Del Osei-Owusu interviews Neil March about the return of his live gigs.
You have brought back the Vanishing Point gigs after a hiatus with COVID. How does it feel?
Slightly unreal at the moment although, with pretty much all the tickets sold and arrangements finalised for set-up and sound, it is beginning to feel more real. There are actually two lots of monthly gigs – Vanishing Point @ AMP Studios on the first Thursday of the month, which is more ambient, experimental and/or acoustic or stripped down. And there’s Trust The Doc Live on the third Wednesday of every month at the Amersham Arms which is more bands-oriented. Thursday 6th May kicks it all off with an outdoor evening gig to comply with roadmap rules with Helefonix, Hannya White, Tigersonic and Richard Sanderson, so a definite Fresh On The Net connection there.
The gigs are held on the first Thursday of the month, how did it all start?
It started three years ago at the Ivy House in Peckham, but the management committee there decided to move the goalposts and, as the promoter who was bringing them the biggest audiences, I decided what they wanted was unacceptable. I was meant to move to AMP Studios on 2nd April 2020 but then lockdown happened and the only gig I have put on since last March was one October gig under Tier 1 conditions at the Amersham Arms. So it’s been a long wait to put on a first gig at Vanishing Point’s new home.
How did you curate the artists that you picked for it?
I am very lucky that, with being a Fresh On The Net moderator and having my radio and online TV shows, I receive so much music all the time that I am always identifying the ones who are close enough geographically for it to be worth their while playing live for me at the relatively modest fees I can pay. So, other than the odd exception where you have someone like Project Blackbird or Luke Moore/Operation Lightfoot who can find a reason to be in London when I have a gig they can play at, it is mostly Greater London-based artists. That said, Helefonix is coming all the way from Hertforshire to play in South East London.
What’s been the easiest and most challenging part of the process?
The easiest is finding artists to put together in a way that works, but is also eclectic. The most challenging, other than lockdown obviously, is keeping up the continuous momentum because the moment one gig has gone well and you feel like being smug and celebrating, you wake up the next day and only have a month to sell a load of tickets for the next one so it’s straight into the marketing. With two a month, that is really tough to keep on top of with all the other things I’m involved with.
You have an eclectic mix for the line up, who are you looking forward to most?
Ha ha ha, if I picked one over the other three, it would make for a very awkward atmosphere at the gig! Lol! Seriously though, I’m really excited to see all the acts including the ones I’ve seen live before because, even with them, it’s been so long and I know how good they are.
What have you missed most about these events?
Hmmmm. The most? Probably the community that gathers at the gigs. We’ve managed to keep a great online community going, especially on Twitter (helped by having my radio show and Ming & Jon’s show on Exile FM too) but having so many lovers of new and grassroots music together in one place with live music and a great atmosphere. You can’t recreate that; not even using live streams.
You’re using the AMP studios venue in Old Kent Road, an area in itself steeped in history, what’s your favourite thing about that venue?
It’s a beautiful venue with two identical railway arches and a large attractive courtyard, so it’s really adaptable, which is why we are able to have the outdoor gig with a roof over the stage and audience. It’s also why I’m putting my Tomorrow Calling Festival on there in September. And the arches do remind me of its history as part of the local industry and infrastructure of Lewisham and Southwark. Uniquely the venue is in both boroughs! The main bulk of it is in Lewisham but the outdoor back area that we are using as our Green Room is in Southwark! The other thing I love about AMP Studios is that, where I was only ever an external promoter in my years at the Ivy House despite my relationships with the events manager and staff, the people who run AMPs are genuine friends and it feels much more like a partnership. Same goes for the Amersham Arms by the way; another venue with an iconic history.
You are working really hard on your Trust The Doc radio show, how’s it going?
The show is going really well. The audience stats are amazing and the community that meets on Twitter every Saturday and banters one another and me throughout is wonderful. I love presenting the show and I have made it more interactive than ever with two polls and a brain teaser every week. But I also keep to the principle that at least 50% of all content is by new and emerging artists. So it’s heartening to see so many people showing enthusiastic support for new music.
If you could draw together a dream set of acts for a Docfest who would your five acts be?
Ha ha ha! Well if it’s all-time acts, that is so hard but maybe Steely Dan; Stevie Wonder; Cocteau Twins; Bob Marley & The Wailers and Prince & The Revolution. If it’s current acts, I’d go with The Staves; Little Simz; Arlo Parks; Laura Marling and The Flaming Lips.
The event is essentially multi genre and multimedia what are three words best describe it?
For Vanishing Point – Futuristic, Eclectic, Chilled. For Trust The Doc Live – Fresh, New, Energetic.
What are you looking forward to next?
Well I’m typing these answers the day before Vanishing Point returns with our outdoor evening gig so I am excited and a little nervous about that because it’s the first time at the new venue. But more excited than nervous! I can’t think about much else most of the time! Lol!