London: the birthplace of punk (some noisy New Yorkers might disagree), Britpop’s focus, the Beatles at Abbey Road studios – the city is a powerhouse of musical invention and an integral part of music, past, present and future.
It is the latter, though, which is most exciting right now, and is the focus for the HMV Next Big Thing festival, which shines a spotlight on the acts and bands expected to make waves during the next 12 months.
Entering its third year, the event showcases new acts about to break through, with 65 gigs in 11 days, featuring 200 artists at six London venues (and three others around the country) and an assortment of musical styles, attitudes and sounds.
Festival organiser Jason Legg says each September, he and his fellow promoter, Jim Benner, longlist all the musicians, from the UK and abroad, touted as the ‘next big things’ – often in excess of 600 bands – and whittle the line-up down from there.
“We try and see live and listen to as much music as we can manage,” Legge says. “The festival has no musical boundaries – we support new and breakthrough music, whether it’s folk, classical, metal, pop, indie or post-dubstep. We have a passion for new music, so it’s not much of a chore.”
That drive shines through in the breadth and depth of bands on offer, from a singer-songwriter star-in-the-making like London’s Delilah, to punk-noisemongers Eagulls and dance-led electro firebrands Hadouken!
The capital boasts such an array of venues steeped in that aforementioned history that bands are almost begging to play. Several of those venues – The Borderline, The Garage, Upstairs At The Garage, Jazz Cafe, Heaven, Barfly Camden – play host to this year’s gigs.
Synth-rockers AWOLNATION (Garage, Feb 10), who released debut album Megalithic Symphony last year, are just thrilled to be invited to the whole shebang.
“Any chance to play for new audiences is an honor,” frontman Aaron Bruno gushes. “And I’m excited to play in the homeland that spawned so many of my favourite bands.”
Paul ‘Barney’ Barnes of pop-metallers Sonic Boom Six is equally pumped ahead of his band’s show.
“This festival specialises in industry representatives so it’s an opportunity to get our new album on a label that will give it the shot it deserves,” he says.
Legge himself is understandably excited. Seeing his months of hard work come to fruitition will be satisfying and, even after being absolutely saturated with music, he’s champing at the bit for the festival to begin.
“With so many gigs, it’s difficult to pick out my personal faves,” he says of the kaleidoscopic range of acts. “But the artists I’m most looking forward to are Stooshe [Feb 11], New Look [Feb 7], Florrie [Feb 4], We Are Augustines [Feb 2] and Tonight Alive [Feb 10].”
Kicking off the year when audiences hear about new bands but often have to wait ages to actually hear them live, and with tickets a snip at a flat £10, the HMV Next Big Thing festival ensures that you’ve got no excuses not to be in the know when these guys crash the charts in the summer.
HMV Next Big Thing runs from Feb 2-12 at six London venues. Tickets £10 each hmvnextbigthing.com