A thought, a story, and a monster come to life: Frankenstein on stage at Eden Court

Tommy Ga-Ken Wan
Reading Time: 9 minutes

 

  • By Cornwallace

[Unrelated Preface – skip if and as required]

It is a new year, a new decade, and a new, expanded focus for The Nettle.

Actually, I say that like it means something. I also say that like there’s a degree of solidity in the planning and clarity in the direction ahead, and that would be unfair on all involved. Us included.

At present, the plan – such as it is – is broad-brushstroke, but within that there’s the idea of world domination. Actually, less that, and more so expansion to include wider support for the array of goings on in Inverness. We want to promote and support this beautiful bastard of a place, and talk up that which goes on here. So we have started the shift on this premise. That’s kinda as far as we have got, but it is a pretty good start!

 

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Inverness fights above its weight in this respect of what there is to see and do. This is despite fucked up thoughts like Mad Hatters planning to become yet another fucking backpackers as the millionaire owner is sulking about council tax
(*Hypocrisy Alert* – The Council is fucking up a lot of things left right and centre at the moment in a desperate attempt to claw back the debt it fucked up so bad in drowning in the weight of, so maybe (most likely) Hoots does have a point.
It’s just so fucking sad that such an institution is playing games like this in order to keep sitting on their fat stacks of cash. The Council very likely are the ones stuffing up, but Hoots, please don’t go the backpackers route. It would be beyond shit. Stay a beloved institution. It’s worth more, and hopefully more money for you too! This is said as a plea/ vote for staying as Mad Hatters – take it as a positive opinion from a fan.)

Anyway, generally Inverness is a small place with much more going on that one would reasonably expect, punters just have to get out there and give it a go, especially – as the Hoots example above shows – should they want to keep the options option.

And it is in this light that the broad-brushstroke kernel of a plan is starting to germinate at Nettle HQ. And this is also a handy segue to the topic at hand – a review of a theatre play at Eden Court.

We’ve dabbled with a variety of events before, but this is hopefully the start of such things being embedded as standard practice. So no pressure on the below review…
Luckily The Nettle is not that sort of place. Remember this if you ever want to sign up and give reviewing a go. All more than welcome to ask us if you want to.

Actual Review

https://eden-court.co.uk/news/facing-victor-frankenstein

https://eden-court.co.uk/news/frankenstein-a-thrilling-new-adaption

The above are links to Eden Court and its promotion of the play whose run was for the better part of the last week.
They are obviously going to more organised and professional and such than this review, and talk of the backgrounding, history, timing, influence, etc. as to the what when why and so forth of the play.

They cover what the company planned the show to be. The Nettle, as is our way, give you how it was on a particular night, from the perspective as from being in the audience.

I’m writing this on Sunday, after seeing it mid-run. Eden Court were particularly unambiguous in their insistence that people did not film, photograph, record (and about 3 other highlighted variations, I’m sure) the performance, so the only photo we have is from shuffling in and settling down in our seats before the play.

Someone (well, Woolly Dermal, to be exact) said that to them, the play was very Escher-esque. Fair call. Let’s have a look:

So the stage construction – let’s go there first.

How they set up the space was both atmospheric and integral. They utilised the space for all it was worth, sometimes overly so.
See the trees (hopefully you can) that formed the front posts of the verandas – they milked those bastards for all they were worth. The cast were scuttling up and down those all the time. They were the only way to get between the two levels – sorry, not true, but the only way that was visible to the audience, and they were scampering up and down all play.

The thing about a proper theatre as a venue is how much kit that they have set up for setting the scene. It allows for a flexibility that meant that this basic set-up of the stage could be used for any and all settings and scenes required.
Lighting turned up and chandelier lowered down into view and we were at the glowing happy (at least at the start) home of the Frankenstein family in Geneva. The railing of the balcony alternatively becomes that of/ at the university, Victor and Elizabeth’s wedding bed chamber, or the railing of a ship in an Artic expedition.
Neon flashing tubes strung throughout and we were heart and soul into Victor Frankenstein’s laboratory, as well as the beginnings of his descent into – well, into what the writer Mary Shelley as writer and constructor of this tale decided what was to be his fate, in order to produce the book she wanted, in order to create the reaction in the audience in the reader that she wanted.

It is this point above about Mary Shelley which is crux to the understanding of this version of the play and what they were focusing on here which made it such an interesting interpretation of the classic text. I’ll get there in just a second, just want to wrap up on the stage setting.

The use of the space, the smoke machine, the lighting, and the mood evoked were excellent. I thought they overused at times the classic horror noise mechanism of the ‘jump scare’ – a loud flash of noise to frighten. However, these mostly did get the audience to jump and offered some of the most visceral scares of the play, so gonna go easy on this overuse. Maybe the use of such tropes being part of a reproduction of a classic is an important component part in itself.

Which leads to the nature of the play. As said by the character of Mary on stage, it’s horror, but mainly it is science. Science as fiction but in order for the fiction to better tell the truth.

However you want to classify it, Mary Shelly’s novel has caught the collective imagination for just over 200 years now. So much to be said about it, about her, about the context, how ground-breaking it was in a number of ways, how embedded in and part of the zeitgeist it was at the time. It is one of the most utilised metaphors, and reproduced of stories over the last couple of centuries as well.
It also happens to be one of my favourite novels, so there was plenty of incentive to see the play.

This production showed there is always something in the story – and importantly in the ideas sparked which sit behind the story. That it still has life in it to produce new – and importantly, interesting – variations on the theme.

I’m going to indulge in a guilty pleasure and stating that this production was ‘meta.’ Who doesn’t like to chuck that word out there!
The layers in it were very true to the novel, and the telling of it true also, i.e. that it jumps forwards and backwards through the timeline of the story.

There’s stuff I can describe in that, but would make the review longer, and you can get that info about the book stacks of places. This is about the production. In this play, this bouncing around of time is counterbalanced with an in-time progression of the character of Mary, writing a book.

She starts with having a great premise, and a setting, but fretting about not having a beginning to the novel. So she wheels her writing desk on stage and talks to us, as audience, for it is her audience that she is thinking about in her writing.
She says how she doesn’t want to have a standard story, such as a romance where they all walk away happy in the end. She wants it to be horror, but more science. By saying ‘science,’ please read that as the potential of it as understood 200 years ago. An e.g. of that mindset was highlighted near the start of the play, when Frankenstein’s dad encourages him to study abroad. The characters are watching a storm and he talks of the potential for science to soon be able to catch lightening. To catch electricity, the underlying forces of life and nature.

