2019 – A Live Retrospective
2019. What does it need? A top 10? A best of? A kick in the nuts? EPs, albums, singles, the list of music entertainment this year has been vast. So to hell with a list. I’m just going to throw out a live show highlights reel from a Fakeman point of view.
Kick back – We have a lot to get through!
2019 felt like a huge year for the synthwave community. But maybe not in the usual way. There has certainly been a solidifying of what has been called the #synthfam across the UK, the US and other parts of the world. Personally i’m not a huge fan of the phrase, however I am a big believer in the support, friendships and community that it provides for people that find themselves knee-deep in the music. Many of the people who make and create the messenger groups or attend the live events are coming into this scene and joining a welcoming family of fans and friends. As was the case in 2018, the number of live shows continued to provide opportunities to chat shop with a variety of people who I do consider friends whom I would never have met without the power of the interwebs.
Outland came out of the traps early this year with a February show in Putney showcasing the works of synthwave favourite Nina and Britalo Disco king KNIGHT$. It felt far too long to wait for a show however it started 2019 off in the right fashion.
Feb brought the goods all at once with FM-84 selling out North London’s The Garage with a stellar show and certainly paved the way for Ollie Wride’s ventures in late 2019.
March then brought The Midnight over to then UK for the first time with 2 sell out shows at Scala. They brought Nikki Flores with them on this occasion which allowed for a legitimate performance of the ever-wonderful ‘Jason’. The shows were a huge success and certainly paved the way for the fall tour which brought them back to London. But more on my thoughts on that show later!
April hit and the month ushered in the Dana Jean Phoenix European tour. Not wanting to turn down a chance to see DJP more than once AND catch Timecop 1983, I hit the German date with Miami Cyber Nights and then again 5 days later with Outland in London. You can read my review of the DJP experience HERE.
Off the back of a hugely successful Feb gig date, FM-84 decided to book a London date in Brixton at their largest venue gamble to date after selling out Hackney OSLO in less than 15 minutes. This time around there would be a full band and again, Timecop 1983. The night was a huge success for all involved. It was the event of the year, to that date..
6 days later Outland emptied our wallets again with the Sunset Neon Cruise. This year we had the pleasure of seeing Sunglasses Kid, Morgan Willis, Highway Superstar and OG artist 80s Stallone. As with last year’s event, the sun drenched the deck as the artists threw the kitchen sink to a sell-out crowd. The most unique event of the year is always a welcomed treat for the synthwave community and tends to bring out a fresh love for London with the views that dominate the evening.
The summer brought the big hitting events. July kicked off with Outland Toronto. An event that I feel will change the way big events are done in the scene in the future. Months, if not longer in the planning, Outland Toronto became a huge talking point through blogs and podcasts. It also brought the opportunity to meet some artists and influencers that reside on that side of the water. The Outland City Series model was ideal for Toronto. A city already very immersed in the synthwave scene, it brought acts such as Timecop 1983 to the country and to an audience that had yet to see him in their home turf. It also allowed Podcast legends Andy Last and Marko Maric to finally meet, which was always going to make for good youtube content!
Personally it was great to meet acts such as Parallels and Mecha Maiko whilst also getting the opportunity to see TC1983, Michael Oakley and DJP for another time. It also allowed for some of us that travelled from the UK, Ireland and elsewhere the opportunity to meet fellow fans. The atmosphere of the whole weekend was one of real inclusion. It was also freakin’ HOT! I was told Canada was all about the snow!
July also brought the return of the original UK synthwave live event, Retro Future Fest. With a line-up that would hold it’s own against any promoter, the RFF team put together an event that allowed for the UK debuts of acts such as Betamaxx and MAVS. UK favourites Sunglasses Kid and Duett were also in attendance to take the crowd through all aspects of the genre, from the lighter synth pop melodic work through to the dark synth that rounded off the night. and who can forget the dance skills and Jean Frais!
The days after RFF also brought a continuation of the live event scene developing outside of the capital. Derby played host to Wolfclub, Duett and DJ She-Ra for a one off event in the city. Certainly the crowds were smaller, but this was to be expected and it allowed an excellent opportunity to see some great acts in a more intimate atmosphere.
Fast forward to October and Outland threw a Halloween surprise by bringing FM Attack to the UK after his stellar performance at their Toronto show. Futurecop also announced in the days leading up to the event that it would represent the start of an indefinite hiatus for the group.
Then came November. The Midnight came back to town, this time setting up at the Roundhouse, a much larger venue than their spring gig and certainly with a much larger and more diverse crowd. It felt like a real sea change in the genre and for one of the scene’s artists who have risen to the top of a very crowded group and broken into a more mainstream market. I’ll be honest though in saying that I didn’t enjoy The Midnight’s November gig as much as the spring date. It was of course a wonderful collection of songs, but the night didn’t leave me feeling as content, satisfied and happy as they have made me in the past. I know a lot of people loved the evening and i’m very glad that The Midnight’s popularity allows them to reach as many fans as possible, however I feel that the live showed suffered for it. Maybe 2021 will change my mind.
Now I have made no bones about how I feel about Ollie Wride’s fantastic first live solo show and the Outland gents bringing it to the stage in the Camden Assembly, days after The Midnight show. You can read the event review here. It has unsurprisingly lead on to not only 2 more live shows in 2020, but a deluxe remix album and a host of other goodies along with it. In what was a very busy week for live events, Ollie’s show was by far the most whole, considered and fantastically produced. The show of the year, by far.
And like that… the 2019 live circuit was over. London has been very lucky in the number of shows that have taken place this year, however it is certainly down to the hard work of the promoters and the dedication of fans who are willing to come down and party numerous times a year. Outside the Capital never gets enough credit – The Steel City Collective gents continued their well-established live event routine as well as Bristol-based promoters Space Jams who entered the live market this year with the very successful ‘Tales from the Crypt’ event in November.
I’ll be honest in stating that I have not found 2019 to be the most satisfying year in terms of my love for some of the material that was making its way through the usual channels. My love for the scene and this every developing genre remains however I did take some time this year to disengage and widen my listening choices. Vaporwave and 80s soul certainly filled that void for me, however what it also allowed me was a chance to approach the music we all love with a new and fresh perspective. A lot has been said about synthwave / retrowave over the last week, its longevity and what will happen in the coming years. I have no doubt that there is enough love and dedication to 80s inspired electronic music to keep the scene alive and well for many years to come and the live scene is testament to that.
2019 reminded me how much I loved the music that inspired synthwave but it also allowed me to consider that the artists that sit up till 4am composing, writing and mastering do so for the love of their music and their own personal direction of travel. As synth music continues to build in its popularity, lets all remember to support the artists who either reside in the genre permanently or choose to encompass synthwave elements into their style.
A big thank you to Stu and Brett from Outland who have surpassed all promoter expectations this year with the sheer level of consistency, joy and happiness they have brought to people by enabling these great acts the chance to connect with an audience in such a wonderful way. You are the masters.
Personally, I would also like to throw a special thank you to Edward Gamper for being a great friend to me this year. Teaching me the ways of the whisky and opening my world up to some great London music experiences along the way. Plus he makes fucking great music. Cheers dude.
There are some damn exciting developments for this blog and site in 2020 and i’m very thankful, as always, to the artists and others in the scene for their support of this project and allowing it to grow over the years.
Now you’ll need to excuse me, I have to return some videotapes.