Rocking club night on the Up

Ipswich’s Uprock club night celebrates its sixth birthday with a not-to-be missed gig this weekend. JONATHAN BARNES spoke to its music-obsessed founders about how they continue to bring top acts to town.

IT might come as a surprise to you that Mumford and Sons (600,000 album sales and counting) and Jamie T (best male at this year’s NME Awards) have played intimate pub gigs in Ipswich town centre.

If so - and you don’t want to miss out on any more great nights - then you need to get the lowdown on Uprock.

The monthly club night, now stationed at The Swan in King Street (opposite the Corn Exchange), celebrates its sixth birthday tomorrow night, with a night of live music that promises to add another highlight to a growing list.

Rising hip-hop star DELS headlines the free gig, with hotly-tipped singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran providing support. Big things are predicted of both and Uprock will be hoping they’ve backed more winners, having previously hosted a string of top-acts-in-the-making, also including The Invisible, Jeffrey Lewis, Golden Silvers, Good Shoes, Hot Club de Paris and Pigeon Detectives.

Uprock prides itself on attracting top acts to town – plus showcasing local talent such as The Cheek, The Cads and James Severy - but it’s more than just that. DJ nights are held at The Swan on the first Saturday of the month, with its three founders and organisers - brothers Steve and Richard Haugh and their friend Andy Mortimer - sharing the decks to highlight their eclectic musical tastes, from hip-hop to folk and from reggae to indie to electronica.

The trio, all originally from around Ipswich, dreamt up the idea for the club night six years ago. “We wanted to put on a night where there were no boundaries on the music played and where anyone could come along and be themselves. We had a shared hatred of dress codes, queues for rubbish clubs and the same songs being played every single weekend,” says Richard, 31, a broadcast journalist with BBC Radio Suffolk.

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“Our intention has always been to let the music do the talking,” says Steve, 34, who is marketing director at the University of Essex Students’ Union. “Since day one we set out to put a lot of care and attention into everything we do, from hand-drawing all our posters to spending days in record shops or online searching out good new music.”

Uprock nights began at the Hogshead before moving to the Cock and Pye and then to The Swan, boosted by the unwavering support and enthusiasm of recently-departed landlord Damian Royal. Live music grew out of the club nights. “Early on we found that it was hard to book acts, but now we can mention that we have previously had Jamie T, Mumford and Sons, The Invisible and Jeffrey Lewis, booking agents are more interested”, says Andy, 31, a careers advisor, who came up with the Uprock name.

The vast majority of their gigs have all been free, although the trio launched the Uprock Social Club for the gigs by Mumford and Sons and The Invisible, where people could pay as little or as much as they liked.

The nights take a significant amount of organisation and it’s a labour of love. But a shared passion for music and a refusal to compromise has kept Uprock fresh and exciting. “We’ve always focused on quality rather than quantity, so only play records we love and put on acts that we’re passionate about,” says Steve.

The music scene in Ipswich may not be the most celebrated, but it still has a lot to offer, adds Andy. “Perhaps we have shown that if you are happy to put a bit of work in and you don’t mind not earning any money from it - because there is none - then it’s possible to tempt acts to Suffolk.”

The Uprock gigs are only held occasionally partly because of the organisation involved and partly because, says Richard, “we’d rather put all our efforts into making the occasional gig live long in the memory”. The trio also love the DJs night too much to allow Uprock to simply become a vehicle for live music.

Tomorrow, though, another special night looms, and hopefully there will be many more to come. “We love running Uprock and are grateful for everyone who’s supported us in the past six years,” says Richard. “We’re continually getting excited by good new music so see no reason why we should quit anytime soon.”