The Hostiles – Tooth & Claw 25/11/17

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The Hostiles, Tooth & Claw 25/11/17

 

It doesn’t take much to force me out on a Saturday night, but on hearing of a Ska-punk band playing in the town city I skipped with glee through the biblical rain to have a drink and a wee skank (no, I don’t mean your mum).  The night started with a swim through the pishing rain to The Nettle’s unofficial HQ the Market Bar, where Woolly Dermal had already got the ball rolling with a pint and a chat about the underwhelming Day of the Dead at the Ironworks the previous night (pure glad I said no to that now!).

 

A few cans of the Red Stripe and some bawdy banter later and the night was well underway.  We had intended to only stay for a couple to warm us up and pray for the rain to let up before hitting the Tooth & Claw, but before we knew it we were waist deep in conversation with local drumming legend (not a euphemism) Dickie Bills, and we had almost forgot we also had an actual gig to go to.  By this time unfortunately we had missed the splendid support band for the night ‘All So Simple’ and I can only blame the weather, my colleague and the 6 drinks he made me have before we left.  I’ve seen ‘All So Simple’ before and I’m disappointed I missed them, so I hereby promise we will give them a proper review the next time they play somewhere that doesn’t require a backy from Noah to get to. 

Anyway, we finally made it to the Tooth & Claw where we were greeted with a very reasonable entrance fee of only £3 – an amount unheard of for a Saturday night gig in that particular bar.  ‘The Hostiles’ were already on stage and kicking out the proverbial jams by the time we had sauntered in, sodden and half-cut and it is to be noted that the place wasn’t packed out but that is more than likely because Inverness seemed to have become the setting for the much-anticipated new movie ‘Waterworld 2 – Global Warming lol’, so you can’t blame anyone for not braving the waves.  There was however a half-packed room and some ska punk to dispense to the moistened crowd and ‘The Hostiles’ provided it in buckets.   Normally by this time the venue is absolutely roasting and what with me wearing my student/offender duffel coat I was concerned I was going to burst into flames, but the venue was cooler than Samuel L Jackson eating a Nobbly Bobbly so my fears were unfounded.  We can only hope that the venue has sorted out the air conditioning issue as it was becoming a problem for many. 

I fucking love ska.  I know that’s not a popular statement anymore to make but it is one I am very vocal about, so I was pure into these lads.  I don’t have much experience of ska-punk, but you could hear the influence of each genre, both being paid the attention they deserve.  It has been said that if you put a Shrek into anything it makes it better; Titanic, Men in Black, Neighbours, News at 10 – put a Shrek in it and it makes it better every time, FACT.  I think the same can be said for a brass section.  Just add a couple of brass instruments to an already decent pop-punk outfit and then you have winner on your hands.  The Hostiles track ‘Night Out’ is a perfect example of a great Ska-punk song and is delivered with absolute dedication by the 2 vocalists Josh and Theo.  Theo in fact was mesmerising with his delivery of his vocals.  It wasn’t the noises he was making (he was perfectly in tune and keeping with the sound of the band) it was more the devotion and commitment he chucked the vocals at the crowd.

 

There was plenty of head nodding from the crowd and had it been a little fuller or if I had had just one more pint I think I would have endeavoured to try some skanking (how is your mum anyway?) but alas I am too much of a fucking professional to let myself have actual fun like that.  Another stand out track from the band that almost had me was ‘Happy Hour’.  It starts with a more pop-punk edge before they drop in the ska like dropping in a Shrek into Game of Thrones (fuck Ed Sheeran eh?) taking the whole composition to another level of bouncing goodness. 

I would normally have a lot more to say, but it was just a short gig from The Hostiles and we had turned up late due to our Poseidon adventure but from what I saw they were well worth a higher entrance fee and I would really like to see them in full somewhere.  Thankfully they are on a short tour round this fair nation right now, so they can be caught here and there if the mood takes you (and it should).

 

The Hostiles upcoming dates:  
2/12 Book Yer Ane Fest, Dundee
9/12 Smash, Edinburgh w/Jaya The Cat
31/12 Green Room, Perth

 

Onr and DISWÆD hit Hoots

Reading Time: 1 minute
 So. Interesting story.
 
Back on August the 8th (a beautiful day according to NOFX) A brand new week old band called DISWÆD played at Marketbar Inverness . They were brilliant, and played as if they’d been together for years. It opened with an acoustic set from the lead singer, followed by the band themselves.
 
It made me think, that a band with such potential wasn’t getting any coverage. There was another band that hit Hootananny Inverness called EYRE LLEW (UK) a few months before that that didn’t get any coverage either, though they were spectacular.
 
DISWÆD are also playing at the Market on the 29th December, but will endevour to see them with Onr. this week, and you should too.
 
I can’t yet comment on Onr. as I’ve not seen them, but they look like they might be worth a little look too. 
 
We’ll perhaps go into a background of bastardwordiness.thenettle.scot as some point, but thought as one of the inspirations for TheNettle.scot we owe it to DISWÆD to give them a shout out.
 
We may have pictures of them from that night a while ago, and if we do, we’ll chuck them on here in a bit. But go see them!

Day of the Dead – the Ironworks – 24/11/17 – POV2

Reading Time: 6 minutes

The Dead deserve better – What could have been at Dia Del Los Muertos

Inverness, Ironworks, 24th November, 2017

 

What a shame.  What a God damn fuckin’ shame.  What this night could have been is anyone’s guess.  What it ended up as is somewhere neatly and comfortably within the imagination of… –fuck, I’m genuinely trying to think.  Well, for sake of argument, let’s say the imagination of whoever is booking the music for Johnny Foxes – if you’re outside of Inverness, take this as a template for the local standard ‘Plastic Paddy Pub with a little local angle’ bar.  Safe to say a reasonably shitty pub where you are sometimes, despite promises to yourself, lulled to.  A pub that trades in a safe ‘we’ll get numbers through the door’ kinda way.  For this night in Ironworks, add into that person’s imagination a ‘we’ve got a kooky little angle going on’ kinda feel.

