XpoNorth 2019

Reading Time: 11 minutes

It’s XpoNorth 2019

XpoNorth started off as an Aberdeen based venture called GoNorth at the turn of the century. I wasn’t there. I mean I was around at the turn of the century, and before, but I wasn’t in Aberdeen. I might have been at some point, but if I was, I wasn’t at that.

I was still kicking around the Raigmore Motel, the Market Bar and the Gellions for my musical kicks. The Ironworks was still a carpark and a pet shop, Hootenanny was still a pound shop, Blue Nightclub had only been shutdown once or twice T in the Park was the place to go for festivals. Rockness was six years away from being birthed, and Belladrum was four years away. (That’s right, Bella was about before Rockness.)

Xpo still is, and, but it’s changed a bit. The last person involved in it when it was GoNorth departed last year, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise are all over it this year.

It started as a ‘creative industries’ focused showcase. Designed to gather up unsigned and lesser known musicians from around the Highlands, to get them to play, literally ‘for exposure’ and mould them into going through the meat grinder that is the music industry.

My general understanding of the model for newly signed bands to medium to large labels is thus (however granted it will vary to a degree depending on the label);

  • Band signs contract.
  • Band gets advance for an album, promotion, and gigging. The album bit of it includes the booking, hire and all that goes with the recording studio, sourcing and paying for the producer/sound engineers etc. The advance is the band’s wage as well, so they also have to either live off it, or work the day job in between recording and gigging.The advance is as you’d expect, a loan. This gets paid off by the revenue generated by the band through ticket and record sales.
  • Band gets some contacts, guidance, and some influence given in terms of where they are to tour.
  • Once the first loan is paid off, if it is, then it’s time for a new advance, and a second album. Rinse, repeat.

This works for some, but I feel it’s not necessarily the best model for all band to follow – and harvesting all the highland talent like something out of the Matrix doesn’t seem like the best way.

That’s my take on it, but I’m a self-managing kind of person, so kind of a red pill guy. (Red Pill as in I like to know how things work and it’s reasonable to objectively question things, not red pill as in I am woke, there’s a third eye and everything is a conspiracy)

Anyway, as I said, Xpo has changed a bit, even since last year.

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There were a few grumbles that there was less music from the highlands, and some more from ‘down south’ (crettins, that’s how you create a bit of musical diversity, and inspire people. So long as there’s a mix of local and not local, I’m ok with it. Especially as we have local festivals that a few of the bands play at anyway). That’s not a criticism of local bands either, if that’s triggered a wee paranoia trip, I’m just saying that Inverness doesn’t need to get all BREXIT about foreigners coming in and eating our fish.

Regardless of all that, here’s some actual coverage.

I didn’t get to the non-music seminars and networking events this year, as I’ve got a day (and night!) job that’s not that, but Cornwallace wrote a little bit on some of the publishing side of things.

What I did get to mostly, was Wednesday, and the very tail end of Thursday. So, let’s talk about that.


The starting point for myself and Fremsley was the Tooth and Claw. I’d fancied going to see Hamish Hawk in Pentahotel. I’d seen him a couple years back with King Creosote, but hadn’t been able to give it my full attention due to some annoying and distracting chatter. You know when people go to a gig, and don’t actually care about the gig, then spend the whole time trying to make it about them. That.

Timing wise it wasn’t viable though, so I had a catch up drink, as Elizabeth Elektra played above our head. We didn’t get to hear her fully, but it seemed quite Kate Bush esq. The brief bits we caught of the white wig and floaty dress donning avant-garde pop were pretty good, but it was brief. (Oi, hold on, what are ye, the Daily Mail – don’t just write about what the artist was wearing!) But genuinely, we only caught a glimpse, but it sounded alright.

Echo Machine were also recommended, a new-wave synth pop band from Dundee, as were Pure Grief – as a bit of pop punk. I didn’t make it to either. Coming off a nine-day work stretch, directly into Xpo meant I was a bit fucked like. But I’ve linked to those I coulda-shoulda-woulda been to by means of acknowledgement and apology.

Get on with it!

The first proper band I saw was Lunir, at Madhatter’s.

Like a fair few of the talent on show, this was their first time in Inverness. The two piece had the venue giving an intimate feel from the start. They had a small keyboard each, and a mic each. The member that wasn’t the lead singer also had an array of effects, and a fairly minimal percussion set-up.

Lunir had a R&B/Soul vibe at the start. The lead’s voice was smooth and strong. Sometimes vocals are vocals, and sometimes they’re so on point in terms of refinement, they’re like an instrument. In this case they were like an instrument. The drummer’s backing vocals gelled into this fantastically.

There was a hint of jazz creeping in to. When we get to the second song and a rain stick is whapped out by the lead. This was their new single – best way I can describe it is if you were to have Beyoncé working with Lemon Jelly.

Their music was uplifting and wholesome, with a beautify structured drum solo intertwined. They seemed happy to be there cheery as fuck, which as a pundit, helps me be cheery as fuck. At one point we were introduced to a tiny mustard-yellow guitar. Played high up on the diaphragm like George Formby, it was contrasting to the song. The music took me on a journey with set the set list. Each song flows from previous one, complemented the last and evolved the set throughout. It was a musically unexpected but welcome (proper) start to XpoNorth for me.

Next up, was the mammoth journey downstairs to Hootenanny. To see Quiche. Two bands playing in such close proximity was handier than a teenager with a purity ring trying ecstasy for the first time.

I’d added Quiche to my list of bands to see based on the name. Generally, this is a terrible thing to do, as ‘zany’ names can be used as a way to pull people in to see them. See “Natalie Portman’s Shaved Head” as an example.

But Quiche, Quiche has a reputation for being a bland food. I actually like Quiche Lorraine. Lorraine Kelly is annoying, Quiche has a reputation for not being great, yet merge the two and you get something palatable. Perhaps Quiche the band were going to defy the odds too?

Hoots was reasonably full, not heaving, but busy. First thing I clocked beyond that was that there’s a guy that looks like Gary glitter, or that weird Inverness bloke with the long nails that does all that odd dance stuff with young females. (Roddy, Rodney?) That’s unrelated to the band in question though.

Quiche played with vocals and guitar style from the 1960s fused with 90’s/00’s. I didn’t meld into their music massively, but they were decent. My mind did wander a bit whilst listening to them – there was a point I thought the vocalist sounded a bit like Kermit the Frog. In fairness though, they sounded a bit like Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci, or some of the more experimental Super Furry Animal’s stuff. Need to clarify if they’re Welsh or have just been hoofing aerosols to Peanut Dispenser in their yoof.

I didn’t mind them, but I think, with the style of music they were playing, they could have done with a bit more stage presence.

There were a few bands playing at the same time, so a hasty migration over to see False Friends at The Phoenix was implemented.

Not to be confused with Best Fwends, which I unrealistically was associating the band with, and probably to the detriment of me, but to the relief of everyone else, False Friends are not Best Fwends. Am I going deep and all that?

I got in during their set, and my immediate note was that they had a plastic cowbell. I like these. They have musical merit. They do.

They were the best band of the night for me. The Northern Irish band were happier than a nun stumbling over lovehoney.co.uk and I was immediately warmed to their announcement that they tend to play stuff live that you wouldn’t find as part of their online repertoire. They define it as career suicide, but it’s a good angle, and the choice struck a chord with me. This is me who was petitioning to call a band I was in “Various Artists” so take my insight with a pinch of salt.

