Eugene Ripper and X-Ray Cat Trio – Tooth and Claw – 10/10/18

Reading Time: 5 minutes

A Lass Called Wednesday

So, another Wednesday another trip into town for a drink and a look at the latest offerings to the Inverness music scene, brought to us by the ever-familiar Tooth and Claw.  The venue has brought us a number of pretty good bands from all sorts of places of late but I’m guessing most of you have probably missed them judging by the size of ‘crowds’ that attended the venue’s now regular mid-week slots.

Last Wednesday was no different I’m afraid – with only a paltry party of party people able to make the gig.  I’ve written and reviewed for a couple of the local journalistic try-hards and it is a lack of interest in non-weekend gigs starring bands that your cousin ain’t playing the tambourine in that seems the highest mountain that needs to be scaled, despite what great bands may be lurking at the summit.   Let’s not dwell on that though, let’s talk about what we saw that night rather than what everyone missed that night.


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When we arrived at the Tooth and Claw the regular meeting of Drink and Draw was in full effect in the downstairs bar.  The good, the drunk and the talented were collected at the designated arty farty space in the corner of the room and doing things with pencils that will either get them a warm handshake from Mr Bob Ross (RIP) or a custodial sentence for drawing something that makes your auntie call the minister.   Either way, it seems that a great way to spend one’s time if you have the necessary ability.  I do not have said ability so that’s why I lent on the bar until ma spinach/Red Stripe arrived where it only dawned on me that ‘Drink and Draw’ rhymes with ‘Tooth and Claw’.  Mental eh?

Downstairs was deceptively busy, and I even allowed myself to be talked into an optimistic “might be a busy gig tonight” thought that was inevitably destined to be more wrong than Kanye is about pretty much everyfuckingthing these days.  Upstairs I sauntered, where I was charged a more-than reasonable fiver entrance fee for two acts that are of genres that are of the lesser seen in Inverness.  Eugene Ripper the Canadian acoustic punk folk troubadour was to be supporting the X-Ray Cat Trio who specialise in Vampyr Surf Rock N Roll straight outta Leeds.  You may think that those were a strange collection of words, and you would be right in that thought.  But give it a chance Inverness, it can’t all be soulless indie rock or good-time pop-punk out there you know? 

Prince Eugene-y

At the bar, Eugene tried to steal ma can – an honest mistake I’m sure.  He was lucky that I’m a total and utter fucking coward otherwise he would have been in serious trouble for such a transgression.  He apologised, grabbed a pint and then he was on.  Eugene cuts a dominant pose with guitar in hand, dressed in a black cowboy shirt and black jeans.  Ripper begins a set filled with of no-nonsense Americana Punk Folk with a more than a pinch of country added in to the mix.  He shows his tremendous story-telling ability though songs like ‘Matador From America’ about a Matador from America, and ‘Hangman’ which is a short but catchy number about a man who faces *wait for it* the Hangman after being a bit of bastard and wonders if his ‘love’ is waiting on the other side, presumably she’ll be pure raging at him being bit of a tearaway.  The song has classic country themes and thankfully a catchy enough chorus to detract from the fact the song is about death and no one needs that sorta patter on a bleak Wednesday night in Inverness.   

Eugene Ripper made Fremsley cry, hahahaha

Ripper provided us with several original songs which veered from straight up rock n roll numbers through to folk punk, but he also threw in some covers which included a rousing anti-folk version of Viva Las Vegas and a very poignant version of ‘True Love Will Find You in The End’ by the great Daniel Johnston.  I say ‘poignant’ only because I’d had a few drinks by then and suddenly realised I had work the next morning so was feeling pretty, pretty emotional about life.

Sasquatch This

X-Ray Cat Trio – that guitar though!


X-ray Cat Trio were next to wipe away my tiny tears and as the lads from Leeds took to the stage with Double Bass and 50s style Gibson guitar in hand, my sobbing subsided and I could smell there might very well be some rockabilly offered tonight.

Titles of songs like ‘Surfin’ Sasquatch’ are a prime example of what the band is all about.  Surf punks playing songs about love and surfing and monsters.  The rockabilly guitar takes centre stage for all their songs and is showcased through instrumental tracks like the atmospheric ‘Wolfcop’.  If you weren’t there on the night, the video on YouTube is worth checking out as it’s an absolute beauty and is a premise that is begging to be made into a movie starring that-cunt-you-like. 

Most of the band’s songs are about monsters and murder and mayhem, and I am all about that shit my friends.  They are a perfect band for this season as every song they bash out with walking double bass and fifties Americana riffs has a sinister edge to it and they will firmly be on the ‘most played’ list of Wolfman’s and Swamp Thing’s Spotify by year out. 

Eugene Ripper: Played his market set in two parts, first half was soft, and the second half was more punky. – photographer – not drunk.

The bijou crowd were pleased, and I was pissed by the end.  Fortunately/unfortunately Eugene Ripper had another set at the Market Bar starting so my Nettle chums and I made our way there.  I will openly admit I remember only a few things from that set so please forgive me for lack of depth here:

He played a load of covers.  It was nice.


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Thomas Truax – Market Bar 08/10/2018

Reading Time: 15 minutes



Never end a sentence with with; unless you’ve got nothing else to end it with.

So the turned one on the 6th October this year. We noticed on the 7th. It feels like it’s been around a fair bit longer, and like a nonchalant couple, we’ve forgotten to note the date we actually started – we’ll stick it in a calendar for future reference. It wasn’t properly started until we wrote the first article I guess, making our relationship formal – so do we count from the date we first got together, or from the date that the first article went in. Two of us sort of founded it, but one of us was kind of writing with someone else at the time. So does it count? Much like relationships, there’s probably two different perspectives on it, depending if you’re the one writing for others or the one that’s not. At least in TheNettle’s case, both writers were aware of the situation and it wasn’t a surprise later. So, belated happy birthday to the; we’ll count the anniversary from when we first put the page up!

A little bit of birthday acknowledgement

With regards to that, I’ve put a wee scribble up about why became a thing in the first place – if you want to read it, feel free to keep reading as normal, if you want to just read about the gig in question, click Click here to skip directly to reading about Thomas Truax!

There were three main reasons TheNettle was founded, in no particular order.

  • We wanted to be able to review fully honestly – it can be difficult to review if you’re trying to develop your site and keep everyone happy – to the point you can compromise your perspective on the write up of an event in order to not hurt someone’s feelings; we figured there was a wee gap in the market for that.  The idea was not just to promote live acts, but to be able to give punters an honest sense of what we saw, so they could read a review and go “aye, I quite fancy seeing them if they come up to Inverness again” or if two bands are playing on a night, they can read reviews of each of them and make a decision. Our reviews are reflective of the authors too, so you can hopefully read the mix of objectivism and subjectivism too.


  • Not everything is able to be covered all the time by the at the time existing sites. Inverness does ok for press, compared to some places, and that’s good. Aberdeen for example doesn’t seem to have as wide a dynamic as the Sneck for review sites. There’s still room for improvement though – often I went to the Market, Tooth and Claw, The Phoenix or other wee places out-with the main music venues in Inverness, saw an amazing gig, and heard nothing more about it, or wouldn’t’ve known about it if it were not for doing a bit of digging myself.


  • The third reason, which is my favourite to be honest, is for the writers themselves. This was a little before TheNettle came together, but it sowed the seed. Everyone has a dip in their life at some point, and I’d personally hit what I thought was rock bottom. Circumstances caused me to be quite isolated socially, and I found myself very much alone for a period. I figured there were better things to do than hit the drink and just get mortalled at every opportunity to forget, so I took up writing again, after a long, long haitus. It started with a kids book, then poetry and spoken word.  I found the latter as cathartic as projectile vomiting, but much like a bit of chucking the chunks, it didn’t feel that great for long, and it felt slightly uncomfortable to do in public. Confidence took a while to rebuild, and I’m there now, but I needed something that I was able to keep busy with in the evenings. Learning to knit, to bind books, to draw again, and to interact with fellow humans was all fine and good, but they still meant quiet and lonely times by myself when the early evening activity was over. I thought there was a better way to do things.

I started writing reviews, and figuring there’d be others in the same boat as me, I thought it could be the start of a nice wee network to get creative people, or just people that wanted to express themselves, but perhaps didn’t have the confidence a bit of their mojo back, whilst at the same time giving the articles something that makes them an interesting read in themselves. So with that in mind TheNettle was born – and we’ve slowly grown organically, and hopefully, like the namesake weed, hope to keep growing. I don’t think we’re competition with the other sites in the town, each has a different remit, and I think we do well at not stepping on each other’s toes.

The above drivel, for example, you wouldn’t have to read on other sites, and probably wouldn’t want to on them – but there’s half a chance that if you’re reading this site, then you found the above interesting, or potentially “normal”, “off-topic”, “insightful”, “redundant”, or “troll” – we’re not Slashdot though, so you can’t rate us as that.