Not to say that this could not have been something different.  Hand to heart, it had the potential to be so.  Not just potential.  For fuck sake, it should have had a good hard look in the mirror and seen what it both could – and by rights should – have been for the night. 

As a matter of hanging my mast to the wall, so to speak, I’m going to give you a feel of what I was hoping for – what I think could have been.  In terms of bands I’ve seen live – if I’m gonna put it out there – it would be something along the lines of this, or this.  Or this.  Or so many other options…  Which is to say that it’s a doable thing.  I have displayed reasonably specific tastes and biases here, I know.  In the end though, I would have settled for something – anything – in terms of the music, which was vaguely Day of the Dead’ish.  In any way that anyone could connect the as belonging to the theme.  Make it dark, or at a pinch, even a slight bit Hispanic.  Let your imagination go in a way that the organisers didn’t.

Which is in itself part of the point I’m trying to make.  There’s anything and anywhere that this night could have potentially stretched out to.  Instead it was within the realms of some bastard signed up for a theme night at Johnny Foxes and playing it within the acceptable margins.

It didn’t need to be this way.  It didn’t start out this way.  Upon entering, the thoughts and feeling were so much more positive.  I entered in to find the music catching the ear as a positive.  The looping, bounding energy of a pan pipe driven dance music surge, compelling me out into the fray, weaving in and among the crowd, a crowd who had come to party.  Who came to give a shit, in a way that the paid up entertainment couldn’t live up to.  But for all this talk of disappointment, to start with I walked in with hope and a smile.  I walked in to the tones and beats of pan-pipe driven techno dance, and people moving to it.  I thought that the night was but young and that there were corners and shenanigans to explore in the open barn that is the Ironworks.  I came front and centre, drawn by the luminosity contained within an array of blow up dia del los muertos heads, 4-5 feet tall, glowing and stretched across the stage.  There was the dj giving this interesting tease of music, and a hula hoop artist on stage, looking part Wonder Woman, part Alice Cooper, and part hula hoop, such was their stylised affinity to the spinning sensation they were creating around them – soon to be spinning fire.  Immediately I warmed to the moment at hand, and felt that warm buzzing sense of realisation that only half of the entertainment that was to be had was on stage, as the themed up and caring ‘let’s float this thing’ crowd gave as good, and ultimately more, than what they got.

 

The feeling that the entertainment was to be had as much through the crowd as on the stage was, in essence, half right.  For the best and the worst of the extremes of the night were to be had on stage, with the rest of one’s ‘fill’ of entertainment to be had of the crowd, a good deal of which put in an effort to be proud of, and one which genuinely lifted the night.

                           

And from all of the above, all of the potential, all of the good and all of the fun that I did have – let’s not be uncharitable here – inevitably sat in the mind alongside and rubbing negatively in a ‘my brain is being dragged arse-end backwards like some bastard rubbing it across mid-grain sandpaper’/ ‘I’m really not having the good time I was promised’ pain emanating from the night and the music.  Which in the end is the essence of it all.  There was a sold out crowd, dressed up for the moment, willing it into action.  It was something that the crowd was quintessentially ‘up’ for. 

There were the fire-twirlers on stage.  The hula-hoopers.  The skills shown from the burlesque draped performer suspended above stage on a wooden hula hoop size ring.  When I said the best of the night was on stage, this is true, these people were it, and it was genuinely a spectacle. 

There was fire-breathing.  There was dancing.  There was mood.  There was style.  There was so much fucking potential to the night that you wouldn’t want to try to count it.  But in the end it was all let down by the dj.  Not to disparage the dj – he did what he was asked to do I’m sure.  I can see someone look him in the eye and saying: “we want you to invoke some shit, lame-arsed middle of the road safety feel to our Day of the Dead party’.  To harp on in a ‘you can tell I’m not really a full-blooded fan of the place’ type analogy, imagine if Johnny Foxes could be arsed to attempt such an event – think of the sort of thing that would satisfy the need for a fair bit of money folding over the bar, and a bit of dancing.  If the dj had that remit, if they were told “Do that!”, then they fulfilled the remit beautifully.  If they were asked to inspire some feel and drive and people walking out with thoughts along the lines of “Wow! – they nailed this whole Dia de los Muertos’ thing”, they fucked up.  Bad.

It was so fucking disappointing.  Again, if I was in Foxes, I’d see where they were coming from, and to be fair, in that context I’d probably be quite impressed with how they handled themselves.  Being though that it was billed as something better, something fundamentally ‘more’ than this musically safe, by the book pap that my intrigue with the original pan pipe techno fusion that I walked into soon turned into, all I can say is ‘what a fucking shame’.

I can’t say I didn’t have a good time.  I can’t say that the populace of Inverness didn’t come out to play.  They did their bit, in no uncertain terms.  What I am saying is that there was a big, sweet, wide-open goal, and they fucked it.  They sprayed it wide by playing it safe and lame with the music.  As much as I was wanting to feel the dark and the intrigue and the drive and the pulse of the half-beating heart of the day of the dead, this was a wasted opportunity.  The crowd were up for something.  The dancers were.  The fire-breathers were.  All that had to happen is someone had to give the dj some sort of free reign to not play it safe with some sort of Johnny Foxes lame-arsed shit.  It saddened me.  But this is, from what I’m led to understand, Inverness’s first crack at such a night.  The crowd showed themselves willing to see where such potential could take them.  Let’s hope next year the organisers give the Dead the same level of respect. 

~ Cornwallace

For the other nettle review of the event,  see here

 

Day of the Dead – the Ironworks – 24/11/17 – POV1

Reading Time: 9 minutes
 
It was an icy night. On another night I may have walked down some steps, slipped, broken my back or cracked the back of my head on some concrete, and missed the Day of the Dead Spectacle that occurred in the Ironworks Venue on Friday. I didn’t fall though. If I had, fate had it covered, another fella has also reviewed DoTD having attended it in an entirely unrelated capacity to myself.
This gives us two separate independent reviews of the night from two different perspectives. We want more of this going forward, as person 1 reviewing may have an entirely different night and experience from person 2, so it’s good to have two stories. The other one is here
 
I stopped in at the market bar prior to hitting the Ironworks, where I was kindly greeted with a beverage waiting for me. Had a good couple blethers with good couple of friends there over a number of subjects, plans, ideas, the future, nonsense, the rat race, and the fantastic and meticulously arranged fairy lights that were all over the bar and walls – although it is still bloody November. No sign of tinsel though, so in my book that’s acceptable.
 