They would have fit really well into Raigmore motel gigs of old. There was nice grimy keyboard, intertwined with an indy/rock feel. They were upbeat, well-polished and I liked them. There was a consensus around various people that had amalgamated into the Phoenix that they were one of the highlights of the Wednesday night. Two folks suggested they were a Christian rock band, based on their outfits being on the wrong side of the colour chart, and being ‘too clean cut’. I’m fairly sure both commentators were wearing all black, which is equally relevant. False Friends could more than hold their own on a main stage at a sizeable festival, with a fine range of songs. They do seem like a group that would be presentable on the telly, if that’s what was being alluded to by ‘too clean’, but better that than being shite, and alternative for the sake of image.

I went over to see Pure Grief in the Market Bar next, but it was packed tighter than the pursed lips of an Instagram influencer posting duckface, so I didn’t. My attention was pulled away from Xpo after that, so pure grief was the last note of the evening.


I finished work well after the festivities had started, and only really caught Ghøstwriter. I dunno what the Ø is in reference to, but in electronics it’s the number of phases in a circuit. (Hold down Alt then press 0216 in the keyboard if you’re typing it.) When Prince became TAFKIP that must have been a pain in the tits – there’s not even an alt code for that nonsense.

Ghøstwriter at The Phoenix were the best thing I saw at XpoNorth. Having not been able to make it to Solareye, but having told everyone I knew to go, I was happy to still get a satisfying gig to see.

After the initial acceptance that it wasn’t Matt Berry fronting the band but a doppelganger, all disappointment was washed away. They were diverse, atmospheric, and full of energy. The band was bouncing and it made the evening feel like Thursday would have been the night to be out. I was shattered though. If you think that this writeup is a bit lacking in content, it’s a fair shout – I had to switch notebooks for Thursday and it’s gone AWOL.

I thought it was worth mentioning them though, even without notes, they were phenomenal. Also, there were some grand photos, I’d go see them again without a second thought, though better prepared than straight out of whatever hell of a day I had that I won’t bore you with. Chips N Gravy will tell you all about them though, and we’ll link it up here when it’s on the interwebs.

I finished up with heading to the Tooth and Claw, downstairs. They were holding their own non-XPO open mic night, which brought in good craic and kept it all going.

A final note on the venues, specifically at XpoNorth time

The Market Bar – it’s a great venue for music, in that it’s full of energy and the pine clad walls makes the sound bounce around like nobody’s business it a hotbox for atmosphere, but you need to get in well in advance of the bands you’re going to see, standing room only doesn’t really do it justice in terms of how intimate it can get. Upstairs for the tunes, downstairs for a bit of respite and patter. Prices are reasonable as well for lubrication.

Hootenanny – You’ll generally get more of the trad stuff down here. There’re tables everywhere and a little bit of dancing area, it’s more of a musical restaurant than a bar with food these days, but grand enough, and if you’re needing a seat it’s your best bet. It’s by far from the cheapest watering hole though, and even soft drinks cost a fair few quid.

Madhatter’s – The upstairs for Hootenanny – More of a mixed bag, you’ll get all sorts of music in here, from hip-hop, rap, rock, blues, rockabilly, funk, and world, with splattering’s of everything else too. It’s plastic glasses upstairs, and glass receptacles downstairs, which should help with understanding the difference too. You’ll always get a dance up there.

The Phoenix – This place is pretty decent for the midweek festival, the stage set-up is pretty decent, prices are sensible and it’s the most balanced of the venues in terms of crowd. Never any trouble, comfortable as fuck, and unpretentious.

Pentahotel – It’s a hotel common area in an urban area, so can get a bit crowded, but it’s an alright setup – the bands tend to be lighter here, you won’t get a dance or mosh area. Prices aren’t immensely pocket friendly, but it’s a hotel bar, so you at least know that going in. (Gestures at hoots)

The Tooth & Claw – This is the hive for punk, rock, metal and comradery. It’s packed during XpoNorth and this time had music upstairs as well as doing its own off-programme musical thing downstairs. Prices are on par with the Market mostly.

Ironworks – First of all, prices are decent, and greatly improved on the past. This is the purpose-built venue for music, and the biggest capacity. Having said that, it’s also (personally) one of the least atmospheric of the places, when it’s quiet. I think that goes with the territory though, more suited to big events that it’s going to fill, it can be left wanting for ‘buzz’ if it’s not packed. You’ll not get a seat at this. If the crowd is right, and the band is right, it can be great, but the atmosphere is brought into it by the people.

MacGregors – Didn’t do Xpo this year, which is a shame, because they were one of the better venues last year – the mix of electronic music and more left field stuff, tied with the building’s styling/atmosphere was one of the highlights. Artisan beverages are reflected by the prices.

Mercure Hotel – Don’t get me wrong, I like this place for some things, they do a heap of charity hosting, and it’s great and all, but fuck me, I’m glad they weren’t part of Xpo this year. They do it upstairs, the sound quality and setup of the area was abysmal, and to make up for that with alcohol or even just refreshments is not a viable option due to the cost. A welcome exclusion, sorry guys.


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Thomas Truax – Market Bar 08/10/2018

Reading Time: 15 minutes



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

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

A little bit of birthday acknowledgement

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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Thomas Truax.

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


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

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

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

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

I for one welcome our new bespoke overlord…



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

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

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


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

The Hornicator












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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Everything’s Gone Halloween!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humane Train

















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


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

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










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


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

Beehive love. Zoetrope Eyes!


















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

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

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

Reading Time: 12 minutes

It’s still Saturday Mun!

part two of two

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

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


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

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

Tistik – watch this guy!

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

DJ Butterscotch – turntabling to fame

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


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

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



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

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


The Vandal: Nigh on impossible to catch still

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

The Vandal: Wick waxing lyrical

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Davy Cowan Band: Party Time!

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

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

Emma & the Ragmen

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

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

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


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

The Matatunes: All together now!


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

The Matatunes: band of brothers

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

The Matatunes: Closing the live acts for Jocktoberfest 2018

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

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

DJ Daddy Cool seducing the late night Jocktoberfesters.


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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


Thank you Jocktoberfest 2018 and goodnight! 


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.For Woolly’s Friday insight:

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

and part one of Saturday:

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

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

Reading Time: 8 minutes

Saturday Mun!

part one of two

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

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


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

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

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


Sarah Gallagher.

Sarah Gallagher: Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Carma: Carmen delivering delicate vocals


Carma: Kenna tinkering the ivories

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

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


Calum MacKenzie Jones: Calum and his band

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

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

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

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

King Kobalt: Rocking the JOCKOBERF

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

King Kobalt: Dude!

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

AJ Still: AKA MR Still – in technicolour

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

Cocoa and the cool guitar

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

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

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

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


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.For Woolly’s Friday insight:

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

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

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

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

Reading Time: 10 minutes

A wee day out and that


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So we took a wee trip out to the Black Isle to the hallowed ground that is the Black Isle Brewery, ready for what the weather said would be a cold and wet weekend. The forecast was a bit of a shame, as last year was brilliant on that front. Boots packed, lots of jumpers and a rain coat. Camera memory cards cleared up this time after a rather rushed last minute process for Belladrum earlier this year. In fairness, that’s because most of the two nights leading up to the aforementioned festival involved making the oversized bunting for the Burke and Hare stage, leaving little time to pack. How rock and roll is that? Not very I guess, but there were complications with planning things this summer, so that was the most economical way to get in. I know it’s probably bad journalistic craic to start waffling on about a festival unrelated to the one you’re covering, but hear me out.

