So you’ve settled in to your room. Posters are up. Albums are in place. You don your festival wristbands and glance enthusiastically at upcoming gig listings. And then it happens. The tumbleweed scatters; you see a barren wasteland of tribute acts and unknown metal outfits, and your heart sinks. This is the natural initial reaction to a cursory exploration of York’s music scene, but within the city’s walls lie a rich array of music to appeal to a multitude of tastes. It just takes a little bit of scouring and scratching beneath the surface, and somehow, that makes finding each hidden gem all the more fulfilling.
The two most prominent venues in York in terms of size and promotional outreach are Fibbers and the Duchess, both of which host the occasional very pleasant surprise amidst the standard fillers. The former hosts talented locals Jon Gomm and Boss Caine on Tuesday September 17 for an excellent introduction to what the Yorkshire scene has to offer, as well as York-based indie rock duo …And The Hangnails on the 27th, and the wonderful Laura Veirs in November. As for the Duchess, Temples, Euros Childs and Turin Brakes are all ones to watch out for from October.
While these two venues are great starting blocks, they cover a speck of the diverse musical delights of York. Bison Coffee on Heslington Road regularly hosts local acts, as does The Inkwell on Gillygate, so it’s worth dropping in from time to time not only to support some of York’s finest independent businesses, but also to pick up some flyers and generally see what’s going on on the scene. The Basement, underneath the Picturehouse cinema, is also one to keep an eye on in terms of some low-key up and comers. Another way to keep in touch is to follow York Acoustic on Twitter and Facebook; the project, run by York alumnus James Arden, documents local talent through intimate sessions edited in to short videos.
Further afield, Leeds offers something for all tastes, with the Cockpit and O2 Academy covering pretty much all mainstream bases, but without a doubt the best spot is the Brudenell Social Club. From September, they offer their stage to the likes of Fuck Buttons, Junip, Fossil Collective, Lanterns on the Lake, Deerhunter, Phosphorescent and Gold Panda – pretty much the best selection you’ll find in the district.
Back in York, a final word should go out to the impressive variety of open mic nights available throughout the city, so if none of the music takes your fancy, you can always make your own. Some popular haunts for taking the stage include The Habit on Wednesdays (worth a go to see brilliant local characters Mark Wynn and David Ward Maclean play on a regular basis free of charge), The Graduate on Thursdays, and Dusk on Sundays.