MIR was to be playing at the Market, whom I quite fancied seeing, but I’d got free tickets to the Ironworks thing, and as it was sold out, and was potentially a one off, it would have been rude not to go
 
Not really knowing what I was going to be faced with for the Day of the Dead event, anyone popping in was a potential candidate as a performer, having just chosen the market as a pre-event drink location. A lass came into the bar, took her trousers off to reveal stripy stockings/tights – was she to be an acrobat in the event I was going to see? 
Was the Jeremy Corbyn doppelganger in the corner going to be part of the live act. Wait, he’s putting on a leather flat cap and leather or PVC jacket – is he a BDSM Jeremy Corbyn special guest. Was he going to be in a cage with an angle-grinder on his crotch?
 
For context, here’s the promotional video that the organizers had circulating.
 
 
So a gimped up public figure wasn’t impossible.
 
At this point I was a bit concerned, my usual method for taking notes for events is an electronic notepad type affair, and it was very much not charged, so all my writing was being done on a couple sheets of A4 paper, all over the place looking like a tribute to a spider trailing congealed blood out of three of it’s eight legs. 
The paper was folded too so all notes were like old (bad) university notes, the fear of it looking like incoherent ramblings with no context at the end of the night was real. I’m bad for not using the lines. But the review is here, so it must’ve turned out ok.
 
Trundling off down Church Street, then through Academy Street, I made my way to the Ironworks. There were plenty of folk dressed up in the spirit of the whole affair, similar to the Colonel Mustard event, where there were banana’s everywhere.
 
It had crossed my mind that DOTD had a similar trait to some of the other UK wide events floating about on facebook, which gave me some concerns. Occasions where events have been advertised over a bunch of locations around the UK, then the actual venues have been retrospectively added.
 
There was an Octoberfest beer festival that was meant to be held in the Ironworks, but got canceled, either due to poor ticket sales, or due to the fact a few photos had been circulating from the first couple attempts at it being hosted. That event was advertised as a Hanoverian extravaganza, with high spirits, fine beers in litre glasses and traditional dress. 
 
In Leeds for example, it looked nothing like as was originally advertised, and more resembled the 1980’s fairy washing up adverts with a long row of cloth covered tables, with a few depressed people at the foot of the table sharing a ‘world beers’ Christmas multipack.
 
I was concerned that DOTD was going to be a similar washout.
There’s another couple events coming up in the same vein – RIO themed party event, and a Balls and Prosecco night (that could be one of two very different type of events, I’m guessing it’s the tamer of the two possibilities).
.These concern the old cynical wench that I am. But DOTD wasn’t cancelled, it sold out, and was happening, so here we go. 
 

This is word for word how the event was advertised, so fairly easy to compare what’s promised with what happened. I’ve emboldened what was said to be offered:
 
Day of the Dead comes to Inverness
🎉 Europe’s largest confetti cannons 🎉
💀 Skull face painting 💀
🕺 World renowned circus acrobats 🕺
🔥 Stage flames & fire breathing show performers 🔥
It’s time for Dia De Muertos – Day of the Dead! In the last few years, Day of the Dead has exploded in popularity and this year we’ve decided to go MASSIVE. Think carnival atmosphere, candy skulls all over the place, and real Latin American flair!
We’ve gone all out on providing an authentic Dia De Muertos experience for you: expect world-renowned aerial acrobats, theatrical circus performers, and professional Latin dancers performing throughout the night! 
Day of the Dead just wouldn’t be the same without great music, and we’repushing the boat out this year with live percussionist performances and a host of international DJs. Combined with Europe’s largest confetti cannons and CO2 guns, pyrotechnics and fire breathers, Day of the Dead is set to be the most insane spectacle of the year!
There will be plenty of opportunities for you to get involved with the Day of the Dead festivities – professional film makeup artists will be running a candy skull face painting station, and huge piñatas will be scattered around that will need teams of you to break open!
Make sure you don’t miss out on this year’s most spectacular event – Day of the Dead!
 
 
I got in in a timely manner, pretty much as doors opened, and it didn’t take too long to get in, everyone was of a cheery disposition, and my word, more people had gone to town on makeup and attire appropriate for the theme. Hats off to everyone. There was a giant maleficent on stilts, mingling with the crowd spilling through the door. In fairness, it was someone on stilts, they weren’t actually a giant, but you get the point. White contact lenses in too.
 
One of the first things I clocked as you came in was one of the advertised offerings, professional face painting. So I joined the queue, this was about 10pm, so the queue, spoke to a few folk in the queue, for a while.
Fast forward an hour and a half, and one of the two face painters was packing up to go home. I got to sit down at that point to get my stuff done. Wait, back up – AN HOUR AND A HALF! To queue for face paints. They could have done with two more artists here. Maths says if the queue grows for half an hour, then it takes an hour and a half to catch up with that, then you half the number of facepainters, there’s something bloody wrong.
 
The output in terms of quality from the painters was top notch though, they took their time, and were professional, but under-resourced. They could have done kid style quick facepaints, but that would have been dire. It would have cheapened the event and you’d’ve ended up with 400 spidermen wandering around.
 
The event was a sell out, Ironworks capacity standing is 1000 with the balcony open. It wasn’t so crude maths says, what 750 tickets sold. Two face painters is not enough.
 
So I missed an hour and a half of the show to allow for a fair review of the skull painting. I was with folk though, so they were able to fill me in for the bit of time out of the five hours I was there.
 

There was a recurring theme with the whole event in terms of what the organisers outlaid.
The promo video showed cages, circular saws leather and such like.
 
