The Songwriter’s Circle at MacGregors: Original Tunes on a Tuesday night

Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

A couple of thoughts behind the write up for this review.
One of them was the title. So many options for wordplay with the “Circle” motif for the Songwriter’s Circle!! And don’t think that we at TheNettle.scot are bigger people than putting in some poor pun action. We are not.
The original title thought was ye olde classic “Will the Circle Be Unbroken” Partly as it just played so well to the positive idea of wanting the longevity of these nights to continue unbroken into the future. Partly it was the lure of lazy writing. Again, don’t put these things past the good people at TheNettle.scot Me either, come to that..

Another aspect of this which I wanted to play with here is to have another element other than just a review. The logic behind this thought is that this is an ongoing thing. Normally the reviews are about a time and a place. This shall happen, but before this, a bit about the premise.

The Songwriter Circle is a regular 8pm-10pm thing. Tuesday nights at MacGregors. It’s run by Nicki Murray, and friends. Here’s a link to his stuff, and also a gratuitous link to an interview with the man himself by our buds at Inverness Gigs.
And fuck it, here’s him/ them in another incantation, playing at Sofar Sounds. Not massively them, to be honest, more Lydia Bennett. I’ll put this in though while I’m doing gratuitous plugs – not because I know her, but I have heard her before and her voice is lovely, so why not. We’re here to promote music, and she’s worth promoting, definitely, as is SoFar Sessions. You’re welcome.

C:\Users\Chris\Writing\Nettle Reviews\Photos\Songwriters Circle MacGregors\Songwriters Circle 1.PNG

Back on track. Sometimes the Songwriters Circle has a small number of people playing, sometimes the place is rammed. I’ve been a few times, but finally with a camera and an inclination to write about it.

The premise of it is as it sounds. People come, whoever wants to turn up on the night. They play their own original music.
Whereas there’s a lot of crossover obviously with elements such as the MacGregors and Hoots Trad sessions, in that all are welcome and that people join in on the songs if they want, there are distinct differences which make it worth a look in its own right.
[*Note: unfortunately, I wanted to link to the details on the MacGregors website, but it was being slow, annoying and rather (read very) shit. For a good wee pub, they dropped the ball on this. These sessions also aren’t listed on their events calendar either it seems, but then again most don’t seem to be… However, here’s a link to at least something in order to get a feel of their other more traditional sessions. Hopefully close enough is good enough.]

The feel of these comparators is mostly just for the lazy drinking souls of us like me, though. If you’re a songwriter, and looking for a bit of community, or just an area to practice your songs with an audience, I’m sure there’s a whole world of difference to this weekly regular gig.

The chance to get there and have a bit of community was something that I could see looking into the Circle from my vantage point on the near outside. Hopefully this perspective is not a mere projection, or blowing wind up your arse, as it did feel like the support thing and the ability to share and have space and a voice were important components for those playing.

 

And for those playing on Tuesday the 19th of March [for those interested in structure, this is where the general ‘this is what this thing is about’ turns to the review of the night] this did seem to be the case, looking on.

This night, there was mostly Nicki, and one other playing. There was another guy there, the guy that you exclusively see the back of the head of from my photos. Don’t think that I’m doing him an injustice though. I got there a little late, but he was seemingly happy to be just a support for others in this. If he’s there playing another night, then maybe one of you good people will get the chance to see him tear it up, unlike me. However, I guess this is another element of the concept, that people can input as much or as little as they want, they can build their confidence over time if they want, they can do whatever they want. It’s that kinda place.

Nicky playing music, whatever the variation of performers on the night, is always something to see. The ease at which that bastard picks up on the music around him is a sight to see in itself.

 

A case in point. The guy in the photos with the beard. Sorry, didn’t get his name, but again, that’s not massively the point of these sessions. Anyway, he’s there sitting and talking about the next song he’s playing. He states that he had the chorus down pat, but that the verses came to him just the night before. International premiere of fresh virginal come down literally in the last shower song. Good song too, by the way, nice dark comedic tone of the way technology is sculpting our relationship with life these days. Anyway, he’s playing it for the 1st time, so working without a net. As he’s going along, Nicki decides to pick up a violin. He plucks it for a second, then decides that the best way to go is to draw the bow across the strings. And at that, they are off. Main guy having beautiful little support strings, with happy campers like me in the audience.

