The Grand: Unity Works, Wakefield

The idea of a band ceasing to exist – a fate reached tonight for The Grand – has a much different meaning in this day and age. For one, it’s a less common occurrence for those at the top of the industry. It makes more financial sense to not blow the brand. The initial wave of press a split brings quickly gives way to the dull, inevitable grind of musicians having to find a way to make the dollars without that name to trade on.

The industry is smarter now and if it does happen, the solo career is already lined up. The Best-Of compilation is ready to go to press. The contract as a TV personality or Prime Time TV judge already inked. It’s all just another part of the plan.

However, down at the bottom of the ladder it is a different story. The Grand are just another in hundreds of bands who have worked hard, crafted great music (in this case their debut and now only album “Incapacitated, Ill-Fated and In Love”, released on Wakefield’s Philophobia Music) but ended up falling apart. Not through musical differences but through musical indifference from those on the outside.

Less than 12 months ago, The Grand played Unity Works’ Major Hall next door, supporting British Sea Power and the 750 capacity room didn’t hinder their appeal; in fact the opposite. Their suitably grand sound felt at home in a space that size.

Tonight they are supported by Jamie Lockhart, frontman of Mi Mye and producer at Greenmount Studios where the record was put to tape, who mixes the very old with tracks from his own band’s upcoming album (which is going to be something special, mark my words). Mike and Harry of The Ainsley Band follow on, playing stripped back versions of their more well-known Wall Of Pop noise constructions.

Taking to the Minor Hall stage, The Grand spend the evening showcasing what made them great, which is smartly constructed songs played well. A heartfelt and genuine mix of a melancholic angst and a reserved euphoria is perhaps a nice summation of many bands here in the Merrie City of Wakefield, but for The Grand it was there, written in the DNA of their craft from the very beginning.

It’s a strange sensation to ponder that these songs won’t be heard live again. Unlike the megastars who live forever through radio, through soundtracks, through the inevitable reformation, through endless anniversary editions of their successes, through re-recorded ukulele versions of their hits for Bank adverts – unlike those, this really does mean something. It’s a real ending.

It hasn’t come to an end because they weren’t good enough. Tonight proves that. I used to propose we shouldn’t be sad at the passing of local level artists because their moving on makes room for someone else, moves the focus to younger artists and the evolution continues. But with a severe lack of emerging new artists and the circumstances in which they germinate also being eroded, that is no longer the case.

Still, tonight is for the band. The set is a perfectly constructed run of anthemic, melodic and emotional rock, walking a line that makes it attractive to both hardened and traditional Indie-lovers and the more mainstream audiences currently dancing up the Wakefield street outside.

The question is, in another time or another place would the story have gone differently? And is this a sad or a celebratory ending? It doesn’t matter. The Grand lived, and then they died and some of us were lucky enough to see it. If you weren’t, do a great record label a favour and grab one of the last few copies of that album. Give it to a 14 year old and let’s see what happens next.

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