to raise some money for the mental health charity Mind. Sarah, the working machine that she is, did a brilliant job with getting donations from the fine folk at Lockjaw Records and TNSRecords as well as pretty much organising the entire tombola. Earlier in our development of the weekend, Katie (MF) had said she may be able to get a donation of vegan cakes from Ogg's Bakery so I helped to co-ordinate that. I also donated 100 download codes for our Fifth Birthday Compilation for anyone who played the tombola to receive – win or lose. Have you ever had to cut out 100 download codes? It takes ages!

Friday 24th January: Day One of Do It Together Fest 2020

I was up early to release the new CPRW Records comp CPRW Records Presents We Love This Community (available here). In hindsight, deciding to release the comp on the same day as Do It Together probably wasn't my finest idea. An early start on a day, when I knew full well that I would be having a much later night that I'm used to, was not smart. It's classic Colin though.

The rest of the morning was spent at home, packing for the weekend in South London, doing odd chores and having some lunch before heading to the station with Emma for the train. Given the struggles I've had with anxiety in the past, I was surprised that I wasn't more stressed and worried about what was about to come but, for some reason, I was just excited for a fun weekend of great bands and lovely friends. There was nothing to worry about. Paul and Sarah knew exactly what they were doing so I had no need to be concerned about anything.

At about 5pm, Emma and I arrived in New Cross and quickly headed to the New Cross House where we had arranged to meet Sarah and Paul for some before-the-madness-begins dinner. New Cross House was full so we organised to meet up at NXI and make a new plan. Sarah arrived first as she was staying upstairs in the hostel. As Emma and I entered our home from home we were greeted by big hugs from Sarah. We hadn't actually seen Sarah since MPF in April 2019 – which is far too long! Sarah then set about introducing us to her friend Freddy who was down from Manchester to help us out and was, in all honesty, the unsung hero of the entire weekend, as well as Lesley from Midwich Cuckoos and Lockjaw Records. Our old pal Steve, drummer of Eat Defeat, had also arrived early for the set and we had a quick catch up about Eat Defeat's time in America last October. Paul eventually arrived and we decided to pop to our regular New Cross fast food place Chicago's for some delicious vegan shawarma wraps.

Heading back to the pub, we decided to hide in the booths around the corner, eat our dinner and catch up some more as well as discussing the weekend ahead. I sat around there talking until just after doors and was pleasantly surprised to see the venue already had plenty of people who had come down early, when we went back. This was great to see. The thing I loved most about Do It Together was the amount of people who had travelled from different parts of the country and indeed Europe to attend. It really blew my mind and I was very excited to spend some time with friends who I rarely get to see.

Before the bands got going, I got to have a quick catch up with Leo from Forever Unclean and finally got to meet band members Lasse and Troels as well. for the first time after years of following the band. Forever Unclean weren't due to play until the following evening but had come early to enjoy the entire weekend. These gentlemen are heroes.

The first band on were Midwich Cuckoos. I didn't really know a lot about them before the set but was quickly impressed by how tight they were as a band. They have a very commanding presence that makes them pretty hard to ignore. I think they were a great choice to open the weekend and really got us off to a flying start.

After they finished, I looked towards the door to see people queuing up to get in. We really were not expecting this – it made us very happy. I genuinely can't remember a time where I've been to New Cross Inn and seen a queue! Just Say Nay were next to take to the stage. Playing their first NXI show since their excellent album launch in October, lead singer Jak Coleman took to the stage and announced it was good to be home. A lot of bands on the line-up would probably see NXI as a home venue and it was so nice to have them all together at one time. While Midwich Cuckoos were a powerful opener, I felt like Just Say Nay was when the party really got started. It didn't take long for the band to get the crowd moving. Something that I thought was really good for a lot of the bands playing was that they got to play to people they wouldn't usually as we had purposely organised a mixture of genres for the weekend. I'm pretty confident JSN gained some more fans with this performance. Big shout out to Mikey T of JSN for the best stage dive of the entire weekend, the man threw himself off the stage and I was surprised he was actually caught by the small crowd of people directly in front of him.

The penultimate act of the night (not including the after party) were Eat Defeat. They were an absolute no brainer to have play Do It Together as Paul, Sarah and myself all have long histories with the band. Despite being based in Leeds, Eat Defeat always feel like a "New Cross band" to me and you can't have a party without them. As always, they were very well received and, of course, managed to get a massive sing-along to their final song Not Today, Old Friend. It was nice at the end of their set to see a lot of people head over to their merch table to buy things from them. After the crowd cleared, Emma and I went to see Summers – he's one of the best people in the UK DIY scene and it's always lovely to see him.

Ska punk legends The JB Conspiracy were the band tasked with headlining the first night of Do It Together. As soon as they were mentioned, I couldn't think of a better band for the job so was over the moon when they agreed to do it. JBC don't play anywhere near enough gigs these days so it always feels like quite the event when they do get together. I kind of feel like JBC are a band that really epitomise the idea of Do It Together. I'm quite sure that almost every time I've seen them over the years they've had at least one member who didn't play the gig I'd seen them at before. Obviously, life can often prevent having the full band available all of the time but the band have so many people always willing to step in and help out if they're needed. Of course, JBC played a fantastic set – they always do. They played a host of songs from This Machine and The Storm, as well as some newer songs yet to be released that sound incredible. It was nice to see everyone around us having such a good time watching the band, even the folk who aren't really ska punk fans seemed to really dig what was going on.

After the set, I went and found Paul as I had a nagging feeling that I should be doing something. He's a rubbish taskmaster so I found Sarah next. We decided that it would be a good idea to close down the tombola for the night during the after party. The after party was provided by NXI's favourite punk rock classics cover band The Aversions who feature my new friend Max from Youths. Lovely man and a great band – check them out. We were surprised by the amount of people who stayed for the duration and really got into their set. I guess, when a band mostly plays covers from the Tony Hawk’s games they're going to get a great reception. Also, clearly knowing their audience they borrowed Katy and Charlotte from Just Say Nay to play brass for their covers of All Outta Angst, Superman and The Impression That I Get. This was such a fun way to finish a brilliant first day of Do It Together.

Emma and I made our way back to our AirBnB at about 1am in the morning. We entered the flat and it was absolutely freezing. We'd forgotten to turn the heating on. This lead to a night of shivering and fidgeting and eventually about three hours sleep, before getting woken up by the trains on the train line at the back of the building which I had absolutely no idea about. Perfect preparation for what was going to be a pretty hectic day. I was exhausted and excited for another brilliant day.

This Do It Together Diary was written by Colin Clark. Photos by Emma Prew.

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