May 25, 2024

Ten years ago, on Vanguard Online

Ten years ago on Vanguard Online we were going a bit Duke Special bonkers.

We reviewed one of his albums, interviewed him twice in the space of a month and reviewed a show of his. For Duke Special, we were like the kid who kept coming around and knocking on his door to see if he was playing.

Ross McGibbon called Duke’s triple album release ‘special’ and full of ‘clever conceits’. Jude Penman interviewed Duke Special. The second interview saw Duke Special providing a rich and detailed account of the work he put into developing his triple album. Each of the three albums involved adaptations of previous work done by other people. The first interview was briefer and superficial, perhaps it was a phoner or email interview. Still we learned that Duke had once done a gig on a ferry between mainland Scotland and Stornaway. He also once played a youth club in Swindon, where he was promised the takings from the tuck shop as payment!

It was noticeable that Duke Special looked shy in the photos we posted for his interviews (see above). However he looked much more in his element when photographed performing live (see below).

Albums from Dan Sartain, Kill the Captains, Thunderbird Motel, Willie Nelson, Superbutt got good reviews.

An album from Black Francis and an 80s revivalist album by Jim Kerr got regular reviews. Speaking of Black Francis, I once heard someone genuinely say that his solo work was better than the Pixies catalogue, but really? Has anyone ever really felt fully satisfied by any of Black Francis’ solo output?

The demographics of contributors to Vanguard Online has shifted over time, but in 2010, as with every year of our twenty-five year history, there has been a strong contingent from Leeds. One of the best reviews given was to The Duke and The King, a soul fusion band who played The Hi-Fi Club in Leeds. Other bands posting performances that set our reviewers’ passions alight included The Futureheads.

Ten years ago also saw our first review in lands beyond the United Kingdom, possibly in lands beyond England (though I’d have to go back and check). Ross McGibbon paid a trip to Amsterdam to review the Jam in the Dam festival. Ross wrote a beautiful summary of the event, which we’ve posted and a string of reviews, which will be posted in time.

What was noticeable looking through the reviews from 10 years back was how young the internet was. Most of the music for review was still being sent through the post. Furthermore, not a single band that we reviewed had a Facebook page. The first band to be marketed with a Facebook address on Vanguard Online was The Foxes, in November December 2011, in a review by Becci Crowther. No-one spoke of Twitter. The dominant internet platform was MySpace. How the mighty fall!

It was around this period that crowdfunding as a means for paying for the production costs began to be possible. Indeed Ross McGibbon explained that Duke Special managed to use the internet to raise funds for his 2010 triple album The Stage, A Book and the Silver Screen. Investors were given advance copies of the album.

Our team of writers sometimes struggled with the new technology. Read this excerpt from Simon Mullholland’s review of the Hungry and the Hunted’s album:

My first impression of Magic Bullets was what the hell is this mess? The first track was all over the place. Then I realised that as I’d opened up numerous web pages which had all started up tracks from Hungry and the Hunted so I was listening to 4 songs at the same time, what an idiot, especially when you then consider I had iTunes on random so the next track was a Terry Pratchett audio book. Next time I’ll ask my eight year old’s help.

In the last few years there appears to have been a revolution in music journalism and in the way music gets represented. Oddly, there seems to be a movement towards visual representation of gigs, i.e. photographs of them, rather than people writing about them. This might, in part, be a function of the fact that these days alot of music can be listened to for free online, which arguably does away with the need for pensmiths. Certainly at Vanguard Online, we’ve seen a large number of contributors specialising in photography without writing, which bands and agents appear to be happy with. I can only imagine that the trend for sharing images means that allowing a small army of photographers to shoot them is seen as a good means through which a band can publicise themselves. Music has, to some degree, always been about image. But anyway, rewinding back to 2010, we were seeing our writers for the first time starting to use digital cameras more often than not. Daniel Heaton managed to get some very good shots at the concerts he went to. See photos from his review of Ellie Goulding (Ed – Ross, was this you or Dan, the review was written by you!),

Ten years ago its clear that we had a different set of writers too. As already mentioned they tended to be based in the north, the roots of Vanguard Online, and we had a veritable army scouring the large and small venues in Leeds. Jude Penman, Simon Middleyard, Steve Claire, Simon Mullholland and Becci Crowther were all regular contributors. Guys, if any of you are reading this, you know you’d be welcomed back with open arms!

Here’s information for anyone interested in writing for Vanguard Online.

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