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Thomas Truax.

It was roughly this time last year that Thomas Truax played in Inverness (thanks!) but there’s not been a write up of him here yet. We weren’t available to cover him last year, or prepared enough, but this year we were psyched.


It was time for Mr. Truax’ annual visit to The Market Bar. According to lore, you should take one new person to see Thomas Truax every time you go, or if you saw him the preceding year for the first time, you must take an uninitiated soul along with you for the next one. In this case I was the unsullied. (Not a Game of Thrones reference – I’m more likely to be Ned Stark, honourable to the point of detriment, but naive enough to be beheaded at the hands of Cersei Lannister’s bitterness and plotting.)

So as my inaugural Thomas Truax experience inched ever closer, (or perhaps ‘centemetred ever closer’, since we’re adopters of all things metric in Scotchland) the anticipation grew as well. The posters of previous outings are proudly decorated on the stairwell up to the Market Bar, and there’s a framed picture of the man within the bar himself. Often, I go out to see bands I’ve heard nothing of before, rather than read up in advance, and although hearing about himself from several people I did my best to avoid reading about him, to keep the review as objective as possible.

I did have it in the back of my mind that it might be a bit of a gimmicky show, dependent on what looked at passing glance like a gramophone speaker attached to some LED lights, but that came to pass as a seriously far off assessment. In the same way that a cottage cheese and tuna sandwich in an elevator is wrong on so many levels, so was I. If I was a weird drama student or performance art person I’d articulate how I felt about the show, by loading a Nerf gun with individual bits of cardboard scrawled with superlatives, then fire them into the air, as some sort of euphemism for ejaculation. I’m not though, this is not Spaced, and my name’s not Brian.

On arriving at’s unofficial HQ, the first thing we were greeted with was Thomas’s most infamous instrument, ‘Mother Superior’ resting, in wait of the set to come. I’d heard that a few years back, the device had been knocked over by one of the market bar revellers, which perhaps explains the polite note attached to the spokey appendage.

I for one welcome our new bespoke overlord…



The second observation was the height of the microphone stand. Was Thomas Truax a giant? Was Kyle Magnus Magnus Walker going to be introducing him? Was Jason from downstairs going to be a compere for the night? There had been several tales about the mythical Truax, and I was beginning to wonder if he was infact human at all. Was I actually here, or if this was all some ruse, where unsuspecting patrons of the market bar get drawn in, once per annum, are put into a trance like state by an nine foot tall nightmare fuelled ostentatious lizard man with glowing and swirling eyes. Is this followed by being ceremoniously sacrificed and replaced by perspicacious lizards, using the victims skin but becoming evil world conquering fiends that can only maintain the visual appearance of a human, but the human within is dead inside, and only darkness lurks within? Is this what happened to my ex? I’d not made it to Thomas Truax last year, perhaps all around me were lizards. I’d seen the t-shirts and posters kicking about the market bar, and indeed, the upcoming Leftfest gig at the Tooth and Claw had chosen this theme. 

Thomas appeared to get set up, and adjusted the microphone. He wasn’t a lizard. We were safe. 

After a semi intense discussion around the awarding of “banter tokens” with my fellow patrons for successful achievements, planning permission policies within the Highland Council and the appropriate cost of launderette services, we’d settled in and were ready to be Truaxed. At this point, I’d like to clarify, Truax is pronounced  True-ax rather than True-oh. This may be obvious to most, but for someone who’d been referring to him as True-oh for the past month or five, I felt the need to clarify.


Mr Truax opened his set with  “Prove it to my Daughter” The track’s foundation was a drum loop pedal, which commenced whilst Thomas introduced his self constructed ‘hornicator’.

The Hornicator












Better explained by images, but for those that can see the image above and are still thinking what the fuck – it looked like a gramophone amplifier with strings attached, electrified and hooked up to a distortion pedal. He both played it, and spoke into it. Prove It to My daughter, opened with our gent for the night building a backing track via the power of a loop pedal, his voice manifesting into the sounds of wild wind-like howling through layering.  Once the  mesmeric backing track was fully distilled, Thomas’ voice completed, what is most easily described as art.  “You are getting very sleepy”, was the opening line – and the track felt like a father passing messages to a potential suitor, as per the track title.

As Thomas donned a pair of steampunk glasses and what looked like a necklace made of horns in preperation for his next track I did ponder.  Would  this would have been a suitable gig to indulge in two bags of grass, 75 pellets of mescaline, five sheets of high-powered blotter acid, a saltshaker half-full of cocaine, a whole galaxy of multi-coloured uppers, downers, screamers, laughers… Also, a quart of tequila, a quart of rum, a case of beer, a pint of raw ether, and two dozen amyls. 

If we had another writer that was willing to do this for his next gig, then I’m sure it’d make an interesting contrast; I was happy enough indulging in my draught carbonated fizz. 


Surrealism is destructive, but it destroys only what it considers to be shackles limiting our vision

‘Alligator Shoes’ was the tack that merited the aforementioned attire along with a reso-phonic guitar. This one was an acoustic number, that Truax departed off stage to perform, serenading the room, and part way through leaving the bar whilst continuing to play in the street below. This got the bar giggling.

The famed mother superior kicked in for the next track, and along with the resophonic guitar was plugged in to the P.A.  One of the things that triggered in the back of my head as a note, was that I didn’t think the guitar was meant to sound like that – but what does ‘meant to’ mean anyway.  If mean means firmly in the middle, then  it was a good thing that we were not in this mode for tonight, and that we were able witness the experience through the varied medians mediums. 

The number played was a punky one, owing partly to the sound of the guitar, but as with the preceding songs, the whole composition came together and was in sync. One of the things that’s worth mentioning is that the Mother Superior instrument, with it’s snare drum, cymbal and bass is programmable. based around a bike wheel, the spokes act almost like punch cards – Jaquard Loom would be either be delighted and astounded with what his foundations creations or horrified. Jaquard, if you’re horrified, ye’re deed – hop it.

The next track was a short, but rather haunting piece, for the most part just Thomas and the guitar. ‘Save Me‘ – A song which played with the ideas of existentialism; it had a slow sort of Americana ballad feel to it, and a decent example that your man’s songwriting is just as prominent as his inventiveness and penchant for the surreal.  This was also true of the track that succeeded – a moody track with a soundscape sort of start, building up in intensity, reaching a crescendo before dropping into something that I can best relate to as similar sounding to a  Mouldy Peaches creation. Not that, but like that. Just by feel – it was something that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a Wes Anderson film. It gave a warm, I want to snuggle up with the happiness around me feeling, and for the most part I think the Market Bar massive were feeling it too. (side note: Don’t write in about Juno not being one of his – we know!) 

Everything’s gone Halloween’ was introduced with a backstory about a couple buying a cheap house with a haunted past. There was a sort of Jungle Book type rhythm to the song, with  an eerie  1930’s cartoon feel to the song. Where everything sways back and forward like the stick insects I had as a kid that I’m sure were planning to gang up and kill me. They may not have been, but I released them before they had the chance.

Everything’s Gone Halloween!

Featured next was an ode to an Elderberry tree, a particular tree in this case that Thomas talked to in times of reflection. I can see the case for speaking to an  Elderberry tree for counsel clearly, and it was well demonstrated when for the next song Thomas asked, “should I do a crazy song?”

“FIR WON EM!” was the response he got from a fella at the bar with less sentience than  an Elderberry tree. Truax did a cover of “My only Sunshine” in response to the garbled mouth produce of the object failing at cognitive subsistence. The cover featured the wonderful ripping and raw sound of the electrified and distorted guitar, and can best be described as sounding like beautiful irradiated rainbows.

The last song before the break was ‘Precarious Waltz’. The musical background sounded like forlorn tiny cats trapped in a series of tubes; but to a waltz beat – obviously.

It was at this point that I felt that Truax’s vocal style sounded like a mix between Fred Penner and Burt Ives singing  Ghost riders in the Sky. Maybe just for that song, but the whole lore and story telling aspect, and delivery seemed to fit. 

That was part one of the show, a quick break to create a glad bladder, and thus we were settled for more Thomas Truax patter.

As our posteriors re-amalgamated with the green leather seats Thomas introduced us to the song that terrifies him the most, and for the hardcore fans. Again, demonstrating it’s functional versatility, Mother Superior was tweaked to play a different percussive composition, guitar was embraced and a punky number was brought before the revellers.

On the table with the 2 dimensional moon above – note to the flat earth society – this does not validate any claims you have made.

We got a Dixie style song next, with Truax having attached a torch to the head-stock of the guitar it reflected on the roof like a moon. Well, kind of like the moon. The moon isn’t made of pine. The song about Wildtown had howling a plenty, and your man weaving his way around the venue. Nowhere was going to miss out, as the streets outside, the toilets, the tables and the stairwell all got a bit of Thomas visiting for the song.

