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Talking to Theo Bard from Woodburner
Theo Bard is the man behind Woodburner, one of the most important underground folk music events in London. It all began a decade ago around a large woodburner in the squatted Hackney pub "The George". Since then Woodburner events have been where just about every musician in London cut their teeth and are where you could have heard Sam Lee and Nick Mulvey long before anyone mentioned a Mercury Prize. It is Theo´s attention to detail which makes Woodburner so special. Every venue is carefully chosen for its unique ambiance and atmosphere, and this combined with Theo´s uncanny ability to select great acts makes for many magical evenings.
2017 has been a busy year with regular weekly events at Dalston Eastern Curve Garden, Flat Iron Square and Styx Bar, plus various album launches and gigs at venues ranging from Brixton´s Hootananny to the Brunel Museum Tunnel Shaft, as well as curation of the Folk Barn stage at the Wilderness Festival. Now that the season is coming to a close we asked Theo for his impressions of the summer and his plans for 2018.
Theo, what do you look for in a new artist?
First and foremost, musical quality - it´s about having a refined sound where every single moment is charged with musical energy and focus. A lot of what we do revolves around harnessing the phenomenal power of live performance - to convince our audience an act needs to know how to translate their own performance into something shareable and listenable. A different skill to playing great shows!
And what are the important features of a venue for hosting a Woodburner event?"
It just has to feel amazing. Sometimes I walk into a place and I just find the potential of a space staggering. When I´m already planning where I´ll put the stage and the sound guy on my first visit, then I know I have to do something there.
How would you sum up the atmosphere of a Woodburner event?
Somehow we manage to provide a truly inclusive, friendly social space which maintains focus on the music. All of a sudden we´re hosting birthday parties and socials, and more than a few dates too. People just like the accessible, open vibe of our events.
For you, what were the highlights of the year?
Alice Phoebe Lou and Mellah at the Curve Garden was so incredible it was almost overwhelming - just a huge buzz everywhere in the venue. My Baby at Styx was also a massive show where we brought in a full lighting, sound and smoke rig to set off the show. It was a banger.
Are there any Woodburner treats planned for next year that you can already share with us?
Hehe, that would be telling! The programming at the Curve Garden is going to the next level for next summer, some very special events are going to happen at Wilton´s Music Hall, and we´ll be running some big stuff in more central London locations too... Expect everything to be released in a smoother way that´s a bit easier to understand and access.
We´ll be looking forward to it! Last question - in your opinion who are the artists to look out for in 2018?
I saw Poppy Ajudha outdoors in the sunshine at The Great Escape festival this year - she was a total goddess who could definitely become a big thing. I also can´t wait to see where Blue Lab Beats go with their sound - they are hugely talented. I´ve heard James Riley´s new album, and seen his new videos too and he has raised his game several levels so I am super excited to be involved with his London shows. When it comes to festival bands, Don Kipper are on top of their game right now so catch them if you need to dance your autumn blues away.