Heads and Tales is a local UNH indie-rock band that dreams of someday making a career out of its music. It’s members, Ian Sleeper (guitarist), Tom Sattler (bassist), Cory Persson (guitarist), Charlie Weinmann (drummer) and Sam Johnson (singer), are all dedicated musicians who have played instruments since they were young.
Garret Finn, an electronic musician who calls himself Rhyot on stage, has similar goals. Finn has only been playing electronic music for a little over year, but he already knows that he wants to pursue a career in music.
Despite the differences in genre, Finn and Heads and Tales share the same ambitions. However, they also share the same roadblock: finding venues on campus to play their music.
Neighboring towns, like Portsmouth and Newmarket, offer plenty of options for bands to perform live and showcase their new music. The Pressroom and The Rusty Hammer in Portsmouth, and The Stone Church in Newmarket, are just a few of the places that offer live shows regularly.
But playing in towns outside of Durham prohibits artists and bands like Finn and Heads and Tales from reaching their primary target audience: college students.
UNH offers two large events for bands to play. At the end of each academic year, WUNH hosts its annual Hi-Fi Music Festival, where bands are welcome to perform live on the Thompson Hall lawn. The university also arranges the May Day Parade, which sets up a small stage for musicians to perform in the middle of the carnival.
The Campus Activity Board (CAB), organizes The Grind, a concert series designed for local musicians to play in front of students.
Aside from these organized events, most of which take place at the end of academic semesters, there are few alternative options.
“We’ve tried all the bars in downtown [Durham], and they all said no,” Johnson said. “As far as downtown Durham and this campus, the music scene is limited to none.”
Heads and Tales has played over 10 different shows since its creation, but most of the venues have been off campus. In fact, one of its most recent performances was even out of state: the Wicked Music Festival in Worcester, Mass.
Sattler believes that UNH over-advertises for other campus events and doesn’t advertise enough for music events like The Grind. All the members of Heads and Tales agree that the musical awareness in the Durham area is extremely low.
“I think people have different priorities,” Sattler said. “People want to go to a frat or an apartment instead of listening to music.”
Ironically, the fraternities and many of the apartments on campus often ask Finn to DJ their house parties.
Finn, who plays a very distinct style of music, said that he can find plenty of venues to DJ, but finding a venue that asks specifically for electronic music can be challenging.
DJing, which only requires to the artist to mix songs and tracks that the audience knows, is much different from composing original electronic music. Even though Finn is able to regularly perform, he said that he has not gotten many chances to strictly play electronic music.
Some believe that the campus’ low musical awareness isn’t just restricted to local music. Sean Riley, the music director of WUNH, thinks that UNH students lack any awareness in general, therefore affecting the number of events that the school hosts and the number of attendees at performances.
“We help the local music as much as we can. The problem is the overall music taste at UNH, frankly, sucks,” Riley said. “It’s a real challenge. We’ve had to focus our efforts to off campus things.”
WUNH currently works with The Stone Church in broadcasting live music. When the church has live performances, the radio station has permission to play that band’s music. Sometimes those bands come from UNH, but the fact of the matter is that they aren’t playing on campus.
Riley said that WUNH’s relationship with The Stone Church has been successful, but he still wishes that there were more opportunities for local bands and artists to play on campus. In addition to low awareness, he thinks that student interest in music is severely lacking.
“I have no idea why nobody on this campus wants to go do anything. It’s something we’ve discussed in trying to create shows of our own,” Riley said. “It’s a swing and a miss overall doing things on campus because no one is really interested in it, unfortunately.”
WUNH has been trying to listen to what students want, in hopes of increasing both awareness and interest. DJs were added to last year’s Hi-Fi roster, but, according to Riley, the attendance level did not increase in the way he had hoped.
Heads and Tales has recognized that this is an issue that has to be resolved. The band hopes to form a student organization with other local groups that promotes and puts together different performances for local musicians.
“We are fairly disappointed with the local music scene at UNH,” Johnson said. “We would like to see it changed during our tenure here.”