One of my favourites was a song about a butterfly. In the storytelling fashion that Thomas Truax seems to excel at, this was the story of a person’s relationship with a caterpillar, going through the process of metamorphosis, through the chrysalis, discussions about the knowing manner that the butterfly would leave once it had fully transformed, as butterflies do.

I imagined this being literal, and  a sort of European Trilogy, Like Before Sunrise, Before Sunrise and Before Midnight. With the protagonists being a man and a butterfly. Talking about life, plans, hopes and future – perhaps in a cafe for some of it; perhaps with the butterfly wielding an oversized cigarette holder. I prefer that to a metaphor for a real relationship, but it could be either, or none. Musically, this was played with the electric guitar, but with the strumming or picking being carried out by an electric hand held travel fan. The ones you give your kids at an airport to be quiet, then they try and lick the spinning blades – you know the ones. It gave a really nice high speed classical mandolin sound. Lovely!

Humane Train

















A track from Truax’s new release, Humane Train was the next to be performed. The rhythm was like that of the Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer doing club singer impersonations in Shooting Stars, which would have been enough to note about the song itself and detail the next one, if it weren’t for the instrument that was being used to create the melody. I’ve got to be honest, I’ve never seen a musical instrument before that had a 1980’s tumble-dryer extraction tube as an integral part of it’s makeup. It was combined with a bongo drum, and parts of the inner workings of a kids music box, and an extendable elastic string, which was eventually attached at one end to the orange pine walls behind the stage. 


The sound of the music box chimes were layered with the loop pedal, and of-course the sound was complimented by the sound of a clockwork motor, also one of the many ancillary parts of this unnamed (to me) instrument of Truax’s creation.  Of course Half way through the rhapsody – as happens in all good tunes – the artist lay down on the floor and feigned falling asleep. Why not.

Standard Market Bar behaviour.Actually, Thomas asked what goes down on a Saturday night…










The night was finished off with ‘Beehive Heart’. The lights were dimmed or put off entirely and a drum beat ensued. It was drum beat which would fit perfectly with Radiohead’s ‘Everything In It’s Right Place’, if it were to have one, which it doesn’t. If it were to, it should be this though. Collaborate! 


The lyrics “I’ve got a beehive heart for you” were sung through heavy distortion whilst the trademark  eye-discs of chromatic luminescence made their appearance.   I wonder if looking back through the glasses that Truax was wearing, did we all look like crudely animated drawings, through some sort of 3D zoeotrope. All eyes were drawn to Thuax’s ultimate performance as the man transformed into something out of a  piece of Terry Gilliam artwork or filmography. The visual and audio distortion of perception created  with the closing song enticed you to fully forget you were in a pub in the middle of Inverness. If you want escapism in your life, what better an opioid is there than music and art.

Beehive love. Zoetrope Eyes!


















Thomas Truax is charismatic as fuck, and comes across as a sincerely likeable person, with humility, and a flair for the creative. There was no massive ego, and feeling of entitlement and no preciousness, which goes a long way for me when going to see someone. Music and art fused together by an unaffected, but talented fella. A firm favourite with the Market Bar, and by the sound of it, he likes us too!  Us, now feverish fans, bought one of his limited edition records too.  If you see the man on a poster, or a billing, change your plans; go see him.

Further to that point, the amount of times I’ve heard of musicians with their own sound say that The Market Bar is one of their hidden gems of a place to play is numerous, but in terms of getting the best out of a crowd, in Inverness, you’d be hard pushed to rival the place. There are bigger places, there are more modern places, but HQ is the long standing music venue of Inverness. There have been some fantastic talented, extremely creative and unique bands and performers play here, and long may it continue.

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Jocktoberfest 2018 – Friday – Chips and Gravy

Reading Time: 5 minutes


Ah, Jocktoberfest. For those of you who don’t know, Jocktoberfest is a two-day celebration of local beer and great music – or as I see it – an excuse to get pished in the wild. It’s a festival loosely styled on the German tradition of Ocktoberfest (with more hay and less lederhosen) held on an old farm just outside Inverness – the famous Black Isle Brewery itself. Yer man here was foolishly trusted with a pint and a pen, so here lies my review of the whole shindig. Well, the memorable bits of the shindig – I did say there was beer.

Now, full disclosure, I’ve been to Jocktoberfest in previous years. Granted, this was before I realised I could put words in order and publish them on the internet so I could bask in my own literary prowess, but those are stories for another day. I knew it was going to be a weekend full of booze and bands, and I knew I had a tent to kip in, that was all I needed. After a short and swift journey, I arrived at the site, ready to take on the weekend. Well, I would have been, had I realised I was two hours early for the arena opening. “Not to worry, I’ll get my tent up” I thought to myself, “that shouldn’t be too hard.” Fucking BOLLOCKS TO THAT. All the old Gods and the new had decided it was time to blow a bastard of a hoolie and simultaneously pish it down, leaving me scrambling for sheets of ‘waterproof’ fabric and bendy sticks whilst miserably cold and moist. It worked in my favour though, I passed those two hours.

The arena was easy to find as ever – go straight ahead at the Haggis Emporium – not what my hangover would need in the morning, but never mind – and through the gates. After a glorious four minutes in a portaloo I’ll never get back, I wandered over to the Dutch Barn (also known as the main stage) and settled in for an evening of tunes and tribulations.

First up we had Keir Gibson, a delight of a young man. I have various notes comparing him to Ed Sheeran, Connor Oberst, Rag ‘n’ Bone Man and a ‘somehow less-depressed’ Passenger. Ultimately, he was good, eh? He looked a bit nervous up there alone, but in fairness he was opening a music festival, I’d have shit myself silly in his position. Playing songs from his new EP, his voice was heavy and emotional whilst his guitar was twangy and melodic. Even this miserable old bastard’s heart was touched by his music – something that hasn’t happened since the Max Headroom incident scared it right out of my chest, taking any semblance of joy with it and leaving behind an empty, gaping void yearning for the mechanical giggling to stop. Ahem. Moving on.

Keir Gibson taking one for the team – he’s an expert fly catcher.


Following my emotional reawakening were local band Table for Four, giving it big licks to the sounds of Britney Spears. I didn’t think metal and 2007’s biggest mistake was a combination that could ever work together, but like sausages and jam, they did (just). Noticing that there were four of them but no table, the band cracked out a rather crude number called “The Blowjob Song”.

Actual footage of me trying to figure out the above dilemmas.


At least, I think it was called that. If it wasn’t it should have been. The lyrics were something along the lines of liking a girl but she’s busy “sucking on his dick”. I was left with questions. Was this misogynistic despite a female singer? How would I feel about it if the singer was male? Why aren’t I at the bar? With that, I went to the bar. It was the only logical next step.

T44 – Table for 4, table 4 4, table 4 four Tfor4. T4four, hashtag something something table.










Despite my emotional anguish, I did enjoy Table for Four. They were just the right amount of polished and energetic, without being irritating or wanky. Had I taken more notes I’m sure I’d have something more insightful to say here but true to form, I disappoint. Come on, it wouldn’t be a Chips & Gravy special if I said anything useful.


Thankfully, there was some more music to be greedily lapped up by my thirsty ears; a cover band named Guilty Pleasures. The clue is in the name; they performed covers of every cheesy pop song you can think of from the last few decades. Donning stripes and sparkles even I was jealous of, the singer belted out updated versions of old favourites; Michael Jackson, Bananarama and even Lionel Ritchie. I remember thinking initially that Guilty Pleasures would have been more suited to a wedding or pub performance, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. The audience were cutting shapes and taking names and the band were clearly having the time of their lives. As someone who contemplates a skinny dip off the Kessock Bridge when cheesy pop surfaces, I did not expect to enjoy this band. I was pleasantly surprised, and that surprised me.

I’d look this smug if I was this good, too.

A couple of pints later and it was time to get in about Tweed – a local Ceilidh band who were noticeably devoid of any tweed attire. Not that this deterred me, I was already keen for a ceilidh, but nothing gets me in the mood like an accordion playing the Tetris song. I couldn’t believe my luck when they belted that one out. “These are my people,” I thought. As I was stumbling through my own drunken version of the Gay Gordons, the band called out the group of wee roasters ruining everyone’s fun in the middle of the crowd. In my experience, audience bad behaviour generally goes unnoticed or unannounced by folks on the stage but not this time. Tweed politely asked them to calm down, stating that they’d “rather have a happy dancefloor than six happy punters”. Nice one. The group of ‘lads lads lads lads’ were told in no uncertain terms to go away, and joy once again descended on the audience. The atmosphere was electric as the band flawlessly performed a Scottish folk version of A Ha’s Take On Me, followed by Runrig’s Loch Lomond. With not a dry eye in the house, the crowd begged for one more tune. The evil stage managers were not originally keen for this, but the audience very much were. After some time of booing and audible disdain, Tweed were granted ‘wan mare choon’ and normal service was resumed. Pints were had, dancing was judged, and it was time for a short and damp trundle off to bed for me.

