Hello there, my name is Alex. Nottingham University has like, 200 societies and the kids at Impact thought it would be a laugh if I went and tried some of them out and told you all what I think. Not sure if you want to pay that membership fee? Whether it’s BladeSoc or BlowSoc, I’ll be there interviewing the president, attending the socials and getting involved so you don’t have to. You bunch of ingrates.
Soc-umentary – A factual article about a society, presenting the facts with little or no fiction. As in, ‘Did you see that socumentary about Bellringing? That shit cray.’
Socumentary #3 – BandSoc
Alright, alright, calm down. I know it’s been a while since I last wrote one of these, but I’ve been busy ok? What with mid-term assessments and pretending to be a sadistic CIA agent from the 1960s, the Socumentaries kind of slipped under the radar. Fear not sinners, for I am back and have lined up a whole host of society based frolics for you to feast your eyes on. This week, we turn our ever gazing eye on BandSoc.
For the uninitiated, and in their own words, “Bandsoc gives you the chance to meet new people who have the same interest in music as you, and to form a band! We have cheap practice rooms on campus, regular gigs and jam nights throughout the year. We are the best way to form a band at uni!”
I had been invited along to one of the aforementioned ‘jam nights’. It was billed as a light hearted meeting of musical minds, with members invited to come down to the Den on a damp Sunday evening and make impromptu, musical magic with friends and strangers alike.
Unfortunately being musically retarded and almost certainly tone deaf, my choice of instrument was severely limited to that veritable whore of stringed instruments: the ukulele (anyone can play with its G-string).
Seriously, you could teach a monkey how to play the uke. Clearly though it’s much harder to try and look edgy whilst holding one, as demonstrated by moi.
I was anxious about my choice of weapon. Would I be shunned by the more serious, committed musicians with their full-sized instruments? Or maybe in this post-Mumford world we live in, the ukulele would be hailed as a vital addition to their ensemble and we would form an all-conquering rock-jazz-folk fusion band with me at its head?
It turns out I needn’t have worried, as when I arrived the place was pretty dead.
The only jam that appeared to be going on in the room was on the painstakingly presented scones laid out on the tables. Get it? Jam! At a JAM! !!1!!11!!!!!
I was informed by a member of the committee that due to the nature of musicians as inherently lazy and unreliable, we were still waiting on a number of people.
Never mind that though, it was election time! BandSoc needed a new General Secretary and a Freshers’ Rep. What followed was an election process that would make Robert Mugabe wince. No one wanted to be the Freshers’ Rep, so some poor guy got press ganged into making a speech about how he wanted a position on a committee he didn’t know existed five minutes previously. Romney/Obama it wasn’t.
With that out of the way, the night could begin in earnest. It was not however as I expected. Ready formed bands took to the stage, playing fifteen to twenty minutes worth of covers as well as a few songs of their own. I was sat cradling my trusty little instrument, waiting for an opportunity to jam with some of these clearly talented musicians, but it seemed the evening was of a different nature. These were clearly bands who had met earlier in the term.
The performances went on for some time and with considerable variation. The highlights included these guys who performed an original piece named ‘Blood on my Chin’ which was about going down on a girl during a dishonourable discharge from the uterine navy. Awk. As. Fuck.
Then there were these fellas who did some ridiculously tight covers of emo-metal songs you won’t have listened to since you were 14. It was AWESOME.
They made me want to get a weird piercing and write a badly punctuated blog post about how nO OnE uNdErStAnDs mE. Jokes aside, they were really metal.
The guitar. The sleeveless T-shirt. The stance. The potentially demonic red eyes. \m/
At one point some particularly enthusiastic members of the audience started dancing to a Queen cover, but they soon became self-aware and sat down again, finished their food and cleared off.
I had come alone and I was beginning to regret it; the loose, bohemian, free-love musical experience I had expected just wasn’t happening. People seemed to be playing their set and promptly leaving, taking their spectators with them. Eventually a jam occurred, but by then most of the people had left and weren’t able to witness the majestic jazz/folk masterpiece that was formed on stage. Confused and feeling let down I approached El Presidente, Simon Cass, to find out what I was missing out on; all the while resisting the urge to ask him if he was the secret love child of Jeff Bridges and the guy from Nickelback.
Simon, how do you think it’s gone tonight?
It’s been alright, a diverse show. It would have been nice to get some more members down. We often have this problem though, people don’t use our events enough or they’ll just take advantage of us and not get properly involved. There’s too much snobbery in music, people don’t want to come because of the mix of genres. I was worried, the turn out for tonight was sketchy at first!
To be honest tonight wasn’t what I expected going off the Facebook event and your profile.
Unfortunately our members just don’t seem very willing to just go on stage and jam with complete strangers . When we tried that before, only 10 people turned up. We’re finding it hard to find dedicated members, a lot of people seem to use us a shop or something. They use our rehearsal space, live practise opportunities such as tonight and recording facilities but they don’t seem very interested in the society itself.
What is it exactly you offer?
BandSoc have gear such as amps, drum kits and a two dedicated rehearsal rooms which are hugely popular. Sign-ups on Wednesdays and weekends are always very well attended, so we’re very active on that front, as well as the recording element. We always have regular events such as this, battle of the bands, and performances at Rescue Rooms. Nights such as tonight offer bands that might have only just met the opportunity to get that first bit of live experience. We’re currently trying to make it a more sociable society, so it’s not just established bands using us.
How are you going to do that?
Well I was thinking of a sort of random selection jam night where everyone gets a number and when it’s called they just have to go a jam with whoever else gets called up. But I don’t want to be too forceful; if people don’t want to play it’s up to them. The idea is that you should join BandSoc just to find other likeminded people to play with and get the support to then develop your band.
It seems to me that there is a lot of potential in Band Soc. The committee are clearly all very friendly, hard-working guys who want their society to succeed, but they seem to have missed out on a vital aspect. There was very little sense of community or together-ness at the night. The bands themselves were mostly very good, and enjoyable to watch, but they didn’t seem to really have much respect or camaraderie for each other. In an environment such as live music, a group mentality is very important; there are very few big bands that won’t have erupted from a similar scene of musical creativity in their local area. Band Soc could offer such a community, but at the moment they seem too focused on their practical job of renting out rooms and equipment. More importantly I didn’t get to play my uke all night, and that gentlemen, is a tragedy.
Good: if you know some guys who can play and like listening to covers.
Bad: if you’re a lone ukulele/trumpet/Theremin player wanting to reinvent music.