On September 28th, two of our choirs - Forte and the Starling Singers - supported Pete Walter fronting his band's inaugural gig, Ace Time Continuum, at Ginglik in Shepherd's Bush.
Pete has sung with the Starling Singers since the choir's inception in 2010, and heads up the band Pete Into Orbit.
Here he tells us a little bit about how and why Ace Time Continuum was born...
Since the age of 16, I've played gigs in small venues across London. They are almost always (at least in proportion with the amount of preparation put in by the band) hugely anti-climatic events. This might have something to do with the quality of some of the bands I was playing in. But it's mainly down to how the events are organised.
It's an issue of supply and demand. There are thousands of bands in London looking for a gig and only so many places to play. As a result venues and promoters see the bands as a cheap and replaceable commodity – the Primark T-shirt of the music industry. Why bother building up a reputation as a decent promoter when there's always another hungry new band willing to take a gig on less than reasonable terms?
The standard small venue gig goes something like this. Promoters don't actually do any promoting. They rely on bands to bring their friends along. Said friends are charged anything up to £15 by the promoter on the premise that their ticket allows them to watch four or five bands and therefore should reflect the price of a whole evening's entertainment. But thanks to little-to-no quality control from the promoter the music is often cross-genre and of a pretty variable standard. A bands' mates will invariably only stay to watch their friends and then head out to the bar or just leave the venue. They are content to pay the money believing that most of their ticket price will go towards the band's fee. But the reality is that 90% of the time a band will walk away from a gig at a small venue in London with no payment at all. Promoters only pay if bands can prove they have brought along a certain amount of 'fans' - sometimes as high as 50 people. The promoters know no unsigned band is likely to deliver this sort of crowd and therefore get to keep all the door money. Due to the expense of travel and rehearsal the bands have effectively paid to play the gig. It leaves the musicians annoyed, the audience alienated and the promoters jaded. If you haven’t seen it, the 'Band vs Promoter' video on You Tube (below) sums up the whole situation rather nicely.
It's a broken and dispiriting system and wasn't something I was prepared to put up with anymore. As a gigging singer/songwriter I wanted to find a night with entertainment that reflected some kind of continuity – in quality and tone, a night where the audience actually wanted to watch the whole thing (rather than watch their friends and then bugger off to the bar), and a night that actually paid the performers some kind of decent fee. I couldn't find it. So I created one myself and I called it the Ace Time Continuum.
Since performing with the Starling Singers I've rediscovered the joy of choral singing. In fact I've made it a policy to always have some kind of group vocal act at the Ace Time Continuum. There's a natural enjoyment people get from singing in a group that radiates into the audience. The listener might not like the material but invariably there's something in a group vocal performance to appreciate. So it was only natural that for the first event I should ask Anna & Emily if I could borrow a couple of their babies for the evening. With Corvida focusing more on 1940s close harmony classics recently, the more contemporary pop repertoire of Forte & Singers made them the natural choices to sit alongside rock and pop acts on the bill. It was a good decision. Each choir performed three songs and delivered the feel-good factor I was looking for.
Show choirs segued into comedy, comedy segued into beatbox, and beatbox into a rock band - all tied up via a music quiz. All the acts were worth watching and for £7.50 by common consensus added up to good value for money. Most satisfyingly for me an appreciative crowd arrived on time and stayed to watch the whole show. The experiment had worked.
Whether the success can be sustained is another thing altogether. The ultimate goal is to hold an event across the road at the Shepherd's Bush Empire – capacity 1500. The Ginglik – the current venue – has a capacity of 250. So a big jump. But thanks to the support of great people like Anna, Emily & the whole Starling crew it might, just might be possible.
The Ace Time Continuum is held on the last Friday of every month at the Ginglik Club in Shepherds Bush. Check out peteintoorbit.com or follow @peteintoorbit for tickets and line-up information.
- Pete Walter
Read Songeist's blog about the very first Ace Time Continuum for some video clips and an audience insight into a great night - tinyurl.com/93oh9my