A Ruckus To Forget: Two Tubs & Rawkus
Anyone can put a gig on nowadays, and therein lays a problem. Any person with half an idea and a vague knowledge of bands can find themselves a venue for a suitable price and put up an event in big shining lights. Much like the way music has gone these days with the surge in home recordings – and the affordability of good quality recording software being the main catalyst for that – there are more and more independent promoters appearing in and around the North West like spots on an adolescent’s face. The problem is that, as is the age old issue, when the quantity of something is so great, the quality can be left malnourished and neglected.
Rawkus is a promotions company still very much in its infancy. And so, as a growing entity, it’s not quite toilet trained and, at Bury’s Two Tubs on Friday, they shat all over the wall – proverbially speaking.
Everything Rawkus is, unfortunately, screams of unprofessionalism. The brain child of Mark John Simcock, currently boasts 10 different club nights, each taking place in different towns and cities across the North West – ranging from Bury, Wigan and Preston, to Bolton and so on. And because not even Jesus could be in two places at once – bless his cotton socks – event management responsibilities were tonight left in the hands of a young lad called Dec Sherry. Dec isn’t a sound engineer and didn’t have the foggiest idea of what he was doing – frankly he couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery. The headline act, Prognosis ended up taking on organisational duties as they figured out gear sharing with other bands and tried their best to sound check. The mixing desk – a measly four track – was around a corner, parallel to the stage and obscured by a brick wall. This is never useful, especially when the ‘sound guy’ was never sat at the desk when something needed tweaking. They’d call him, he’d shuffle over slowly, put his pint down and stare like a rabbit in headlights at the desk before eventually making the adjustments and buggering off again. This very much set the tone for the evening.
If Rawkus was my child, my creation and love I would make sure I was there to see, first hand, said creation do its father proud. While you can’t knock the size of Mark’ ambition for expansion and to simply create something of an empire, of a name for his company across the North West, it is all coming too much too fast. Together, Rawkus and the venue, Two Tubs did nought but jeopardise their own reputations tonight – the latter especially shameful.
It all resulted in Prognosis being cut off half way through their set. The landlord had sent Dec over to the band to tell them they had to stop because “your genre of music has lost us money.” It was rude, unprofessional and premature – everyone was booted out long before the publicised closing time of 2am. They seemed to fail to take into account that this was an unpaid gig for Prognosis – a band who’d brought in folks through the door who put money behind the bar – and one which costs both transport and rehearsal wise in the build up to it.
“It wasn’t until two weeks before the show that we were told we were headlining – our first show at the top of a bill,” says a band statement given to Manchester Rocks. “The problem was, at that point we didn’t have enough material to play such a slot. However, being the dogged fuckers that we are, we committed to penning two new songs especially for the show to be able to play for long enough rather than offering the slot to someone who already had the needed material. Talk about blood, sweat and tears – we worked our arses off writing, finishing and polishing those new songs for the live setting and writing what we thought was the perfect set list - but we got there in the end. Only we never got to play the full set. With the PA cut off, we played one more song instrumentally – our longest one, no less – much to the pleasure of the crowd who themselves weren’t taking too kindly to the venue’s abrupt end to the night plainly because they were pissed off that that the night hadn’t been the roaring success they expected it to be.”
But where does the blame lie?
Still a new promotions company, they are simply expanding too quickly. If Mark wants people to view the Rawkus name in a positive light, he must be there in person to make sure every event goes smoothly and is the success he imagines it can be. If someone is to represent him and take charge of a specific night, they need to be on the ball, experienced and dedicated to making sure every band is happy and times run accordingly. The thing I find most upsetting though, is not so much the fact the night was poorly ran and had a poor attendance. The line-up, which had some great selling points including the brilliant big riffs of Rain May Fall and Peur, a band who have just played T in the Park for Christ’s sake, was never shouted about. The bands only discovered the line-up when they were added to a private group about the show – to everyone else it was pretty much a mystery. The night was sold on the premise of free shots and a club night after the music. In reality there were no free shots – apparently because there were not enough people to constitute such an offer – and Prognosis were cut off mid-way through their headline slot at 1pm, an hour earlier than the night should have finished. Everyone was rudely kicked out, which leads us onto the venue itself…
Ill equipped to put on live music, the stage was minuscule, laughable really; most band members played in the vacant space where the crowd should be. The lights probably cost in or around 47 pence and would disappoint a seven year old’s disco. The owners – and we’re told the landlord is new – paid to host the night, rather than the other way around, so their cutting short the night because of a lack of money is nothing to do with “our genre of music” and is simply a misjudged business decision on their part in hindsight – and when they say this with pictures of ACDC, Hendrix, Bowie and Lou Reed hanging on the wall behind them, it is both hypocritical and insulting. The bar staff were not told of the nature of the night and, not being metal fans, spent the night complaining about the music with their fingers in their ears. This, in all, doesn’t really matter – people working the bars at bigger arenas will, more often than not, be there for a pay check rather than for the music itself, but it was just another negative stacked like Jenga on top of the mounting others.
