The Playlist – Derby

by Elliot Davies

Victoria Inn Derby

A few days ago, I published a piece on the current live music scene in Derby – or lack thereof.

I’ll be the first to admit that the piece was flawed on quite a fundamental level. Rather than taking a serious and open-minded look at all that is going on today, I instead used the past as a benchmark. For reasons that I will one day struggle to justify to a tribunal, I sort of implied that it’s Derby’s fault that The Smiths haven’t played in the city since 1983.

In pining for the past rather than appreciating the present and anticipating the future, my piece came across as unforgivably disingenuous, and I apologise unreservedly to all who felt put out by my wistful whining.

My article ended with a caveat:

I fully acknowledge that it might just be me. There might be a very healthy live music scene going on in Derby right now, of which I am simply unaware. I truly hope that this is the case.

Having published the article on Twitter, I soon found myself quite bombarded with messages from bands and promoters in Derby who really are working tirelessly to do that which they do best.

And believe me, that’s exactly what I wanted to happen. A few people were a little bit stand-offish when contacting me, but do you really think I’d have written such an article if I didn’t dearly wish that things were better?

Over the past few days, I’ve been made aware of so much that my position on Derby’s music scene has almost done a 180. We may no longer attract the world changing bands, but so what? The city remains full of people who are genuinely passionate about what they do, and who was I to ever demand anything more than that?

So in an attempt to counter the bad karma I unwittingly generated with my previous piece, let’s take a look at some of the exciting things that are happening in Derby right now.

And believe me, this is barely scratching the surface. I’m still receiving messages as we speak.

Holy Smokes!

Holy Smokes!

Holy Smokes! have been doing amazing things in Derby since 2011. Describing themselves as a “non-profit music and art collective”, they use “unique non-traditional venues to showcase diverse music and art projects”.

At the time of writing, there only seems to be one item on their gig calendar – Sly & The Family Drone, who sound amazing. They pass drums to the audience, so everyone gets to be a part of their shamanistic droning mayhem jams. Support comes from Derby’s own Biscuit Mouth, a noisy pair of no-wave ne’erdowells who have a minimalistic yet abrasive sound reminiscent of early Liars, Part Chimp, That Fucking Tank or an angrier Primus. Some of their songs sound like Slint having a tantrum, storming upstairs and slamming the bedroom door. It’s brilliant.

When not blowing minds, Holy Smokes! frequently meet to exchange ideas over drinks. There you’ll find artists, musicians, DJs, writers, copywriters, poets and thinkers. It’s like Paris in the 1930s, but a lot friendlier.


Fans of skewed guitars and strange time signatures would do well to worship at the altar of bUTTONpUSHER. They’ve staged a staggering amount of music in this fair city, including the likes of Maybeshewill, And So I Watch You From Afar, and Derby’s own My Psychoanalyst, who’ll make you gaze at your shoes whilst you headbang.

Take a look at their upcoming shows, and consider how crazy the mighty Manheim will sound in the relatively bucolic surroundings of Ryan’s Bar on July 14. Croatian Black Metal FTW!

Other Bands

A few other bands made us aware of their existence.

Slowraiders are stoking the gently glowing embers of shoegaze. With a name that celebrates itself, blurry artwork and track titles like Daylight, Fire Damage and Vulpines, Slowraiders sit somewhere between Slowdive and Mogwai on the scale of ether. They have a contemplative, melancholic sound, with occasional electronic flourishes making waves in the ambient bubble bath.


The Deep are really pleased to have recently been played on BBC Radio, and can count the lead singer of The Pink Floyd Show UK as a fan. They cite Queens of The Stone Age, Led Zeppelin, Foo Fighters and Kings of Leon as influences, but the vocals make them sound more like PJ Harvey circa her first Mercury win.

We’ve put together a playlist featuring The Deep, Slowraiders, Biscuit Mouth and┬áMy Psychoanalyst and some of the other awesome bands we’ve already mentioned, alongside more famous Derby alumni White Town and up and comers LostAlone. There’s math metal from Virtues, ethereal nu-folk from Gibbs and Lucas and ambient, electronic post-rock from misteranthropic. As always, our only criteria for inclusion is that the music’s ace and from one place. Derby scenesters, let us know who else you love:

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So it seems that, contrary to my previous moaning, Derby has it going on. There’s a lot happening, and the more people I talk to, the more I feel as though things are only going to get better.

So yeah, egg on my face. But a smile, too.

At the very least, I suppose all this will make me leave the house more. Which can only be a good thing…

The Victoria Inn

Victoria Inn Derby

And finally, I’d like to make a sincere apology to the Victoria Inn. Not only did I describe them as “tired”, I also made some baseless implications about the quality of bands they put on.

Again, in focusing upon what has come before, I completely failed to acknowledge what’s happening now.

The Victoria Inn actually has a perennially packed gig calendar, playing host to emerging and established Derby talent as well as bands from across the wider Midlands area; with many acts from much farther afield also paying a visit.

Imminent gigs include a night of roots and rockabilly with Lucille and Danny & The Martians, as well as quite a few nights that will serve to demonstrate the sheer diversity of sounds emerging from the world of metal.

Indeed, if you like things loud, face-melting wonders from across the country appear to play at the Victoria Inn on an almost weekly basis. Also look out for punk and indie, courtesy of the Derby DIY Collective. Staging independent bands from both sides of the Atlantic, The Derby DIY Collective are a genuinely exciting venture, and I cannot believe I wasn’t aware of their existence before they got in touch. Follow them on Twitter and never miss a moment of madness again.

Yet it’s not all screaming and shredding. The regular Sausage & Folk nights offer free entry, free sausages, open mics and the cream of Derby’s acoustic crop. Taking place every Sunday, Sausage & Folk seems to offer a wholly welcoming and completely unpretentious night out. This, of course, just makes me feel even worse for having said such mean things about The Victoria Inn.