This scene set the overriding context – how the writer wanted to get into the imagination of her audience. In it, she had a patch of the story, then got writer’s block, so went back to this as the defining premise. The character of Mary also mused how she’d have to treat the characters in order to achieve this. Not pleasantly, as it turned out.

One of the elements I liked most was the character of Mary. Sometimes starting off the dialogue to have it overtaken by the characters, and being on stage but set aside, the main action being acted out while she is madly scribbling it all down, and sometimes voicing elements in tandem with the other actors as they come to her.
At other times she would cut across the story, or influence it to change it as if she decided only at that very moment in the creation process that she was herself overwhelmed by the direction of the story – which we are told is centred around the character that came in her nightmares. She would halt proceedings, sometimes pull them in other directions, sometimes let her own horror go where it would, with the risk to herself known and accepted.

They plunge into the concept, into the premise, and away we go.

This produced moments after in chat with pint, dissecting it as often happens after seeing something – anything – good and engaging, which this was. The idea of Victor Frankenstein in the middle of the meta word. Him on stage with his own creation, while also on stage with Mary Shelly who created them both.
These thoughts were bounced around with ones about the quality of the action, how engaging it was, how good the base story is that they were working off. Also how by focusing on the process of the mind of the author while writing the book and seeing the nightmare she wished to both understand and unfurl ‘come to life,’ as it were.

Which brings us to that nightmare. And what would this review be without any talk of the monster.

This is a hard one to grapple with in this production, for the answer is that the construction of it, for all the rest of the production value, was so so.
The acting was great – another thought shared over a pint later. There was the epoch of refined and cultured humanity represented by the Frankenstein family and their friends, and among this setting was the monster. For me, the character of Victor was played with great intensity and talent – seeing him consumed in his work, repulsed at what it created, going from delirium to despondency to desperate delusional deeds was seriously well done.
However, it was the character of the monster that allowed for the most intense examination of the vagaries of humanity. This was very well played out by the actor, however he wasn’t working with the best resources the play had to offer. No appendages, deformities or maladaptations of the body. The scars and all things representing his hideous ‘run away on contact’ terrifying ugliness looked more like what a bunch of lager louts would unleash on the first one of them to pass out drunk, should they have a bit of mud and a Sharpie on them to play with. Not bad, just underwhelming.

The character of Henry, Victor’s best friend, was also a bit of a disappointment. Again not bad, but the character was meant to be a stand-up sort, a positive and bright-eyed counterpoint to Victor’s decent. Instead he came across as kind of childish and simplistic. It was notable that the same actor also played the child brother William Frankenstein, and at times it was hard to tell which character was being portrayed. Apart from that though, performances were solid, and resonated well, including the other roles by that same actor, all of which meaning I was a fan of the production overall.

I seem to have a cycle of activity with theatre. I see it, think it’s great and swear I’m going to see more of it. Then I don’t and say it the next time, a year or more down the track. It’s a habit and this play reminded me that it is a bad habit.

It was between £20-£30 depending on where you were sitting, so it is reasonably expensive. But I am reminded it’s worth saving or splurging for at times, and Frankenstein was one of those times. The talent of the acting, the engagement in the moment, and the good turn on a great story made this an excellent rendition of a classic. Good on them!

*Cover photo by Tommy Ga-Ken Wan

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Under the Sun, Under the Sea, JocktoberFest 2019

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Who doesn’t love a good theme?  Who doesn’t love it when a bunch of people get into a theme?  Who doesn’t love when a good theme comes off, and the weather pitches in to help as well?

Others thought that such brash predictions were tempting fate, but I was betting on JockoberFest coming through with the good re the sunshine once more this year, and it came through with aplomb!  The weekend before, when it would have potentially been on in previous years, was fucking awful.  Might have added to the theme of under the water if everything was literally under the water, but for mine, I am happy that the festival continued to ride its luck of the last few years re weather. 

One problem with having the weather that good is the practicalities of seeing the bands.  Of course seeing bands in the sun is great, but soaking it in up in the campsite is also a large temptation.

The day leading up on the Friday flowed well.  Good progress on some stuff, leaving my brain cleaner of ‘life admin’ for the weekend ahead.  Once you get into the mood and the swing of JoctoberFest then happily these things tend to fall away anyway, but a good start was had.  We got to the campsite and got set up and had a drink in the sun, and a catch-up.  More people came trickling in, and it was easier for a while to greet them and soak in the sun a little more. 

After a wee while though Woolly Dermal and I thought we’d get our noses in the arena and see what it felt like.

The first impressions were not good.  Actually, that’s both incorrect and harsh.  This is J’Fest, and it was looking beautiful.  They had set up the theme well, and people were already dressing up.  Got to meet the M.U.F.F. Diver in gold before we even got in there.  His was one of the best costumes for the weekend, but there kept on being newcomers all the time.  Effort and talent = style, it seems.

The layout was slightly different, but where the food vans are isn’t going to make or break the weekend.  But coming in, we saw the sides of the Dutch Barn had been walled in.  As it turned out, later on part of the back wall could be peeled back to let light in and music out.  However, the first impression lead to the thought of whether this was a good or bad change.  I’m still not sure.  I figure it’s really good for a working farm, and slightly diminished experience for the festival.

Woolley is a fan of photography and loved the light you get through the open barn, so was concerned about the pictures to be taken.  These were more professional thoughts than me, in relation to reviews. 
I was feeling good, again, about the weekend ahead at Black Isle Brewery.  My thoughts centred on what I wanted to do right then and there. 
I wanted to stand bang in the sunshine with a pint, and see the band that was starting.  However, I was looking instead at the side of a barn.   

There’s a reason there’s the term ‘you couldn’t hit the side of a barn.’  It’s because they’re fucking huge.  And the band was hidden on the other side, so we wandered in, and the next thing was that they had concreted the floor of the barn.  It was a shame from the ambience, and also the feel of the hay and that it is an organic farm with organic feel, but enough of those types of feelings for now.  The main feeling is that with walls and a concrete floor to adjust to, the sound production was really hit and miss throughout the weekend.  Some was good, some was bouncing all over the shop.

In terms of this, I’ll go straight to the counterbalance of all the good stuff I’m saying around this.  The counterbalance came to me when someone mentioned that they had been going for about 13 years as a festival.  My base, immediate thought on this was how on Earth they didn’t know how to get their shit together better after having done it that long.  Just some things that make you wonder.

There has previously been big board in the arena with running sheets, but this was absent this year.  They now had beer barrels behind the stage in the Dutch Barn though, and these were great props. 

