The rituals of going to a gig – from trying to second-guess the stage times of the support acts to timing your trip to the toilet/bar perfectly so as not to miss your favourite song – can be as addictive as the thrill of the show itself. But for those hardened souls who’ve been to more gigs than they care to remember, and want a bit more engagement from the standard three-bands-and-home format, the opportunities for what a night can be built around are a lot wider than first imagined. Following on from the runaway success of their first exhibition-cum-gig, the people behind NO HOMERS CLUB are expanding on their format of making a pop-culture reference the central theme for a night, into which the live acts fit. One of the event’s founders, Michael Fowler, tells us how resurrecting dinosaurs and serving d’ohnuts can be as central to your event as the performances.
I’d done some pretty outlandish events before No Homers Club with my writing gang, The Wild Writers. In our finest feat we managed to fit a full-size wrestling ring into The Kazimier and had professional wrestlers brawl for a literary night called Sancho Panza. One of my closest mates told me for months afterwards that I’d never be able to top something like that, and I was inclined to agree with him. No Homers Club came about through a lifetime spent with eyes glued to The Simpsons and the feeling that we could celebrate its impact on our lives in an art exhibition. So me and Ria Fell, truly one of Liverpool’s most talented artists and my best friend, set out on organising our very own Simpsons-palooza. We didn’t have any high expectations for the show – in fact, we didn’t even realise so many people liked The Simpsons – but with 25 years of the sitcom preceding the event we could have been a little more confident.
Before we had all the artists signed up, our plans were for a much smaller exhibition, and we had some venues in mind but they all started closing down around us, meaning we had to search a little further afield. When we first saw Constellations we thought it was a massive space and we weren’t sure if we’d be able fill it with art, let alone people, but the guys there are so unfathomably creative and enthusiastic that, before I’d even finished talking about the idea with Becky, their Chief, she was riffing all these new ideas about doughnut bars and Squishee machines. They were the perfect fit to help create a real spectacle and bring a small part of Springfield to the Baltic Triangle.
To find artists for the exhibition we stuck posters wherever we could, shouted as loudly as possible on social media, and approached artists that are currently making some of the most incredible Simpsons artwork in the world. Just over 30 artists in all got back to us, and we were blown away by how good they were. To namedrop a few: we received work from the inimitable Katie Craven, (who helped Ria with the mural and did her own ink detail take on The Simpsons’ animals); Martin Kirke, who crafted Ralph Wiggum’s Star Wars Figures; Harrison Edwards, who made the James Dean-like Thrillhouse piece; and Liverpool’s own PickWick, who did perhaps the most iconic piece of the show, recreating Marge Simpson’s Chanel dresses.
Getting a music act that would fit an event like No Homers Club would have been a near impossible task if a band like Organ Freeman didn’t exist. We had our hearts set on them playing from the start and knew they’d deliver an unforgettable show. I think they’re one of the most entertaining live acts that Liverpool has, and their love for the Simpsons is as deep rooted as my own. Once we had the artists and live act signed on, we were starting to think that we might have something pretty special on our hands.
The week before the event was as stressful as hell and most of our original worries were now turned on their head. The event that was supposed to have no expectations suddenly had a tonne of them. We were now worrying that we had too much work to fit in the exhibition, and, though we had meticulously planned it, we only had the day of the launch to put it together. All our mates, my girlfriend, and Ria’s family mucked in to help put up the exhibition and put up with me and Ria stressing-the-fuck-out. It was a finer deadline finish than I’d have wanted. I was hammering in information placards seconds before the first people were let in, but from then on I was in a state of euphoria. I couldn’t believe we’d finished it and it looked really good too. I put that down to Ria’s creative direction more than mine.
After No Homers Club, that friend told me the exact same thing, “You’re never going to top that.” And again, I’m totally inclined to agree him. But we’re really going all out to try and prove him wrong. Ria had the idea for ISLA NUBLAR, our Jurassic Park-inspired event the day after we launched the Simpsons exhibition. I think we’ve seen the film together three or four times and watched it separately a countless amount, so it made complete sense to us to start unearthing live Tyrannosaurs.
Katie Craven, Harrison Edwards and Martin Kirke are back making pieces for the show, and we have over 20 new artists, including QUAD Collective (a team of artists whose values of participation and interaction with artwork match our own), Laura-Kate Chapman (of Laura-Kate Illustrations fame) and Sick Note (a local street artist who’s also doing a specially-commissioned mural for us).
Isla Nublar will be a bit different to No Homers Club: for a start, this time we have three bands playing – Sex Hands, Silent Sleep and our trusty talismans, Organ Freeman – and, though it’s still going to be a fun evening, I think there might be a bit more suspense and excitement from the prehistoric surprises we have in store. Constellations are getting right behind it too, helping us to create the fictional island where Jurassic Park is set. In fact, the last email I received from Becky said, “Got an offer of two pygmy goats… but hanging on for the classic full-sized”. That cracked me up. I mean it’s that kind of detail that Jurassic Park fans are looking for, right?