Taking over Mr Wolf’s on the third Saturday of every month is NightBus, a borderline concept night that wants to standardise the idea of paying to see unknown bands – and simply trusting it will be good.

NightBus is the lovechild of Paul James and Rhys Friery, who – although they both make a living from bookings and promotion – are doing this purely for the love of it.

Paul is the bookings manager of Mr Wolf’s and No.51, and a freelance music photographer. Rhys worked for three years at The Nest in Bath – playing a key role in bringing live music to the venue – but now works freelance as a promoter, as well as playing the keys in brilliant Bristol band, Sleeptalking.

NightBus is the lovechild of Paul James and Rhys Friery, who – although they both make a living from bookings and promotion – are doing this purely for the love of it.

While the NightBus events, by name, have been around for a few years, the concept has been completely overhauled by Paul and Rhys. Previously run by local party DJ The Conductor, NightBus was a late night clubnight, where you could exchange an old bus ticket for a drink at the bar.

However, Rhys and Paul saw an opportunity to push some of the great local acts they believed in, while bringing the element of live music to a night out – and there’s still a free drink at the end of it.

Now, instead of paying three or four quid on the door, your £3 advance ticket will get you access to a night of expertly curated live music, exposure to acts you may not have heard of, entry to a clubnight afterwards, and a free Agwa cocktail to wash down your mirth. Plus, The Conductor is still there in full force behind the decks from 12am-4am.

With now over a year of ‘NightBus presents’ events on their tally, they’re starting to solidify a reputation as a brand in the know

With now over a year of ‘NightBus presents’ events on their tally, they’re starting to solidify a reputation as a brand in the know.

NightBus-Rhys-friery-Nitelife-Martin-Thompson
Rhys Friery

‘Myself and Paul have both worked for music venues,’ Rhys explains. ‘I play in bands and Paul’s a professional photographer – so we see a lot of music.

‘We wanted to bring all the acts that we love under one umbrella and NightBus seemed like the perfect identity for putting great music out there. As well as some great local acts, we try and bring in stuff that people haven’t seen before.

‘All of the profits are reinvested back into the night, which means we can include more décor and more bands. We’ve got a special artist playing for our big Christmas show, which we can’t announce yet. Although all of the bands we’ve got, we’re really excited about.’

we’re just trying to put on a good night

‘This is kind of like our party,’ says Paul. ‘We both do this for jobs anyway, but through friends, through favours, through contacts that we’ve built up, we get to pick and focus on our favourites. It’s not a big money making venture, we’re not trying to kick start a giant promotions company, we’re just trying to put on a good night.

‘If you look at the listings and you don’t recognise the name of the band, it’s about building that trust that it will be good live music to come and watch.

For £3, you get two or three bands, a free drink and entry to a clubnight afterwards that finishes at 4am – we almost can’t give it away enough

‘For £3, you get two or three bands, a free drink and entry to a clubnight afterwards that finishes at 4am – we almost can’t give it away enough.’

‘We’re just trying to guarantee a great party once a month,’ says Rhys. ‘Because as Paul said, we have other jobs and other venues we have to fill, but this is our night – this is the one night that we’re doing something to give back to the people who loyally support the scene.’

It’s like booking your own birthday party every month with your favourite bands

‘It’s like booking your own birthday party every month with your favourite bands,’ says Paul.

‘I actually have done that,’ says Rhys. ‘The October party is my birthday and I’ve booked Imperial Daze, who I’m very excited to see.’

Rhys and Paul originally met in Bath, where Rhys was running a night called Revolver, which transformed spaces that wouldn’t usually have live music for one night.

‘They were really sweaty underground nights,’ Rhys explains. ‘Terrible sound, terrible everything, but everyone had a great party. And to some extent, we are trying to rekindle the idea of what Revolver’s foundations were built on – people who were just really involved in the music scene.’

‘I went to one of those nights and I thought, “These are the kind of nights I need to be involved in,”’ says Paul, who passed Rhys a business card after the show, kick starting both their working relationship and their friendship.

Paul James

Beyond doing a great service for the live music scene in terms of watching bands, it’s equally important to the pair of them to support the artists. A typical lineup will see a smaller local act with a bigger name, giving those smaller, deserving acts a larger platform than they might be used to, and giving the audience a chance to discover some new music.

‘We always make sure the bands get paid,’ says Rhys. ‘If you’re not getting paid, don’t do it – that’s advice from someone in a band. It adds value to the night if the promoter is willing to put money in. If we don’t put money into the art, then what?’

A typical lineup will see a smaller local act with a bigger name, giving those smaller, deserving acts a larger platform than they might be used to, and giving the audience a chance to discover some new music

‘Bands still aren’t paid enough,’ says Paul. ‘It’s kind of a bad business model when you look at the equipment the band’s using and the rehearsal time, and all of that – it’s still never enough.’

‘What’s the quote? Musicians are the only type of people to put five grand’s worth of gear in a £500 car and drive five hours for 50 quid,’ says Rhys. ‘It’s important to us and it’s a core value of ours.’

‘Each bit of money we can make from a show, we’re putting directly back into it,’ Paul says. ‘And as NightBus’ popularity expands, the shows will get better.

as NightBus’ popularity expands, the shows will get better

‘Nearly all of the money goes to the bands, not much of it goes to NightBus, as such. But we’ve been getting little bits and putting it into a pot to spend on things like this big Christmas event we want to put on. It will be a bigger band than would normally play at Wolf’s and a bigger band than we could usually get.

‘In fact, we’re probably the only people involved in the night that don’t get anything ­– apart from the satisfaction of a good night, obviously.’

The rest of the year’s NightBus parties are already confirmed, with a good mix of local and futher afield talent coming to play at their Mr Wolf’s home. Imperial Daze, Swimming Girls and SILAS will take to the stage for Rhys’ NightBus birthday party on 21 October, while Greasy Slicks and Port Erin host the November party, before NightBus ring in the new year with their top secret blowout at Christmas.

The rest of the year’s NightBus parties are already confirmed, with a good mix of local and futher afield talent coming to play at their Mr Wolf’s home

‘In a year, we’d like to be talking to agents about getting certain acts in, and offering support slots to local acts who are doing good things,’ says Rhys.

‘All I want is for NightBus to be a reliably decent night!’ says Paul. ‘Through our other jobs – watching stuff not do well can be really soul destroying. To sit and watch a band play to a half empty room, it can get really tiring.’

It seems as though Paul’s not too far off his vision of a successful NightBus, with the monthly events steadily growing in popularity and word beginning to spread.

‘When BOMBS played at NightBus a couple of months ago – and they’re a band with a really dedicated fan base, where you see the same faces at shows,’ says Rhys. ‘They told us that they played to a crowd they hadn’t played to before. So you think maybe something is working here, maybe something is happening.’

21 October – NightBus presents: Imperial Daze, Swimming Girls & SILAS, Mr Wolf’s
Facebook event // tickets

Photos by Martin Thompson

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