There were no cages, there was a scaffolding swing with a hoop attached to it. Periodically throughout the night it was used by one of the poor three performers, who covered the shared roles of circus performers, Latin dancers, and acrobats. There wasn’t often that the three of them were on stage together, the male of the group’s main forte was fire poi, and fire breathing  which he was very good at. The two girls did a mix of the rest.
 
The acrobatics, and circus performing was one and the same thing, swinging in the hoop, that kept looking like it was going to fall over, it reminded me of one of those 1970s/1980’s flatpack garden swings that you could get out of the Index/Argos catalogue or Littlewoods/Woolworths, but without the final steps of properly securing it to the stage. It may have been, but it was wobbly enough that your attention was drawn to it.
 

Pyrotechnics and fire breathers. Pyrotechnics implies to me, sparks and stuff coming off the stage, so it was just fire breathers. It’s like saying fire and breathers as an act. It was one and the same – furthermore, this could just have been put across as circus performers. But then, where were the clowns? (Joking, but you get the point)
 
This goes for the professional Latin dancers too, that was the same three poor people. Working time directive surely has an impact on the poor sods, one of the girls looked like she was questioning her life decisions, or dying of dehydration by half way through the night. 
 

Internationally renowned DJs – if they he was (again, it was one guy all night) then they kept his name a secret, and restricted his music choices to safe club music, rather than Mexican themed music. It was pleasant enough for the crowd, but with songs like “shout out to my ex” by Little Mix coming on, again it wasn’t really what was advertised. If he was technically ticking the international box, he may have been from outside of the UK, but he was far back, so it was hard to tell.

 

 

Piñatas, there were meant to be giant Piñatas – not a bunch of empty ones that you buy for £1.99 from Tesco (or Tescos, if you’re from Inverness – why people, why, there’s no S at the end!) We didn’t even get to destroy them, perhaps a health and safety issue for the venue, or perhaps a lack of confectionery  I did get a bag of Haribo sweets thrown at me later in the night though, so maybe that’s a technical win for the organisers. (Or just a big bag of nope!)
 
Percussionists, I’m just calling this out as bollocks. There were no percussionists. Confetti and CO2 cannons were also lacking, and the atmosphere was brought by the crowd, not the event. Though the event brought the crowd, so go figure.
 
There may have been confetti cannons in the last half hour (I left then, along with half the crowd, so it’s entirely possible they finished with a big bang), but you’d’ve expected them to present on the stage.
In fact. Lets think about this. Europe’s largest confetti cannon. I used the power of the internet, and found this. This is from Bestival, this year. Bestival is a festival in England, in the UK, in Europe. So if the venue organisers were true to their word, they had multiple cannons larger than the one in the video below.
They didn’t. That would have been in the venue and obvious. You’d still have cleaners cleaning up the confetti today.
 
 
So, from the point of view of was it as advertised. No.
That being said, anyone I spoke to enjoyed being out.  A fairer advert for the event would have been; do you remember the nightclub from Inverness of old called Blue. Do you remember Gs. If you took the two and mashed them together, removed the drugs, and leaned slightly closer to Blue’s music than Gs, what do you get? Day of The Dead comes to Inverness.
 

The night was a success for the promoters, they must have been rolling in it. People enjoyed it. But it was a wasted opportunity to do something really quite cool and spectacular. An opportunity missed. You didn’t go? You missed nothing. It was a nightclub event with very little of note. Soz.
 
Day of the beige.
Next up, a taste of RIO comes to Inverness in April. 
No thanks. 
 
 

Polar Bears In Purgatory – The Market Bar 19/11/2017

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Sometimes you go out, with no expectations, and sometimes you have an idea of what to expect.

I’d known the Polar Bears in Purgatory gig had been coming up for a while. I’ve been wanting to see them for an age, as they are a well established group, but don’t often get a chance to see them up these parts.
They are spread over Scotland and the group members have a fair few commitments, so for this to be happening made me feel wetter than an otter’s pocket.
I hear the A9 road is a bastard to drive on, but fun to bury people under. There was an old A9, which some old people wrote books about, but that was a bastard too apparently, but fun to speed on, and shoot people behind the ear on occasion.*

*it’s got a lot better to be fair.

 

Given the murky history of the allegedly fun but ultimately boring object that’s no more than just asphalt spread out on sand and rocks; it was nice that the nice young gentlemen from PBIP to unite like individual members of a superhero team and produce their secret powers in the Market Bar.

 

Also on the bill, was Sara Bills and the Hasbeens, which would have been a welcome and complimentary addition to the night. It wasn’t to be though, winter illness had struck, which left the band unable to perform.

PBIP adapted to this brilliantly though. They’re a punk band, so by nature the songs are condensed into 2-4 minutes in length as a general rule of thumb.
It’s a great thing for the genre, and works really well, each song has more energy, and hits you like a care bear tummy power blast would. If the Care Bears in question had been chewing on adrenal glands for extended periods of time.

It does mean that a punk band set can be typically shorted than others, but PBIP redid their set list, and were professional and comfortable enough to seamlessly put on an honest, raw and engaging performance.  Off the back of this, we were privileged to get an extended set.

The rapid yet fluid change of emotions and pace of the night made me want for a temporary catheter, or at least an empty Irn Bru bottle, so that I didn’t miss anything, but settling for timely pauses and smoke breaks had to do.

The band pretty obviously have a great bond with each other, and their patter was spot on through the gig.

From softer reflective tracks like “That was then, this is dumb” through to the cathartic “Rekto” and “GTFYFC”, there was a fair spread of sub genre’s of punk. Some songs, like those listed a line or so ago, had Theo leading the vocals, others, like “Witnessed Your Fall” were sung by Ewan. Both very different voices, that work well together and gives the band another level of depth.

The group also treated the bar in the centre of the town city to a 15 minute jam session, which worked well given the nature of the fast paced music. My fellow  bar reprobates bopped, pogo’d and skanked.

