You may well have read last week that the most drunkenly-British of institutions the night club is in serious danger of dying out. Any industry that has contracted by over 50% in a decade is not looking bright eyed and rosy cheeked. It is official: Britain no longer feels the need to combine dancing and drinking. We can’t say we’ve ever been huge clubbers here at For The Rabbits; as you might have guessed from the large swathes of undanceable bands we’ve covered over the last couple of years, but it does raise questions not just for clubs, but for all night life. If the clubs are on the wane, then is live music next? What can be learned from the shrinking of the clubbing industry?
What is clear from reading into the subject is that nobody seems to be able to tie the demise to one particular factor. Some blame Councils, some the internet, some the array of options available elsewhere. Alex Proud, a night club owner, wrote an interesting article for the Telegraph on the subject of governments and councils. (You can read it HERE) It’s clear from his article where he places the blame: austerity. According to Alex, cuts in policing budgets with no reduction in arrest targets have made them head for easy options. Phone theft, public disorder and large congregations of people drinking, or as the police call them, “crime generators” have all been targeted, and as such night clubs are seen as easy pickings. Getting a club license is now difficult and keeping a license even harder and doing that without making entering your club like going through airport security, almost impossible. Alex also rightly points out, as many have, that the gentrification of our cities has caused many problems, the people who moved into the rough city centres and caused the original clubbing boom are now older, have families and good jobs and want peace and quiet, not the loud clubs that once drew them in. The youth have been pushed further out by rising house prices and as such the night-life is now less accessible to the people who would traditionally be filling the gaps and attending these night clubs.
This of course is only one part of the problem, night club owners understandably are quick to blame everyone else, and reluctant to admit that their clubs problems might actually be down to them not providing what people want any more. Which brings us to another pressing issue, do people actually like going out any more? The internet has given us so much; all music is now pretty much accessible by anyone, for free, twenty four hours a day. So whilst as recently as the early 2000’s, night clubs were still the only place, apart from the radio, to hear the new track from your favourite band, that’s no longer the case. New music used to be a key part of going to the indie-disco, now it tends to be drenched in nostalgia, people want to reminisce about Brit-pop more than they want to listen to modern British music. You need only look at the array of nostalgia themed nights to see that the shift has happened; clubs cannot keep up with the ever shifting sands of music culture.
The internet also gave us the rise of social media. It sounds utterly ridiculous, but one of the reasons quoted with regards to making night clubs less popular is that they’re too dark to take Instagram pictures in. Are the youth of today that obsessed with taking photos of things, that they require constant good lighting?! Social media is also at least partly responsible for the rise in the amount of niche nights out available, whilst previously it was difficult to locate your local knitting group, immersive theatre performance or real ale appreciation society, now you can pretty much find a group of people who want to do whatever you want to do. We’ve never had so many options, so we’ve never been able to cast aside traditional, sticky floored, booze laden, noisy, dark hole-in-the-grounds with so little fear of missing out.
Then there’s the argument that people of a certain age, quite possibly our age, really struggle to understand. Night clubs are now not the easiest place to go and pull! It’s terribly sad to admit it now, but isn’t that why a vast majority of people went to them in the first place? They were always terrible places to locate a prospective mate anyway, far too loud for one, so it’s perhaps no surprise that people have looked into other avenues. Even if you don’t find anyone who catches your eye at your swing-dance class or the Lambeth County Fair (for those who live in the countryside that’s basically London pretending to be a farm for the day and every bit as stupid as that sounds) then you can just log onto Tinder (or it’s more prim and proper sister Guardian Soulmates), and track someone you like the look of down without having to even actually get out of your chair.
A perfect storm of events have collided to start putting the final nails into clubbing’s coffin, but how can we stop that happening with gigs? With the improvement in online content, do we actually need to go to Glastonbury, or is it not more fun and less muddy watching it on the telly? Do we want to pack into a sweaty venue to half see a band as they play through a terrible soundsystem? Some of us will always want to be part of that world, but increasingly won’t people who aren’t as passionate about music stop going? With so many other avenues available for entertainment, won’t gigs share of the fun gradually be worn away? It might sound odd but there was a day in the not too distant past when gigs didn’t normally sell out, when gigs were still seen as quite an alternative way to spend your evening, the dark days of the late 1990’s are looming, where gigs were poorly attended and music rather dull. Gigs bounced back from Starsailor and alike, maybe they’ll bounce back from this current threat, either way the gigging experience is going to have to evolve and that might just end up being even more exciting than its recent boom period.