Don’t let this photo fool you; the drummer was more than just an arm.

You’ll be glad to know I stayed for Saturday too, and I have some more words and that coming for you in the next few days. I know you can barely contain your excitement but do try, there’s only so much wild-eyed adoration I can take.

What happens when things don’t go to plan, on the Proud Ness weekend in Inverness

Reading Time: 8 minutes

The base of this review is a wee thanks to Schneckie for what options there were out and about this weekend. And to be honest, a lot of this below was not by trying or planning. I was meant to be out of town and at the last minute this fell through, so most (not all) was random stuff I came across.

One thing that I didn’t get to was the Proud-Ness march. Saying that, I’m pretty sure has had a voice on this.
I did see a lot of people that night who had marched. The day and the event and march and all seemed to be a big thing, if I am judge by the thoughts of others. And there were plenty of people willing to share those thoughts, riding on a high on Saturday night, still buzzing from the thing. Actually, partly about the walk and the day, but for mine it seemed to be more an indication of where these things are going.

People, to paraphrase a great many, have been putting up with shit about who they fancy, and having someone else’s opinion on the fact matter more than their own. Many people, for much of their life. The idea also came through conversations that this is Schneckie, and that this march would not have happened not so long ago.

There were others talking about what it means for loved ones, like sons and nieces and family friends or whoever who are growing up now and won’t have to go through the experience that they knew people of past generations had to. Or they had to themselves.

Of course that’s a lie, or an untruth at best. Somehow it feels appropriate to say that “One swallow doesn’t make a summer,” (*) by way of feeling that this was an important milestone event, but not to pretend that things are where they need to be. The feeling though from those out in force and in rainbow colours for the night was that it was a step that felt was significant, and who am I to say any different.

Talking to the many who marched and then had a celebration night out in town on Saturday night was how close I got to ProudNess. The march was not something I didn’t do, but around 5-6k others did, apparently. Many stayed in town and gave the night this energy of the rainbow brethren that filtered deep through Saturday night in town.


I wished to march, but I had already booked myself for an event in the morning at the NessBookFest. Informative. Interesting. Well-organised, a seriously good range of literary type events. One I briefly saw was at their HQ as a pop up in the Victoria Market, which was kid’s storytelling and crafts, in the form of the Creeping Toad. But they were in their storytelling swing, so left them to it.

Did make it to another event as well. Others who went to events talked of poetry that touched them, or good business tips in the market, and tales of nature, or specifically even about peat, I think I saw in the brochure. Something for everyone, I think they call that.

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The brochure is from this year, the branding and name is one to look out for next year too.

Again, and more particularly earlier in the night, there was a number of happy, chatty and celebratory Book Festival people out having a beverage of choice. It sounded like it had lots of useful, fun, emotional, etc. moments. I’ll hopefully go to more of it next year.

So, what else did I manage to see. I’m going to make this short for each. Just sayin’.

Kris Coll at Market Bar:

In Friday night got to see Kris Coll play at the Market Bar. Either I read their FB wrong, or there was a change of advertised music. I thought I was seeing MIR or someone like that and instead saw this guy.

Kris Coll juggling playing good tunes, and keeping out of the way of the man in red.


That was a good thing though. The more I see it the more that it reinforces that there is the ability to entertain people with covers if you do it right.
Mostly I think the trick is to do what Guilty Pleasures demonstrated at Jocktoberfest. If you are talented, and choose your songs well, then there’s a market for this. Also if you do so, it’s more often than not a good gig/ show, and people like it, including me. There’s the argument about covers vs. people bringing out and playing their own music, and it is a very good argument, but it also has to give room at times for the fact that covers can be done well.

I will try to see Guilty Pleasures again, for sure. They are the gold standard of covers in a lot of ways. But I also saw Mystic Shoes at Mad Hatters so they would make a run for it. Different beast than Kris being solo, and in this respect – taking him on the night he provided – I enjoyed the gig. So did lots of others.
At one stage I was going to title a review just about his gig ‘And they kept on coming.’ I’m not writing that separate review, though, and just when it felt like it could fit no more, the crowd also stopped and then ebbed away again, so even the name would have been wrong. At the start of the 2nd set there was a peak of people, and they were all enjoying and singing along or dancing or chatting away as also happens. But the feel was good, as were the 2 sets. Throughout, it was well balanced in terms of songs and mood and such. Good ending on fast and growing faster by the end version of Country Roads, and then slow comeback after ‘Won More Toon.’ It was an enjoyable gig.

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Capturing the dance moves of THIS GUY!! Not the only one to dance, but I would have given him the cup if there was a prise for either enthusiasm or moves.

Dara Kulesh & Jonny Dyer:

This is one that would very possibly come down to taste, but fuck this was good. They were also unfortunate in the night that they played. If they had played on a Tuesday or Wednesday night, then I think that the crowd would have sat up and paid more attention, and been mesmerised.

Mesmerising is probably the best word for it, come to think of it. Her voice was just stunning. The guitarist was seriously high quality, somewhere between classical and Russian traditional, which was a large part of the music. She sung at stages in her local dialect in the area she said was known as the Highlands of Russia. I liked all of it, but this was one of a few moments in the night to remember.

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Her voice was simply fucking magnificent. She also played this thing I don’t know the name of, looked like a big cigar box with valves. Was good. He played the guitar, the keyboard, or, when necessary for putting the highlight on her, sat aside, arms crossed, and enjoyed the show also.

However, as mentioned above, this was not the night for it. Someone at the front near the start, I don’t know if he was with the band or not – asked around the pub on their behalf for people to be quiet and just listen. However, asking people to not chat at the bar at the Market on a Saturday night is just kinda fighting a losing battle from the get go. People were having a good night, and I think that there genuinely was some sort of level of appreciation around the place, but not the sort of connection and etherealness and beauty and voice and talent there was on stage. It needed people to stop chatting and listen to get to that level. I hope that they are able to make it back in Inverness. I’d really like to see them again.

Mystic Shoes:

Mystic Shoes at Mad Hatters. They are a good band for the venue. For squeezing into the Market, they filled out Mad Hatters, with large percentage dancing. I didn’t take any pictures of the night, but you either know what they look like already, or you should use this as the spur to find out fer yersel’. But it was bouncing and moving and also, like the Market, there’s people chatting at the bar at the back. That’s a good spot at Mad Hatters, too, but the night was all about the dancing up the front for many.

You know The Mystic Shoes are good value. They took care of business once again on Saturday and left the punter like putty in the grateful hands of the DJ who took it from there.

The tide turned:

I was meant to be out of town for the night at something I really wanted to go to, and it fell apart. So instead, Black Isle and Book Festers then Market and pints and people and amazing music. And ProudNess people partying at both, and also at Hoots. And there I was dancing with friends to both band then DJ. Most punters staying to until near the death-nell and all.

It was going to start off as a night of sadness and disappointment. A night dwelling on not getting to the other thing. Then Inverness gave us the night above. Good craic/ music/ people across multiple venues. Walking home I could see many others on various levels of how their night had been in Inverness. Chippy of choice for me on the way home, and snug inside.

Swinging, swaying, hugging, playing at the Market Even THESE GUYS moseyed into the Market on Friday night. If it’s good enough for these guys to ride into town, it’s good enough for me.
Swinging, swaying, hugging, playing at the Market Even THESE GUYS moseyed into the Market on Friday night. If it’s good enough for these guys to ride into town, it’s good enough for me.


Inverness was buzzing on Saturday night, and there were lots out for fun on Friday night as well. Saying that, the cold is definitely starting to come in. I’m not betting that people will cover up because of it on their nights out – some just can’t be coaxed (or coated) into not freezing. But I can be coaxed from being so disappointed to miss an important thing, because of the night and the feeling and the music and the people out. As the ProudNess crowd said, Inverness stood up for many on the weekend.

(* That might be ‘one swallow doth not a summer make,’ or something like that, anyway. Why do I think this may be Shakespeare and want to write it like him…? I add this as some people are particularly pernickety on such things and like these sorts of details [and grammar] to be correct. But I’m not sure either way).

Susanna Wolfe Band Album launch 06/10/2018

Reading Time: 4 minutes


The Susanna Wolfe Band played a secret gig at Eden Court on Sat 6th October for their album launch ‘The Devil Inside’. Straight off the bat holding a secret gig at Eden Court struck me as an unusual thing to do – why have a private event in such a public venue? – yet the One Touch Theatre for a night became a listening party for the band’s album with their friends and supporters.

I am completely new to Susanna’s music and understood that the idea with these reviews is to go and have the experience at face value and not to take too much of the artist’s past endeavours into account. But with this particular musician, I think the context and pathway that has got her to this point would have helped to make sense of what I was experiencing. There I was fresh to the scene and my role for the night was to lend a critical eye and ear, which began with the support act of Dylan Tierney a young singer-songwriter from Inverness.

