Behind the Scenes of Bangor's Music Culture

Updated: Dec 23, 2021

Music is more than gig venues that hold thousands it is also extremely personal down to what you dance to in the kitchen, the songs that remind you of your loved ones and for some, the music you make from your bedroom.

Taking a localised look at music in society I spoke with Bangor University Alumnus, currently serving as research staff, Rees Sorby. Although music is only a hobby for him, pursued from writing in the comfort of his room he has gained a small yet global following from South America to Ukraine.

Producing Music for such an audience from the comfort of his own home is truly a great example of the joy of pursuing music whether this be as a career or not. Sorby admits that ‘having a full-time stab’ at making a career out of music ‘seems scary’. He admits that even he feels pressure to produce new content even though he views music as an ‘extended hobby’ and the mundane reality of lockdown ‘lacked the stimulus of everyday life that helps those creative juices flow’. He commended the people he knows that are actively seeking a career in music, whilst considering how those just entering the industry had lost much of their income. ‘Many musicians I know make money from various jobs, whether that be session work, recording, or playing for other bands, tutoring music and performing too. They work super hard. Lockdown meant for many of them this income was instantly taken away’. Perspectives like Rees’ highlight the determination that it takes to enter an arts-based career, but also the public demand for music which cannot be expected to be met if those chasing such aspirations are not provided with support.

Sorby suggests that the national approach to music was lacking prior to the pandemic as he states that ‘small venues were taking a beating before the pandemic with lots of small venues shutting down due to lack of funding’ and such venues are necessary for new artists to develop and be found. Disheartened that sharing music is becoming ‘a predominantly online thing’ he feels that ‘the idea of live music seems like a distant memory’ and this is only going to become more apparent if the government continue to encourage those on creative career paths to ‘rethink, reskill, reboot’. Music, especially live music is undoubtedly a means of bringing people and so far in the pandemic, we have only seen an increased consumption in nostalgic music over the streaming platform Spotify. Timothy Yu-Cheong’s analysis of the intake of bands such as Toto and Queen suggests that people were turning to music reminiscent of their youth during the pandemic to help them through the jarring changes that COVID-19 posed.

Turning his views towards Bangor directly Sorby notes the unconventional nature of the City’s music scene, especially with a mostly student population, he suggests that ‘it’s a weird one’, possibly alluding to the lack of music venues and the almost hidden nature of its music scene. ‘There definitely is stuff happening, you just might not necessarily know about it’ he states, encouraging students to seek out the hidden musical life of Bangor and provide it with support. ‘Although lacking in dedicated venues, many pubs etc host events every now and again! Some really talented musicians from the area and even beyond come through and play!’. In living history, Bangor has even had the legendary Beatles have even passed through Bangor for education in Transcendental meditation.

As someone who has made complete use of Bangor’s music scene, Rees prompts people to explore the pubs and bars as they are the primary locations for live music in Gwynedd. Specifically noting that ‘Blue sky hosts some truly amazing musicians, usually folky and acoustic, on in the evenings’ although currently, they have no upcoming events due to the pandemic. Sorby has an ever-optimistic outlook as he encourages students to propose their own events to these venues if they feel like nothing is happening and subsequently shape Bangor’s music scene themselves. Venues such as Belle Vue and Fat Cat have been known to frequently hold ‘Open Mic Nights’ and to proceed in this direction would bring in customers for themselves as well as audiences for the performers. While restrictions remain tight and ever-changing the idea of ‘home gigs’ between yourself and those in your household or bubble is a way to keep music in your life, whether this is waiting for an album to drop or putting on a private show in your own home.

Sorby concludes by drawing back to the sobering reality that ‘the restrictions’ have resulted in a huge struggle for those interested in music as a career or even just a hobby and that the ‘lack of support creatives are receiving during this time is disheartening considering how many of us gain a lot of joy from consuming their art’.

You can visit Rees page here to listen to his music

Recommended venues in Bangor:

- Blue Sky

- Belle Vue

- Fat Cat


Title Photo Markus Frank-Schultz

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