Newquay’s Alternative Music Scene – Community Spirit

Music has changed my life. You might think that’s a strong statement, but when left I behind the hectic urban landscape of Leeds in the north of England and relocated to its southernmost county of Cornwall, I found myself enveloped within a community in love with music. In Newquay, a small Cornish town, music is practically a movement for the high-on-life locals – it’s their world!

Newquay's Alternative Music Scene – Uniting and Inspiring the Cornish Community 1 

The Rise of Alternative Music Festivals

The summer can be a slog for the tourist-magnet that is Newquay, but the season also brings something else – FESTIVALS! The surrounding area of this surf-soaked, seaside town offers back-to-back weekends of sound, dance and cider in the sunshine. A popular saying here is “work hard and play harder”. Aside from harem pants, face paint and barefoot dancing, I feel there is another vital ingredient needed to create a memorable festival – music with a message.

Over the past five years, low-key, alternative music festivals have grown across Cornwall. This has drawn many festival lovers towards community-inspired jamboree events, favouring these above the commercial, money making set-ups. The county of Cornwall alone has been lucky enough to receive the incredible raw talent of touring bands from all over the world, passing through the South-West festival circuit.

Look out for festivals such as ‘The Little Orchard Cider & Music Festival’ in Newquay, ‘Henry’s Little Big Gig’ in Lizard, ‘Tropical Pressure’ in Porthtowan, and ‘Electric Beach’ Newquay, Fistral to name a few. All of which are colourful and engaging events where soulful music is projected and friends for life are made.

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Artists With a Message

As a live music fan, I am witnessing masses of mindful and revolutionary musicians rise out of the woodwork intent on spreading a positive and harmonious message to the nations. These melodic spokespeople are on time. Never has it been a better period to influence the listeners. When it comes to resolving world issues we are all very aware that time is of the essence. But we are also at a point where it appears the open-minded generation of today prefer to lend an ear to role models rather than authoritative figures. And what better way to recover the planet than with music?

Check out Xavier Rudd, Nahko & Medicine For The People, Trevor HallDustin Thomas , and Soja. All these musicians are fighting for the Earth by using the performing stage as a platform for melodic activism.

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Left: Xavier Rudd, Right: Nahko Bear (Nahko & Medicine for the People)

Here is an example of positive lyrics that promote one band’s stance on negative world changes. The song is entitled ‘Piece of the Pie’ by Newquay based duo ‘Echo Town’  The track is taken from their current album ‘Be Strong Troop On.’

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All around I see buildings going up one by one
Killing all the fields and blocking out the sun
Roads backing up an endless stream of cars
And now we’re asking “have we gone too far?”

Well I don’t want a piece of that
You can keep your pie
No I don’t want a piece of that
I’m satisfied

Everyday I see children growing up with hate
Judging their peers by intelligence or race
Being taught in school that happiness is wealth
Little emphasis placed on love, faith or health

Well I don’t want a piece of that
You can keep your pie
No I don’t want a piece of that
I’m satisfied

Everything external is blocking up our minds
Building barriers not bridges with all of humankind
And when nothing is green and when you’ve killed it all
What’s going to be there to catch you when you fall?

Well I don’t want a piece of that
You can keep your pie
No I don’t want a piece of that
I’m satisfied

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Feeling The Buzz

Perhaps the crowd subconsciously picks up on the endorphins of the performer – hence the brilliant buzz when sandwiched in a sweaty crowd of strangers at a concert, with a shared passion for the music.

Researchers J Bradt, C Dileo and N Potvin found that music could have a beneficial effect on those suffering from anxiety, blood pressure, heart rate and respiratory issues, sleep disturbances and pain.

This means that music reacts with our autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for controlling blood pressure and heartbeat, and the limbic system, which is responsible for emotion. If music has the potential to reduce blood pressure and the rate of the heart, it could be linked to reducing anxiety and depression.