Just a man with his guitar, playing blues-infused soulful tunes that are unfussy, honest and direct. A good solid recipe in my musical book. Vocally, Tierney was strong and engaging with hints of Ryan Adams, Jack White and Bob Dylan. Effective rhythmic guitar underlaid his poetic singing style and he held the stage well on his own. His strings weren’t always perfectly in tune but for the most part any discord added to the raw delivery of the music.

A mid-way cover of ‘Cecelia’ was just that, a reproduction of the Simon & Garfunkel original. Given Tierney’s natural musicality this rendition was a bit predictable and his own interpretation of the song would make much more impact. The cover led back to his own tunes, only serving to show how good his song-writing is and that his real strengths lie in singing his own songs in his own style. This lad has a maturity ahead of his years and I’ll look forward to seeing him again. Nice wan san.

The Susanna Wolfe Band then concluded the first half of the show with an ‘acoustic set’, a stripped-back version of a few of their songs. Unfortunately, the sound wasn’t great for this section with Susanna’s guitar unamplified for most of the opening track, the drummer seemed lost and the backing singer was barely audible. The group seemed anxious and badly in need of a sound-check… as first impressions go this wasn’t great. It was hard to gauge the audience response at an invite-only event because friends and family would be supportive no matter what. This is not the sort of gig you would normally get at the One Touch Theatre where performances are slick and perfected… Was I the only one confused by this set up?

We made it to the intermission and some chat with her friends helped me to get some of the motivation behind this gig. This still didn’t convert me to her musical style however, the jury was still out on that one… let the second half begin. The second set opened with a bang and the full power of the live band kicked in. Having a kit drummer made all the difference compared to the drum machine on their recently released album. The band were now visually co-ordinated dressed in black and red and appeared more like a unit all round. It was loud and bold and you could experience Wolfe’s passion and dedication to her music: here you find a woman pouring her life’s experiences into every song. The fully amplified sound suited the band best with the bassist in tow and it got some dancers up from their seats. The crowd were heckling Susanna affectionately and her slightly seedy banter between songs got a few laughs (or in my case cringes). Wolfe is clearly in her element as a frontwoman and I felt like I was witnessing someone living out their dream. Whether this dream is all her own or shared by her band-members is another matter however.

Musically, this sound has an old style and I found it hard to place. At times the melodies and song structures reminded me of Roy Orbison and Wolfe’s voice like Kate Bush or Patti Smith. Susanna’s vocal prowess is what holds the band’s sound together, the element that is captivating and it would have been nice to hear some variety in the set, with her singing/playing on her own for example. If I’m honest I found the musical style a bit old-fashioned and formulaic, this isn’t a sound I’m used to hearing and I wonder where this music fits today?

As you might have gathered I feel a bit conflicted about this gig. There were elements to admire and bits that were questionable. There is no denying that this was a passionate and heartfelt performance delivered from experienced musicians. It wasn’t flawless but as time went on I appreciated the endeavour and boldness of setting up a gig in this venue off their own backs. Over-riding the initial glitches this was powerful performance and I sense that Susanna Wolfe is a force of nature that will keep on growling against the odds. Perhaps above all it’s this that has filled the theatre with her supporters tonight.

Jocktoberfest – Saturday 8th September – official pt. 2 – Woolly Dermal

Reading Time: 12 minutes

It’s still Saturday Mun!

part two of two

So in part one of the Saturday Jocktoberfest review, we told you of our experiences with Alice Brown, Calum Mackenzie Jones, Carma, King Kobalt, Mr Still, Sara Bills & the Hasbeens and Sarah Gallagher. Then we realised it was going to be a bit too long of a read for some folks to continue onwards, so splitting the article seemed like a good idea. 

There was also the Friday one, covering DJ Blair Massari,  Keir GibsonTable for FourThe Guilty Pleasures, and  Tweed if you want to read about your favourite band.


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If, as mentioned in part one of our review King Kobalt woke up the Dutch Barn Stage, then Tistik was the fella that kicked the Hayloft Barn into distinction.

Tistik appeared on stage complemented by the multifaceted DJ Butterscotch, of his own, and Spring Break fame. As Butterscotch handled the intro of Tistik with a turntablism meets digitalisation remix of the lyricist’s name, the loquacious Tistik burst in with a rapid and stupefying demonstration of his verbosity and skills. Serving as an introduction to himself, he followed this up with a slower number.

Tistik – watch this guy!

The variation that Jocktoberfest have in their acts, whilst managing the transition between them well demonstrates how this wee festival, seeming on the face of it humble and dainty is a well polished and well-engineered work of art. Tistik is a good example of this – in the manner in which you’d plan a set whilst DJ’ing – the festival takes you on a journey from dawn to dusk – tugging your heart strings in the morning, and letting you get right into it in the evening. Tistik shared the fact that he was autistic with his audience, and dedicated his next track, “Sensory Issues” to anyone else with autism. He engaged well with the audience, and they loved him for it. There were a collection of other passionate so

DJ Butterscotch – turntabling to fame

ngs also thrown out to reverberate around the stage and wee arena, covering the unacceptability of drug abuse, and a range of other important subjects that were clearly close to his heart. Throughout,  DJ Butterscotch provided some appropriate and spectacular sounds that aided the genius orator as he won the hearts of those around him.


Grace and Legend: Bekah’s voice was both graceful and legendary
Grace & Legend: That guitar though!

It felt surreal after leaving that, the dimly, but atmospherically lit barn, to be greeted by the sun again, but it was time. Grace and Legend were the next band up, and fuck me, what a voice. I’d not heard these folks before, but they were something else- a powerful Rock/Metal four piece. The lead singer was by far the stand out in the act, delivering songs such as Dark Disguise and Dear Old Friend, with the sort of authentic, “I feel like I’d get one of their tracks on a KERRANG! Magazine CD” vibe. Is KERRANG! still a thing?



Grace & Legend: Full metal, erm, T-Shirt

They were shit hot though, it was surreal seeing the lead come off the stage and sing directly to a toddler in ear protectors, but the wee one loved it, and it’s the sort of thing that’s unique to this here festival. I loved them, but not as much as my fellow reporter, who I think was imagining being personally serenaded by the lead; Bekah, on a private island.


The Vandal: Nigh on impossible to catch still

Back in the Hayloft barn and The Vandal was delivering powerful, pumping and surging beats with a commanding vocal. The rapper very much delivered his life through the microphone – you could feel it. It was by far the grittiest set of the night, but it was also one of the most open and raw.

The Vandal: Wick waxing lyrical

LIlura was next up, and unusually for her, singing solo – full credit to her for that too; her band members were unexpectedly unable to make it up to the venue, but she owned the stage even without them with a phenomenal presence. She’s a determined soul and a credit to what you can do with a bit of drive –  with her performance flowing through the main stage, the whole set was divine.

Lilura: On fire, figuratively
Lilura: She owns your soul

Esperi – I only managed to catch a little bit of. I’ve seen him before in all his full creative glory, which you can have a gander at here. The day’s set was more of a covers vibe, and less introcate than the linked gig, but pleasing none-the-less. The set was more than fitting for the crowd and the venue, and at the end he brought his little ones up on stage who looked like they were having the time of their lives. That moment reminded me of my own little heroes, and the brilliant time I’d had with them the previous year. That aside, it’s a great reminder and a good point in this review to press how child friendly, and child embracing the festival is. Take your little ones  they’d love it. 

Esperi – Not the best shot of the man himself, but it captured the feeling he created

Esperi was the last of the sets in the “it’s a chilled out Saturday afternoon, sip some fine refreshments and be civilised” camp. As I happily meandered away from the gent that produced one of my favourite market bar gigs of last year, I found my way back to the Dutch Barn, to be greeted by Ruaridh MacLean.


Ach, it’s a fella with an accordion, some folks might think. But for those who had either experienced Tweed the night before, or anyone that’s been to see anything at Celtic Connections, anything other than the dreaded singing circle – (why oh why!) – the use of ‘the box’ – as the instrument is sometimes known – isn’t restricted to singy-songy teuchter music or pirate shanty town ditties. Calum did his bit to rip out any old fashioned concept of what Trad music was, and showed us plebs what it is.

Ruaridh MacLean – bringing the box to the 21’st century

One of the things I had scribbled down in my notes was that Ruaridh was the Jamie Callum of the accordion – in a good way like! What I meant by that is there was a ton of energy and craic from Ruaridh. He almost seemed hyperactive, as he thrust out “Freaker’s Ball” – one of the highlights for me. There was a frigging immense cover of ACDC’s thunderstruck, but on the accordion – which you have to hear live, it was, well, it was exciting to hear – but I’ve got a soft spot for that song, so there may be some bias coming in. 