If I write about Nicki again, I’ll bore you with this again. But he has talent to burn. Lovely, raspy, soulful voice as well. And in these sessions, he has shown the ability to create these moments for audience as well as for himself, and for the other musicians.

I have been pretty positive in my reviews of late, but not going to change that here. It was a good night. It’s a joy to watch him do his thing. The eclectic range of what else you’re gonna get in these sessions is a bonus.

C:\Users\Chris\Writing\Nettle Reviews\Photos\Songwriters Circle MacGregors\Songwriters Circle 2.PNG

Actually, for bonus, there were a couple. One was the voice of this lady shown here. It was indicative of what I’m trying to highlight. She was nervous but wanting to sing. She got care and support in the circle, and from this found her voice. I’m glad she did, it’s was a beautiful, crisp, tender timbre. Most excellent. She also found her confidence, surprising even herself by getting up again a few songs later for a second song herself.

Another bonus was the other main player for the night, who decided to stay on after the scheduled 10pm, just for the fact that he was enjoying playing, and we were enjoying listening. It’s the way things should work, and here, on this night, in this place they did.

If you like hearing new voices and original songs, it’s worth a look. I imagine that if you’re a songwriter and want a supportive space to try them out in public, I imagine that these sessions hold even more meaning and promise.

This is one of the good things going on for live music in Inverness. And what else are you going to be doing on a Tuesday night…

C:\Users\Chris\Writing\Nettle Reviews\Photos\Songwriters Circle MacGregors\Songwriters Circle 5.PNG

 

Tweed – Hootananny – 08/03/19

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Getting caught up in the moment with Tweed

By Cornwallace

C:\Users\Chris\Writing\Nettle Reviews\Photos\Tweed 4.PNG

Last Friday night, the 8th of March, there was a plan. Sure, it was a vague plan that could have been etched on the back of a stamp, but it was a fine plan, nonetheless.

Celebration! Good news the excuse, a friend having got a new job and wanting a pint or 3 to highlight the fact that they could now actually go out again and afford a pint or 3. Or at least could now handle the idea of the debt of it, now that a pay check was in the foreseeable future.

The plan didn’t extend beyond thoughts of raising the glass in celebration of the fact. Definitely didn’t extend to things like working out where to go or what to do. But as a point to meet up with others heading into town, the two of us decided, reasonably, that Hoots was a good central place to do that with a decent beer in hand.

So it was that we got there, managed to fluke a pretty decent table, which is a pretty rare occurrence in Hoots, and settle down for glasses being raised.

The band in this scene, from this vantage point, was not part of the plan. They did turn out to be an added bonus, however.

Tweed, the band, bottom of Hoots, the place.

C:\Users\Chris\Writing\Nettle Reviews\Photos\Tweed 1.PNG

The blunt fact of the matter is that while I love live music, it wasn’t the focus I had in mind. That it – that they, Tweed – were able to infiltrate in and make their presence not only felt but welcomed, says most of what I want to say in this review.

It is an interesting thing to start to see or to feel a band through the actions of another. Sitting, talking shit across the table, I thought that it would be a combination of luck to see the band on offer in the place, counterbalanced against having to shout louder against the noise.

Being a lover of live music, it wasn’t as though the band was ever going to be totally ignored in the mix of goings-on. We saw them set up, heard them start, knew that the dynamic in the room generally had started to sway attention their way, even if we were mid-flight in whatever topic we were on at that stage.

Sat turned away from the stage, I could hear them before see them. I also got to see them in the movements of my partner in crime for the night. Their fingers started to unconsciously tap along in time to the beat. Their shoulders started moving a bit too. They were nodding away as well, making a happy triumvirate of unconscious interest in what they were hearing. Not paying attention to the music at this stage, but it infiltrating into the moment at hand anyway. So with acknowledgement of the fact, we turned to give them a better look.

