So it’s the other day right. There’s me, it’s just before Freshers week, I’m hyped for the second annual Exeposé Music Freshers Showcase at The Cavern, of course. Bands are booked and everything is going swimmingly, only thing is it’s on fire. What do you think “closed for the forseeable future” means? To me, it didn’t mean: “Wow, I hope no one was hurt,” it meant; “What are we going to do about the showcase?” (no one was hurt though). The Cavern is the edgy, literally underground hub of Exeter’s music scene, but there must be a decent venue to replace it in such short notice.
So rather than admit defeat we were determined to provide the fresh faced first years with a musical taste of Exeter. So after a lot of faff and an aggressive leafleting campaign we were back on track. We hadn’t forgotten The Cavern; we were hoping to collect donations for the owners – lovely Pippa and dear old Dave. But after a maddening, Kafkaesque odyssey through the university administration network, we tried to source a collection bucket to no avail. The snarling bureaucrats finally deemed it ILLEGAL to collect for the Cavern without paying TAX (!) on the donations so Exeposé admitted defeat like noble law-abiders. (However, apparently the charitable impulse was too much for some at the event. An informal collection supposedly took place, perhaps raising £53.86, which somehow found it’s way to the JustGiving page for restorations)
The lights and the stage actually surpassed CAvern’s
Monday night we led a posse on a pilgrimage down the labyrinthine road from the Ram to Kay House. I saw a Minotaur on the way. The venue was sweltering hot but looked fantastic; I can’t sing the praises of ExeTech enough (although if I did, the microphone I’d use would be reliably set up). The quality lights and the stage actually somewhat surpassed Cavern’s, and the sound quality was absolutely spot-on. Unfortunately, Exeter’s go-to tech-team has fantastic technical ability but awful music taste. All our eager hipsters were being dazzled with the “Cha Cha Slide” and the like. “Can we change the playlist?” I said to the sound guy, “It’s all about the music and this is a bit Saturday night disco”. He looked at me like I’d just kicked his Nan. Finally – the first band played.
Okay, I won’t be obnoxious for this bit. All three bands exceeded my expectations and were legitimately fantastic. Flaws Above, a Campus Bands-borne outfit, delivered beautifully paced indie rock and some truly goose-bumping crooning (esp. in “Stars Tonight”). They also broke out a playful cover of MGMT’s Kids with fiddlin’ riffage that got the crowd boppin’ – an impressive example of what the students have to offer.
Second up, Lipstick Jumpsuit, somehow comprised of scrappy young Exeter College students, were something to behold. They made sounding incredible look so easy. Strikingly psychedelic and oozing cool, their sound reminded me of that one instrumental “Video Games” cover that John Mayer did – bluesy and stylish, laidback and utterly in control (but also with a bit of bite). Finishing with an 8 minute long, well-grooved freestyle, they were an utter treat – I can’t believe they’re from Exeter.
TripToTori, straight outta Bude (Cornwall), polished the night off fantastically. While the other two bands were undoubtedly talented, these guys had that extra experience that you can’t fake. Their consideration of craft saw the room filled with rich soundscapes and gorgeously timbrous guitar riffs. I’m probably just be being pretentious, but I think Bude’s “seaside” landscape definitely informed their sound. Echoing effects and the way the vocals waited their turn in response to the music reminded me a lot of the better indie stuff coming from my nautical hometown of Portsmouth, except it was more sparsely beautiful. They felt truly artful.
Maybe the south west isn’t the musical wasteland it’s known as
My point is – it gave me hope that maybe the South West isn’t the musical wasteland it’s known as. Even if hearing cliffs is just pompous and overblown on my part, despite the complications the whole night definitely made me proud of the local scene. Truth be told, we didn’t need to raise £54 for the Cavern (not that we did!), it’s currently received over £8000 in donations – 274% of its goal – a stunning amount of support for a tiny underground venue the wrong side of Bristol. When it’s back it’ll be better than ever, and in the next two months we’ve got Kano, Crystal Castles, Slaves and Frank Turner performing ON CAMPUS. Cavern’s tragedy worried anyone who remotely cares about the music scene in Exeter, but after that night I’m feeling pretty confident. While sweating my tits off in an obscure University building with sixty-or-so other confused pilgrims doesn’t seem a good way to start inaugurate the musical year, Exeter did not let me down.