Last Saturday night was a miserable and rainy autumn one in Canterbury. The wind was howling and soggy leaves were strewn across the pavements. Dodging puddles became a necessity every few steps. It was the kind of night where you’d much rather stay in with a pizza and a Marvel film than go out.
However, for those of us who braved these bitter conditions, there was a treat in store at The Lounge Bar and Kitchen. This venue is the Student Union for one of the main universities in Canterbury and on this night in particular (Saturday 14th November) played host to Late & Live Sessions, a new live music event which prides itself on showcasing the best live music offerings from around the Canterbury and Whitstable area. Last week, the event had 4 sets from exciting artists such as Standard Lamps (who have opened for The Who), Hey Maggie (Late & Live veterans and crowd favourites), Noble Jacks (giving off splendid Mumford and Sons vibes) and solo artist Sam Brothers (the guy can play the harmonica and the guitar at the same time…need I say more?) Sounds exciting, right?
I arrived at the venue about an hour before kick-off and the room was thrumming with activity. Cases containing unidentifiable pieces of sound and lighting equipment were being brought in and hooked up; the stage was empty but for a few microphone stands and bundles of wires; the bar was being stocked and was emitting a tempting warm light. But I was not to be distracted, I was there to meet with Chris Monti who is, alongside his father Carlo, co-founder of Late & Live Sessions to talk about how this exciting project came about.
“We started the Late & Live Sessions with our launch event on July 5th 2015 based in a venue in Canterbury called Lifestyle Fitness, a 1000 capacity venue,” he says. “We launched it to showcase up-and-coming talent from the UK live music scene. We were really interested in Canterbury with the buskers, the small venue performers, anyone we’ve seen and wanted to give an opportunity to showcase their music. That was the initial strategy because we felt that in Canterbury, there is a big clubbing scene, a lot of house music and really great event companies, but there wasn’t as much offering within the live music scene, so it’s a sort of gap in the market and an opportunity to show that there’s a lot of talent out there and so we brought it all together.”
So that’s how it came about, you wanted to plug this gap? “Well no it actually came about because we often come through Canterbury high street and see a lot of buskers (like Hey Maggie) performing and we wanted to put on a big show where we could showcase their talent. And that was how it sparked the interest. It was something we’ve always planned to do, but we were looking for the right time and the right venue to do it. Lifestyle Fitness gave us the opportunity to do it and it’s sort of kicked off from there.”
How do you go about setting up an event like this? “In some of our venues, we will put the whole production on, so we work with local suppliers, in terms of the staging, equipment and sound systems and then work with local security teams like Akon Security. We actively go round to bars in the high street and meet the bands or solo performers face to face, speak to them and share what we’re trying to do, our vision, and get them on board. It’s a lot of background work trying to liaise with everyone to get it right. Each one of the performers who comes to our venue gets paid and then we’ll run all the marketing and promotion on our side, all the staging, the lighting and the venue. We do all of the logistical side, we just want to let them perform.”
What are there certain steps you’ve got to go through before you can put on such an event? “Yeah there’s a lot of planning that goes on behind the scenes. Depending on what venue we’re using or the size capacity, it could be up to 3 months planning or a month. This one was quite a quick turnaround and because we’ve worked with suppliers on a frequent basis, we sort of understand the set up better now to when we initially started. Our first launch in July was about 3 months planning of trying to find the right suppliers who could work with us and be our partners and finding the right bands to do our launch event who were actively on board with what our vision was. From there, it’s just grown and we’ve actually got bands approaching us and saying they want to perform in our events, it’s great! We now work with 3 venues. Alongside Lifestyle Fitness, we’ve got the Umbrella Centre in Whitstable, now we’ve luckily got an opportunity to work here with The Lounge Bar and Kitchen.”
Who’s involved in your team to help set this all up? “My father obviously [Chris’ father Carlo Monti who is also co-founder of the Late & Live Sessions], and my brother who helps with all the designs, he’s a graphic designer which is very lucky [for us]. He does all the posters we’ve got, all the marketing material for us, and all the social media designs. I run the social media pages, plus do a lot of the logistical operations. My dad runs the business from the Kent side. We’ve got people who promote our events, we’ve got bands who work closely with us, we’ve got some suppliers we’ve worked with for an ongoing basis, and so once we’ve got that structure in place it’s easy to move our set-up to each venue. Hopefully we’ll be able to grow eventually to London.”
