A glorious escape on a sunny Saturday in May. Just what the doctor ordered.
Sun, outdoor music, free entry, and no need for a ticket. The recipe for drawing in the crowds to hear live music? It certainly seemed that way at the Barbican’s brilliant Sound Unbound weekender on Saturday.
And if some of the events I attended appeared a little over-subscribed that was a measure of the popularity of the offer. And perhaps that hinted at a different kind of model for experiencing live music: get people through the doors for free where the barriers for engagement are low, raise the profile of performers, and drive revenue from on-demand after the event.
Certainly, being able to come and go as I pleased suited me well. Getting me to traverse the ‘Culture Mile’ to go to different venues also meant I got a sense of the Barbican Centre in relation to say, Smithfield Market. This in itself gave the weekend’s events a real festival, almost Fringe-feel which very quickly recharged by batteries.
The most arresting experience was undoubtedly at nightclub Fabric where NonClassical’s eclectic mix of ambient electronica drew me into the kind of venue classical music promoters are increasingly seeking out to appeal to an unorthodox audience, and where I felt I was stepping back into the dark world of my twenties. The uncompromising warnings about single-use cubicals, and inevitable statements about the establishment’s zero-tolerance on drugs, an inevitable reminder of the venue’s primary function gave the experience an unexpectedly hard edge.