At St Pancras, struggling bands find platform to promote their music
Friday 17 June 2011
The Guillemots are in mid-song flow when the announcement that the 7:02pm Eurostar to Paris is boarding somewhat thins their audience. But that's one of the hazards for bands who are bringing "rush-hour rock" to harassed commuters at one of Europe's busiest train platforms.
St Pancras International has become music's latest "pop-up" music venue, with a daily selection of leading artists performing at four stages placed strategically across the home of the Eurostar.
For bands such as the Guillemots, facing a music business scarred by a declining CD business and a drop in live ticket sales, it's a golden opportunity to perform for more potential fans than they might reach at a summer of festival appearances. Up to one million people travel through the revamped St Pancras concourse each week. The Station Sessions series of daily concerts, held at lunchtimes and during the 6pm-7pm rush-hour, returns the tradition of musical performances to the famous Victorian station. St Pancras was a key departure point for soldiers heading off to the Second World War and brass bands would give the troops a motivational send-off as they waved goodbye to their loved ones.
The romantic possibilities of St Pancras, with its platform champagne bar for courting couples, is one of the reasons why the singer-songwriter Nerina Pallot has signed up to perform during tonight's rush-hour.
"Extraordinary things happen at stations," she said. "People can find themselves a long way from home. I sometimes go to Kings Cross with my baby just to sit and observe people."
Pallot, whose Year Of The Wolf album is hovering just outside the Top 10, believes musicians must seize any chance to lure new fans, even if it means performing a glorified busking session. "I'll be on the middle of the platform with my piano and a string quartet playing for the attention of unsuspecting commuters," she said. "I'm going to try doing half a song in French for passengers arriving on the Eurostar. It's a great idea. I don't know why there aren't more public spaces opened for live music in this country like there are in Europe."
St Pancras is working with the Prince's Trust on the concerts, which will also give young performers a chance to play with established names. Live music, seen as the saviour of the music industry after piracy began to cut down physical sales, is now struggling, with box-office takings falling 12 per cent for the top tours in 2010. Rising ticket prices are blamed, and that encouraged the Guillemots to stage more free gigs. The band will play at the Festival of Britain Bandstand at the Royal Festival Hall tomorrow afternoon.
Finishing their hit single "Trains To Brazil" with a flourish to a crowd of 200 well-wishers, champagne-bar sippers and curious commuters, Guillemots singer Fyfe Dangerfield thanked the audience and wished them a safe journey.
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