[My thought for free for the Black Isle, if they can’t put a board up of the bands and times on the wall, maybe put them on the front of these barrels. Easy, and much more handy than how things went]. 

Around about 4-ish on the Saturday, I walked in to hear a band started on the Dutch Barn perfectly in the middle of when the sheet said the gap was, so assumed it just the event running a touch late, but who knows.  There were last minute leads swaps and dashes to grab equipment between bands, or bands filling in gaps at the last second but just jumping on stage as asked/ required.  I did miss details of who I was actually seeing sometimes, however have tried to recreate accurately in the next review, which will be about the music. 

The funny thing I find about this is that it is actually a bit shit and disorganised and how they haven’t scrubbed up these sort of things by now is beyond reason.  However, it also really, really doesn’t matter that much in a lot of ways either. 

The bands were obviously pitching in and have their heart and soul on the line.  A number of them even were in the fluro vests directing us in on the Friday night in the car park. 

The bar staff were efficient, courteous, managed well and must have taking a huge amount of money for good quality beer over the bar.  Who can hate capitalist democracy so much, even in the times of “He who came after May,” when you can be so happy about a business transaction where they quickly get you good beer in exchange for money!? 

Along side this, the punters got into it, and so did the weather.  What’s not to love.  I did love it there again.  I do love JoctoberFest!  There, you went and made me confess feelings, and I was avoiding trying to review it above on the strength of feelings. 
But then again, looking back at it, that is the strong point of the festival.   Its brain could use some sharpening, but its heart and soul which is what’ll get me back there again next year.  Hope to see some of you back there again, too.

Cornwallace.

Jocktoberfest 2019 – preview

Reading Time: 4 minutes

JocktoberFest 2019 – A preview big on memories, short on facts:

Hello there all. Unlike my fellow castaways who washed up here at TheNettle, I didn’t get to Belladrum (Note – it’s an ‘Under The Sea’ theme for JocktoberFest this year. I’m going to milk the thematic wordplay out of that until I get sick of it – fair warning).

Bella a lovely festival. A piece of wonder – everyone agrees. However, not having a pirate’s hoard at my disposal last month, I had to sit it out, Otis Redding style. This is a strange way to start a review on an entirely different festival, with an entirely different feel – I do realise this. However, as Belladrum is probably sitting fresh in the minds of many, it is a good counterpoint to show both what J’Fest is, and what it is not. And as I missed Bella because of the vast amounts of money required to both get there and eat and drink there, the first points of comparison go very clearly to those putting on the show at the Black Isle Brewery, for the pure fact of being able to afford to get there. At about ¼ of the price, I’m not only getting there, I’m planning to indulge (in an adult and responsible way, naturally) in the other good things of the festival.

Some of these things are in the realms of the Gods. That it is ‘under the sea’ as a theme, I hope that they haven’t piqued the interest of Poseidon – there’s been a blissful run of quite unseasonably fucking fantastic weather at JocktoberFest the last few years, and I’m hoping that this continues, and is not feeling under the sea in either the campsite or the staged areas. There’s a whole heap of straw they inevitably put around, but here’s hoping it doesn’t need to soak up the mud and the rain, and that the sunshiney goodness run of the last few years continues.

Of the things that can be controlled, they do it well. As a brewery, they have both the opportunity as well as a good knack of trialling a range of their experimental and upcoming beers on the punters. I was more than happy about that last year, although what I thought was the pick of the bunch (Brown Bear Ale, from memory) never made it into the pubs, so maybe there’s more going on in that calculus than I know. If you are from the Brewery and thinking of putting this beer back on this year – please do. I shall ensure (in an adult and responsible way) that it is a profitable decision…

Anyway, the beers are good. The music is good. The food is good. I have missed out on the lamb the last 2 years, so have another suggestion while I have the chance – if your gonna kill one sheep for the pleasure of the bloodthirsty mob, why not another? Twice the profit, twice the greasy joy on the lips of the paying public. We could even sacrifice them in the name of Poseidon in the hope He keeps the waters at bay. Mmmm, sacrilicious!

When it comes down to it, JocktoberFest boils down to a few simple things. A small festival where you get characters at play. People you know, and people you bump into enough times in the small space that you get a chance to know them if ya wanna. The dressing up thing is always a thing which is taken on board by a good % of the crowd as well, so besides being hilarious and creatively inventive, it is also a good angle to start up a chat if you’re that was inclined. Which many seem to be at this festival which is all about the snug comfy closeness of it all.

In terms of music, I can honestly say I haven’t much paid attention yet. However, I’ve perused Fremsley’s useful, short rundown and have a few options now to start thinking about.

All you really need to know is that they focus on local as well as up-and-coming acts. The festival gives them a chance to perform in front of a decent, happy, swing-along-into-it crowd. What this means for the most part is that the crowd gee-up the bands, the bands who are having an opportunity gee-up the crowd, and it is a lovely rising tide of good times there right at your fingertips, should you choose to be down in the stage area. You might just as easily be soaking in the sun and atmosphere up at your tent, or knee-deep talking intense bollocks to someone for the sheer joy if it. These things all happen at J’Fest.

If you’re inclined to angle towards the bands, you might not know all of them unless you’re a die-hard music aficionado, but it really doesn’t matter. It is a festival in which to explore such things. To try new bands, check them out, enjoy them if you do, wander off if you don’t or go and lie in the sun near your tent just as likely as well, full of good food, good drink, and those warm fuzzy feelings that primary school teachers like to talk about. I’m hoping to get to see some new bands and become a fan of some of them, but if I don’t then I know I’m still going be loving JocktoberFest for the other bits of goodness floating around.

If you’re inclined towards such things, as all at The Nettle are, then head along. There’s gonna be at least one thing there that’ll make you happy you did.

  • Cornwallace.

 

Under the Sun, Under the Sea, JocktoberFest 2019

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Under the Sun, Under the Sea, JocktoberFest 2019

  • Cornwallace

Who doesn’t love a good theme? Who doesn’t love it when a bunch of people get into a theme? Who doesn’t love when a good theme comes off, and the weather pitches in to help as well?

Others thought that such brash predictions were tempting fate, but I was betting on JoockoberFest coming through with the good re the sunshine once more this year, and it came through with aplomb! The weekend before, when it would have potentially been on in previous years, was fucking awful. Might have added to the theme of under the water if everything was literally under the water, but for mine, I am happy that the festival continued to ride its luck of the last few years re weather.