Reservations started off life as a duo consisting of front woman Jana Horn and Paul Price. Their initially folk orientated project received a fairly drastic overhaul when they brought in drummer Jason Baczynski to complete the current line up.
Living up to their Texan roots, The music Reservations make is in the lineage of the Southern-Gothic masters, bringing to mind the likes of Mark Linkous in Sparklehorse, Vic Chesnutt and in particular Nina Nastasia. The blending of the slide guitars and bright acoustics synonymous with Americana and more straight-up indie-rock rhythms is nothing new, but it still works beautifully.
Reservations are based out of Austin in Texas. Austin is famously the site of South By Southwest, the world’s largest music industry showcase. However, it also has a fine musical history of its own; indeed the cities slogan is “The Live Music Capital Of The World.” It does at least back that claim up well, with more live music venues per head than any other American city. As well as having lots of venues, Austin has a lot of famous musical alumni, Janis Joplin went to college in the city, Townes Van Zandt lived there and Willy Nelson retired there. In more recent years the likes of Explosions In The Sky, …And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead, White Denim and Spoon have all continued the cities impressive musical history.
Reservations formed in 2012, releasing the home-recorded, self-titled EP that same year. Following its release Jason joined the band, and by October 2013 they had begun work on the music that makes up their debut album, Taking Time. Recorded at Shine Studios in Austin, their aptly named debut album was self-released last month.
It’s hard not to jump instantly to the quality of Jana’s voice, so we won’t fight it. It’s an undeniably wonderful instrument, slightly drawling but at the same time crystalline, brittle and hugely emotive. With shades of Howling Bells’ Juanita Stein, Hope Sandoval or Marissa Nadler, her voice adds an air of importance to even the most vague lyrics. It’s also a dexterous thing, shifting effortlessly from the She & Him like country-pop of Some City, to the darker Death Country of Blame Me.
Blame Me is one of the album highlights, there’s shades of Cat Power in the opening melodies, whilst the tremulous acoustic and meandering electrics recall Bill Callahan, and the drums have a nicely contrasting marching stomp. Lyrically it’s an exploration of fading a relationship where, “this house is in flames for you” and, “it’s just one of us pushing ’til the other one breaks, and I’m broken and you know that.”
Elsewhere To Be Honest has shades of Sharon Van Etten in its melancholy drummed shuffle, whilst closing track Walking, Night is a fairly straight country number, all bright acoustic twang and warm slide embellishments, there’s even references to how, “Patsy Cline is playing” completing the feeling of a Texan bar scene, with Jana sound-tracking a sad man knocking back whiskeys at the bar.
The best moment though is probably the one that fits in with the album the least, the opening track Planet. In a recent interview KCRW Waxahatchee’s Katie Crutchfield was discussing Breathless, the opening track to her latest album Ivy Trip, and she noted it could only really have gone first or last as it didn’t fit in elsewhere and the same is certainly true of Planet; another song it reminded us of, is the closing track to recent Alvvays’ album Red Planet. Planet inhabits a place unlike any other on the album it’s drenched in spacey keyboards, thick fizzing bass-lines and distant crashing drum beats. The lyrics are lightly self-deprecating, Jana noting, “welcome to the planet, it’s not how I planned it” and latterly, “I’m just so broken about the whole damn thing.” Whatever that thing might be, it’s another line shrouded in a little mystery that really catches the ear “I don’t know if you’re floating above me, dangling from a hundred grey balloons”, the implications of depression, loss, mourning are written all over the line without spelling anything out, it’s just a superb piece of song writing.
It’s perhaps a touch too tasteful. Tracks like There It Goes and The Way It All Started are undeniably pretty, but we’d question how interesting. It’s possible that some will see it more as music to admire than love, but in Jana Horn Reservations have a young, stunningly voice song-writing talent, which is always worth keeping an eye on.
Taking Time is out now.