Over the past few weeks Portsmouth’s ABH Promotions have been announcing gigs anticipating the imminent return of live music in June. The last year has been tough for live music, but pre-pandemic, local promoters, including ABH Promotions, had been bringing some of the best acts to Portsmouth. Going to gigs at grassroots venues put on by independent promoters is by far one of the best ways to find your next favourite band.
They’ve been unable to put on any gigs in over the year, but ABH Promotions do have big plans for the future with plenty of gigs planned/rescheduled for across the rest of the year. We caught up with the duo to talk about live music, local bands and the future!
Hi there! Firstly, so that our readers can know a bit more about you, please introduce ABH Promotions:
Alice: Hey! I’m Alice, one half of ABH Promotions. I work at The Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth as the bar manager there and I’m also part of the Dials Festival team.
Ben: Hello there! I’m Ben, the other member of ABH. I’m a freelance sound engineer, predominantly associated with The Wedgewood Rooms. I have previously been involved in stage crew for guildhall level to arena shows and festivals.
Alice: Ben and I met at the venue, and is where we discovered a love for the same music and passion for live music. ABH Promotions is based in Portsmouth, putting gigs on solely at the Wedgewood Rooms sister venue, the Edge of the Wedge. We aim for diversity in our line ups and introducing new bands to the city.
Ben: Contrary to our acronym’s wider use as A(ctual) B(odily) H(arm), we do not condone violence… We chose our name as both our surnames begin with the letter ‘H’. I just thought that I would clear that up from the off!
What was the spark that encouraged you to start putting on your own gigs?
Alice: I was bored of seeing the same kind of music being played at the venue – there was rarely anything I felt overly hyped about and little diversity on line-ups. I am really into all things independent, undiscovered gems, and giving local musicians a platform to showcase their music. It seemed like all the up and coming bands I wanted to see were playing Southampton/Brighton/Guildford and never coming to Portsmouth. I think Ben and I both feel strongly about Portsmouth being back on the map for being a hub for new music – and hopefully it’s working!
Ben: I couldn’t have put it better myself! We absolutely love travelling to other venues and cities to see our favourite new bands, however it’s a bit surreal to be involved in the process of giving these acts a platform. It is really rewarding when the artist choices pay off and you listen to folk in the crowd waxing lyrical about their new musical obsessions. The thing with shows in The Edge of the Wedge is that a lot of the crowd tend to be in bands themselves so the shared inspiration in the air is palpable
You have already put on a few gigs pre-pandemic including headline gigs from Beachtape, Vinyl Staircase and Hive Society. How would you sum up an ABH gig in three words?
Ben: Enthusiasm, Talent, Community. From the few shows we’ve put on, all of the acts have been absolutely fantastic performers. Getting to know new people from different towns with the same love of music as us has been really refreshing and has outweighed the worries we might have had leading up to doors.
There seems to be a real sense of comradery between the headliners and support artists at every step through promoting the shows to watching each other on stage and occasionally buying merch afterwards. It makes for a very enjoyable experience for everyone involved. Hive Society are returning to play a second headline show for us because they enjoyed the first time round so much and honestly, that is an honour. It is exactly what we’re aiming to achieve.
Why is it so important that people support local bands/promoters/venues once things start to return to normal and what can people do to help local scenes get back to what they once were?
Alice: It’s been such a tough year for the music industry and everyone involved. I think the past year or so has shown how much we rely on, and how important, music and the community is for our mental well-being, a place to socialise and an escape hub. It helps massively when tickets are bought for gigs. Whilst doors are still closed, buying merch from your local venues and bands is a big way to support them.
Ben: It is odd because we’ve never witnessed anything so absolute in its decimation of everything that the world considers ‘normal’. I’m hoping that a lot of reform comes from the further exposing of the disparities between genders, sexualities, economic backgrounds and ethnicities that this pandemic has amplified. It sometimes seems a bit trivial to ask for support when so many other people have been affected but any form of help in these trying times is more than welcome.
If you could put absolutely anyone on for a gig, regardless of budget or other restrictions, what would be the dream lineup?
Ben: As pretty much anyone who knows me would tell you, my favourite band is Car Seat Headrest, so they would of course be an absolute dream to work with. Middle Kids and Do Nothing have been a staple of my listening the past year too.
Alice: This is something I have been going on about to Ben since the day we started! It would have to be The Big Moon, Penelope Isles and NewDad, no doubt about it!
You also recently booked your first international act, how did that come about?
Alice: We were approached through their agent, who is part of the same agency as Hanya, Beach Riot, False Heads, Baby Strange. We jumped at the opportunity to be honest! We loved Keep Dancing Inc’s sound, their stage presence, everything just took us in. We have some exciting supports for this gig too which we can’t wait to share.
Most of your support acts playing/who have played your gigs are Portsmouth artists, if you could recommend three Portsmouth acts, who would they be and why?
Alice: Number 1 would be Sienas. Absolutely love those guys. They’re great at what they do and super friendly – I don’t have a bad word to say about them! I’d also say Me and the Moon – once again lovely people who make great music. Third – my good friend James Laurence. Even if he wasn’t my friend I would still be bigging him up because he’s so talented! I can’t wait to see him back out on stage again – he always brings mountains of laughter and energy with him.
Ben: I’d better be careful what I say here as I work with these bands as part of my actual job… Mammalia Blue for sure! Their style of DIY vocals, jangly guitars and interesting timing is absolutely right up my street. Slug Money are an absolute whirlwind. When they play a show, it’s an interactive experience and there is nowhere in the crowd you can hide! Lastly, I would have to say Megan Linford. She has an incredible voice partnered with beautiful song writing and a cracking band. It goes without saying all three of these picks are lovely people too.
For any bands looking for gigs, what kind of bands are you looking to put on in the future and how would you like to be contacted?
Ben: *Most of the time*, we aim to curate lineups with a bit of sonic cohesion in terms of genre. The centre of our music taste venn diagram tends to be post punk, psychedelic rock, shoegaze, dream pop and – I don’t really know how to describe it – Americana slacker folk rock? But of course we are open to putting on anyone we listen to and really enjoy.
Alice: We have a contact form on our website. We’d also encourage emails (email@example.com) over Instagram/Facebook messages, with the email containing direct links to music and social media accounts. We love listening to new music so please do get in touch!
Finally, what’s in store for the future of ABH Promotions, what have you got coming up and have you got anything else in the pipeline that you’re yet to announce?
Alice: We have a whole range of gigs announced currently! A few are reschedules from the past year (Nature TV & Hanya) along with brand new shows from Hive Society, Tugboat Captain, False Heads and Keep Dancing Inc. We are always working on things in the background and have some gigs in mind. It is proving quite difficult to find dates for the rest of 2021 because of all the reschedules at the venue and other promoters putting on fab gigs too, but we are already working towards 2022 dates!
Ben: We have definitely got a list of acts we are dying to put on, but it’s all about timing. All we know is that, at the moment, we are really enjoying organising shows under the ABH mantle and hope to continue for a good while yet!
I’d like to thank Ben and Alice from ABH Promotions very much for their time! You can keep up with them on social media via the following links and find a list of all their upcoming gigs below!
ABH Promotions Gig Listings:
24th October 2021 – Tugboat Captain – Tickets
12th December 2021 – Keep Dancing Inc – Tickets