You know that feeling when you host a party; loads of mate have clicked ‘going’ on the Facebook event, some have even texted you personally to say they’re coming but until they walk through the door, you’re unsure it’ll go ahead at all. That’s the feeling Abbie McCarthy gets every month she opens her club night doors to new music fans.
The DJ is used to the pressure. She’s been presenting BBC Music Introducing in Kent’s for the past few years and even hosted a few shows on Radio 1 in 2017, but it was setting up Good Karma Club that really pushed her out of the warm comfort zone of the presenter’s chair. “I was having a bit of an emo moment the other day when I was like “ah, we’re two years old!” and almost looking back through the baby book and yeah, we’ve had some really good shows” she says, beaming with confidence that Good Karma Club isn’t any old night filled with a few supportive pals and bands who’re just there for the free beer rider.
The London-based club night has had some impressive names from the get-go; Sheffield indie band The Sherlocks played the launch night in 2016, fellow guitar group The Amazons made an appearance later that year, and more recently Pale Waves, who’ve just been announced in the top five artists in the BBC Music Sound of 2018 poll. Where emerging artists may have struggled to find gigs elsewhere in the capital, all have had the opportunity to cut their teeth here. “In London there’s loads of massive nights for huge artists to play and medium-sized artists to support but there’s not really that many platforms for brand new artists and I think it’s really important for bands to play live and get good at it. It’s almost like a house party with live bands and that’s exactly what I want.”
Over two years Good Karma Club has expanded from The Islington to 160-person capacity Sebright Arms. “I always wanna keep it small. For me the best gigs are the small gigs and the aim of the night is to be like ‘I was there when this band played. It was one of their first shows.’ That’s part of the excitement for me” says McCarthy. Modestly sized venues they may be, but it hasn’t stopped Good Karma Club from growing and being rewarded with its own stage at Canterbury’s City Sound Project. “It was at the top of these old castle towers, so it was like an old dungeon – it’s a ridiculous setting!” It was the backdrop for two more big names – 2017 triumphs Tom Grennan and Bad Sounds – who’ve both been championed by McCarthy’s similarly named radio colleague and fellow music tastemaker Annie Mac amongst others.
Kent is the place McCarthy takes much of her inspiration from. As the anchor of BBC Introducing Kent, she’s seen Slaves, Will Joseph Cook and Get Inuit climb through the ranks in recent years. “It seems like if you were born in Tunbridge Wells you were born to make music!” she laughs. Now, having DJ’d on the NME Awards tour last year, McCarthy is taking Good Karma Club on the road. Irish indie-pop band The Academic will headline the seven city Good Karma Club showcase in April which Abbie sees as an exciting opportunity. “I think it’s good to go to places who don’t always get live music and support those slightly smaller venues. I’m also getting to go to some venues I’ve never been to, for example King Tut’s in Glasgow is such a legendary venue and I’ve heard so many mad stories about that place so I’m really looking forward to going there and experiencing it for myself!”
Don’t wait around for Good Karma Club to stop on your doorstep though. Grab your party poppers and free tickets to their second birthday this Friday at Sebright Arms where McCarthy has plucked three new bands to play and rattles off snappy bios for them: “Bad Nerves are your favourite new punk band from London, Sorry are a new signing to Domino and are so exciting and mesmerising live and Tremors are a band I’m predicting big things for this year.”
For anyone wanting to take that leap from Soundcloud trend-setter to club night starter, McCarthy says it’s all about getting the right line-up and identity. “I think there’s certain times of year that are really tough to run a night because you’re up against huge festivals, people’s Christmas parties, people being on dry January and not wanting to spend their money, but as long as your line-ups are good and the identity of the night is really clear, people will still come anyway.”
Well, if Abbie McCarthy’s track record is to be trusted, you need some new tunes to wrap your ears around, or your pockets are a little empty this January, Good Karma Club’s second birthday may just be the perfectly timed celebration of new music.