We’re still very much the new kids on the music review block, so Belladrum was our first attempt at festival coverage. We could have done a bit better, and are still a little behind with our review of that, but everything is a learning process. So there’s the odd situation where the full Jocktoberfest review is coming in before the other one is finished.

Press passes were supplied from the nice folks at Jocktoberfest, which gave us a wee kick to get this one out as a priority. This makes it our inaugural ‘official’ festival coverage, and importantly, that gave us stage access for some better photos, which hopefully has paid off a bit.

One of the reasons I really like Jocktoberfest is the size of it. It’s not too big, in a compact enough space and has a good mix of talent. The stages are timed so for the most part you can see as much as possible if you want to, and not miss out on seeing some new or familiar talent. That’s how Belladrum started off, and they did good eh! Bella has grown and evolved into something different since then, and has done well with that, and is a fine festival – but Jocktoberfest, please, never change; we love you!

No heads were harmed in the making of this photo – the gent fell back into the lovely hay in awe of the food!

Jocktoberfest is a brilliant wee festival, and part of the Scottish Food and Drink fortnight, that’s a bunch of events and festivals around the country where you can sample some quality energy provisions for your palette – more info about that here. The Black Isle Brewery beers, both the standard ones, and the special limited edition ones they put out on rotation are chuffing lovely – especially gratifying was the Strawberry Wheat Beer on the Friday evening. The real culinary hero of the event is always, always the lamb burgers though. Last year I had my kids with me, and I think we consumed about eight of them between the three of us. I *may* have had four of those eight, but they are so, so good! The plan was to take them this time, but that wasn’t possible, so this, if nothing else is something they can read about, and see the copious amounts of videos and such like that we’ve put up on our facebook page.

Perfect setting to try the Black Isle craft Beers

Other things that are greatly welcomed at this craft beer extravaganza are the clear signs with which band is on where at which time. There’s no need for lanyards, which I tend to find a pain in the tits at bigger festivals, having to flip back and forth to see which bands and events are on where. An easy to read bit of signage does the trick nicely. If I was being picky, I’d say it would be good to have another chalkboard with all of the bands listed in alternating colours in chronological order, but that’s probably because I was lazy and working off a notepad.  Seriously though, Jocktoberfest bossed it, publishing times and stages well in advance, online for free. It’s the way to do it!


Hay Dino!

The Jocktober-team love a theme, and this time the theme was one million years BC (Before Craft!) Having a theme in a small festival is hilarious, the purveyors of the dino and caveman chic were all mingling between each other, which was surreal and giggle inducing. Hats off to those dressed as dinosaurs too, as the weather turned out to be toasty hot. We’ll be sticking a small gallery of pictures up on another page, in a sort of lazy journalism, ‘out and about, seen in the town’ sort of thing; but with dinosaurs. Linky linky.

On arrival a few folk I was camping with were already there and had set up the gazebo, and the beginnings of a circle of tents had started forming, the gin and ice was out and some of my fellow nettlers, friends and associates were already getting into the spirit of things. Or it was getting into them. Tent went up, a bit of craic was had, cameras and notebooks were loaded, and into the arena a couple of us went.

In the beginning

I’m a determined sort of fella, so I was keen to see as many of the bands as possible, I think I only missed two or three the whole weekend, so if you happened to be one of them, sorry and that; I did my best, feel free to get your friends to drop us a line and come and help! Normally I’d be more gonzo-ish in my reviews, and there’s a couple of TheNettle.scot writers are also covering Jocktoberfest, but this is the formal, music one.

Keir Gibson

Keir Here

So Friday opened with Keir Gibson giving the beginnings of the crowd his acoustic guitar and verse. He’s a talented fella and has what I’d call a classical voice – it’s well rounded and confident. If I was to describe it like a gin or wine, the music was very current, hints of George Ezra, notes of Mumford and Sons and a subtle taste of Paolo Nutini. It was pleasant and he’s only going to grow in popularity – it was a good fit and gentle feel good start for the opening of Jocktoberfest. I don’t know why, but his voice seemed to fit with the good warm weather that we were apparently not getting, but did.

After he’d done his number, there was a wee break before Table For Four (T44) took over the stage. I’d seen them as a two piece band under their previous incarnation, Bunny and the Bear in the Tooth and Claw before, but hadn’t quite managed to catch them as Table for Four. Sometimes evolutions can go bad, like, I wish humans had kept their tails, it seems rubbish that we don’t get to keep them. I’d love a tail. Table for Four’s final form was a progressive metamorphosis though, rather than a “they were good back in the day, but now they’re shite” sort of thing. The four piece took the tempo up a wee bit with their presence.

These people need a table for four, but they are Table for Four. Someone get them a table!

They opened with an instrumental song, which worked well as a bridge from Kier Gibson’s set, before hitting out the track ‘Mcloving’ – not a Superbad reference, as the lead singer Sarah, or (Jeremiah Dingdong, as she referred to herself)  clarified. It was the second track where you started to get a feel for the band. They’ve got a good voice in Sarah, and the pop-punk track that they shared was ear pleasing. The wee team of either habitual restaurant bookers or bar dwellers (I’m second guessing the band name origin here) then gave us three songs in quick succession, with a good 90’s vibe to them. Loser was the first of the ménage à trois of songs.

Rocking and bopping

We got T44’s version of a Britney Spears song, a new song, their track “One man Band” and a Ramones cover. The vocals were rocking, and I’ll iterate again that I liked their sound. On a side note I caught that the guitarist had a T-shirt on from the Market Bar’s “Never Mind the Wedding” foodbank fundraiser, with the delicate embrace of two lizards fornicating. Well done Claire Maclean Illustrations, your reach is wide. It fitted with the Dinosaur theme of the festival too.  Anyway, the foursome left us with the track “Jealousy” to finish, and in return were treated to the band’s first experience of having “One more tune” called back to them. That’s got to be a testament of good feedback.

On from the rock


The Guilty Pleasures were up next. They’re a very sleek outfit and I’d seen a couple of their promo vids before. My only other previous experience of the singer, Michelle, was promoting a music class for little ones, which had looked really cool at a baby show. I’d wanted to take my son to it, but my partner of the time wasn’t keen for it.  She’d seemed confident and warm back then, so I’d wondered how the stage presence had progressed. The band arrived in glamorous attire, suited and booted, or in Michelle’s case sparkly as a diamond.

Lead singer Michelle

Opening with Shocking Blue’s ‘Venus’ they showed off their polished professionalism, and ran through a few tracks, Video Killed the Radio Star, Mamma Mia and Beat It, to name a few. We did live stream them, but I managed to flip the camera over to my dish whilst streaming, so we didn’t save the video. No one wants to see a Blair Witch style beanie wearing nasal shot half way through getting into “Hot Stuff”.  I’m not generally a huge fan of cover bands, but it worked really well, and as a ‘working band’ they’re good. I can see them getting bigger over time. Coincidentally TheNettle.scot  received an enquiry for music bookings last week for a function, and signposted the requester towards them. They worked in the early afternoon setting and helped shake any timidity away from the crowd, and into the dancing groove.