Ruaridh’s originally planned finalé was a mental version of Ring of Fire. A very adult version that would make yer da blush. I fell into a burnin’ ring of fire, was replaced with “fucking Gaelic choir”, and so many of the words were substituted it was more, a song sung to the high paced music of the tune. The crowd were bouncing so much, and the stage was so animated that it got to the point the signage behind Ruaridh passed out and tried to attack him – i.e. it fell over. The hero I am though, I lept to the rescue and re secured the stage props so the show could go on. Much like in the past, I once bought a house so an old man didn’t get evicted. I feel both the sign and the old man have forgotten this act. Though the sign doesn’t claim to be sentient, and it wasn’t the sign’s fault it fell over. Perhaps.

Ruaridh MacLean: This is also the face the audience were making

Ruaridh may have thought he was finished, but the crowd weren’t having it, which worked out well as the band that was meant to be on after; Busker Rhymes, were not there yet (and as it happened, didn’t end up appearing). The ginger hero fired through another twenty minutes of fast paced mania, feeding the now frenzied crowd (and dinosaurs) with everything he could. The final tune was a cover of Dirty Old Town, before the hero that is Ruaridh MacLean was able to relinquish the stage for some well earned recovery. What a guy!

At this point, the Hayloft Barn felt like it turned into the a collective gathering of some of the traditional pubs’ gigging musicians in Inverness. Inverness sneezed it’s talented session musicians onto the stage and Davy Cowan was first up, and had the crowd bopping about like nobody’s business. Like a mexican restaurant where the food is the same ingredients but folded up in a way to make the food taste different, a fair amount of the who’s who of the sneck was onstage, either with Hot Rats or the antecedent Davy Cowan band.

Davy Cowan Band: Party Time!

This was by no means a bad thing. Davy, Robin and co. played a selection of covers with one or two originals, and the whole thing felt almost festive. There was a definite party feel to it; echo’d by Davy’s comments, dedicating one of his songs to those that chase house parties. There was a good highland feel to the whole thing – rosy cheeks and cheer in abundance. Davy often goes as Davy and the Stormchasers – I’m not sure if the rest of the fellas on stage were the Stormchasers in question, and I’m sure there’s a joke in there somewhere about storms being interesting to look at but  dangerous, but without knowing for sure, I’ll leave it.

Back across to the bigger of the two stages for Emma & the Ragmen – they shared some of the extended stage time that would have otherwise been utilised by Busta Rhymes, and used it well. The crowd were happily manic by this point in the evening and the rocking and rolling of EATR – [side note: love that acronym by the way] kept the crowd going. The, what I’d refer to as  sophisticated voice of the lead was great, and the group kept the crowd happy and bouyant with a good bit of craic,  and their effervescent feel with a bit of a jazzy, jivey feel to them. They’re playing in Mad Hatters in November too if you fancy a geek.

Emma & the Ragmen

Hot Rats were the final act on the Hayloft stage.  They played a banger of a gig, making sure new fans and old gave their all to dance to their set. With Dickie Bills at the heart of the beat, the mix of punky thumps and beats kept everyone moving.

The lead’s gruff voice fitted the close of a party vibe well, and their set was primarily tunes that you could pogo, shoogle and bounce to, which was a perfect close for the night. These guys haven’t played together for a long time, so this was like a proper reunion for them. They were loving it, and you could feel it in the air.

HOT RATS: Guys, we’re getting the band back together!


The penultimate act for the bigger of the two stages was the Ska-punk band The Matatunes. Sweet mother of fuck. Firstly, fitting them all on stage was impressive, there were like, forty of them. 

The Matatunes: All together now!


Ok, I may be exaggerating, but there were a fair few – which you’d expect from a ska band. If Ruaridh was the act that got the crowd hyper, The Matatunes were the band that injected madness into them. I’ve never seen the like at Jocktoberfest. Spring Break finished the live band aspect of the event last year, and it was a thing of beauty, I had my son on my shoulders with glee.  This year’s close was batshit crazy, and the wee man would have been watching from a bit further back if he’d been with me this time.  I’d’ve maybe put The Matatunes in the Hayloft Stage, but it’s easy to say that with hindsight. 

The Matatunes: band of brothers

Manic is the word for the crowd – there was a wee bit of silliness from a couple audience members, which resulted in said members ending the event before the close of the set, but it was dealt with well by the Jocktoberfest team, and the band handled it well too. For the most part the whole close was pretty epic though, it was grand, the beaming grins on the band were scintillating as they pumped out tune after tune, like concentrated and condensed cubes of pressurised energy.

The Matatunes: Closing the live acts for Jocktoberfest 2018

It’s rare to see a full band where every single member is fully chock a block with outgoing personality, and  no one that saw The Matatunes could reasonably suggest there was anything other than that for each member. They even had their own Bez-like character of Happy Mondays fame, dancing and bouncing about – albeit sans maracas. They put on a show, and what a performance – they’re very much worth going to see. If you ever wondered what it would be like to have Redbull and Lucazade (pre-sugar tax) injected directly into your veins then it’s probably safer and wiser to seek out the next gig The Matatunes are playing, and pay them a visit. 

Once the mentaltunes finished their set DJ Daddy Cool appeared to woo the audience into a chilled and welcome wind down, for a happy close of mingling, dancing and happy feels.

DJ Daddy Cool seducing the late night Jocktoberfesters.


It was time for a pizza, having lamb burgered myself to death, and the night was finished off by a luscious caramelised onion, goats cheese and olive pizza. Honestly, just the tits!

Last year I’d used the taxis, but nearly got crushed on the way back out due to the taxi driver forgetting that hand breaks were a thing. Essentially I had to leap out of the way of a car, after trying to open the boot was just enough force for the damn thing to start rolling down the hill. My kids thought it was all very exciting as they stood at the side oblivious to the potential mind scarring horrors they’d narrowly avoided witnessing. You reading kids? If I’d been a less responsible dad you’d’ve been squished, not carefully standing behind the fence out of the way. Still funny is it? IS IT? Ok, fine.

This year we’d arrived by car, and left by car. Traffic was not too congested and it was a civilised drive back, albeit with a man/caveman hybrid dressed as a dinosaur, and his bushy bearded support worker in the back. Amazing what you find in Munlochy on a Sunday morning!

Overall, I got to see most of the bands playing, but missed a couple out – apologies to those we didn’t manage to catch; I think we missed two, either through food breaks or logistics, specifically Gordon James and the Power, and Never Knowing.

Sorry guys, we’ll catch you about next time you’re near!

One of our folks did manage to catch the very much up and coming Never Knowing on video and a couple pics for a bit which you can see here:


and if you wish to have a look at GJATP – they’ve a page here – and are playing in Buckie on the 27th October in the Pub in The Square. (That’s it’s name, we’re not just being lazy)


As a final wee note; Outside of the music, the other highlight of the festival is how kid friendly it is. There always seems to be an industry with the wee sproglets constructing  buildings out of hay in the barn stage. It’s delightful to watch them all work together like crazy oversized worker ants. It’s a true reflection of the whole festival’s vibe. Everyone is welcome, and everyone is welcoming. A place to forge new connections and friendships. Not forgetting of course, it’s also a place to try new beers and ales, a connection with such fine things should not be overlooked. 


Thank you Jocktoberfest 2018 and goodnight! 


Want to see more reviews, previews and stuff like this as it’s published. When gigs are appearing and all that?
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.For Woolly’s Friday insight:

Jocktoberfest 2018 – Friday 7th September – official – Woolly Dermal

and part one of Saturday:

Jocktoberfest – Saturday 8th September – official pt. 1 – Woolly Dermal

Jocktoberfest – Saturday 8th September – official pt. 1 – Woolly Dermal

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Saturday Mun!

part one of two

What is more than deserving of two articles? Jocktoberfest on a warm hazy Saturday.

So we at had a bit of a technical issue with our laptop, which prevented us firing out the Saturday review of Jocktoberfest.
We’ve split it into two parts, as well, I talk too much. So here’s part one, and we’ll share our part two with you thereafter. If you missed our Friday review, it’s linked to at the bottom of the page.


Want to see more reviews, previews and stuff like this as it’s published. When gigs are appearing and all that?
Click the like button 😉



As cold as it was through the night, was as hot as it was waking up in the morning. As I escaped the canvas oven I found my fellow attendees also slowly emerging from the birth canals of their domes of solitude like hungover butterflies seeing the morning sky for the first time. Butterflies don’t have gin breath though!

A sausage and a bacon roll later from the Haggisman van at the entrance to the arena and we were cooking with gas. Or it was, I can’t begin to imagine how hot it must have been working from a metal van, but kudos to the fella and his crew of minions braving the heat.

I headed into the festival to be greeted by what turned out to be one of the personal highlights for the Saturday for me, playing in the Dutch barn; Sarah Gallagher.


Sarah Gallagher.