What is your vision for L&L? Would a move to London be part of that? “The vision is to build our brand in the Kent area. To carry on introducing amazing bands. What really stood out to me after our first event was that we had Hey Maggie performing at our first event and they’ve come back to us again now. The amount of feedback I’ve had from people who have said “Hey, I’ve never heard of this band before, they’re amazing” is amazing and we’ve got people coming this evening just to see this band again that they hadn’t previously heard about. So that’s what we try and do. We try and get a whole mix of different genres and different live music from the scene, so people who might actually watch rock or go to rock nights or go to house music events see a different genre and absolutely love it.”
What are some of the drawbacks or difficulties of trying to start an event like this? “There’s a number of things that happen behind the scenes: it could be bands pulling out at the last minute, it could be trying to get the right mix of music in the venues sorted. Some of the events aren’t always commercially viable but we want to put on an event that we’re proud of and that people really want to come to. I’d rather spend money and give a really good show than spend less money and have a poor quality show that people don’t want to come back to.”
Who are some of your favourite acts that you’ve had perform at Late & Live? “Everyone!”
You must have a favourite though? “It’s hard to choose because I like all music. I like the clubbing scene, I like going to live music, and there’s some [we’ve had perform] that I wouldn’t actively put on my Spotify playlist or listen to on YouTube, but it’s a completely different atmosphere when you see them live. And there’s some that I’d listen to on a playlist on the tube and then if I go to their show, the performance they put on is outstanding and that’s the most important thing about live music – it’s about really giving the energy, the atmosphere, and everyone getting together. That’s what live music is about.”
Before we met tonight you were out promoting the event, who are the L&L Sessions aimed at? “Canterbury is a student area, there’s 2 big universities, so obviously there’s a student demographic and we’re here [tonight] at a student lounge. But not necessarily just students, we sometimes have families attend our events, especially in Whitstable a lot of families come because they love what we’re doing. There’s a lot of clubbing here, but there’s not so much for all age groups: you could go to the Marlow Theatre, but in terms of just purely live music, there’s nothing really on offer. Really we’re looking at every opportunity to really grow the live scene here and make sure it’s around.”
What do you hope that L&L can achieve in the future? “Next year, I want to do an outdoor, 4 stages, full live production. Time will tell if we can do that next year or the following year. We also want to branch, to London and hit that scene as well. I live in London and the live music scene is fantastic and there’s a lot of amazing bands and logistically it’s a lot harder to bring them down to Kent and make it commercially viable, but if we can branch to London, we could bring Kent bands to London and that would be a fantastic opportunity for everyone.”
What’s coming up next? “December 12th should be our next event and then following that, in the New Year, we plan on going big, but plans are still pending!”
Can we expect more of the same in December as you’ve provided tonight? “December will have 3 sets, and a completely different mix of genres, but we’re going to hold that back until next week!”
Haha fine! So people need to keep an eye on social media to wait for these announcements then. “Yes, the best way for people to find out about our new events is through our website lateandlivesessions.com. We’ve got a Facebook page (Late & Live Sessions), and we are actively trying to push our Instagram page (Late & Live) which shows images from the events. But probably the best one is our Facebook page which features our venues that we’re working with, where we’re going to be next, what the bands are and what we actually want to do is promote the bands themselves, so you can check out their latest videos and click on their pages. It’s not just about Late & Live the brand, we want to share the live music scene too.”
In a world where the words ‘selling out’ and ‘just in it for the money’ are frequently heard, Late & Live is a refreshing break from that and signals that there is life for UK music outside of the commercial, label-backed offerings currently circling the airwaves. They care about putting on a great show for people who love live music. Simple as that. Their vision is infectious and Chris’s enthusiasm for what he and his father are putting together is amazing. For them, the music and the experience of the night trumps all else. They deserve all the support they can get for championing live music – get on their Facebook page, smash that ‘Like’ button and get to the next event. You won’t regret it. Pinkie promise.
Now playing: Marmozets – Cry