Theo, Ewan, Cal and Zach are a clever bunch and a complimentary mix for each other. They also had their sound balance right on the night, something that can make or kill a show, regardless of the musical abilities of the band.
Check them out if you can.

Esperi – Market Bar – 14/11/2017

Reading Time: 4 minutes
 
Song and dancing was the evening’s plan, if the music took me there. Today was an uneventful day, cold, not unpleasant bar the occasional maudlin from a fellow carbon based life form, but nothing to make a three act play, nor even a song and dance about. Wrong type of song and dance.
 
There were a few things on in the sometimes fine town city that is Inverness, Trad music in Hoots among others, but Tuesday usually brings interesting acts to Upstairs at the Market Bar, so that was the place to be.
 
I tend to go to see live music without expectation, or pre-knowledge of the type of the music that is going to play unless I know them already. That’s the best way to broaden your music horizons right. 
 
I mean, depending on the noises that make their way to your ears, that can result in slow painful torture on your senses, annoyance, a spiral into self loathing and questioning your life choices, unintended hilarity, or making new connections with people, lightening up your day, sending you into a blissful euphoria, or getting trapped in a tiny hand dancing loop.
 
Tonight’s entertainment was supplied by Esperi.
 
Esperi is, as I found out later a music producer, which makes sense given that he arrived with an array of instruments, gadgets and him. Esperi falls into the category of damn shit hot music, that’s clever, warm, and soothing for the soul. 
 
Drum kit, Cahon, Melodica, xylophone, bass,electric guitar, bells, accoustic guitar, some kids toys and glockenspiel,  were some of the instruments Esperi turned his hand to, but by no means is that an exhaustive list.
 
Having no idea what sort of treat I was in for, the first instrument picked up was the acoustic guitar. A nice light melody was played, something reminiscent of in a Jose Gonzalez, mellow and complex. Not complex in the sense of “look at how wanky I can be with my mad technical skills”, just complex in that it had a bit of depth. Our friend for the night pressed one of his magic ghostbusters trap box, and when the his hands were removed from the strings and frets of the guitar, the music persisted. Loop pedals are fantastic beasts. He added a second layer of guitar on top of it, and again with more grace than Bill Murray capturing a haunting 1700’s librarian, this was also added to the ambience.
Layers were added, and the music swelled. Thick Electric bass followed on from the Cahon, and as the soundscape grew and evolved, it was reflected in the atmosphere at the bar. 
 
Tracks like Somersault, and Silo the fire reminded me of Four Tet from an instrumental point of view, and his vocals complement his playing beautifully. There’s a Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian style to his vocals on some of the tracks, though Esperi has a better singing voice.
The beauty of all the layering, is that as each track was being built up, there was a sense of anticipation and curiosity as to how each song would end up sounding, and what wonderful musical instrument, toy or gadget would be pulled out of the box of wonder to add to the experience. His track Takkat was a good example of this, where children’s toys were used.
There was a lot of variety in the tracks too, they complimented each other, but there was enough of a mix in them, upbeat, major, minor, melancholic, filled with energy, chilled and everything else. Some were really stripped down, and some were like there were 15 musicians in the room. That would be a bit of a practical challenge in the market bar, so the fact that the now very happy inhabitants of the upstairs market bar were able to experience music played live by 20-30 hands was a rare thing.
His track Unicorn, reminded me a bit of the band Ratatat, and the track Dailled reminded me of some of Lemon Jelly’s music.  Sigur Ros – (Hoppípolla is the name of the track they did that everyone knows, but can never remember the name of) is also an easy comparisons for some tracks. On a side note – I once had a flat mate who sincerely thought Sigur Ros were singing in a made up language. There tends to be a trend in my life of living with otherwise intelligent people who have potholes in their mind for some basic things. Ducks, are not their own thing, they’re birds. But I digress. I expect Boards of Canada also come into the mix I influences. Hearts was another track that impressed.
There was a good mix of electronic, folk, accoustic, and some funky guitar riffs laced into some of the tracks too. At the end of the night I floated out of the market in a blissful state. Again, not knowing what to expect, it’s an absolute delight when you see someone live that makes your night. If the artist or group is good you will generally get a lot more from seeing them live, there’s extra depth, engagement and feeling to it. Occasionally you’ll get the opposite I guess, like Lana Del Rey who has been known to fall over live, yet has very polished songs.
 
Esperi, I would go see again, and would recommend if you see his name popping up nearby, to see him. The ability for him to tweak the songs as he’s building them live is an interesting one, making it possible for him to play the same setlist twice, yet have different experiences each time.
 
The whole night was a little adventure that I’m grateful to have been around to have seen. 
 
Disgracefully I didn’t get any photos during the gig as I was in some sort of jazz trance. But It doesn’t need the pictures. 
 
 
 
 

Winter Folk Sessions – Velocity Cafe – 9/11/2017 19:00 – 21:00

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Winter is less coming, and has more splurged itself over the Highlands with the charm of an Inverness worthy asking you for £3.75 to get a bus back to Fort William to give his sick aunt a cup of tea in preparation for her job interview as a smoking cessation nurse.
 
Vista’s at Tooth & Claw, Fat Suit at Mad-hatters  or Winter folk sessions at Velocity Cafe  There were other options in the town too, but we’re not the BBC during an election period, so we have no obligation to list everything in our reviews. If you do want to know what’s on, been on, or is coming up – we’ve got a page for that – here. It’s good, look at it. Do it!
 
Back to the matter in hand – The town was baltic, and we do like Hoots, Tooth and Claw is warm, but Velocity has soup (Hoots also has soup I understand, and a jazzy soupy event may be on the cards one day in the future, but the decision was made at this point, and off to the, warm, cosy, welcoming social enterprise that is Velocity Cafe and bicycle workshop).
 
I initially thought I was going to an open mic night, as I’d been told that’s what it was going to be. I should however learn not to listen my source on such matters, as I’ve ended up in a field in the dark a week before an event was due to start; in a different town for an event that had happened two weeks prior, among other misadventures. The technicality of whether someone’s voice was due to have it’s amplitude increased by artificial means was a minor concern in the grand scheme of things, but for the avoidance of doubt, an open mike night tends to typically involve a microphone.
 
