Its late August 2012, a temp at work has heard that I play the guitar and tells me that I have to come with her to the open mic at Chorlton cricket club. I am nervous but easily led by pretty girls. I have already been practicing at poetry readings and gotten the bug for live performances but I have never played my guitar out in front of anyone other than an ex-girlfriend (who hated me playing) and a few close friends. I’d never even had a single guitar lesson. I go and after an hour and a half of waiting, drinking a few pints to quell my nerves I get my shot to sing one song, ‘A Devil’s Promise’, I can barely play the guitar and I can’t sing. When it comes up to the line ‘Fuck off Lucifer’ I shout it so loud that the old deaf woman sat in the fount rows blood curdles and face grimaces. The crowd applaud, and I am hooked.
My next ‘gig’ follows swiftly, I arrive at Trof in the Northern Quarter on a Monday night. My guitar is a plain acoustic, I don’t even have a guitar case and it doesn’t plug in. So I stand in the middle of the room and play unplugged the only 3 songs I know, much to the crowds amusement. Perhaps I am crazy or just blindly confident but I buy a fender telo-acoustic and I am unstoppable. My life becomes a torrent, a relentless pursuit of every open mic that Manchester has to offer. Every night a different open mic, a different crowd, a different venue. Some times two or three bars in one evening. Once I clocked up 9 ‘gigs’ in 4 days. Such is the brilliance of Manchester. All the time I was meeting so many amazing musicians. I was learning, jamming, writing and improving.
By December I had befriended some great musicians and guided by the other promoters and I decided I wanted to run my own monthly night, more to give myself and my musical friends somewhere to play than anything else. And so there is was, THE EPIC NIGHT: free entry, live music. We held the first one in a tiny pub on a Monday night. I got there early and bumbled through the system set up, luckily the bar staff knew what there were doing. We had 6 great acts on and played to a room of maybe 30 people. At the end of the evening we had made £30. This was first time I have ever made money from music, we immediately spent it in the next pub.
I get up on stage at a Jazz night on an open jam night. I am not a jazz musician and the other jazz musicians are not willing to play along to my simple chord progressions as I sing my newly written song. I feel humiliated; luckily I was quite drunk however I had my friend video my performance so I could feel the cold hard shame in the morning. As I jump off the stage in my rock ‘n’ roll manner I make a vow to which I uphold to this day. FUCK JAZZ!
It’s now January, after a cold long December of playing my confidence and skill has improved. I no longer felt nervous before playing and now I craved the stage, getting restless before it was my turn to play. I was starting to find my voice and my song writing had improved. January 17th, the Second ever Epic Night. We held it at Guilliver’s pub in the northern quarter on a cold snowy Thursday evening. Again it was a free event, to advertise it I wrote in chalk on the shutters opposite in bold letters EPIC NIGHT 17th of JAN! That evening we had 9 performers playing to a room filled with about 80 people and as snow fell our magic and music filled the air. I play when it is the busiest, after all it is my event, and smash it with my newest song ‘Tonight’. Nothing lost, nothing gained and a good time was had by all.
February Epic night is a success at the Black Lion pub on a Friday night and March’s ‘Epic comedown’ is an all day event at the Thirsty Scholar on a Sunday. I can now operate the Thirsty Scholar’s sound system and am able to sound engineer the whole event single handily despite myself having a raging comedown from the mental party I attended the evening before. I wear a hat, which half way through my set I take it off and throw it into the crowd, I sleep with the girl who returns it to me. It is starts to become apparent that girls like long haired guitar players, or perhaps it’s just me. My events are gathering steam and I have been asked to help save a poorly attended night on a Wednesday at the Tiger Lounge, I comply and have a roaring success in bringing in my friends and bands to come and play. The night is saved.
The weather is shit, it’s Manchester. However in the brief respite from the rain I go busking. I don’t have any amplification and so I cannot play in the busier places and so I reserve myself to a small corner in the Northern Quarter and make that my regular spot. I have had many great days busking and quite a few funny experiences. One guy walked up to me and told me to ‘stop being a twat’, other than random abuse and trying to politely tell crack heads to go away busking is a lot of fun. I am given beer, chocolate, cups of tea and acid. My first acid experience was whilst busking. I tripped my balls of and made £40.
I fall in with the house crowd. I see how their events are run and managed and the vast contrast between live music and DJ’s. I take a lot of ecstasy and after the club we have an after party in a penthouse hotel room overlooking the Manchester skyline.
I get the chance to play a gig at the Night and Day cafe, it’s a charity gig to raise money for dyslexia. I get excited as this is one of Manchester’s best venues and the biggest venue I have played at and so I go out and buy leather trousers. As I am leaving for the gig, the building next to my flat gets burn down and the area evacuated. Undisturbed I head for the gig and open the night, I am supporting Mark Vox from the Chameleons. I get drunk and stupidly ask ‘I hear you were in a band or something?’ and then manage to piss off the promoter. The building next to my flat is still ablaze, I am homeless for the evening and left wandering the streets of Manchester hammered and in leather trousers much to the police and fire service’s delight. The next evening, still in my leathers I show up to my friends new night at Lock 91. It’s the only live music on Deansgate’s locks on a Friday night, I’m not billed to play and so I trip hard on acid and play my guitar all evening on the smoking balcony overlooking the entire locks. I am asked to play at the next event.
The long nights of drinking and making music are becoming a strain on my day job. I am coming in later and later and the office work seems laborious and pointless. I spend all my time at work on Facebook posting poems, writing songs or booking people for the nights I am running. It doesn’t take me long to realise that office work is not for me, so I quit and get a tattoo. I am now a full time musician and have got something special planned. An EPIC FESTIVAL.
The epic festival was an independent free two day music festival, there were three stages and it ran over the May Bank Holiday. I am in charge of the inside stage which was mostly acoustic, upstairs in the gig room we have bands and outside there is a circus stage filled with an odd assortment of performances. It’s by far the biggest event I have ever planned and run and between the team of people we smash it. As the headline bands are playing out on the final day I am overcome with a scene of pride and accomplishment. I make no money. A few days later I pack my bag, my guitar and head for Europe.
Ok I lied, it was more 10 months in the Manchester music scene and in that time I went from never playing to running weekly events and my own 2 day music festival. I would like to thank everyone that has helped me in the last 10 months, all the promoters that have let me play and all the people that were involved in the festival. Now let’s see what the next year holds.
All words by Josh Lisiuk. This is Josh’s first piece for Louder Than War.