The function band, being functionally grand, on the stand.

I got my first beverage of the evening at this point, the aforementioned Strawberry Wheat Beer was my tipple of choice. Wetter than an otter’s pocket – it was lush.

Tweed Ceilidh Band 

Fiddle me this

If the Guilty Pleasures lubricated the crowd, Tweed electrically charged them. An accordion, drums, and a fiddle on stage can go one of a few ways. It can go with the sing-songy very trad ceilidh bands in a sort of White Heather Club style hell, the interim Corries style, or my preferred instance, the modern, lets get this party going way. Shit the bed! – There was no frigging doubt that Tweed were in the last category.  The hay started flying, and the audience was irrepressibly buoyant, the cavemen were waving their inflatable clubs around in a frantic and joyous manner.

Powered by joy, and powering the crowd

The animated crowd were only matched by the fiddle player. What a hero – he was cutting some serious shapes and the revellers were like putty in the band’s jams. (Puns ahoy!) A wee shout out to the Netsounds guys at this point for being awesome generally. Tweed Ceilidh Band took us on a musical tour, with a rendition of Korobeiniki, which yer ma knows as the Tetris theme song, then some Cossack dancing music and some reggae. One thing I wasn’t expecting was an Oi! Oi! Oi! punk elation feeling from them, but they were full force, hyper tempo mentals. I can’t think about that part of the evening without grinning, the highlight of the night for me. They went over their time allocation, which delighted the now fanatical crowd that they’d bonded with through sweat and kinetic energy. There was absolutely a Need for Tweed, and a Need for Tweed 2 would be most welcome next year!

Blair here

To finish up the night DJ Blair Massari took us into the stars, with a good mix of soulful funk, psychedelia and disco music. It was a perfect chilled vibe to bring the night in and let us all dance our way to the campsite.

Blair there











Getting back to the campsite, there were only four of the twenty or so folk I was with still standing, or nestling on camping chairs. A bit of craic was had, and a self-congratulatory beer or two. I’d’ve indulged in more, but I wanted to catch as much of the festival as possible. We were covering it, and there’s only two stages, so it should be viable to catch most of the acts, and I was determined that TheNettle would do that this year! Also by this point, it was freezing; so I left the last remaining party people to get some kip. Tomorrow, you can read some more about the festival, but ta ta for now.


What happened next? Read our Saturday part one here:


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


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Spoke Too Soon – EP launch ft. – Fight the Raptor – Cherry Park – Below The Neck

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Spoke Too Soon

Featuring: Fight the Raptor | Cherry Park | Below the Neck

EP Launch – Ironworks 01/09/18

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First of September – the day for EP launches it seems.  Sly at Last were launching their EP in Mad Hatters, and Spoke Too Soon were launching theirs in Inverness Ironworks.

I weighed up which one I was going to see and review – although there was potentially enough time to see both, I wanted to do a full writeup, rather than an I woz ere and I saw this band type article, so from a reviewing point of view a choice had to be made.

Being that I’m an impoverished sod I’d normally go to the free gig of the two, which would’ve been the Hoots/Mad Hatters gig, but the Spoke Too Soon EP launch was only six quid, and had four bands playing. In hoots I can get one and a half glasses of coke for six pounds, versus paying £1.50 per band to see the Ironworks.

Going to Ironworks I was also less likely to encounter the ever pickled eegit that I had witnessed the other night, completely misinterpreting the phrase “dance as if no one is watching” in more of a “please, look at me, look at me twirl” following an affected entrance, swinging between emotions and dramatic facial expressions like one of those boglin puppets that you got in the 1990’s that you stuck four fingers in to manipulate. 

With that in mind, The Ironworks was the place for me tonight, which, it transpires, was a good decision.

Following a day of enthusiastic discussion with tourists about; Outlander, whether someone was related to the Old Fox, and where Mel Gibson fits into all of this, a good bit of punk was what was needed to ‘purge the 1/12th Scotch on their grandfather’s side holidaymakers’ from my mind.

It’s not that I dislike my job, it’s actually pretty cool, and flexible, but sometimes the craic can be a bit samey, much like your mum.

Below the Neck

The first of the four bands set up on stage. From the first note sprung, my face was vibrating with the force of the thrashy metal madness being fired at me, and my fellow audience members from the stage.

On a side note, we will update the photos here, but this is what was available at time of going to publish

These gents are animated as fuck, which is what you’d expect from a metal band. Actually, that’s doing them a disservice, you do occasionally get static metal bands, which doesn’t go well towards a good gig – for me a lot of metal is about the performance, it has to be. Below the Neck were full pelt with personality.

It was actually their first live performance as a band, and as I understand it, the singer’s first stage performance ever. You couldn’t tell; far from it – there was a slick interaction and confidence which came off as a really impressive debut from Fred Durst in a beanie and his crew. If Fred Durst didn’t have a whiney voice and was likeable.

Their second song came in with a train type momentum and rhythm; Songs like that are always a winner for me, across any genre. if I wasn’t reviewing I’d be up for awe bit of a mosh pit – is that allowed these days, is it still a thing? 

Rollin’ Rollin’ Rollin

It led on to the next gratifying  number, a thrashy song with minor notes intermixed throughout, sounding like a Sepultura piece had been amalgamated with a hidden track on a Korn or Nirvana album.  This was followed by an anthemy type affair which again got my approval. It was as if the cookie monster was sad, whilst listening to thrash with major chords. Sounded a bit like an early Papa Roach tune.  I wasn’t able to make out the lyrics for any of these songs due to the style, but I think that’s fairly standard for a first listen of compositions in the cookie monster metal genre.

Also standard was the broken string from one of the two guitarists, but they fired through like true pros. They coped well with the Inverness reservedNESS from the crowd.

ReservedNESS, that should be a thing right? We’ve had RockNESS, MockNess, NESScon,  ProudNESS, so why not ReservedNESS, where everyone goes to a live gig and stands like mutes whilst a medium sized band perform. I guess we don’t need a named event for that. The crowd were beginning to warm though, Below the Neck had lubed them all up by the end, ready for the three further acts to come.

Something different this way comes.

Cherry Park, owning the stage

There was enough time for a plastic pint of coke and some fresh air to debug my eardrums after the first act and I was all set for Cherry Park.

Cherry Park opened their set with their beautifully crafted melancholy song which I would speculate was called ‘Unhappy Birthday’. As Ewan (bass) and Theo (lead guitar) threw the lyrics “blow out a candle for me, sorry that I didn’t come to your birthday” a feeling of warmth ran through my soul. Had I pissed myself? Na, it was just the contrast between the previous act and this band that was most welcome. Not good or bad different, just complimentary.

Their second track was proper bangin’ mun! In The Dead of Night was an optimistic, ‘this is what gigs are all about’ type track. The energy Cherry Park emitted was rubbing off onto the crowd like a panda spreading it’s pheromones on a tree.

This may have actually been what was happening, it was quite toasty up on the stage I hear.  Ironworks, is that what you do? Are your crowds powered by to secretions from the bands glands? In fairness there was enough quality tunage that the likelihood is it was a reaction to the general just swellNESS of the Cherry Park outfit.