C:\Users\Chris\Writing\Nettle Reviews\Photos\Tweed 5.PNG

Tweed are in there among a swathe of bands that I have just now decide to make up a collective noun for. By way of ironic but timely, zeitgeist-y e.g. of a collective noun, in these wonderful, unstable death throw times of the end of Brexit (Stage 1 at least), I give my e.g. collective noun as a Parliament of Owls. The irony part being the association with Owls being symbols of wisdom, as opposed to what Westminster is throwing up just now. Incompetent motherfuckers.
Anyway, I digress. So, back away from the politics, and back to the band and explaining their sound.

The made up collective noun category is “Traditional ‘Plus’.
There are probably much better terms. If you know one, or want to create a better one, please do so – attach it below in the comments section, or however you need to go about it. But for me, this kinda works. The difference between such bands of course, like the devil being in the detail, being in the term ‘Plus.’ There are a number of bands coming at it from this basis, and branching out to do their own individual thing from this.
This is what Tweed do. And do well.

C:\Users\Chris\Writing\Nettle Reviews\Photos\Tweed 2.PNG

Tweed definitely take their roots from traditional local music, however they do diverge from that. Not just in the music choice, but in saying that, their rendition of A-Has ‘Take on Me’ worked really well. The others we were meeting had arrived by then, settled down and got straight down into the music on the strength of this good quality cover to start the 2nd set.

For the gig at hand, mostly Tweed – this night at least – opted for the upbeat. The bouncing, jigging, get people up and dancing tempo. They mentioned a couple of times that they were hoping a few more people to get up and join in on the dance floor, but from my vantage point at the back they were doing pretty well in this. There were enough people up and moving, but others at their tables were still getting into it and enjoying it too, tapping toes, smiling, engaging, liking.

The violinist out front was a straight up and down frontman. Seemed very happy with being front and centre. Bouncing, firing up, pushing the speed on the songs a little when required.

As an aside, he also had a tendency to play while stood in a pose I associate with and had almost considered the exclusive domain of bass players in metal bands. Imagine long hair hung down over the face, bass hung low to the knees and legs like they’re warming up for a limbo competition. That’s the sort of distant spread action he managed to cultivate, only with fiddle in hand, and short-slicked hair, most of the time tucked under a hip, and without fully remembering, fuck it, I’ll put it out there, tweed hat. Yeah, let’s say it was tweed. Correct me if I’m wrong.

C:\Users\Chris\Writing\Nettle Reviews\Photos\Tweed 6.PNG

Have to admit, despite the incongruity of his presence and image to that which his stretched leg stance pushed into my head, i.e. of bass metal players, I liked his presence on stage. To be fair, the other 2 on stage also seemed to me more than happy with this arrangement as well. He was putting a good store of energy into the performance, as well as talent. They all had talent, come to that, however there was but one front man, and they all worked well with this fact.

Along with the majority of faster, bouncy songs, they also provided a good allotment of slower tunes as well. I was more than happy with this. I liked the faster songs, but the slower ones added a great deal. This is where a lot more emotional diversity was at play in the music. Put simply, they could pull the heart strings as much as the toe-tapping. There was some great controlled, mournful, thoughtful, resonant, haunting beauty coming out of the sower songs, putting on display the beauty of the fiddle, as well as the rest of the instruments. The faster songs got the people up and dancing, but the slower ones were the ones where the audience arched their necks for a better look.

Tweed played a good set. It had all you could hope for. The ‘Traditional Plus’ genre of music comes in a variety of forms, however they seemed have worked out their particular angle in this and worked it well. It is not the sort of category to please all punters, however, if you’re inclined to this type of music, then you’re probably going to be pretty please to get along and see Tweed, as I was. I hope to see them again, sometime. Hopefully, like this time, I/ we will get caught up in the music once again when we do.

C:\Users\Chris\Writing\Nettle Reviews\Photos\Tweed 3.PNG