How can WE help? It is the crowd, the listeners, and the dancers who musicians rely on to spread their message far and wide. Social media is one the quickest and most influential forms of promotion today. If you hear a good song about saving the planet, or you watch a great music video about global peace, please support these artists and share it for your friends and connections to see. Perhaps a prescription of upbeat and hopeful music could play a part in saving the Earth.

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A Musician’s Thought

As I am not a musician, I only know music from the point of view of a crowd. But curious to know the thoughts of a stage dweller, I asked a local musician their thoughts on the importance of music within the community. Who better to shed some light on the subject than Ric Harrison, the voice, guitarist and didgeridoo-er of Newquay based band Echo Town (writer of previous quoted lyrics ‘Piece of the Pie’).

Newquay's Alternative Music Scene – Uniting and Inspiring the Cornish Community 8Tell us about yourself, Ric?

Ric: Well I play guitar, didgeridoo and sing in Echo Town with my bro on drums. It’s fun and I think the message we have in our music is important and relevant for this day and age. I think because of my desire to play so much live music, it actually interferes with what I would call a ‘normal’ profession, hence why music is my only work. Even though I reckon during the summer me and the team clock far more than full time hours with travelling etc, but it’s great. I live in a modest caravan with my rescue cat Dickens, who my bro and I saved on a remote stretch of motorway whilst heading on tour upcountry. The caravan is in the middle of nowhere so I spend a lot of time walking the cliffs, chilling on the beach and wrestling Dickens.

Why is live music so important to Newquay?

Ric: I think live music is important full stop. Everyone loves music, and if you find someone that isn’t fussed about a good groove they are probably the dullest person you’ve ever met. With regard to Newquay, it’s a small place, but an energetic place, especially in the summer when it’s rammed. I love the live music vibe and festival scene in Newquay, everyone is easily excitable and eager to dance. We’ve had some insane gigs and festivals in and around Newquay. I guess it benefits the local economy, but more importantly local morale – everyone is buzzing for days after a good night out listening to a great band. If people are stoked then good things happen, right?

Agreed! Which were your favourite low-key music festivals in Cornwall in 2016?

Ric: I can’t really remember them all as we played so many, but my favourite by far was the Little Orchard Cider Festival. We played there in 2015 on the BBC Introducing Stage and had a blast, but in 2016 we were invited back to play the main stage on the Sunday evening and it went off. It felt like everyone was on the same wavelength and the same energy level despite being knackered from the weekend’s activity. It was such a responsive crowd. We all shared this beautiful circular, powerful energy that just kept spinning round and round getting stronger the further into the set we played. We played some other great festivals in Cornwall like the Pie and Ale Festival near Newquay, another high-energy crowd full of life and happiness. Those are the two that immediately spring to mind.

I feel like I was there! As a musician what do you get from festivals?

Ric: As a touring musician, festival season is often a massive blur and I really have to sit down at the end of it all to think about what we accomplished and recall where we played. I love playing to people, but especially people I know haven’t heard us play before. They have no reference point, so it’s amazing to see people’s reactions at some of these cool festivals when we play something like ‘Nourish’, the didgeridoo instrumental tune from our ‘Be Strong Troop On’ album. I see people all the time trying to decide whether to dance or stand and watch. I love it when I spot the shy or timid ones coming out of their shell, telling us afterwards “oh I never dance, but I couldn’t help myself”. I love that people feel comfortable enough to express themselves. It’s always great to see big crowds of people coming together to enjoy music, to support live music, to coexist peacefully in the mutual presence of sound. Music is a unifying force and I get to see that magic at work on a regular basis. Festival season just sees that vibe reach higher heights.

Well, if you weren’t already enticed to experience the South-West music culture of Newquay and all it’s festival fun then I’m sure you are now! Check out the sound of Rock/Reggae/Roots band Echo Town and their video to single ‘Be Strong Troop On’, featuring some contagious dancing from the fabulous and talented local residents of Newquay.


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