Belting it out.

There was a song dedicated to fans of the film ‘The Room’ – which, by the way, is in the “so bad it’s watchable” state of affairs that you should watch it. Once. Just so you have.

The next track, I didn’t catch the name of, but it was a proper curl your toes with joy, I’m at a fucking NoFx gig, this is amazing tune. It was just spectacular. This was peak gig for me, all instruments and vocals amalgamated into a well crafted thing of beauty that gave me that warm feeling again. *checks* – Still haven’t pissed myself. Given that the drummer, Donna, had just finished doing a 10k Beast Race hours before, the fact that she wasn’t asleep was amazing enough, so gee-ing it laldy relentlessly was pretty spectacular.

Other highlights from Cherry Park included the track “Reptilian” featuring lyrics “I’ll Shed My Skin”, a slower, emotive song that sounded a bit soundscape-ish due to the harmonising of all three of the guitar type members complementing each other’s different vocal styles.

They finished up with the last song that sounded a bit like Feeder’s Oxygen, but with more depth to it. Side note, I’m still partially convinced Oxygen is a song about buzzing on aerosols, but that’s just a theory. Cherry Park owned the set, and the playout was brilliant and the whole thing felt like a gig you’d make the effort to travel to go see – so we’re lucky to have them here in our wee town city of Inverness. 

Hold on, I’m going for a number three? Er what?

The third band, and last support act up were Fight the Raptor, who opened with mellow stums, like the start of The Burning Red by Machinehead then fired into rock riffs.

As the three piece band got into the first track, my honest initial thought was that I didn’t like the vocals, and it felt a wee bit like a garage rock band, rather than the well put together previous two acts.  I was restricted to using my notebook in the dark briefly due to my phone having a tantrum, so ended up with a couple bits of scrawled illegible notes for the second and third tracks.


There was a fair bit of initial screaming type vocals, but a bit of atmosphere kicked in with some pinched harmonic bass in the musical break in the second track, sounding a bit like Phil Collins was frottaging with Pink Floyd. It wasn’t too bad, but the point I started enjoying the band was from the third track in.

Unrelated to the start of the enjoyment (I was drinking coke, not snorting coke, drugs are bad m’kay), the next song was announced as about drink and drugs. Halfway through the song it switched into a sample sound that I’ve noted down was like funky tripping music. It was at this point whilst trying to balance a plastic pint of coke in my mouth, bop to the music, and write in the notepad that I spilt the coke on the notebook. The fact that I was moving with the tunes was good though, I think the band just needed to warm up a bit, and they had.

The Bassist, being bassisty

“This song is about the seaside” was how the bouncing, rocking thrashing piece was put together. There was a good bit of fingering too. EEEEYY! The song about the seaside contained lyrics about drowning, which was heartwarming – and they managed to make their guitar sound like a helicopter. I didn’t get all the lyrics, but was this a coastal rescue song? Obviously is was. (not). But it was good.

The pumping industrial opening of the band’s interpretation of a love song came next. This one had some interesting sounds in it, and the group really shone with this one. There was a Squarepusher type bass-iness in there, and the track felt like a whole range of genres were played with, squeezed out and forged into their own style of metal. It was good eh!

‘ere’s the drummer too

The singer dedicated the next song to people that have put up with him personally over the years, but the most important part was that the song had a cowbell. Need more cowbell. It was a pretty pumping, Oi! Oi! Oi! song, which led into the last track, which induced proper moshing in the crowd. Moshing is a rare sight these days, but like ducks fucking, and white dog poo sightings, it was welcomed as a nostalgic sight from my teenage years. 


Spoke Too Soon

Three acts played, three acts good, let’s get onto the headliners. Spoke Too Soon’s backdrop was slightly different on the stage. In the build-up, the curtains were down, the lighting was different and there was sci-fi space music and an ominous atmosphere.


The atmosphere was building until someone – lets call him Dave – pulled the plug out of the amp. He put it back in though and the ambience was back. Well done Dave. Spoke too Soon assembled on the stage to get their EP launch up and running.

Bursting into life, their first track’s opening sounded like Screamager by Therapy?, but with out the frustrated depressed Irish vocal tones, then flowed through and finishing up nicely with some ska-punk

Animated as fuck

Number two was a euphoric alt-rock number, shaking the crowd into full pelt. The band were all over the stage kicking their legs, jumping and just giving the whole thing a fun and proper EP launch party feel. This was carried through to their third track, a song that I can most closely relate to Green Day’s “Brain Stew” but with a Top Gear driving album guitar lick. Wait, OMG, are they doing the soundtrack to a new Road Rash game? They fucking should – I’d happily drive round on a bike with some whips and chains. Erm, too much? Moving on.

All together now!

The Lead singer was elated to buggery with the whole thing as he introduced

a song from their EP. Potentially called “Standing on the edge”, It was a punky twangy number, that sounded like a dastardly cartoon evolving into a bit of a beastie boys vibe in the style of rock music.  

At one point the singer managed to get most of the crowd to crouch down like a collective of weird fiddler crabs, and if you can get a crowd to do that, you’ve won. I’m not sure what it was all about, but if you can do that, you’re sorted in life. Life goals and that.

The band just look cool!

There were a couple more pop-punk type songs, and one that was so new t

hat it superseded the EP’s release. Rather than describe it, I’ll just let you see it here – it’s about one minute in.


All in all Spoke Too Soon come across as seasoned, with a good singer that can sing in the traditional sense. As the last song played out with a fast, upbeat energy the fan-base lapped it up. It were good, the band were delighted, the crowd was delighted, and I was happy to have again been lucky enough to have seen a small band make a big impact.


Audio description:


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Captain of the Lost Waves & Muzwell the Mute – Belladrum 2018 04/08/18

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Note: Before we start, we’re adding audio files to the foot of the page with the article read out, for the visually impaired, or those on the go.

Feel free to give us some feedback on this. Now, onto the review.


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Captain of the Lost Waves & Muswell the Mute

The Verb Garden – Saturday

Ah,the Verb Garden, another fine tent we’ve gotten ourselves into. The Verb Garden is the tent for the spoken word, film showings, for debates, talks and poetic songsmithery. The place to expatiate, articulate, demonstrate and remonstrate. To debate, fascinate and consummate. (No, not like that, get your mind out of the gutter!) It’ll be a miracle if I can cease to wax-lyrical, as I for one am not so metempirical. The cynical would say I’m being satirical, so I’ll desist being an imbecile and get back to the analytical.


Sorry about that. I will never do that again, NEVAR!

Lets start again, another way and see how we go.

In a sea of blue tents within this year’s Belladrum 2018 Tartan Heart Festival, sails the good ship, Verb Garden. From 20:45 on the Saturday night, it was being commanded by Captain of the Lost Waves and his accomplice, Muzwell the Mute.

The ship’s passengers sat a plenty on the many comfy sofas, strewn across the deck. Some voyagers fed well from a hearty meal of oysters or other worthy scran from the luscious Food From Argyll. There were sights of wayfaring folks recovering or resting from frantic crowds, and then there were some curious explorers just wading through the festival.

The scene was set and the thundering fellow, thy Captain there came topside and took to the bow!


