Thursday, 2 December 2010

Moments of 2010 - The 15 Fame-Filled Minutes Of The Fanzine Writer

Three things are pretty much a given these days when I go to Manchester. Firstly, I’ll misjudge the time it takes between my house and the station and will be stood on the platform freezing my bollocks off for 20 minutes and more. Secondly, I always seem to arrive earlier than expected, necessitating a lonely pint in the Deaf Institute while furtively watching the door and waiting for other people to arrive. Thirdly, when travelling back, usually hungover, I'll will be found clutching a fanzine, fighting my bleary eyes in an attempt to read it. That fanzine is Pull Yourself Together.

Before assumptions are made that this is another 6-page ramshackle affair written in permanent marker, copied down the local ProntoPrint on paper with the same consistency as Izal toilet paper, it isn't. Some people love that sort of thing for the character and all that jazz, but I personally prefer a bit of substance, something which too many fanzines sadly don't offer on either the design or the content. See, I'm actually not as twee as people make out (or indeed at all, but that's a debate for another day)

But I digress. What PYT (as it shall henceforth be referred to) in fact is, is what some people would consider an oxymoron – a professional fanzine. Look, it has a design! Interviews with established artists! It's printed at a professional printers! Something approaching a business model (which allows it to remain free for you and I to pick up)! It feels like I've been reading it for ages, but a quick look at my bookshelf shows that I possess only 3 issues (and indeed didn't know about its existence until July), and in a way it feels like someone you've only just met but simultaneously feel you've known for years. Aside from guides to scenes away from Manchester (I have in front of me guides to Leeds, Cardiff and Brighton written by local DIY exponents), and artists (Standard Fare, Jens Lekman, Dutch Uncles, and the new one I've yet to pick up contains Neil Hannon and Steve Lamacq – one of their biggest fans), PYT also offer a great city guide to Manchester for those looking for something off the beaten track; with its bar guides, independent quality places to eat, or details of changes to the city landscape you may have missed (as well as a gig listings page), it's a handy little guide to what's going on.

But to dub Dan and Hannah as merely fanzine writers would be doing them a great disservice, for theirs is a cap of many feathers. Aside from also running a PYT night at Common Bar where popkids can come and have a natter with their friends while the whole PYT ethos gets condensed into a 4hr DJ set, they also put on some pretty great gigs too.

How many promoters can claim to have put on pop legend Darren Hayman, in an observatory? Not many, that's for sure. If anyone at all. But if I'm being honest, it's not what or who they put on, or where, but the way it's done. You may think the concept of promoters looking after bands and actually, well, promoting the gig and providing them with what they want is a given but trust me, having heard the horror stories from one venue in particular this is clearly not the case. I won't get myself into hot water by publicly outing the venue in question, but let's just say comparing their practices to those of PYT and Underachievers (who I wrote about yesterday) would be like comparing Night & Day. As with Underachievers though, PYT putting on a gig is a bit like your best mate bursting into your room frantically waving a CD around and saying 'LOOK AT WHAT I FOUND!'. Either Dan & Hannah are the best actors in the world or they genuinely believe in/love everything they're involved in and put on. It's no surprise to learn that Underachievers and PYT can be found working together under the near-unstoppable Postcards From Manchester banner, culminating in September's great day out that was Postcards Festival (reviewed elsewhere). I said in my Underachievers piece how you feel you're being willed on to have a good time, and it really was a strange feeling dancing at the clubnight afterwards and feeling the organisers watching you – to quote PYT's Dan - 'tear up the dancefloor' from the overhead gantry.

The morning after the Postcards festival holds perhaps the most enduring PYT memory of mine to date. It found Dan and Hannah working out who to showcase at the In The City conference, organising their fanzine, and a myriad other things. Me? It was all I could do to not fall asleep into my bacon sandwich. Their workload is, I imagine, comparable to most paid professionals from what I've seen, and to do it while also fitting in part time work and attaining merit-grade Masters degrees as well is nothing short of remarkable considering PYT is, to an extent, nothing more than a hobby.

I guess in the last 2 posts what I've said in a convoluted – and by convoluted I mean 2000-words levels of convoluted – is that this year I came across the Manchester DIY scene and almost instantly fell in love with it. Having spent years in an area where no-one does anything, or stands around bemoaning the state of things and saying how they could do better while achieving sod-all, it was great to see people not only doing things, but doing things they so clearly love. Of course, it'd be foolish to suggest doing thing like these is all plain sailing. We've already detailed the Underachievers venue struggles, and I'm sure money has been lost and audiences have been disappointing on occasion. But they keep coming back for more, and that's what's important.

I wish I could say I'd been inspired to do something similar, but ultimately I know there are neither the venues nor the like minded individuals around these parts to make something similar work, but what it was done is opened my eyes to what could be achieved if the elements missing from here were to be present should I move to a city. Why not go have a gander, it might have the same effect on you.

Pull Yourself Together occurs on the 2nd and 4th Wednesday of the month at Common Bar, in Manchester's Northern Quarter. Fanzines are released on a bi-monthly basis, and can be picked up in various Manchester outlets for free, and selected record shops nationwide (though if you ask nicely, Dan and/or Hannah may post you one, who knows). To keep up to speed on all things PYT – and trust me, you'll need all the help you can get – bookmark

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