Green Mind Gigs: An Interview with Promoter Simon Baker

Simon Baker is the brains behind Green Mind Gigs, an independent promoter that brings the best new and established live music to Cambridge. He’s been at it for over 20 years and is one of the most beloved regional promoters in the UK, so we sat down with Simon to find out how he got in to booking bands in the first place, some of his favourite gig memories, his tips for wannabe promoters, and much more besides…

WeGotTickets: You’ve been promoting shows as Green Mind since 2001. Can you take us back to that time and explain how you came to be putting on gigs and what drew you to it?
Simon Baker: I’d been volunteering for a workers co-op that was putting on bands at The Boat Race in Cambridge and when that finished I followed Richard Brown over to The Portland and did the door for his shows there. He let me book supports for my band and it kinda escalated from there. The first official Green Mind show was in 2001 with Monkey Steals The Drum, The Cathode Ray Syndrome and Skinrush.

WGT: You’ve always remained staunchly independent. Is that important to you, and do you think that ethos helps set Green Mind apart from some other promoters? 
SB: It has helped me weather a few storms over the years (recessions, Covid etc), as being independent I can be a bit more nimble. The downside is you’re always competing against bigger nationals who can offer more dates, so there’s pros and cons. 

WGT: You’re actually a bit of a WeGotTickets stalwart, and were just our third client when we started over 20 years ago. Can you explain what you look for in a ticketing partner and what’s kept you using WeGotTickets all this time?
SB: Being able to get hold of someone if there’s a problem! So many other ticket outlets are a bit remote and I also like the transparency of the booking fees – no sneaky additional charges etc.

WGT: You’ve been very supportive of the Cambridge music scene over the years and have worked with various venues, promoters and festivals. Why do you think it’s important to help nurture the local music scene?
SB: Without good local venues and acts the scene collapses, especially in the current climate where a lot of bands are tending to tour just the bigger cities. You all need to help each other out.

WGT: Do you have any tips or advice for aspiring promoters out there who want to start booking bands?
SB: Don’t expect to get rich, especially at the beginning where you might find you lose money on a few shows, so when you do make money prepare to reinvest. Have a decent day job and a boss you get on with in case you need to take a day off at short notice! I’m full time now, but to begin with it was very much a hobby. 

WGT: We recently ran a blog post on big milestone shows we’d ticketed for bands who went on to be superstars. You must have worked with some huge acts when they were still playing small rooms – do you have any particularly special memories of past acts you worked with early in their career?
SB: Foals at Junction 1 and The Soul Tree spring to mind. The latter was carnage. No barrier and 200 sweaty kids going mad with only me at the front to protect the monitors. They then went and played at a house party where the police got called – the student who held it had all noise making items confiscated in the aftermath.

Editors at the Portland when it was still 100 cap was mad. We sold 9 in advance, so I expected maybe 50 people at best. In the end we were turning people away and we suspect a few people pressed hands to pass on their hand stamps. It was heaving and you literally couldn’t move. I nipped out to go to the loo and couldn’t get back into the room.

Laura Marling at The Barfly was one where we’d upgraded it and we then sold out there. She was incredibly nervous on the tour and if I recall rightly she had to cancel one show due to stage fright. Ours went off without a hitch and she had Mumford and Sons as her backing band and was supported by Noah & The Whale and King Charles. Not a bad line up.

WGT: And is there anyone you’re working with currently that you think is destined to be a million selling, festival headlining, globe conquering superstar?
SB: Low Girl is superb, localish and set for big things. It’s lovely dream pop/shoegaze vibes and I’m really looking forward to her show on October 1st.

Bob Vylan is already heading to being massive, so I’m probably not telling anyone something they don’t know, but if you haven’t seen him you need to. 

Grove supported Bob Vylan a while back and she utterly smashed it. Big heavy beats, angry and political and could make anyone dance. Make sure you see her.

WGT: What does the future hold for Green Mind? Do you have any goals or big plans for the future?
SB: More shows, finding some great new bands, ensuring I keep loving doing it. What else do you need?

Find out more about Green Mind Gigs and view their gig listings here and follow on Instagram here. You can also see more from Simon in our INDIE50 profile from 2016.

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