Enough of running with the nautical lines! I must stop, even if it krills me! Throw me some of that there Ritalin me hearties!

Now that I’ve got that nonsense out of my system; lets get on with the review.

Positive eccentricity works the crowd

I headed into the Verb Garden stage, enthusiastically dragging along a semi-willing participant and we settled down a couple rows from the front of the stage. This wasn’t necessarily by choice – the place was fairly busy, so getting a seat at all was a bit of luck. As the protagonist got to the stage he introduced himself as the Captain of the Lost Waves; accompanied by Muzwell the Mute on the left of the stage.

I’d caught the Captain on the Burke and Hare stage last Belladrum whilst waiting for Spring Break to come on, but hadn’t caught the act’s name. Now I know. An energetic and engaging performance with an tendency to serenade unsuspecting audience members is how I experienced last year; it was my expectation a similar show would occur. I was terrified of the concept last year – riddled with a plethora of social anxiety, and being an all-round basketcase recovering from co-dependency issues I wasn’t up for general conversation, let alone the terrifying prospect of a dapper gentleman warbling in my face. Go to a festival I’d thought, great idea, I’d thought.

That was last year, this year was this year. I was ready. Come at me Captain and I’ll embrace your dulcet tones!

Muzwell wasn’t mute as they warmed up – there was a bit of jiggery-pokery going on with the microphones and cables. The Captain, armed with his mandolin, and finely decorated in steampunk looking attire – and a mystifying third eye on his chin – explained that the wireless microphones were not playing fair. Regrettably this meant that due to a bit of an issue with the technology he would be restricted by the length of the cables.

I don’t want to dwell too heavily on this, because he coped and adapted his act to the scenario well, and it wasn’t his fault. There were a couple issues with tech at the festival, Paloma Faith had a mouth or microphone issue the previous night, I’d heard. Or not heard. I wasn’t there, but apparently she couldn’t hear, or the audience couldn’t, or they could. There was an issue somewhere.

Colonel Mustard had also had a short issue with their mics, mid performance; but they handled it like pros, as the Captain did. There were a couple other tech difficulties over the weekend, so maybe this was the year for it.

Muzwell became mute, so the show was in motion.

The wondrous third eye chin

The song was introduced with a dedication; “For Dee”. Dee – congratulations, you’re famous. Playing on the mandolin it immediately showed off his dynamic ability to glide between vocal pitches. It was a good one to start off with, especially given his entire audience was relaxed on tiers of comfy sofas. A song about enjoying the moment and just bloody well relaxing and being.

The self-described sentient trifle that I was sharing a sofa with was melting, having given it laldy with the sauce the night before, so I was left on my lonesome whilst they went off to obtain some “sweet-sweet sustenance from the nearby places with food an’ that”. – to reiterate the colloquialism of the moment.

The bard gave us a decent mix of songs, keeping interest and variety up performances within them, a good mix of crowd interaction – such as the sheep song; and deeper, more profound songs such as the celtic/folky sounding “Song called Summer” – the lyrics “not all of us will flower in summer” might give a wee taste of the aforementioned intricacies of his canny verse.

A selection of unsuspecting yoofs getting drawn into the carnival

The Captain was a lot calmer than my last year’s experience of him, perhaps it was the venue, or the equipment dictating, or the just that it was a completely different show. He was playing this year in the Burke and Hare, but it was the previous day, and earlier than the show I was at. Short of the option of time travel, this was the only instance of him I was seeing. I’d’ve liked to have seen if there were differences, but he’s good enough and I’m curious enough to see him again next year to find out. Either way, his act is a one of a kind. His wit is sharp, his words are clever, and there’s a depth to the act that allows you to enjoy it whether listening casually, or being drawn in to the layers of his lyrics. He’s worth looking out for if not just for the spectacle alone.

Do-it, do it, do it!

Review in audio for your humanly consumption:


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Hamish MacDonald – The Temple – Belladrum 03/08/18

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Hamish Macdonald

Hey Argentina!


It’s day two of the Belladrum festival and we’ve been lucky enough to have had a heads up about Hamish MacDonald’s public debut of his play Hey Argentina! – in the Temple.

The Temple, if you are wondering, is on the hill, overlooking the Walled Garden. We’ve stuck a map below of it, as to be entirely honest I was familiar with the building’s existence, but didn’t associate it with the name. This may just be me, but it’s probably useful if you’re not familiar with the Belladrum layout,  or if you are like me, and spent the last few years missing obvious signs to things that would be easily apparent if you’d been a bit more mindful. Either way; here it is, for future reference, citation or interest.

Full disclosure here; I’m a both a relative newcomer to, and a big fan of Hamish. I first saw him last year, at the Tooth & Claw, along with Tim Loud, and Sasquatch (who have since renamed to Joseph’s Cramp) and I have been hooked ever since. If you aren’t familiar with either of those two names by the way, look them both up – they’re both brilliant in their own right. We were actually going to review that gig as the lineup was a thing of beauty – but it fell by the wayside due to day jobs and other dilemmas at the time. It’s notable in that it was the first gig that the very astute Gareth Meadows put on. With the principle of putting on acts that he likes, rather than what will get crowds as the main driver, it’s the right way to do events, and the breath of fresh air that the Inverness music scene needed – he’s gone on to do several others, of a wide variety of sounds and genres – and of the ones we’ve managed to catch, they’ve been spectacular. 

Side note, I realise that this is meant to be a review of Hamish’s play, and it will be, I promise – just allow me to digress for a little bit. We are TheNettle.scot, so if you’ve read us before, you’ll probably be familiar with the fact we don’t follow a set format – and you’ve come back – so well done you. That being said, if this is your first experience of our site, and you’re reading this, thinking, “what the hell is this, a zine from the 1990s?” then sorry an’ that.  Maybe it is, maybe it’s a review site, maybe it’s a place that people can write freely and the community can get involved. Maybe you just want to GET BACK TO READING ABOUT THE FUCKING GIG IN THE TITLE!

Deep breath and back to where we were.

Tim Loud, he’s shit hot – self-described as anti-folk, and that’s probably a fair label. As Tim described himself; Billy Bragg, if Billy Bragg wasn’t middle class and didn’t live in the same village as the Blur cheese guy (…allegedly). That’s an approximation of what he said anyway – proper protest songs and worth checking out. Joseph’s Cramp as well, are eclectic, clever and surreal.

I was going to sarcastically write up a review of Belladrum, just listing the bands I’d seen and adding “…and are worth checking out” to the end of each band name. One problem with doing that as a concept is that it’s an inside joke.  The other issue is that it would have ended up being worse writing than this monstrosity of a piece that is already metamorphosing from the poorly crafted dung in my head to an incoherent written piece of rambling. So I’ll spare further pain and get back to the original intended subject matter of this review.

Hamish MacDonald

So I embarked on a nice optimistic and excited trot to The Temple. The last few times I’ve seen Hamish he performed his own piquant songs , but it was the slam poetry he did that really got me gushing about him – figuratively. We wrote that up here if you want to read about it, but it was the delivery and feeling with which it was put across that made it so dumbfoundingly brilliant. It was also the reason I was so excited to see his play. A quick blether with Hamish and the omnipotent musical director of Spring Break, (who was doing the sound mixing for this one), and down we settled. The temple is a great wee venue – it sits 25-30 people, the acoustics are great, and it lends itself very well to a small intimate performance.