Loving the wee detail on the top of the head!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One problem with having the weather that good is the practicalities of seeing the bands. Of course seeing bands in the sun is great, but soaking it in up in the campsite is also a large temptation.

The day leading up on the Friday flowed well. Good progress on some stuff, leaving my brain cleaner of ‘life admin’ for the weekend ahead. Once you get into the mood and the swing of JoctoberFest then happily these things tend to fall away anyway, but a good start was had. We got to the campsite and got set up and had a drink in the sun, and a catch-up. More people came trickling in, and it was easier for a while to greet them and soak in the sun a little more.

After a wee while though Woolly Dermal and I thought we’d get our noses in the arena and see what it felt like.

Ahm Old Gregg!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first impressions were not good. Actually, that’s both incorrect and harsh. This is J’Fest, and it was looking beautiful. They had set up the theme well, and people were already dressing up. Got to meet the M.U.F.F. Diver in gold before we even got in there. His was one of the best costumes for the weekend, but there kept on being newcomers all the time. Effort and talent = style, it seems.

The layout was slightly different, but where the food vans are isn’t going to make or break the weekend. But coming in, we saw the sides of the Dutch Barn had been walled in. As it turned out, later on part of the back wall could be peeled back to let light in and music out. However, the first impression lead to the thought of whether this was a good or bad change. I’m still not sure. I figure it’s really good for a working farm, and slightly diminished experience for the festival.

Woolley is a fan of photography and loved the light you get through the open barn, so was concerned about the pictures to be taken. These were more professional thoughts than me, in relation to reviews.
I was feeling good, again, about the weekend ahead at Black Isle Brewery. My thoughts centred on what I wanted to do right then and there.
I wanted to stand bang in the sunshine with a pint, and see the band that was starting. However, I was looking instead at the side of a barn.

There’s a reason there’s the term ‘you couldn’t hit the side of a barn.’ It’s because they’re fucking huge. And the band was hidden on the other side, so we wandered in, and the next thing was that they had concreted the floor of the barn. It was a shame from the ambience, and also the feel of the hay and that it is an organic farm with organic feel, but enough of those types of feelings for now. The main feeling is that with walls and a concrete floor to adjust to, the sound production was really hit and miss throughout the weekend. Some was good, some was bouncing all over the shop.

In terms of this, I’ll go straight to the counterbalance of all the good stuff I’m saying around this. The counterbalance came to me when someone mentioned that they had been going for about 13 years as a festival. My base, immediate thought on this was how on Earth they didn’t know how to get their shit together better after having done it that long. Just some things that make you wonder.

Under the sea was embraced by many, helping make Jocktoberfest the vibrant intimate festival that it is!

There has previously been big board in the arena with running sheets, but this was absent this year. They now had beer barrels behind the stage in the Dutch Barn though, and these were great props.

[My thought for free for the Black Isle, if they can’t put a board up of the bands and times on the wall, maybe put them on the front of these barrels. Easy, and much more handy than how things went].

Around about 4ish on the Saturday, I walked in to hear a band started on the Dutch Barn perfectly in the middle of when the sheet said the gap was, so assumed it just the event running a touch late, but who knows. There were last minute leads swaps and dashes to grab equipment between bands, or bands filling in gaps at the last second but just jumping on stage as asked/ required. I did miss details of who I was actually seeing sometimes, however have tried to recreate accurately in the next review, which will be about the music.

The funny thing I find about this is that it is actually a bit shit and disorganised and how they haven’t scrubbed up these sort of things by now is beyond reason. However, it also really, really doesn’t matter that much in a lot of ways either.

 

The bands were obviously pitching in and have their heart and soul on the line. A number of them even were in the fluro  vests directing us in on the Friday night in the car park.

Top notch get-up, drinking some top notch beer

The bar staff were efficient, courteous, managed well and must have taking a huge amount of money for good quality beer over the bar. Who can hate capitalist democracy so much, even in the times of “He who came after May,” when you can be so happy about a business transaction where they quickly get you good beer in exchange for money!?

Along side this, the punters got into it, and so did the weather. What’s not to love. I did love it there again. I do love JoctoberFest! There, you went and made me confess feelings, and I was avoiding trying to review it above on the strength of feelings.
But then again, looking back at it, that is the strong point of the festival. Its brain could use some sharpening, but its heart and soul which is what’ll get me back there again next year. Hope to see some of you back there again, too.

Cornwallace.

 

XpoNorth 2019 – Listening learning liking at XpoNorth 2019 part 2

Reading Time: 13 minutes

Part 2: Thursday night music

Part one of reviewing XpoNorth for 2019 turned out to be long enough talking about the daytime programme and the Wednesday night music. So I split it up, and hence the birth of ‘Part 2’ here. This will just focus on the Thursday night music and atmosphere for XpoNorth this year.

The atmosphere. This is an interesting element. Interesting, and hard to definitively quantify. I was wondering how to bring this up, but might as well get into it from the beginning. Mostly I’m hedging my bets here as there’s parts that are inherently – at least on 1st look – self-contradictory. Basically, there were some packed out places, and some amazing gigs with amazing atmosphere. However, for that, neither night out had anywhere the same feel as they have had in the last few years. By this, I mean the buzz out in the street.


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 below 😉

 

Finally this year I knew about XpoNorth in advance, and was talking it up to people trying to coax them out and into having a great time.
Part of the (legitimate) sales tactics was the feel of the atmosphere around town. In previous years there has been a palpable energy buzzing through the wee small heart of Inverness. People bouncing and launching through the night, meeting up and raving about what they had just seen, and convincing others to head in their direction to the next band.
Notably there was that feel within a small patch between the PentaHotel, The Phoenix and the IronWorks. This area possibly came out best in this element this year. While there was a little bit of it through Church Street, it was way down on the last few years. Any area apart from that was noticeably diminished in this respect this year. A bit of high energy lurking out the front of the Tooth & Claw, but definitely nothing which extended further through the streets, which was a metric of joy that I had felt in the last few years, but much less this year.

Yet this contrasts with the feel within the venues themselves. As it does, the Market was fucking rammed in with people. On the Wednesday night I did attempt to get in there to see Run Into the Night. I saw about half a song, and they looked fun – 2 piece with talent and attitude (although for the space being 2 people could have taken up far less of the precious, precious space which is such a premium in the Market Bar). Getting past where they had spread themselves through to the bar to actually get a pint felt like a hopeless cause. I did hear another song before this half song, but that was in the slow process of ‘one out, one in’ leaking of people out of the space before I could even turn into the inner door to see them. Should have given them more of a go, in retrospect, but that the band stood in the way of the bar leaving a big empty space (including the tiny empty stage) behind them, coupled with the fact they’d be done before beer was in hand made for a bad choice, I think now.

