Sitting down with Mike Harrison of Bad Paintings and Joe Johnson, the men behind the Listener’s Club - which had its first outing at Nunnery Lane’s Victoria Vaults earlier this autumn - it’s clear that their motivation for creating the monthly event goes beyond a good excuse for a pint and some decent tunes down the pub.
Inspired by its sister event in Ilkley, All Ears Club, the Listener’s Club is an evening of music, or ‘audio experiences’, split into five sets by guest curators. Despite the terminology, the night is a laid-back affair in the cosy back section of the Vicky Vaults, with groups of friends sitting conversing with drinks in hand while the music plays on; you could be forgiven for thinking it was just another night if it weren’t for the print outs on the tables giving descriptions of the sets. But as the night goes on the influence of the music becomes clear; the room fills up, favourite songs get a round of applause, the group next to us sings along joyously to Etta James.
In a quieter section of the pub, Joe animatedly explains how the two were motivated to create the night as a response to the solitary culture of listening to and discovering new music that streaming services like Spotify have created (although he’s quick to point out that they’re not against the platform – they’re using Spotify to play the music for the night). Music as a social vehicle has all but disappeared, he says, as pubs stay open later and later and do away with their jukeboxes, and the decline in print media makes it harder than ever to discover new music. It’s a sentiment I can certainly relate to. The guys are also keen to mention that this isn’t about nostalgia, as they want to encourage a mix of curators to share any and all genres and eras of music.
This time, the music ranges from a set of artists who performed with The Band at the Last Waltz concert to half an hour of American hip hop band The Coup, and for the next night there are even plans for some ambient obscurity. And Mike and Joe don’t just want it to stop with them; they were inspired by similar nights and want others to take the concept into their own hands and set up events elsewhere.
The night is a simple concept based around bringing people together to make music social again, a place to share your favourite artists, stumble across your new favourite band or rediscover your old one. With vinyl sales at a 25 year high and people yearning for a return to a more tangible, communal way of enjoying music, I think the Listener’s Club couldn’t have started at a better time. And it’s a great excuse for a pint and some decent tunes down the pub.
The Listener’s Club’s next event is on 5 October at the Victoria Vaults. If you want to know more or fancy contributing to a future event, follow them HERE, or on Twitter @listenersyork.Facebook Event Page