Hey Argentina!

Having what I believe to be is a decent grasp of Hamish’s political leanings, I assumed that his play; “Hey Argentina!” was either going to be about  one of two things. It may be about the disappointment of Scotland doing something disastrously bad on foreign soil, involving embarrassing decisions by Ally MacLeod and the SFA with the score provided by Andy Cameron. The other possible subject in my mind was the horrors of Britain doing something disastrously bad in 1982 that involved devastating decisions by Thatcher, and a ship called the Belgrano.

Not to draw comparisons of the two; The latter being a far more serious and reckless error of judgement, and on a side note, anyone that looks back proudly on the 1982 display of mindless nationalism at the cost of hundreds of unnecessary loses of lives, do one.

As it turned out the play was based on the unfortunate tale of Ally MacLeod, leading the Scotland National Football team through the world cup qualifiers and into the Argentinian world cup of 1978. I would have known this if I’d’ve read the synopsis in advance, but I prefer to come into things blind. Call me weird, but I think something stands well on its own two feet better if you’ve got as little of a heads up about what’s to come as possible. It also helps if you come in without prejudice; it’s fairer on your appreciation of the event, and of the event itself. That is a good general rule of thumb, however that works up until, for a date night movie you end up watching the film starring Peter Mullan, “Tyranosaur”. Similarly good but also complete mood killers are “The One I Love” or “Gone Girl.” – stick to having your date nights where you actually speak to each other kids! I digress.

For many folk that were around at the time of the 1978 world cup, the phrase “It’s a disaster for Scotland” will send chills down your spine. For those a bit to young to remember the seventies, there was a series of Tennents lager adverts, sadisT, masochisT, pessimisT about ten or fifteen years ago; one of which featured a loop of someone watching a brief clip of Scotland doing what it does best over and over.

And for any absolute whippersnappers, here’s the infamous clip itself; which is synonymous with Scottish football, or it was when we qualified for anything.

The expectation was that the play would close with this as the sombre peroration.  Was I right? Well I’m not going to tell you the ending, that would just be ballbaggery at it’s peak.

The play opened football commentary fading in as the background ambience. Two adult human sized wooden figures were in the centre of the stage, one blue, one red – like the table top football game where multiple rows of three or four sporting effigies are skewered together through the waist by a metal pole.

Hamish enters the scene, with his bold storytelling way of delivering, and immediately he has your full attention. I’ve not actually seen a gig or open mic event where Hamish doesn’t have everyone’s attention – it’s captivating straight off the bat.  The play starts with Hamish nostalgically looking back at his memory of the 1978 world cup. The manager at the time, Ally MacLeod, and the build-up, to and qualifying for the Argentinian world cup. The way Hamish tells the football side is warm, looking back with enthusiasm and fondness. Within the first few lines, you’ve been transported there.

One of the prominent features of the 1978 world cup was the optimism that the then manager brought to the team, and the fans.  Scotland had an unquestionably brilliant set of players, Joe Jordon, Sandy Jardine, Kenny Dalgleish, Archie Gemmill – it looked a good one.

So this was a play about football? You’d think that the way it was framed; but even from the opening few lines, there was something that indicated that it was more than just that. As Hamish drew you in with the joy and excitement of the sporting side of it, he then nonchalantly hits you with the environment of the fans that travelled over and into. Initially in the guise of a raised eyebrow of fans making off the cuff observations, then switching back to talking about the build up to the next game.

The joy’s of the Scottish rollercoaster

The ability of Hamish to pull you so far into what he is saying is beyond reproach. As I travelled with Hamish on his journey I almost felt guilty as I got excited about the anticipation and action as he told the football side of the story. Along with the character, I also put the cold hard truth about the Argentinian dictatorship that was going on at the time to the side.

The harsh realities of the military junta got darker and grittier. More personal and harrowing. This intertwined and switched effortlessly with the story of following the Scottish football team through its classic, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, the bonding of friends on the adventure of a lifetime, then back to the stark nightmare fuel of the slaughtering. Outside of the football element, there is a story in itself, which I’ll let you discover yourself by going to see the play. There’s some personal background to the whole play, which makes it all the more amazing once you know.

The dark side of the story

Hamish took you through the history and events as if you were there – it was thorough with it’s historical politics, the effects on people and the memories. It’s a very clever play, and it’s well told. There was a fleeting tenth of a second where I toyed with the headline, “it was a play of two halves”, but that cheapens it. It gets more involved the further you are invested into it, and the rough hour and a quarter was one of my highlights of Belladrum. It was on the following day for the second performance, at the Verb Garden, I didn’t catch the second performance as I was exploring other parts of the festival, but my understanding is it was equally a big success. Go see it if you can. It’s a wonder.

And here’s an audible version of this review:


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Belladrum 2018 – Woolly Dermal – Thursday night

Reading Time: 5 minutes

A patch of Nettles

Well, Belladrum – the festival that’s half carnival, half music festival, half just an all round frigging diverse delight!  That’s right, it gets an extra half.

A gaggle of us Nettle folk headed over to this year’s number – the way I’m going to do mine, is separate posts about each day, then more in depth views for a handful of the acts.  I think that’s how the rest of the gaggle are doing it too, but here’s my Thursday overview.  (As we always do with multi-day events or multiple reviewers for a gig, we’ll link them all together at the foot of the page as more content transcends minds, fingers, keyboards then the interwebs.)

Woolly’s beginning

I’ve been to a fair few Belladrums in the past. Last year wasn’t the best Bella ever for me, for reasons external to Bella. [Woolly would vent about the external reasons, but they’re not self-aware enough to comprehend their own shortcomings, so it would be akin to complaining about diet coke – it’s well-trodden ground, everyone’s been there.]

Bella ’18 – Thursday

But that was last year, this year Woolly isn’t a shell of a person any more and was more receptive to enjoying the spectacle that is Belladrum  Tartan Heart Festival 2018. I did want to do the cigar box guitar making that was on last year, but I was too late to book – I was hoping to see it on the billing this year, but if it was, I missed it unfortunately.

There was however a profusion of fantabulous and diverse stalls, stages, tents, talks, shows and obviously music that were more than a counter for that particular loss. On the point of diversity, I was a wee bit twitchy about the theme for this year’s Belladrum. Bollywood, what could possibly go wrong? I was imagining multiple Papa Lazarou type characters, something straight out of a 70’s BBC sitcom, 1930’s cartoon, or private party with Prince Harry and Max Mosley.

I arrived on the bus, which was a first. I’ve either hitchhiked out like an optimistic toddler with a purpose, or travelled via car. The bus is actually a helluva lot easier, or it would have been if we weren’t having to collect our tickets from different sides of the festival. A wee shoutout to the gem of a person that made it possible to go this year again – you know who you are! But the bus driver was also a hero – you can’t pick your passengers, but you can control your demeanour, and we were lucky to have a happy and chirpy one. 