This packed out feel was the case in a number of places on Thursday night.

The Phoenix, as per last year, showcased itself as a genuinely good place to put on music. It is my firm hope that they understand the potential here and pick up on it and become another venue throughout the year, as opposed to just 2 nights a year for XpoNorth. I didn’t get to the PentaHotel this year, but again it turned out to be a much better place for a gig than expected. The range and quality of the beer was pish last year, but the bands good, and the venue much better than expected. Again, any potential to expand options for bands in Inverness, TheNettle.scot is keen on.

So that was the counterbalance of the feel for the night. Good in places, much more dead than previous years out n’ aboot in town. But to the actual music…

Ukku:

Apologies first up for Ukku, for not bothering to chase up how to type their name with the Umlaut over the first ‘U’. However, this factor was instrumental in me getting there to see them. I hadn’t done the research as per previous years, so decided to take on board the ‘betting on horses’ philosophy of choosing by feel for the name and just taking a punt on luck. Ukku had on umlaut and were also palindromic, so were sure fire winners on a number of fronts. [ed. note –  To access the umlauted vowels (ö, ü, ä) use the following keyboard shortcuts. Hold down the “ctrl” and “shift” keys then hit semicolon. Let up on all keys, then type the vowel you want, but it’s key to the story here]

In writing this, I can see that the XpoNorth programme for the night has links to the bands and they link out to their own sites, but there’s not much detail on the actual created pages for each of the bands.
I take this as another odd weakness in the running of what is otherwise a great event. Again, another weakness which is born out by not practising what the content they delivered in the day about selling yourself in the creative industries. Odd, but a small consistent theme that XpoNorth wouldn’t have to put too much work into to improve.

However, back to Ukku!

The classic, easy way to try to classify them was ‘ethereal.’ On their own Facebook page they state themselves as “hyper realistic fantasy art dream simulation, dream pop, synth-pop, post-punk, 80’s inspired”. I went to the site to see where they were from. I guessed ‘Nordic,’ and they say ‘Elven forest,’ so I’m calling that a correct guess.

The place wasn’t exactly packed, but it had a healthy amount of people filling the space, and for mine, the mood for them was a resounding positive. I put that in as most of this is just my thoughts, and mine are a bit more complicated than that, but I really wanted to put it up front and centre that I really liked them.

The lady in the front and the middle ostensibly was the controlling point and the fulcrum around which the whole structure worked. In saying that, the guy to the left was seriously good on the guitar and seemed to hold a confidence that reverberated and held the whole lot firm together.

For the lead, she was good. Although she wasn’t as good as she was hoping to be, at least not yet. This is one of the things you can say about acts which are so young (the drummer on the machine that looked like she was tapping on 6 coasters lined up was surely the youngest in the entire programme). There were things that you could see that she (the singer and front person) was trying to do, places she was trying to take it, but her voice wasn’t quite there yet.

It could be that I couldn’t get a decent photo of the front person because of things like my phone, or, obviously less likely, a lack of talent with the tech. I’ve settled on the theory that it was actually a synergistic effect between her resonate inner glow aura, combined with the light from her sparkly shoes. Occam’s Razor it is not, but it is a working theory at present, and one that helps explain my shit photos.

That’s not necessarily a huge criticism, considering what she was trying to do. There were times where you could tell she was trying to get a bit of growl into her voice, and it reminded me – in direction, if not action – of Deborah Harry, but she couldn’t quite get there, or didn’t quite have the confidence in her voice to go there.
On the other end of the scale, there were times where she was really trying to hold a quiet, ethereal note and it reminded me of the amazing joys of seeing Beth Gibbons. However, again, this is a big, big ask, and one that I hope she gets to in the future, but not one she could quite pull of this night.

That was the slight negative. The rest is all positive. In terms of influences, I’m sure that there’s many that one could pull out. They mention 80s synth, and at times the tone did remind me of The Cure and that balance between Goth and New Romantic 80s. Then again, I’m a fan of Goldfrapp and saw a fair bit of them floating about as well. Fuck it, chucking a bit of Air in there, while I’m on the subject. Kinobe too, just cause. And Christine and the Queens seeing I’m going down this path, because I find myself listening to this song a bit at the moment.

All could be heard in there, with plenty more besides. It made me want to explore this genre again a bit more. Listening to such right now, in fact…

I think that this is a seriously interesting band. Good combination of mood, skill and some good lyrics and ideas thrown in. If they get back this way, I’d chase them up for another viewing, definitely!

Solareye:

Next cab off the rank was Solareye. Already, this is a lesson in the eclectic nature of festival programmes. The ways in which Solareye was particularly NOT the same as Ukku were many. To be fair, both relied heavily on feeding the music through a computer in aid of its construction. Apart from that though, we move to another genre entirely.

This is purely about the lyrics and the beat. More details on Solareye can be found in the review from Chips & Gravy, which I’ve just read, so hoping to not cherry-pick from their perceptive musings. For mine, this was the good bit about hip-hop. I know that there’s a lot of sub-genres going on here, between rap and hip-hop and a few other names/ classifications.
It is, to be fair, not one of my favourite genres, but when it is done right, as here, it is magnificent, and can extend from places and acts such as Dingwall’s own Spring Break, across to Everlast, and many, many other examples going to way back when and back to another firm personal favourite displaying the awe-inspiring skill and raw talent involved when it hits the mark.

When done wrong, for me, it is all about gold, guns, cars, bitches, and treating others like shit in order to talk yourself up. Sure there’s something cathartic about it all, and there’s a lot of class and race theory bound-up there that I don’t want to dismiss. Stating that, the negative can feel like a massive self congratulatory ‘I’m richer, better and more well sexed than you’ wank-fest, and as such it was a massive relief that Solareye was so utterly devoid of such aspects.

This is the antidote to that. The lyrics ranged from engaging, thoughtful social commentary, to the pure love of a day with his wee man. Love mixed with tearing his hair out in exhaustion. Also this song managed to fold in more commentary about life, love, and social commentary by way of reflection as to the way in which his wee boy reminds him how easy is actually is to be creative and imaginative, if we drop the constructions we create about ourselves in order to be an adult.

Talent, observation, reflectiveness, humour. Good. Very good.

