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PETE DOHERTY WITH CHIRS HAWKINS

PETE DOHERTY LIVE IN MANCHESTER – WHAT HAPPENED?

Arriving at the venue (one I’d never been to before), you wouldn’t expect to see a little hidden gem here as you enter the White Hotel. It was an unusual venue, but one that was perfect for an edgy, intimate event such as this. 

This was the  first of 3 events celebrating the 5th anniversary of the label Strap Originals, the Independent label owned by Pete Doherty and his manager Jai Stanley. The label has released six Top 10 Independent Albums by Andrew Cushin, Trampolene and Doherty, along with critically acclaimed albums by Vona Vella, PREGOBLIN and Real Farmer. This is a label “forged with love”, and what unfolded was a vital insight into the music industry which inspired many of people who attended. 

The room was full to the brim as the first band, Vona Vella,  took to the stage. To see them play as a full band was a beautiful experience. There was a sense of a full engagement, despite drummer Cam learning these song in one week! Originally called Issy and Dan. Vona Vella was chosen as their name after finding the names of two flowers in an encyclopedia  

Their track ‘Sun’ quickly attracted the attention of Ross Godfrey who was so impressed, he remixed the track. The love between these musicians was very clear. The moments seen between Issy and Dan were very special and intimate. The music they’ve written is wondrous, and the harmonies created are nothing short of sublime. 

Having a chat to the band, about the beginnings and their involvement with Pete Doherty, it was easy to see the love in the room towards the musician. One of their songs (Roll Into Forever) earned its title after Pete sent the band a poem which included the words “love you both forever so, roll into forever so”. It’s clear that Pete has had a very nurturing hand on both these bands. Something that is missing in the “machine” that is the music industry these days. 

 The Q&A between Pete and Chris Hawkins played out like a window into Pete’s World. He was incredibly honest about his own struggles, the support of wife Katia and the life of The Libertines and Babyshambles. We were treated to some songs on acoustic guitar, (‘There She Goes (A Little Heartache)’, and ‘Fuck Forever’. 

To see them play as a full band was a beautiful experience. They was a sense of a cohesive whole fully engaged, despite drummer Cam learning these song in one week!  Bringing it back to the record label and discussions about the search for new artists, Pete said: “when we first heard Vona Vella, and it was just Dan and Issy and the acoustic demos I thought they sounded like the original Everything But The Girl… they really reminded me of that, very melodic, acoustic, folky”. Vona Vella were the first two artists on the label. “We wanted to get (Vona Vella anmd Andrew Cushin) out there. They’re both really driven…proflific” 

What was clear from spending time with Andrew Cushin before he performed, was that he was incredibly grounded, with a professional outlook on his art. Andrew quite clearly has found his calling. There’s no other life he could lead.  Playing live, from the very first chord, Andrew was alive and vibrant onstage. His performance was exceptional, energetic and engaging. He was comfortable interacting with the crowd and singing with them. There were beautiful moments involving the crowd. One member of the audience had 3 friends on a video call and he didn’t even pause before delivering some of his performance directly to the phone. 

There was a bounce to his performance, a swagger which brought to mind a little of Liam Gallagher? But the difference here was his complete graciousness, humility and vulnerability awareness that these moments are fleeting and precious. When asked, what he wanted to achieve with the label, Pete’s reply was simple, “to make the label into a thriving factory of creative music.” 

It seems clear that Pete and Jai are incredibly driven and motivated to make this a success., ‘Pot of Gold’ and ending with “Run Run Run”. Bringing it back to the record label and discussions about the search for new artists, Pete said: “when we first heard Vona Vella, and it was just Dan and Issy and the acoustic demos I thought they sounded like the original Everything But the Girl… they really reminded me of that, very melodic, acoustic, folky”. 

When asked, what he wanted to achieve with the label, Pete’s reply was simple, “to make the label into a thriving factory of creative music.”The most wonderful thing that came out of those conversations was the nurturing relationships Pete and Jai had created between them.  

What we hope people took away from this evening was a sense that the music industry should be a community of support and nurture.

WORDS BY RUTH MURRAY

PHOTOS BY SIMON LEE

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