This was something else, it was what was advertised – Folk sessions. For the casual spectator, one of the differences, is with an open mic night, it could be spoken word, poetry, soap boxing, singing, scatting, comedy, or musicians, in a sort of structured take it in turns format.  Sessions are more like a wee jam.
 
Velocity so far has always been a welcoming place to go, for classes, blethers  making plans, good food and just plain chilling out. Once my rump had made contact with the lovely warm wooden benches and hot liquid was in front of me, the nipping chill from outside had become something that seemed so distant it may just have been an anecdote to introduce a review of a folk sessions evening.
 
 
After saying hi to folks and sitting down, the music began in a natural and relaxed manner. To start off, there was a custom 8 string banjo, a guitar and an accordion, each with respective finger mammals playing their chosen music maker.
 
There was no compère, as you’d expect in a session night, and each of person took turns in leading a song. There was a relaxed modern folk club feel to the night. Some folk nights can be stuffy, if you’ve got say, Archie Tam McLaughlin  son of Dougie of the Clan Donald society, who should always lead, as he was around from the beginnings of the folk club, and Archie doesn’t get on with Jock, because Jock changed the spelling of his surname to sound more Scottish. 
 
There was none of that. It was unpretentious, relaxed, and just plain enjoyable, no hierarchy, and no pomposity. There was no one trying to out sing each other and  a good mix of variety to the evening’s tunes. The way it tended to pan out, was as mentioned, one person would start a song, they’d get a couple verses in, which would allow for their fellow musicians to introduce their own sound to the song. Gradually more and more would join in, which would result in a really nice progressive evolution of the music, and give each song depth.
 
Bongos, additional banjos and guitars joined in as the night continued and it was a great way to spend an evening. You could bring your own bottle to the place, or just enjoy the craic, patter, and depth of character of the people and the venue itself. I think this is abbreviated to ‘feels’, but I’ve not owned a revised dictionary since ‘lit’ was anything other than the past tense for lighting something, so I could be entirely wrong.
 
The place is spacious, yet the non formal layout makes the place seem cosy whether full or not.  There was enough room for folk to trickle in gradually, without seeming clumsy or interrupting the flow of anything. People were singing, listening, sketching, blethering and relaxing. It’d be hard to think of a situation on a cold night that wouldn’t be improved on by walking through the doors of the cafe on a Thursday. 
 
 

Love Ancients – Market Bar – 11/07/2017

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Aye, the nights are fair drawing in, cof. Walking down the High Street a lone violinist plays a weirdly familiar tune… It could be Bach, or it could be Back to the Future, either way it was creepy as fuck walking down a desolate, empty street accompanied only by the haunting whine of my creepy pal and his creepy instrument (not a euphemism).  Shite, maybe he wasn’t even real…

 

So, newly freaked out, I crept down the street and into the welcoming bosom of my fellow freaks and geeks in the Market Bar. Love Ancients were on the board and mucho Red Stripe was in my sights for the rest of the night. It was payday for me and I was out. I was out out.

I had arrived to a mostly full Market Bar and praise the tiny baby Paul Daniels, the corner booth was free and I got to park my arse and point my pint at the band for a change, who, were now dutifully setting up.  The lead singer/rhythm guitarist wore the fuck out of a red valour suit jacket and strides that Bettlejuice would have been proud of.  The rest of the band consisted of drummer, bassist and lead guitarist, but none of which were dressed as dandy as their dandy ringmaster.  The band were on the water and this always frightens me. I certainly can’t go to a gig without a drink so how do folk manage to play a gig without some dirty brown booze in them is beyond me. Nevertheless, our velvetine conductor slugged away at the H20 and then proceeded to introduce himself and his pals to the peering patrons of chez Market.  They had been described to me as an Indie/Prog rock band and I was interested to see the what the balance was going to be.

 

Chat from the band was clearly audible right up until they started their first track.  After that the vocal got lost somewhere in the Marshall stack they had humped up those well-trodden stairs.  How they could hear each other was a mystery to me, but the band bashed on with some Floyd inspired number the name of which I could not ascertain for obvious reasons. The Pink Floyd theme continued through the night with Comfortably Numb and Another Brick In the Wall, Pt.2 making an appearance during the evening.  The band had a penchant for a guitar solo and this fell in well with their obvious high regard for Dave Gilmour and his chums.  This is no negative thing either as the tracks were a pretty good rendition of the classic numbers (sans kids choir and mental Scottish shouting obviously). 

 

The guys also covered a Tomorrow Never Knows by The Beatles and by that time the place was convinced that these guys were alright.  It might have been the Red Stripe talking but ma toe was tapping and my I cared a lot less about the almost-absent vocal and more about the writhing rhythm emanating from the corner of the room.  There is no doubting the talent of the members of Love Ancients and they are well worth an entrance fee but, saying that, with the vocal being lost in the giant stack and the tiny bar, whenever they played an original song the frustration of not hearing any of the lyrics takes you out of the hypnotism the band has worked hard to secure with their Prog inspired shenanigans. 

 

The next track was case in point as the lead singer introduced a song called “Where Did You Go?” which was “from a foetus’ point of view”.  Now… because I heard no other lyrics other than the occasional “Daddy” and the line “did you write letters to parliament?” I cannot be sure of the song’s intention or politics (not that a Tuesday night in the Market Bar is the place for such debates) and this unsettles me greatly and a cigarette needed to be had sharpish. 

All the tracks of the night seemed to end with a long guitar solo and by fuck did the guitarist love it!  His eyes were closed tight and his fingers were working like he knew every finishing move for Mortal Combat and he was gonna do them all.  The punters appreciated his obvious ability and he always got a decent round of applause for his efforts. 