Solareye was talked up by Fremsley and a few others as being the show to be at in the programme. It was a fair call. Not sure if it was the top of the bunch, but it was way up there. The power of the genre was up front and large here. Positive, reflective, caring, thoughtful, respectful, angry at times, but overarchingly an experience that leaves you thinking that there’s things that can be done to help. Maybe it was the best experience of XpoNorth, coming to think of it…

[**Editorial note: This is getting long, and I need to do other shit with my day, so from here on in, apologies to the bands, but the reviews are going to be more ‘succinct.’]

The Dazed Digital Age:

Just down the road from the Phoenix, a bunch of people were hyped up after Solareye and heading to The Ironworks to see The Dazed Digital Age. Actually, as an aside, this is another big plus for Solareye, as the mood of people coming out of The Phoenix and buzzing down the street after what they had just experienced was the highlight for me for the 2 nights in that thing I was mentioning earlier, i.e. the buzz on the street, which was much less this year, but which peaked at this short walk over to The Ironworks.

I’ve written about The Dazed Digital Age before, and seeing them again, the feeling continues. They do what they do well, and they are very much liked by the audience. I’m not their biggest fan, however. They seem to just be missing ‘something’ – that classic, unhelpful thought ‘something’.

The friend I was chatting to thought that they were too static on stage, that they needed a front man owning it in the middle. He liked them, but the term ‘two-dimensional’ was given, and I find myself quoting him for the accuracy of it. I am sure that when I have seen them before that there was a 3rd member on stage, and this might account for a bit of this. However, in the end, I know that I’m in the minority of the audience for the night.

All the accoutrements around them – the feel, the lights, the adherence to the 80s synth feel is done well. It’s just missing something at the heart of the music for me. Maybe the front person, as the friend mentioned. Maybe a bit of fire in the belly. I’m not happy about being negative in light of the mood that was around me in the crowd, but they didn’t really do it for me. Again. But it was the most that I have liked them so far, so maybe I’ll get what I’m missing sometime in the future…

Pleasure Heads:

Next it was over to the Market Bar, and a reminder of loud, bouncing, rolling fun music with the Pleasure Heads. Whereas I should have tried to get into the Market for ‘Run Into the Night’ the night before, this time it was, somehow, even more wedged in. And yet in we went.

The band The rammed in audience.

Surely there’s going to be some University physics team coming up sometime and studying the Tardis-like nature of the Market. How that many people fit in that place is worthy of study. They should do this, and pay people, including myself, to drink beer in there and dance somehow where there’s no space to do so. I am up for helping science, as you can see.

Anyway, we were all there playing sardines for a reason. The Pleasure Heads were good! They were fun. They put in, and worked for their craft.

And there was much rejoicing.

As per caveat above that this is already a long review, I’ll be short here. They were good. They were fun. People loved it. The category was firm ‘alt rock pop’, an expansive genre that doesn’t help, but his voice was good and with a bit of gravel in it, the band had energy and drive to it. Notably for me the drumming stood out as excellent, and took the crowd along with the faster sweat invoking rhythm of it all. I see they reside in Glasgow at present. If you get a chance, I think you’re gonna have a good night if you catch them there.

LaKyoto:

Last band for the night, and hence for XpoNorth, were LaKyoto, back at The Phoenix. Again, the choice of seeing them was purely on the horse-picking philosophy of a name that grabbed us, so off we went.

We missed a bit of the start, but got a feel for them enough, I think. They were the most straight up pop that I managed to see for the whole programme. They were good for this also. Had the crowd bouncing and happy, even though it was approaching the end of the 2 nights and fatigue was starting to set in a bit, thinning out the numbers of a couple of hours before. They played with heart. They were enjoyable. The lead singer had a smooth voice – possibly a touch ‘autotune smooth’, but this is an observation, and in no way a complaint.

People holding onto the good vibes until the end of the show, and thus the end of XpoNorth

By this time of proceedings I was quite knackered and wondering about the sense in going for back to back chippy nights (*this did happen). So while part of the brain was wanting to say a final howdy to the friend I went there with who I don’t get to see enough, and part on chip shop goodness, there was enough talent and interest going on up on stage to keep the attention front and centre. This is another good band, particularly polished and smooth in quality, that had catchy tunes that held people there until the end. I wish to see them again in a less exhausted state, but the important part of that is wanting to see them again.

Round-up:

No massive round up. This is long enough already. XpoNorth did another good job this year in putting on a varied, interesting showcase of talent for 2 nights in the middle of the week in Inverness.

The crowds in the venues were large and appreciative, but the mood on the street, the much-vaunted ‘atmosphere’ I garbled on about at length above, was significantly less at play throughout the town across the 2 nights. Maybe there’s a reason why, but will leave that for others to speculate on, should they wish.

The potential to explore so much music in short bite-size samples was again the strength of the programme offered by XpoNorth. Here’s hoping for more of the same next year.

 


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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.

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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.

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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…

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Tweed – Hootananny – 08/03/19

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Getting caught up in the moment with Tweed

By Cornwallace

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Stetsonhead – Marketbar 22-02-2019

Reading Time: 5 minutes

When Trouble Came to town – StetsonHead at the MarketBar, 22nd February, 2019

  • By Cornwallace

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Preach muthafucker!! Preach to the converted!!

So, a touch of background. We at the Nettle got our wee heads together and realised that it had been a bit of time since an actual music review.

There’s been gobs going on in the background, forefront of this being Bastard Wordiness. But still, we are here to serve. We wanna give. We also wanna spout our shit and even maybe direct people to see some good fucking music in Inverness.
To fold names of bands into the warm snug recesses of their/ your mind, and have people pull this information out when thinking of heading into town, hopefully improving their night and the size of the audience for the band(s) as a result.

So there’s some (pretty hazy) theory as above, and then there is the chance to act it out in practice.

Once I heard that StetsonHead were going to be playing at the Market, I felt the worlds mentioned above neatly align.
It would only be a matter of getting over my own inertia and do what I knew I wanted to do, and see who I wanted to see.And Holy Mother of God, this was one of those nights where I thanked my own lazy arse for detaching off the sofa and heading out.
Yes, yes, and fucking YES!! Smart move for once!! Fuck these guys are worth the watch.

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Things starting to heat up, dancing starting, drums getting hit hard and often.

I have seen StetsonHead a few times, but over the last year it was probably just snippets of a song or 2 here and there. Mistakes of lack of planning and late arrival providing assurance that my opinion still held on them, and that I was needing to see them once again.