The landlord then informed us that we were to blame for them losing money, and not themselves. “We’ve had a banner up outside the pub all week,” said one of them from her deluded state up on her supposed high horse. But anyone with even an ounce of common sense knows much, much more is needed than that to bring people into your venue (ignoring the fact that Dec says he personally checked and discovered the banner was put up two days before the gig, not an entire week).
But this night isn't the only time things have gone tits up, both in regards to Two Tubs and Rawkus Promotions:
“We played a Rawkus show at Two Tubs a bit ago. First thing we noticed was the stage, or lack of,” say Preston thrash metal troupe All Consumed. “The organisation was pretty non-existent as well as the (what should be usual) venue equipment, especially when they use their own PA, waited for a sound guy, kitchen was storage, no sound check, things started over an hour late, the first band pulled out which we found out when gig should have started. The promoter (Mark) was in a different town with another event he had that night. We didn't get shut off though and staff were not rude to us. Just a very poor venue, with poor event management. Mark is a DJ first and foremost so he should maybe focus on that. It was one of the worst gigs we've played. But we did get £20 for our trouble (we asked for it). Not a venue or Promoter we'll use again, and we would not recommend them to others, we thought it was maybe a one off bad experience, but doesn't look that way. Apparently, the gig Mark was at was a shambles too (But that's not confirmed).”
Neurosync however, who played Rawkus Wigan at the Swan & Railway don’t lay the blame at the promoter’s feet: “I don't think it’s a Rawkus issue per say. The issue we had, I believe, was specific to Swan & Railway and their awful sound engineer. The promoter, Jed Saint, was okay, not the greatest, but was a nice guy (at least on the night).”
I think the issue is purely down to Mark’s unparalleled desire to expand Rawkus, to create some form of Monopoly before he’s mastered one event. He asked me not to tarnish the Rawkus name and make sure people see the issue that has been kicked up around this is with Two Tubs. But I don’t think that’s entirely true. Two Tubs may not be the right venue for his vision in retrospect, and the rudeness of narrow-mindedness – particularly from a business perspective – of the landlord is beyond terrible, but where was Mark during all this? We, as a band, had to pester him for information – set times, length and load in times – and we only got that information late on. They were poor at promoting the event and the overall result was an uninspiring night which, certainly compared to many of its rivals, doesn’t leave you wanting to go back or even remember the night fondly.
Statements From Rawkus
Dec Sherry: "Firstly I would like to say that we're on the side of the bands and can't believe how unprofessional it was to shut down a set half way through. I was told by them to shut down the gig myself, to which I argued against before the Manager began unplugging the PA system. It's completely out of order as I have said and we're already sorting this out. We've had a great working relationship in the past with the venue however the Two Tubs new manager is proving difficult to work with, this being proven by the fact that we've now had two problems with the management in two shows. I overheard the managers wife during one of her multiple arguments and complaints to the bands that we hadn't promoted our own event that we had shared around even bigging up the fact entry was only a pound for charity. Admittedly I messed up the orginal event putting it as private however fixed this with well over a week before the event with us and bands sharing it round. There was no music in the front bar nor did the venue have any drinks offers on which we were told there would be, I heard people in the venue say they were leaving in between bands to go buy cheaper drinks in the wetherspoons next door, I feel this is probably a contributing factor. Again I would like to apologise to all and thank every band for showing up."
Mark Simcock: "I have gone over the landlord's head (to his management) to get this sorted, the venue are out of order for cutting things short. Dec's admitted his mistakes and also the places he needs additional training on ahead of future events. Rawkus club nights are in so many places because we get asked to go there by both venues and customers. I'm trying to do nice things for people, I apologise that the landlord was being a bellend, but I put Prognosis on because they're dead sound and wanted to give the guys a highlight."
Building Towards The Future
Rawkus has potential, if it’s run well it can be brilliant – ten club nights taking over the North West’s alternative scene on one, messy and brilliant night a month sounds fantastic to me. But for now creases need to be ironed out - especially with regards to their social media approach. Such an important aeasthetic, their presence on Facebook - emphasised by a lack of an official page, rather things being directed through promoter's personal pages - is currently poor and needs work. So, organisational question marks currently hang like storm clouds overhead. They need addressing before Rawkus' grand plan can really start to take any form of shape.
And, as Editor of Manchester Rocks - a website passionate about and dedicated to supporting the scene in Manchester and the surrounding areas, I only tap these words into my keyboard becasue I care. I don't like bad blood, I'm a pacifist and a right soft bastard, frankly. But when there are glaring issues like this, someone needs to stand up and give Rawkus and Two Tubs the kicks up the arses they need. These new landlords seem to be blind to what exactly the pub has become to the local area - a hub for fans of heavy music. As for Rawkus, they perhaps need to be taking one small step for rock kind rather than ten giant leaps. Take it slow, build gradually or fall, catastrophically, burning to the ground in a fireball of 'what could have been.’
Words: Phil Weller