Sarah Gallagher: Joy

What a welcome opening to a warm day! Sarah opened with a beautiful voice and some really chilled out song about love, and hope. I was happy enough with that as the sun shone onto the hay, and was ready to have a pleasant wee summary with just that, but then a bit of bite and grit came through. Sarah introduced her ‘revenge song’ about an ex-boyfriend, who’d been less than decent; the sage advice that followed was never date musicians. A bit of an unfortunate piece of advice from someone standing on the stage producing some fantastic sounds with her guitar and rattletrap, but I’m sure it wasn’t meant as an absolute! The lyrics “vampire in the dark, you never had my heart” give a wee glimpse of the tone of it, delivered with a beaming grin, infectious as it comes, I found myself with a cheeser on at the cathartic tune.

Sarah Gallagher: Sunkist – na, not the drink, the stage mun!

This was followed by an equally satisfying; “Blue Lights” – featuring lines “you don’t need cocaine at three in the morning, next time; give me a warning”, Sarah finished up with the fast paced song “Tinder”, again a fantastic little number about the perils of online dating; as a female I guess. Yo, yo, yo – smiley face, send nudes, hey babe, hello. The repetitive mundanity of having to deal with a bunch of potato minded parasites is not something I envy; the worst I’ve had to experience is bad puns; and I’m happy with that.  So yeah, that was a great start to the day from herself, and for everyone that saw her.

Next stop was Alice Brown at the smaller stage, where she shared some tales and experiences, accompanied by her guitar.  The highlight for me was the number “Sitting Quietly in the Afternoon”, with a folky, medieval feel to it.

Alice Brown: Lighting was hard, but the songs were soft

Back to the Barn to be greeted by the now Jocktoberfest stalwarts; Carma. This was their third time hitting the festival, with their exuberant wee faces! It’s really pleasing to see Jocktoberfest having a high prominence of female singers playing at the festival. That can too often be overlooked. I don’t know if it was a deliberate move by the Black Isle team, but either way, kudos. There were four people on the stage all together, Carmen and Kenna, who make up the band, complimented by the two session musicians. The stand out song was Hummingbird; a song about achieving dreams. Carmen’s dream is to be a musician, so she’s sorted! The songs were light in tone, and soothing to listen to, and the delicately named songs fitted in well to the pair’s feel.

Carma: Carmen delivering delicate vocals


Carma: Kenna tinkering the ivories

There was a bit of a change to the billing, which the kind gent Chris Lemon flagged to us in advance.

Originally the bands MT Doubt and Basic Needs were due to play, but for assorted reasons had to make some late cancellations. Stepping up to replace MT Doubt, came Calum MacKenzie Jones. He’s a man that makes you want to dance, with his upbeat and versatile repertoire.


Calum MacKenzie Jones: Calum and his band

He played the title track from his new album along with a few others, including one that stuck out for me with the lyrics “I can’t fix what doesn’t seem like it’s broken, I can’t feel what doesn’t seem to you” As a side note, by this point there were giant cos-play dinosaurs everywhere, dancing and bouncing about. I was fascinated by Calum’s hair for some reason, the floppy do seemed impenetrable by the heat of the day and looked like a well groomed haggis; as in the wild haggis you describe to American tourists, not the one made of lamb’s squiggly bits. Calum’s performance came off as confident and professional beyond his years.

Calum MacKenzie Jones: Shoutout to bassists and drummers everywhere who don’t often get a look in – the backbone to a band.

King Kobalt were the other last minute heros of the day that replaced Basic Needs. You don’t see compères that often at music gigs these days, or at least not in the highlands, but this one was decent. The last one I’d witnessed prior to him was the compère that I spent an evening suffering for the Radical Independence Ceilidh. Oh my word that fella was awful, talk about cringe! The bands were great then but it was ruined by the old china plate. I reference that to highlight that what seems like a straightforward job can be done well, or badly. Jocktoberfest did it well, and should get credit for that.

Anyway, the compère introduced King Kobalt with “ARE YOU READY TO HAVE YOUR FACES MELTED OFF?” to a reciprocal cheer from the crowd, and then it all began.

King Kobalt: Rocking the JOCKOBERF

King Kobalt burst into full flow from the get-go. The four piece kicked off with “No way” as their first song with the drummer and singer full throttle, this fed into the second song, which was a bit heavier, but welcomely so. Polished and with some great guitar distortion, it was two for two with the group’s sound so far. I’d seen them in Belladrum earlier this year, and they were ok, but they seemed far superior at Jocktoberfest. I don’t know if it was just that the sound guy was better, or if they had improved. It may have been that the acoustics were better, or some other variable was coming into play, but the fact was people were coming in to hear them play.

King Kobalt: Dude!

The next track, Warrior opened with the lead guitar pulling the rest of the song into full force by its teeth. The vibe was buzzing as they led through a song with a mix of eighties/nineties metal guitar soloing. Personal Pick Me Up was next, you could see the band enjoying themselves through the pounding drums. The breakdown part of the song felt good too, with vocals slipping in perfectly. Have you ever poked your finger into warm half melted butter, that’s still holding its form? That’s how smooth it was. “Lock Me Up” came with a Megadeath feel, before the band finished on their lead track from their E.P. Nightmares. What a belter too, a really powerful track with a spot on finale. The band were especially impressive given that they were playing at such short notice.

AJ Still: AKA MR Still – in technicolour

Sprinting like a gazelle with ADHD I made it over to be greeted by Mr Still, who gave us a selection of songs from the heart – highlighted by the title track from his album “His Strongest Suit” With the lyrics “he never knew his strongest suit, I could see so clearly something he could not” it came as an ode to admiration of a significant person being willed to realise his abilities. Mr Still fitted the feel good bill of the afternoon, followed by the exotic sounds of Cocoa Tenorio, with her tales of interest and sincerely fascinating bodiless guitar.

Cocoa and the cool guitar

A hop skip and a jump and we were back to witness Sara Bills and the Hasbeen’s last festival gig of the year. We’ve still got a review of them from the Market Bar sitting in the works, from the independence march which we’ll eventually extract with forceps from the creator, but in the interim, we’ve got some words to splurge here. Their last gig of the year, in September? For why you may ask. There’s going to be a new been baby, and the legendary Bills family are going to be plus one.

For the most part I was taking photos for the gig, and one of the other Nettlers was writing, but it was delivered in standard Hasbeens awesomeness. The set was played in the reverse order to that which us folks are used to, but was just as upbeat and enthusiastically delivered as ever. We’ll link to the other review once it’s up; the lack of words on it here do not reflect the lack of significance the team had to the event, it was one of the highlights, marked by half of the Market Bar faithful appearing at Jocktoberfest in time to support them. Sara Bills, you will be missed on the circuit, but haste ye back.

Sara Bills & The Hasbeens: eeeeey!
Sara Bills & The Hasbeens: playing backwards
Sara Bills & The Hasbeens: The legendary, and always a wee bit cheeky – Dickie

What happened next, well, much like the cliff hanger in the children’s ITV series KNIGHTMARE,(when the telly was good)  you’ll have to wait until next time.


Want to see more reviews, previews and stuff like this as it’s published. When gigs are appearing and all that?
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.For Woolly’s Friday insight:

Jocktoberfest 2018 – Friday 7th September – official – Woolly Dermal

and fir yer Saturday part two, here’s the patter:

Jocktoberfest – Saturday 8th September – official pt. 2 – Woolly Dermal

Macmillan’s Marathon and thinking of the other half

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Reading Time: 9 minutes

Looking out upon healthier people than me contributing something to others


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So, you know there are those times when you’re up for a pint, it’s past the witching hour, and there are 

tumbleweeds blowing through your favourite local that you find yourself situated in?

Having had this happen, sometimes – just sometimes, mind – I find myself thinking further than the next beer. For example, at times I wonder something along the lines of ‘where the fuck is everyone?’

Naturally there are some answers that one can immediately empathise with, such as ‘it’s the last week before payday – it’ll be fair heavin’ next week’.
Answers along this line keep us (read ‘me’) happily cocooned in our own self-reinforcing bubbles of logic, and in these early, heady days of navigating the new social media-driven world, who doesn’t live in a self-reinforcing echo chamber of their own opinion to some extent?

Still, there are also times when there is this wee niggling doubt ear-worming its way past my fine-honed self-defences. For, while these answers suffice for the most part, the brain in me, such as it is, is inclined to whisper strange, exotic thoughts at times.

Things along the lines of ‘What if they are actually more interested in doing something else?’; ‘What if they choose not to be sucking down the amber delights that life has to offer?’; or even more preposterous – ‘What if they instead are deciding to do something healthy and beneficial with their Sunday mornings, rather than patterned self-injurious habits filling their Saturday nights?’ (while this last thought is true, it is incumbent upon me to temper and balance that idea. To state clearly here that while drinking can indeed be bad for your health, live music is awesome for it. That’s not me – that’s just science).

Following that thought, and the inherent, insatiable scientific curiosity that is genuinely not much a feature of standard thought processes at The Nettle, I decided to actually try to answer a smattering of these ear-worm niggling questions.
So on Sunday the 23rd of September, glory be, the beautiful, gift-giving enigmatic beast that is Inverness once again come through for me – for it showed me that strangest of things, by way of a glimpse of the life lived on the other side.