 

The set was a long one for a Tuesday night and by the time the lads had finished expanding our minds it was 00.30 and I was 37 cans of Red Stripes into my 9 can allocation.  The younger folk in my posse tried to convince me that Johnny Foxes was a good idea, but that’s a bar too far for midweek patter.  I went home satisfied in both spirit and body with what both the bar staff and the entertainment had provided me with that night.  Love Ancients are good addition to the live music roster of Inverness and I will keep an eye out for them in the future. 

A divergent ramble about random weekend offerings in Inverness 3/11/17 – 4/11/17

stetsonhead-marketbar
Reading Time: 6 minutes

A weekend in Inverness, featuring Stetsonhead, Stravinsky, Highland Techno Collective, Sargent Major and others

 

So, there was a plan for the weekend.  There genuinely was.  It’d been a little while since I’d gone and seen some live music, and I also wanted to dabble with my first foray of doing exactly what I’m doing now – a review for here. 

So far so good, and this feeling doubled up when I saw what was on offer.  Walking past the front of Hoots I had a peruse of the poster of what’s on for the month and Saturday night came up trumps with The Mystic Shoes.  Later on in the day saw the StetsonHead were playing the Market on Friday night.  The ‘plan’ seemed perfect enough.  Two exceptionally good experiences to be had, showcasing some of the stalwart local talent in Inverness.  Let’s lock it in, so the thought went.

 

Of course this isn’t what happened.  Well, not ‘of course’, I guess, but instead, what happened was Inverness.  Inverness happened.  A random weekend just on the wrong side of the turning of the clocks to the dim and dark winter months has me writing a love-note homage about the town/ city* instead.

[*Note – I leave this debate for another time – suffice to say it is small enough to be a town, Royal degree has it as a city (so I’ve been told), and my personal opinion, the thing I wanna highlight here in this review/homage, is that it fights above its weight, however you want to classify it].

 

Friday night started off indoors with a movie.  It’d been eyeballing me for a few weeks since I picked it up for 50p, the sticking point to watching it being the inherent risk for it to be either great or utter, utter shit.  Cockneys Vs. Zombies (how can you not try a movie with that name for 50p?) turned out to be neither extreme, but well watchable.  Gore, humour, that freakishly scary Cockney gangster ‘pig-farmer’ from Snatch as a bad –arse old-age pensioner.  It did what it said on the box, and also turned out to be a good start to a great weekend.

 

Next stop was the Market Bar and StetsonHead.  I’m sure that somebody here on The Nettle will do these guys justice sometime with a set piece review just focusing on them.  I’m hoping it’s me, as they are one of my favourite local acts.  They’re not going to be for everyone, but what they do, they do exceptionally well.  Pounding, driving, lurking, menacing, growling doses of mood ooze out at you.  This Friday night it skulked off from the stage and permeated the (admittedly small) space in the Market and had everyone ‘in.’  I didn’t see the start or the end of the gig, for other long-winded reasons, but not for lack of love for the band.  If you get a chance to see them, just do. 

 

stetsonhead-marketbar
Stetsonhead doing their thing.

 

Next stop was to deliberately meet people elsewhere, but 1st bumped I into a lovely couple I met recently and was reminded of how many fundamentally good and interesting people there were in Inverness.  They’d just been to the ballet in Eden Court, and talked in emotive terms about tears streaming down their face, about the beauty and the flux of emotions they’d just been through.  To get out of chronological synch I took their advice and did see the ballet on the Saturday night, an experience I hadn’t had before but will do again.  I didn’t have the same reaction, I didn’t even have the same reaction as the friend who came with me, a more experienced hand in these things, but it was well worth checking out.  Scottish ballet company did two versions of Stravinsky, one classical re-telling and one modern ballet counterpointing the diversity of the medium.  The dancing showed what the human body is capable of – not mine, necessarily, but there is apparently the potential to leap in the air and just hang there for a second telling gravity you’ve got other plans for the moment.  There’s the ability to – shit, seriously, thinking back on it, there was a lot more to like about this ballet stuff than I imagined, not least of which was the orchestra in the pit, once again showcasing the talent and the connective pull of music.  Yeah, give it a crack if you haven’t before, people.  Like it or don’t, it’s worth the respect to try it and find out for yourself.  It took me a good long while to come to this conclusion, and I’m not going to go all reformed smoker evangelical on you, but it’s well worth giving it a chance.

 

Anyway, in among this weekend that was there was also a techno night on at Ironworks on the Friday.  Not always my cup of tea, and as has almost been universally noted about the Ironworks, it’s a good venue but can feel like people rattling around an empty barn if not enough people are there, which was the case by the time I got there.  Despite this, the guy up on the decks was working it, the crowd of true believers was loving it, and the lights and the base thumping through me were personal highlights.  With the caveat of not being on the right gear to fully appreciate the nuances of such repetitive music, I gotta say that it was worth it – another one to dabble with properly in the future.

 

Light and Decks at the ironworks
Lights and Decks

Lights and decks at the Ironworks

 

Over and above this there was Sargent Major rattling out some classic pub rock when back at the Market again on Saturday.  The people were dancing and the place was bouncing.  The two-piece had a drummer on the floor with a mike hanging over him making him sing ‘up,’ reminiscent somehow of Motorhead’s Lemmy.  He wore gloves for the drumming that made his hands seem 3 sizes smaller than the rest of his body.  The singer was self-deprecating funny as well as having a good voice.  They knew what the punters wanted, and they gave generously.  What’s not to like.

 

The Saturday night was rounded off by some bumping into people in the smoking area of Hoots and some dancing upstairs to the DJ, in a dance/ retro style that blew over to outliers including The Doors, Talking Heads and whoever the fuck did the well-known ‘I’m free (to do what I want, any old time…)’.  Suffice to say that they held me there well past at least 3-4 self-determined claims of ‘I’m heading off soon,’ and if that’s not a skill in a DJ, I don’t know what is.

 

Also thrown into the weekend mix was getting in early Christmas shopping at the monthly Farmer’s Market on High St.  That and croissants (don’t know the stall by name, but I gravitate to them whenever I can for their buttery flaky joy that is croissants), and venison sausages for dinner that night.  There was the reliable smiles and quality coffee at Velocity, lung-cleansing taking in the air along the river and artery clogging delights of late night kebab shops with the not so stable hordes. 