Heading into town, I knew that this was going to be a night for mischief. It was in the air.
The young kids jumping over the fence to trespass and affect their own version of chicanery as I walked over the Castle. The rowdy bottleneck outside of Lauders and spilling up across or through Baron Taylor. People wrestling in the street, or walking and singing in happy packs.
Swinging into the wee Market Bar lane to head in and first sight being a genuinely impressive vomit spray – sizeable, but thoughtfully aimed in the corner at least. Maybe that was going to be the signifier indicated the balance of potential for the night. Works for me, thinking back on it.

Heading up the stairs and the thumping, grinding bass and drive of the drums starts vibrating the shenanigan genes in me bones, and when someone above me on the stairs opens up the door and actually lets the volume contained within out, this is ratcheted up 3-4 notches. A need to bop my head with beer in hand. It wasn’t just a thought now, an inkling, it was being tapped into and amplified as full blown desire.

As I feed through the door about 30 minute into the set (if they started on time, I don’t know that), they were in full flight. And the first lyrics heard were those in my head already about the mischievous mood feeding through town, and titling this review – “When trouble came to town”.

So it took me about that long to realise that I’d left it too long between drinks re seeing StetsonHead. I’m being all sweary and religious about this, but my fucking God did they set the scene for a good evening. Sweet Jesus do I like seeing this pile of muthafuckers do their thing.

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This pile of muthafuckers, doing their thing. And I got to see it. Sweet, sweet Jesus, thou art kind. Kinder than the thoughts in these guys heads, at least.

This is not a sweet band, with sugar drop lyrics. For me, they range around decades of lurching, malevolent influence to bring their distinct taste of menace to the stage.
The slow songs, of which I must admit there were more in the set than anticipated and remembered from previous experience, were like having a groove-bound brooding stream of consciousness laid bare. The secret darker parts of ones thought processes being growled out aloud.

Actually, that was the mood for the fast songs as well. Less emphasis on the groove, and more on hard pounding relentless drive. Still lots of dark thoughts though. Oozing out and purging the converted who were started to dance, tap their foot, smile at each other a little more broadly or in a dozen other ways warming to the night and the music in front of them.

When I mention the music being from across a range of years, and genres. Bit of reggae, bit of rockabilly, bit of 70s-80s rock, and bit of alternative hard rock as well, to do a hatchet job of categorisation there.
All angles on this under-laced with tones and, importantly, lyrics involving shooting, hands wringing necks, loving the wrong person (and by wrong, there’s apparently a few ways to do this, I found out), and the dark thoughts of how this makes one feel, and the things that one imagines doing to rectify such grief and frustrations. Yeah, purge is the word.

For ease, these are some of the songs that came to mind for the faster songs:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecW2C59VDsY

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=27LLPANAgzw

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkZSPdN9aTk

And these for the slower ones:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUNTk5xsxk4

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jz7JdLezDpM

There’s more to say, but basically it’d be repeating myself. If you like sweetness and light in your live music experience, give these gentlemen a miss. Actually, walk on the other side of the street. Find another street, maybe. Give ‘em a wide birth, however you go about it.

But if you like live music, and the potential it packs, in any other form, then give them a crack.

They make you prick your ears up and listen. They force you to engage. These are mean, angry, brooding, sullen, mischievous, funny, dark songs. They are given with a hard-edge, but often with a groove bass and driving, urgent lead and drums.

C:\Users\Chris\Writing\Nettle Reviews\Photos\StetsonHead5.PNG

Know that this is a blurry, shit photo. However, it represents the end half hour of the gig for me pretty well.

I’m more than happy to be able to see them in the heat-packed, tight sweaty space of the Market Bar. In some ways it’s a perfect bar for them, the way that older cooler people than me say the best way to have been able to see Nick Cave in any iteration was with 40 others in a dingy basement unknown to the rest of the world.

I wanna invoke that selfishness for myself here, and wanna see StetsonHead again at the Market.

But I also feel that they should be in front of a bigger audience. They deserve that respect. Also, more people, nice little cherubs that you all are, deserve to hear them.

They are one of the best local bands and live experiences that you’re gonna get. Don’t like pushing shit on people, but fuck it, it’s a review. Give them a chance. They’re fucking excellent!

 

Short but sweet service from Table for Four | 11/01/18 | Market Bar

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Market Bar, Friday the 12th of January, by Cornwallace.

Table for Four, Market Bar, crowd not quite at its height

 

The Christmas/ Festive/ Silly season has come and gone, as has Hogmanay. People have slowly got themselves back to work for the year, and, according to the individual, are still glowing in the reflective, restorative joy of a break (if they ever had one), or have been re-reminded of why they were so keen for a break.

One of the things that has come back again in these early days of 2019, putting the ‘circle’ into the circle of life, is standard patterns of life. Going to work, thanking the weekend by the time you get there, and seeing if there’s any decent live music on in town. Not everyone’s pattern, I’ll grant you, but a fucking good one if you have the opportunity to do so.

So it was that I arrived at the Market Bar. Unfortunately, too late for the led up acts, but right near the start for Table of Four.

I would have liked to see the lead up acts. By way of introduction, Ro Goodwin has played a range of places and with a range of musicians and bands, so I hear. I have got to see him mostly in the Love Ancients, who I really like. I have also had the pleasure of seeing him solo, but not for ages, and if I had made more effort to look at the line-up better and make sure I saw him play.
However, wishes and dreams and best laid plans and all that. It is the same for Hamish MacDonald. If ya haven’t seen him as yet, just fucking get yourself into gear, and correct that shit in 2019. Actually, while this is kind of a ‘must see’ directive, there is a caveat to be had there as well. I love his Slam Poetry, I quite like his music. When you see him, it’ll be one or the other, or a combination. There should be something for ya there though. Wit, wordplay, and a bit of shit-on-the-liver about the state of the world combine for some combination of entertainment and provocation of thought. Both he and Ro well worth a watch, but unfortunately I cannae tell ye how they played or how it went down on the night, and as such, we move onto the headliners.

Billing, with no one called Bill. Think that’s fairly normal, with exceptions.
Hamish MacDonald (in grey) staying around for the headline act. Ro did also, and a couple of times had a work in their ear, seemingly about levels and the mixing. Whatever Ro said, buttons were fiddled with mix better for it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

        

 

Table of Four took a little bit of time to adjust to.

Actually, that’s not fair. It would be more true to say that I got into them, and enjoyed what I was hearing from the get go. The confusion and time taken on what I thought came in terms of trying to analyse it.

