THE FUTURE OF SIDE STAGE COLLECTIVE
As soon as I scrolled my Twitter feed and came across the last ever Rookie post, I stopped. I just couldn’t believe that the publication I used to go to daily is not going to publish any more articles. Ever. Again. I quickly opened a new tab and purchased the four yearbooks available on Amazon (second-hand versions obviously - the Ryanair compensation for a delayed flight is not that incredible).
A sort of ‘emergency’ siren is released into my brain when the present feels in danger. That’s how I normally feel about life and more recently about Side Stage. So let me tell you a story.
This year, at my company’s offsite in Ibiza, my colleague asked me to give a talk on Side Stage Collective (basically everyone wanted me to tell the story of when we interviewed Alt-J) and so I did. The title of the talk was ‘When No One Gives You Lemons, And You Make Lemonade Anyway’ and for me, that’s the best to describe how Side Stage was born. It was July 2013, when we all met at the Heineken Stage of NOS Alive (fka Optimus Alive). I was covering the festival for an online magazine. Joana was attending the festival/keeping me company and we ended up meeting Ana. We were all in different stages of our lives, but when our, now, dear friend Tom (violinist for artists such as Rhye) told us we should do something about this passion, it sounded so damn right. This was it. Side Stage Collective: The combination of our principles and the collaboration of everyone who loves music in the same way as us. We had meetings, we had a strategy, we had a plan. In 2013, I was 17. If you’re reading this and got a bit confused, it might be because I lied to you. I always lied about my age when we started the blog. It wasn't because I wanted to party and consume alcohol like ‘a grown up’. I did it because I wanted the people in the industry to take me seriously. I wasn't wasting my time to deal with assumptions or stereotypes. Side Stage at that stage (lol) was everything I had. Weeks later I dropped my plan to move to Macedonia. Months later, I was living in Yorkshire, UK. And this was where my self-discovery outside my comfort zone started. Side Stage was already doing well in Lisbon. We covered the major festivals in the summer of 2014 and interviewed bands we thought we could never meet. But it was time to continue/finish my studies. On the 11th of September 2014, I moved to the U.K. and started my three-year bachelor degree. Homesickness changed from being a feeling to a lifestyle. You hear plenty of stories of people who couldn’t cope with it and people who never suffered from it. It took me about three months till I was 80% comfortable in telling people they were spelling my name wrong or ask someone to repeat what they said twice - or many more times. You learn English in school but then life takes you to the 11th biggest town in the U.K. It was hard work, yet it was the place where I allowed myself to experience and discover my limits. My routine changed dramatically. I couldn’t attend as many gigs as I was used to. The days were consumed by lectures and pints of Fosters - poured by me at a bingo hall. There was no much room for a dramatic change or uninvited guests. The naive me thought that everything that could happen, it would be with my permission. When you are 100% alone in a country that you didn’t even visit before moving, you’re your biggest responsibility. You need to be in control. Going to a party where you would have to take a train and your phone’s battery is running low can be your biggest nightmare. But slowly, I got to realise that if I still wanted to truly feel the music I had to experience the world outside my room. Life is about taking risks and learn to accept vulnerability. ‘Vulnerability? Is this the part where you mention love?’ Leeds and Manchester were my favourite places to be. The students filled the town, gigs were on every night and the pub quizzes? Never been but my friends still love it. You end up meeting so many people in those random ways. Once again, it just happens. A couple of years later, there was another challenge: I was facing the fear of being labeled. Meeting someone who you have an instant connection doesn’t happen every day. And when it does, do you know how to react to them? Well. My reaction was doing nothing. I used to put more effort into placing my Asda’s pizzas inside the oven on my first year of university than to fight against the so known 'label' fear. Months later, just like that, our paths crossed again. This is not a fairytale sort of story, more importantly, this was the very first step of 'Raquel stopped caring' journey. You can’t just control who comes into your life and if they deserve to stay in, maybe running away should be the last thing you should consider doing. As you probably realised already, our personal growth is pretty similar to Side Stage's. I kind of ran through the story but just to put you in context: Side Stage Collective started from being the ‘Meh Collective’ where we didn’t define our voice and couldn’t insert our different personalities into our articles. Then moved to the ‘Pretty alright collective’, where we stopped caring. We are just being us.
I remember ending the talk fearing if those 15 minutes made no sense at all for the people who never came across our project. But the point of that talk was ‘No matter in what situation you are in, there will be someone out there who will understand you and make something this beautiful together’.
And this was the story of Side Stage. Joana, Ana and I had nothing when we started this project other than each other. Five years later, there is so much that has happened in our lives, in our brains, and with Side Stage. These three girls had to grow apart, facing the consequences of keeping a project that was long established in one city. The fact here is: The digital media is getting harder every day. I keep unfollowing people who are turning their body and face into a brand. We knew that this would be the last thing we wanted for Side Stage and for ourselves. This is not the end of anything. Every single one us had so many unique experiences and personally, I want to make Side Stage Collective as real as possible. I want to share with you the soundtrack behind the time when I bumped into someone who I drunkenly texted two nights before, when I ran from a taxi driver in Morocco and thought I would never come back home or when I woke up and couldn't recognise myself. We have ideas. We have dreams. We want to live. Personally and professionally, I am trying to find my way and the best way to tell you my story and the story of music. I don’t know if I know it but for now, I will try to find the best way for us. Side Stage Collective is still alive.