 

I never quite got to see The Mystic Shoes, but like me, they’ll be around in this underrated town for a wee while yet.  When they do, do yourself a favour and give ‘em a try.  Or wait for a favourable review here, which is the angle I’ll take next time I see them, and then see them anyway.  Your choice.

 

This review wasn’t quite what I had planned, but the weekend wasn’t either.  The point being that there’s a bit of something for everyone on a random weekend in Inverness.  I couldn’t quite get to the fireworks or bonfire, either at Bught Park or Rosemarkie which friends said was a great time, and there was a range of other events missed to.  But fun was there to be had, and had it was. 

I’ll try to promise to be more ‘on point’ with the next review, and have it stick to a band and the event they create.  For here though, I just wanted to pay a wee homage to Inverness and the options that it presented on one random weekend.  Onya, Schneckie!  Love ya work!

 

 

Matt Finucane – The Market Bar 31/10/2017

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Matt Finucane – The Market Bar 31/10/2017

 

Halloween was today; Tuesday. That’s means it’s not the weekend party type Halloween; it’s the day where you get sporadic or continuous flows of children coming to your door, and telling jokes badly whilst getting confused as to whether they are guising, or trick or treating.

The clue is in the fact they are in Scotland, so they should be guising – that is telling a joke, or doing a trick or singing a song. This sounds better in principle than a small collection of minions inappropriately dressed as Harley Quinn yelling “trick or treat” and not doing anything to earn their type 2 diabetes inducing sweets; but after you’ve heard the same five jokes 30 times each, the concept of an efficient “here’s your sweets, go away” seems more appealing.

There are other options for a midweek Halloween

Have kids, participate in the process from the taking side. This would not be a sole reason to have kids, it’s more a ‘if you have kids anyway’ option.

Sit inside your house with the blinds or curtains drawn, gradually get worked up as you get repeat knocking on the door from innocent, expectant children, who don’t understand the complexities of those disengaged with Halloween. Put up a passive aggressive sign on your door, like those that say no junk mail please, and open your house to having eggs thrown at it to the point that you begin to question all your life choices.

Go out and do something else, more interesting.

To me, the more interesting option seemed like the logical choice, and to this end the as advertised Brighton based singer/writer/horror freak Matt Finucane in the Market Bar looked like an appealing Halloween option.

Matt opened with his first song, Monster.

It was a fairly strumming, major key, power chord focused affair. The rhythm was reminiscent of the band Tindersticks, but the vocals were not the gravelly style associated with that band, but a more traditional range.

Ironically, Matt did apologise for having a ragged voice, though it didn’t come across too badly in that sense.

The next song was called Motives, which sounded fairly similar to the previous song. As did the two songs thereafter.

This wasn’t the horror themed set that I’d been sold, and my mind was beginning to wander a bit. A steady flow of reprobates dressed for the Halloween festivities were coming into the market, and at this point – the highlight of the set was a market bar stalwart’s pun, which got the biggest response of the night so far:

What do you call an Arabian dairy farmer? A milk sheik.

Matt even said himself, how do I top that – before launching into a more punky track, “The money’s all gone”. This was the most lively song so far, but the delivery was still fairly similar to previous tracks, but your man seemed to be more enthusiastic about this one – I think this is where set variation is important, had this been done on it’s own, or around different tracks, it would have come across as more appealing, it was perhaps let down a bit by the preceding tunes.

Some diversity arrived with the single “In the Evil Empire” the composition wasn’t complex, but complexity is not a pre-requisite for a good song. You could tell there was more enthusiasm for this track by the performer – the vocals were brighter, and more passionately delivered.

After this track – the peak of the performance -normal service resumed, and my attention was drawn to other things.

The prices in the market bar are extremely reasonable, especially given that they provide nightly free music, there are cheaper bars in town, but this one provides atmosphere, along with being acceptable for the common man’s wallet.

As you sit on the far left of the bar, there are black and white framed photos to the right. On top of one of these is a tiny tiny plastic soldier. I don’t know why this is the case, but I’m wondering where his peers were, did he have any peers, and how long he’d been there.

The Market bar Inverness Secret Dougal

The market bar has a small stage, but it works, and works well if the performer is right. There are thirty seven pine panels behind the stage, or potentially double that if the dado rail that runs through the middle of the wall splits the panels. I felt at this point it would be rude to inspect this in detail whilst Matt was performing, so that’s a mystery to be solved another day.

There are four barstools at the bar today, I think someone from the downstairs bar has relocated a couple of them.

As you walk down the stairs to exit the building, there is a box in the upper right corner of the stairwell, with a Tom and Jerry ™ style mouse hole, labelled “Dougal”. Is Dougal a stopcock, is he a mouse, a camera, or some sort of sentient being? Perhaps it’s an entrance to the upside down, as referenced in Stranger Things. Perhaps it’s like Hoot’s secret drawer – who knows.

Anyway, the gig.

By this point it’s probably fairly obvious that it didn’t really capture my interest all that well, perhaps it was a bad night for him, perhaps his voice was off, or he was too close to the mic. It’s possible that it was just a confidence thing, and a bit of work with projection would let the passion come through a bit more.

It’s hard writing a review of someone and being critical, but the review is of my experience of the gig, not the person. On another day he might have given such a spectacular, spooky performance, that he raised the souls of the departed friends in the photos behind him, and induced a massive Halloween jam session. It wasn’t today though. There’s no point in fibbing, and saying that something was great when it’s not.

The horror and spookiness was not apparent, delivery is important, and tonight it was as terrifying as the 1980’s children’s TV show Willo the Wisp.

The market, as far as local venues go, has some of the best, and eclectic performers, what you get is a lottery, and I love that about the place. It also is free for the most part. You can’t beat it. Acoustics are good, and there’s generally good craic. In this instance, in spite of tonight’s performance, it was the craic that kept me there until close.

Maybe next time Matt.