A mix up with one of the bands ate a fair bit into our day, which meant some of Thursday was lost to the ether. A wee trip to the nearby Brokies Bar and some listening to their mini Fringe event passed a bit of time. Eventually in we went, set up the tent and went to what I consider the hub of Bella, The Walled Garden. You’ll know if you’ve been before;  It hosts the Free Range Folk Stage, Burke and Hare stage and performance area, and all sorts of interactive weird stuff. This year was the year of the optical illusions and a wind up battery thing attached to a gramophone speaker. You wind it up for ages, then all lights go green when it’s charged. There’s a lever to press then something happens. That’s the theory, but it helps if after a few minutes of forearm exercise, a fellow Nettle reporter doesn’t press the button too early. Bella, we’ll never know what the mystical wind up gramophone did, but we’re sure it was fab.

Timski, giving it verbal!

Next stop was a bit of spoken word from the talented Mr Timsky. Or just Timski at the WEA stall. He’s kicking about Velocity café on the first Thursday of each month as part of a spoken word group – 7pm to 9pm I believe. As the festival was part of the Year of Young People, there were bucket loads of events and other exciting things to do all round, which we’ll cover more in the next few days. 

The evening

Most of the rest of the Thursday involved a little trip to see a snippet of The Mystic  Shoes at the Grassroots stage, before meandering over to catch some of Amy MacDonald.

The Mystics fan base was as it always is, mental, and the  insane amounts of energy demonstrated by the mad dancing and shapes been pulled is a spectacle of almost inexplicable wonder in itself. A sober Woolley headed over to see Amy MacDonald doing her thing at the main stage, the Garden Stage. Every year I forget the main stage is called that. Am I an idiot? Yes, probably.

A voice so powerful that a ray of light shot out of the back of Amy’s head – opening up a wormhole to another dimension.

I’m not a card carrying Amy MacDonald fan, but the mood was spectacular, to the point that this old twat of a person ended up bopping away once he’d met up with a couple more Nettle eegits. The comedy highlight was listening to two of them discussing how best to post to Instagram whilst Amy belted out the song ‘Youth of Today’ – granted this is a song about old intolerant gudgies telling the millenials that everything is their fault, but it was a moment that was worth a laugh.

No pictures of the streamers, but the whole affair was pretty.

The visual highlight though was when a mass of oversized paper streamers or ribbons fired out from the main stage, high above the crowd, and pretty far into it. We were about two thirds back, and got covered in them. It was an absolutely beautiful spectrum of colours, like a rainbow stage god sneezing joy – I was well chuffed. Everyone was, and it’s one of the big memories I’ll be taking back from this year’s Bella.

Not being savages,  we weren’t camping in general camping, but we did have a wander over. My word it was already like a war zone.  This Nettle reporter was fully intent on having a 99% sober Belladrum, but the gift of fifteen beer tokens found on the ground had something to say about that.  I feel unfortunate for the poor bugger that had the misfortune of providing said gift, but they were shared among friends, and I’ve involuntarily gifted volumes of beer tokens in past festivals. Is this guilt talking?

 No. Definitely not. Maybe. Probably.

But the festival was setting up to be a beautiful one already. And I wasn’t sitting in my tent crying, which was a vast improvement on last year. Goes to show though, just because you have a crap year, doesn’t mean it’ll always be bad. It won’t, and it’s what you make it. 

Colin Cannon – a wee session under the Canvas – Eden Court 27/07/2018

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Summer and that

My, it’s been a busy week, and it’s not going to stop any time soon.  Eden Court has had a huge number of things on over the last couple weeks, as many places have, which has been more than pleasing to the ears, soul and heart.

I have ears and a heart, the soul, less so, as that’s a metaphysical concept, but the music has been giving me the feels, so that’s good.  Also, the heart has benefited as it’s a muscular organ, so walking around has been good. No summer of love here – just a summer of goodness and rationalism.

I headed out with one of my old band members to see what was what. A leisurely stroll across the bridge and down the sun beaten banks of the River Ness brought us to the canvas on the grounds of Eden Court, complete with an outdoor pop-up  Black Isle Bar serving their own form of alcoholic art, which they’ve been doing for the last few weeks.

There’s a lovely grassy knoll too, thankfully today there were no loon (or lone) snipers taking pot-shots (that I could see anyway), and just a nice flow of people having a good time.

We met up with all the good people and blethered for a bit before settling down.  The first bit of ambience we came across (figuratively, sorry mum) was from a Ukulele orchestra, who did some happy covers of some songs, including the pesky 500 Miles by the Proclaimers – this isn’t the most recent time I’ve heard this either. I don’t mean to be a kill joy at all, but it’s like being in school, where everyone constantly played Oasis’ Wonderwall – Everyone – Stop it! It’s catchy, but so’s the tetris theme tune, you don’t want to hear it all the time. It’d be fine if I knew it wasn’t going to be played at the next three out of seven places I went with music on, but aaaaarrrgggh.

Ukulele’s and that

In spite of my prejudice for that song, The Ukulele band were alright, chirpy, and had a ukulele bass, which I didn’t know was a thing. There was clapping and little kids dancing, the like of you’ve not seen since the Marymas Fair.

Anyway, Colin Cannon appeared.

A man with a guitar.

Colin’s was shortlisted for  a slot at Bella, so this was a nice showcase for him. The first thing that struck as he opened his  set was the voice. That should go without saying as a redundant sentence, but I mean it wasn’t what I’d expected. I was grateful it wasn’t 500 miles by the Proclaimers, however his voice did have more than a hint of another revered Scottish act. Holy shit cakes he sounds like Paolo Nutini. I’m confident I’m not the first to say that.

I don’t just mean the twang of the accent, the range and that weird wobble thing when Paolo goes ooooohh, or o-o-o-oh was there too.

Colin’s next song was Hope’s for Glory, which was fired out with determination – to the point that the A string on the guitar made a break for it at the tail end of the song.

Colin seemed unfazed by this, and switched to ukulele, whilst his glamorous assistant, Chris restrung his guitar.

Rocking the ukulele

Colin played “The belly of a beast you know” on his tiny guitar thing (we know, don’t write in.) It had a really pleasant instrumental picking element to it, which sounded fantastic on the old uke.  The preceding Ukulele orchestra had been mostly doing chord strumming work, so it was nice to hear some more of the versatility of the instrument. They could maybe work together? No?

With the return of the freshly restrung guitar came Soul Asylum, a slow, soft song, which Colin pointed out had never lost a string to. There were another few songs, which included the pragmatic “Good times for all”, which seemed to be a song about not being a dick, and looking forward.  

Soulful singing

 “One White Wall” was another notable one, which had a bit of crowd interaction; getting back to the ukulele theme, the crowd chanting “two ukuleles” at the appropriate time.

“Stay the Same” was a full bodied number that wouldn’t have sounded out of place as the opening track for a bond film.

There was a mix of ages and people in the audience, so Colin had to find some songs that were suitable for young ears, or at least safe to play around. That suggests there’s a greater catalogue of music to be heard.  His voice is good, his songs are good.

“Woke up on the kitchen floor”

The closing song was “This is How We See”, one of his older ones. There was a warm feeling to this one, like being drunk -which fitted, as it was about being drunk. Drunk on a summer’s day I reckon, like what we did in the times of no responsibilities or consequences.  When this here place were all fields.  If we can’t be drunk mid-day these days, we can at least listen to Colin, and live vicariously through his music. Or if you can drink mid-day, you can do both.

You can catch Colin on August 3rd at Brokies Bar from 17:30 for a full on set if you’d like to see what you missed.

There was some spoken word on after that, but I’ll let someone else write about it…