Part of this was that the 1st 2 songs I heard both were enjoyable, with the comparison – not in terms of words or probably intention or shit like that – but for tempo and feel they threw me back to something like Wheatus and ‘Teenage Dirtbag.’ It frustrated me a bit that I was trying to remember whether this would mean a 90’s or 00’s throwback feel, as this is the feel and retro throwback era of influence that I would mostly badge the band with, should one want to be unfairly broad and without nuance. However, in terms of working out which decade they were most influenced by, to be fair that was my own brain sending me down an insignificant side-path. Nothing against the music itself, but just the first of a couple of things that threw me a little at the gig.

Another was the disparity in apparent passion for the project within the band. This and the fact that the care-factor didn’t seem to correspond to the talent shown on stage. But even within this there’s the potential for me to realise that these are people doing their thing on stage, and I don’t know the where’s and why of that.
I know that this is a tangent in itself, however, take the bass player, for example. I was enjoying the music – really, I was. There was a good crowd in and they were getting into it as well. There were slow moments, moments of crowd involvement and hand waving, but mostly this feel of ’90s or ’00s (gotta look that up as it’ll keep nagging at me) teen angst punk/ indie/ pop thing going on.
As another aside, there was a lady that took a long time in the set (as in potentially enough time to play a whole other song) imploring them not to do a Brittney Spears song which had been announced – at least it seemed from afar, considering her being upset and walking out when they started. Again, just another one of us human-type creatures with their own background accounting for and somewhat influencing their actions.

For the bass player – well, before we go there, just got to say that it was a great looking fuckin’ bass. Good guitar, with mean, luminous thick green strings. Sharp and stylin’. And she was really, seriously good at it. For mine, the bass and the lead guitars were the stars of the show. They gave the gig the ‘hey! They can really play’ feel to the whole thing, and in large part made the show for me. The rhythm of the songs was catchy, bouncy, and a good balance of Brittney to stories about blowjobs. So… diverse but with some definite connecting dots that can be seen.

The band could genuinely play. However, I still can’t adjust to that fucking spotlight centre stage and take a decent photo without washing away some detail (the bassists head, for e.g.).

 

There were 7-8 songs in which this mental incongruity was going through my head though, despite the tow-tapping going on. It was mostly hung on the thought that the bass player was looking like she was grinding out the last couple of hours at a particularly average day job. Playing well, looking like they’d drop the time-card into the machine at the end of the shift and be happy to be done with it.
Now, it turns out that this 7-8 songs thing I mentioned was the point that my perceptions were shaken up. She was introduced as a new band member. Talented, nervous on stage. Light bulb moment for me to see it in another, more forgiving light.

However, the seed of the thought had been planted, and when looking at the band in this light, was hard to not see this idea permeating further. The drummer was good – actually he was really a good, tight drummer holding things together. He also though looked like he was at his day job at times.
Now, he was the one in the band who, as happens on the Market stage when bands go crazy and start doing fanciful things like having more than 3 people in them, had to be plonked down on the floor. The lead singer mentioned this in relation to Table of Four having a table make way for them. Actually, maybe not the most biting example for my argument, but on this, she was pretty good at the in between song banter as well. However, I digress.
The drummer was tucked away out of sight on the floor, and this thought – the one of him looking like he was mentally going through checklists of shit he needed to get done once he was finished, was kind of incongruous in itself. However, he was playing well, so if someone has tucked you the corner of the floor, sat you away from the spotlight, and then you go and actually play really well, most of the time I wouldn’t have noticed such things. However, once I saw it in the bass player, I noticed it in the drummer as well.

All of that would probably have gone by the by though if it wasn’t to be able to see front and centre the direct comparison with the lead singer, who looked like she honestly, whole-heartedly gave a shit about this whole ‘we got a gig!’ thing. She was well into it. Voice going into overdrive, getting hot and sweaty and putting in her all. For both balance and bluntness, the difference in how much she sought to put into the performance, and in my mind, what it actually seemed to mean to her, was that point of comparison that cannot be un-thunk.

For some reason it brings me to mind of team sports. The lead guitarist was like that star player that can do wonderful things with the ball (or in this case, strings) without breaking a sweat. Then you have the player with their heart on their sleeve, giving 110%, which was the singer. In between, there was the shy but talented bass player who hopefully will enjoy being up there on stage more, as they have talent to burn, and the drummer, quality, but when looking at the other bookend of the stage and the singer just looked like they were doing different things. I have seen a reasonable amount of live music, and it is a rare (but not unknown) thing to have the thought as to how people getting into it on such massively divergent levels happen to be keeping it together to form and play some decent quality music.

The banter from the singer was pretty decent

 

At the start of this review I mentioned that there was come incongruity in my brain in trying to analyse the gig. These aspects are some of the places that my brain went in relation to that. However, for that, the music was good. It was mainly sharp, medium to fast, and with a good rhythm holding it all together, reminding me of 90s (or, as above, possibly 00s) teenage US angst pop/ punk with Scottish attitude. Which the genre apparently can work well with.
I was standing in the pub with others, all enjoying the band, and for myself, giving the little mental note to make sure I see them again. But this element of how much the band was into it did play with my head. That is, apart from the singer, who as I say would be one of those people that any coach of any team would point to at half time and implore the others by saying ‘give a fuck as much as they give a fuck.’

The last element which is badly drawn evidence towards this conclusion is the fact that they closed off the set 20 minutes early. Part of why I mention the person who stalled the Brittney Spears song was that this came to my mind at the end. Surely you’d ask the bar staff for an extra few minutes to balance this out, to play your full set as desired.
Maybe with the new band member they didn’t have more songs to play. Maybe they had somewhere else to be. Maybe they were expecting a larger, more sustained ‘won more tune’ chant – it was loud but I have to admit that it did die out pretty fast. Then again they were up and out of there fast as well. By the time people standing next to me tried a 2nd time to induce the chant, the plugs were out, the stage powered down and the instruments getting dismantled or tucked away. It threw me, that one. You could see it in the people trying for the chant. Like they were trying to fire up the rest of the crowd, looked back on stage and the wind went out of their sails with a ‘what the fuck – they’re not angling to do an encore in the slightest,’ so that died down as well. But this is the reason I called the review ‘Short but sweet,’ for it was definitely both.

I enjoyed the music, and the gig. They have talent. One of them definitely has as much passion about it all as anyone could ask for. I think that they are going to get better too, which is something to look out for. I plan to see them again. I’m curious about what that future gig will throw up, and I’m wanting to go there to find out. This gig was my first foray back out into Inverness live music for the new year, and I can happily report that it started the year off well in this respect.

Here’s hoping we all have a good year for live music seen. This for me was a pretty good start in that direction.

  • Cornwallace.