IN my eternal quest for interesting music, it’s essential to have an inquisitive nature and look further afield. Scotland and the UK can at times be very insular and inward-looking. You can wait for mainstream TV or daytime radio to serve you up something special, but you may be there a long time. Their aim by and large is straightforward entertainment, and there’s nothing wrong with that per se. Cultural or artistic progression is never really on the cards though.

You can go searching for it yourself of course. Now the internet is at our fingertips and every possible musical tangent can be explored. But you still have to know where to look and an easily-clicked digital representation is not always enough. Separating the wheat from the chaff can be time-consuming, not to mention fruitless in many cases.

Live music still offers an experience that even the wonders of YouTube can’t quite replicate. It’s a visceral, intimate, human encounter and also gives you the chance to see if an act is truly capable or not. There’s little air-brushing or special effects involved, and like theatre or stand-up comedy, what you see is what you get.

The radio selector, blogger or journalist can obviously point you in the right direction, but so can an expertly curated festival or showcase event. A three-way contract and a delicate balance between curator, musician and audience is formed. Each one has to be engaged and involved to make it work well.

Those who take the initiative and outright gamble to book emerging acts can run the risk of failure, financial loss and even bankruptcy. But smaller, specialist events aren’t set up as simple crowd-pleasers or to bank inordinately large sums of cash, as many large scale music festivals seem to be. They’re here to enlighten, offer new ideas and real alternatives.

Recently I’ve been in three very different locations for three very different types of events. The intention of each was to let audiences hear innovative music and also strengthen their local community. In my eyes, each was successful and hugely important.

Waves Central Europe takes place in the twin cities of Vienna and Bratislava and shines a spotlight on the best music being made in the surrounding areas of Austria, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Estonia, Lithuania and Russia. It does book acts from the UK, Scandinavia and the Netherlands, but is ultimately trying to expose the modern music of neighbouring countries.

By day, there was a conference including seminars, panels and talks; and I was there to host listening workshops offering advice and feedback from a UK perspective. Musicians are extremely brave to submit their work for analysis and dissection in an X Factor fashion by music-biz types; so constructive criticism is definitely the order of the day. No-one was there to maul, denigrate or laugh at anyone, and the standard was high across genres.

By night, each city hosted a cross-section of concerts throughout a variety of venues, with one wristband giving access to all. Yet again, as I further immerse myself in Europe, I am massively impressed. The quality of the musicians, the wonderful venues on hand and the sheer organisational attention to detail was second to none.

There was also an added enthusiasm, work ethic and wide-eyed optimism that’s often lacking in the blasé attitudes of the West. The two cities are absolutely charming, and people only too quick to show you tourist sites, places of interest and local edible delicacies. On all levels Waves was exemplary.

Back home, Edinburgh will always play second fiddle to Glasgow as Scotland’s main music metropolis. Population is a key, but so is a general attitude. As a resident of Auld Reekie, I am continually downhearted by the lack of interest in the capital’s vibrant scene. People are all too quick to complain, but less speedy in getting off the sofa to buy tickets.

The Pleasance Sessions, however, could teach most festivals a thing or two. Three evenings of music took place in the beautiful, wood-panelled Pleasance Theatre with the added Och! Toberfest beer tent and independent record label market, supplying the finest in local vinyl and merchandise, in the courtyard outside. Throughout the weekend, home-grown heroes such as Withered Hand, RM Hubbert, PAWS and Jonnie Common performed in a glorious setting to the gathered revellers. Once more, it was a triumph.

Finally, the Twisterella Festival in Middlesbrough attempts to inspire a corner of gritty, working-class Teeside with an air of escapism and rock’n’roll fun with their all-day bonanza, and it most definitely succeeds. Dedicated local promoters The Kids Are Solid Gold invite bands from across the country, as well as the surrounding towns, to muck in on a patchwork bill in pubs, clubs and university buildings across the centre of town. With friendly northern hospitality and quality acts such as Pins, Slug, Hyde & Beast and Fatherson up close and personal, it’s a splendid way to discover music and meet new people.

These kind of festivals aren’t exclusive; they are open to the public and easily accessible should you ever want to make the effort. In true DIY spirit, many independently minded people are organising similar events all over the place, but ultimately rely on audiences to keep them afloat. In the face of continual global homogenisation and mainstream proliferation, if you want an interesting music scene wherever you are, you have to nurture and make one.

Vic Galloway presents on BBC Radio Scotland at 9-11pm Mondays Tomorrow there’s another chance to hear his Celtic Connections 2015 special with The Phantom Band, Withered Hand & Siobhan Wilson.

Vic’s book Songs In The Key of Fife is published by Polygon

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