A glimpse of those who are fit. Those who are healthy. Those who chose – who actually, willingly weigh up the choices in front of them and choose with a clear mind and a clear conscience – to forego a Saturday night out, for the wonders of fresh air and running on a Sunday morning. Truth is stranger than fiction sometimes, as they say.

Word about town is that this guy ran the 10k with this back-pack on his back the whole way, in order to raise money an awareness for the cause. Respect!
Word about town is that this guy ran the 10k with this back-pack on his back the whole way, in order to raise money an awareness for the cause. Respect!

Don’t get me wrong. I have heard tales of such beings before. I have even seen them in their natural habitat, although admittedly mostly in their second burst of running for the day, the after work one.
It is a rare treat to get up in the morning, and every time I do I love that time of day, and I swear that I am going to do it more often. Not only are these fuckers doing it, they’re out and about and running at that time as well. So regularly in fact (more facts, more leaning on science) that they feel confident enough to transform this ‘healthy for oneself’ stuff into a ‘let’s help a good cause’ event, like this one for MacMillan’s.

And the stats around this thing are, if I am to believe the voice in the loudspeaker at the event, genuinely impressive. This thing that I heard about late the day before, these people populating this other world, they were all over this shit. Some of them were doing a 5km run, some 10km and some – on their Sunday off– were popping out a marathon for the sake of it, for the fun of it, and for charity.

It was their biggest local event/ run yet over the years. They had just over 2,200 runners. They raised just shy of £600,000 (I double-checked – this is the right amount of zeros). People were running, finishing, and pulling up happy and smiling. Not all of them, obviously. Some were going for personal bests (“PBs” if you want to impress the in-crowd) and all that sorta stuff, of course, and had run themselves ragged, and looked and smelled the worse for it, despite the gleaming beaming smile of achievement on their faces. But all that being said, they were coming together for a cause, and for an event that had a lot more going on than I would have ever dreamt of.

Ye Olde pipe band. Ubiquitous at such events, but still welcome and good to hear for all that.


Walking into the place gave a sense of the scale of the whole thing. Actually, in this and a few other respects, it reminded me a lot of the Highlands Games. It was in and around the finish line, which was in Bught Park, so the same location. While not quite the same scale, it had the same feel, generated by the same familiar sights and faces and pieces of the puzzle. By this I mean the overlap of the same food vans, and the rides and sideshow alley games stalls for the kids and that sort of paraphernalia.

Fun for the whole family.


Not to disparage it – it’s what people both want and need at events of such scale. Keep the kiddies amused. Keep the bellies fed. Keep the entertainment up.
For this there was a band in the tent, good at what they were doing – genuinely talented crew, but playing nice and safe Scottish trad ‘leaning’ versions/ covers of popular songs. Good, safe, talented, and importantly, designed to not startle the punters. Maybe they were transgressing into this space like me. It felt like they had more to give, but knew it was neither the time or the place.

They were playing in the marquee where the runners went to for their ‘free’ feed (again, not to be cynical about it – it was for a good cause, but apparently it was a fair chunk of money to enter the race, so while welcome I’m sure, the idea of the soup and an oatcake being ‘free’ is open to debate).

There were shops inside this marquee as well – these ones seemed strategically aimed at the context at hand, and the line of runners buying shoes and sweatbands and all sorts of things that were sharply sitting front and centre in their short-term memory mind of the morning as things that they would have loved to have just had on the run they just did.

Band on stage, left edge of picture. I maybe should have given them more prominence in the photo, however this is a visual representation of the attention and the relevance that they were given by those exhausted soup-loving runners on the tables front and centre. Think that it would have been a good band in another time and place.


There I was, among the bright eyed and bushy-tailed, seeing what those people who weren’t at the pub the night before were actually prioritising. So, as someone entering into this much larger than I had appreciated world of the Sunday morning early risers and runners, what was the whole thing actually like?…

As an observer, mind. The idea of being a runner I think sits rather aesthetically ‘dashing’ in its repose on the mantelpiece alongside the aforementioned idea of being more regularly the type of person that gets up early to enjoy that time of the morning. One of those good theories, that would also do me good, but… (add your own excuse, or disparaging comment of me, here).

The first thing that came to mind was definitely the scale of the thing. That there were so many people in on this whole thing that had passed me by up until learning of it the night before… – this is not a new sensation.
But they were definitely out in force, either running, or supporting. Punters just out to be there, yelling encouragement from the side lines. They may have been friends and partners and loved ones, and I’m sure a large swathe of them were.
Saying that, there also must have been people out there purely for the craic of it, and to be nice people supporting other nice people doing something with their time and efforts for a good cause. There is a reflexive compulsion in the nastier recesses of my brain that has the reaction to the legitimate use of the word ‘nice’ that many times in a sentence, in the same way that Vivienne reacted to The Good Life. However, by way of internal conflict, I also grew up liking the Good Life as well as The Young Ones, and found myself liking this base level support by the crowd as well.

While hard to capture in a still photograph, these people were leaving nothing in the tank, sprinting their last towards the finish-line. Good on them.


There were smiles on people’s faces. Many might have been watching for their friends or loved ones, but that didn’t stop them from encouraging any random runner that they desired to for any range of reason.

I got caught up in this and all. My favourite part of that was watching them at the finish line. Seeing people get that final burst of speed after pushing themselves through such a stupidly gruelling exercise. Gathering the last of their energy in order to give it their all for a dash over the finish line. It was seriously enjoyable to see the potential of us human animal things gathered and utilised in such a ‘leave it all out there on the field’ kind of way (calm down, Inner Vivienne, this is legitimately worthy of note).

The official Macmillan’s support was out in force!


More runners, and more observers and supporters, of all manner of persuasion.
More runners, and more observers and supporters, of all manner of persuasion.


For the purposes of pressure release valve for my wee ‘Inner Vivienne’, not all of the event was visions of peace, joy and light. If I’m gonna have a cynical grumble about it, I thought that the shops inside were strategically sensible, but strategically maximised to squeeze coin out of people when they weren’t assessing the whole purchase in the cool objective, reflective light of day, more at a time when they were at the ‘with better kit, I would have got a minute under the mark, instead of missing it by a minute’ impulse purchase kind of mood.

I saw the shops and the lines and imagined that there were many saying to themselves ‘thank fuck these shops are here to let me impulse buy on the idea I could’ve got a better time.’ Admittedly, this probably wasn’t going through the mind of the guy front and centre in this picture…


I also thought that it was a serious, God-awful stupidity that the freebie soup for 2,200 runners – provided by Baxters as big time-sponsor and big time soup maker – was achieved by opening said amount of individual cans of soup. How the fuck they couldn’t have scooped some off of the factory production line into big-arsed pots, or at least catering-sized cans for such a known, registered, anticipated amount of runners they were providing it for… I tried but couldn’t see a way in which this wasn’t stupidity and waste on a genuinely mass scale. The only thing of the day that genuinely was a ‘what the actual fuck is this dumbfuckery’ moment. A good sentiment, and good generous moment, ballsed-up by managerial small-mindedness and stupidity.

Caring, helpful volunteers, surround by insane waste and managerial stupidity. Always fun to have the biggest whinge and juxtapose it against the caring, giving efforts of kind volunteers.


Ah, gosh does that feel a little better. For in truth I liked my vacation exploration over onto the side, that of the Sunday Morning People.

There were families giving the kids a day out with fun in the sun. There were people who’d run, and finished, and achieved, and felt much better than they smelled. They were bursting with sunshine, satisfaction and a good hit of endorphins. Hard to be too Grinch-like among all that. Chuck in a dose of community feel, people having done something together, and that thing being a lot for money raised for a good cause, and it’s hard to be ‘anti’ the event I was experiencing there in Bught Park at that rather silly time on a Sunday.

Personally I think that this scientific exploration into the world of the people from another time-zone was an experiment that was well worth it. I’m not overly likely to be running next year, but the event is growing and expanding in its size, scale, support and success just fine without me out there on the track getting in everyone’s way. That being said, it wasn’t just a run, it was an event, with all the bells and whistles, bands, bairns, and mac n’ cheese food vans one could want. And if people couldn’t allow themselves the cheeky ill-discipline of a few globbed scoops of mac n’ cheese after running 10km, they never will. Even this seemed a good fit in its own way.

It was a happy surprise for me to get to see this event, to see the money they raised for a cause, and to finally see what the alternative options may be in terms of what to do on a Sunday morning in a parallel universe.

I won, Macmillan’s won, and importantly, science was the ultimate winner for the day. Actually, I think that it was one of these people on the podium, but it was too nice a day to quibble about such things. If you’re interested in such event, give it a crack next year. I’ll support you from the side lines!

There were probably categories of winners in the different events. These were some of the winners for the 10km race.