Breaking Free with Tor Byrnes
“We’re surrounded by cities,” Tor Byrnes says, in answering why Bournemouth often gets overlooked as a destination for live music. We Broke Free, the live music promotion agency set up and ran by Tor, grew out of her regular DJ night for indie music, itself held at 60 Million Postcards, which still functions as the central home for WBF.
Tor now sits on the Arts by the Sea council as their resident “indie child”, while still continuing to curate, book and run the WBF shows that take place either at 60MPC or for larger acts The Old Fire station on Holdernhurt Road. The music scene up here, Tor notes, “is very student focused.” Back when the night was DJs only, it was very difficult she says to get the word out, or for audiences to brave listening to something new. Yet overtime the shows have developed their own strong following. They were, and to this day still mostly are, kept free; something that Tor worries might have (surprisingly) kept audiences away. Yet the prevailing desire to get new music out there for people to experience it led her to keep the doors free and open. “There can be a lack of imagination here,” she says, “I don't know if people always want to find it.”
WBF have made a name for themselves in bringing to Bournemouth acts that soon after find themselves breaking larger audiences. Wolf Alice came through WBF as did Blossoms, back then playing to an audience of a cosy 200 people. Because of the layout of 60MPCs, shows can often seem incredibly intimate, with the band pushed right up into the crowd. “It’s worth making the trip to these shows,” Tor beams, “otherwise you just might miss something incredible.”
WBF places emphasis upon currently touring bands. These are always supported by local acts whose sound gels with that of the headliners. Two local groups that Tor heralds during our interview (alongside a moment of mutual bonding re Danish troubadours Iceage) are Honeymoons, a pallor-esque dream pop trio after Mercury Rev’s own heart.
“We do have live music here,” Tor reinstates, stressing the diligent rock and metal scene in Bournemouth (the author recalls The Anvil and many of night of mid-pit physical bonding) and the shows down at Chaplin’s. Yet that previously mentioned student dominance to the nightlife and music scene can lead to a somewhat migratory crowd. “People come and go,” adds Adam, who’s worked with Tor for the last three years, “but she’s the blood of it all.”
“We always lose money” Tor laughs off, “I’ve considered changing the name to We Broke Almost Even.” Her wish would be to see the scene continue, brining more women out to indie gigs, and for every show to be full and in her own words “truly something to talk about.”
“It’s free live music,” she closes with. “Why wouldn’t you like it?”
No reason indeed.