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.

Wednesday

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.

Thursday

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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XpoNorth 2019 – Listening learning liking at XpoNorth 2019 part 2

Reading Time: 13 minutes

Part 2: Thursday night music

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Ukku:

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

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

However, back to Ukku!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Solareye:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Dazed Digital Age:

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

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

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

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

Pleasure Heads:

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

The band The rammed in audience.

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

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

And there was much rejoicing.

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

LaKyoto:

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

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

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

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

Round-up:

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

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

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

 


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Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert – Mad Hatters 01/07/18

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Aidan Speaks And We Listen

 

Hot on the heels of the mixed bag that is XPO North, Aidan Moffat was in town and this Arab Strap fan could’ve punched himself square in the face he was so excited to see a proper musical hero up-close.

Sunday nights out tend to be pastime exclusively observed by the most professional of the unprofessionals of Inverness, but last Sunday was going to be the exception.  Many a be-bearded 30-to-40-something year old had managed to survive the frankly terrifying temperatures of the afternoon, slipped into their khaki man-shorts and then made their way to Mad Hatters to see Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert inject some glorious angst into our already issue-riddled carcasses. 

The night started gently enough with support with the delicate tones of Siobhan Wilson.  With a soft voice and a fragility to her songs that rivals the likes of Kathryn Joseph, she soon had the half-cut me pure on her side.  Siobhan’s songs are as high-minded as she is high-trousered, add to that her barefootedness and you’d be forgiven in thinking she might be a bit of a

wannabe wanker, but somehow she manages miraculously not to stink up all of Hoots with pretentiousness as she gracefully slips between guitar and piano based numbers.  There’s an honesty to her performance that means even when she busts out a full-on French number it doesn’t even cross my mind to trade a couple of snide remarks with neighbouring cynical cunts like I would usually do at such events.    This is in itself an achievement because as some of you will know I’m a snide wee dickhead at the best of times, especially with a can of Red Stripe in one hand and a notepad in the other.  Not even the photographer from Inverness Gigs constantly getting in my view of the stage could detract from a great performance from the Elgin lass.  Siobhan’s support slot was a very convivial way to start the evening and her influence on the night was not over as she is also a key member of the Aidan Moffat and RM Hubbert line-up.

 

 

I’ve have been a fan of Aidan Moffat since his album ‘I Can Hear Your Heart’ dropped into my lap when I used to work in Borders Books (Mind that place? ‘Twas good, eh? Dead now though☹).  It was an album of songs that had more words than notes and spoke of chaotic relationships, infidelity, getting pissed and generally contained everything I was aspiring to make part of my life in my early to mid-twenties.  The album came with a booklet with a short story you had to read first before you could listen to the album track by track in order for the development of the story to make any sense.  I thought “Who even makes albums like this?” and quickly fell for Aidan’s gruff, familiar Scottish accent as he spat poetry into my grateful face whilst I mechanically stickered more pish James Blunt or Duffy albums to put on our shelves for you ignorant cunts to buy.  After my introduction to Moffat I discovered the music of his former band Arab Strap and realised what I had been missing out on all these years.  I mean, I do remember people talking about Arab Strap when I was in school, but I paid little to no heed as I was too busy being absolutely fucking lit at football and chasing dat pussy (and by pussy I mean next door’s cat – ‘Catrick Swayze’). Anyway, my point is I fucking love Aidan Moffat and everything he fucking does, alright? 

 

 

Anyway, Aidan and RM ‘Hubby’ Hubbert seem to be a match made in musical heaven.  Hubby not only adds a tremendous amount of skill and authenticity with his guitar work, he also holds court between songs adding levity to what could be described as a some pretty grim subjects of love, infidelity, denial, the theory of the multiverse, all sorts of shite – it’s all in there.  Whilst Hubbert smashes through some particularly spectacular guitar work (his own words) Aidan lends the songs his signature mix of poetical lyrics based in bleak reality tinged with a knowing sentimentality that has threaded through all of his major work since the good ol’ Arab Strap days.  Aidan has a way of making every song feel like a full-bodied chapter in a novel, each leading on to the next chapter, creating something special and speaking to the listen on a very personal basis about their own losses and victories in life and love.  A particular highlight from the night was the song ‘Zoltar Speaks’ which is a song that perfectly exemplifies not only Hubbert’s ability as a master guitarist, beautifully creating the atmospheric foundation for Aidan to then weave his signature storytelling through.  The song is short and uncomplicated, but there was not a pair of eyes or ears in the room that wasn’t trained on Aidan throughout the song, captivating every single person in the room with his tale of love at the end of a pier (who’s never had a wee cider and a cry at the end of a pier, am I right?)

Between songs, Aidan and Hubbert charm the audience with some light-hearted self-deprecating banter.  The two have known each other since their Glasgow DIY music scene days of the 90s so their close relationship is there for all to see as some good-natured jibes aimed are at Aidan for being a dour bastard whilst Hubbert deriding the crowd when a round of applause mistakenly comes before the end of a song, giving him the opportunity to remind everyone that CDs are available to buy at the merch table for those you have just embarrassed themselves by clapping too early. I was able to just buy a tshirt from the lads that night cos I am not a total amateur and I pure know when to clap cos I bought the album when it came oot, ken?!   The surprise of the night came when a cover of Yazoo’s ‘Only You’ was busted out and it was (surprisingly) an absolute delight.  A singalong was even encouraged by Aidan despite him already having expressed how much he “fucking hates” people singing along with him, but as it turns out, it’s only his own songs he hates people screaming back at him (on hearing this, I modified my behaviour accordingly). 

Throughout the set, Siobhan Wilson adds depth to proceedings with accompaniment on vocals, piano and cello (yes, on the fucking cello lads).  She is the star of the show on the track ‘Cockcrow’ where she and Aidan perform a kind of call and response track about the usual craic of complicated relationships that satisfy and frustrate in equal measure.  (Christ, this review is in danger of becoming a bit a proper bloody review from one of those real review ‘hings for a change!  Usually it’s just me talking pish about how many

Red Stripes it takes for the music to get good and which bastards I fell out with on my travels to and from the bar.  Dislike.)

 

 

Anyway, go and see these guys as soon as you can if you haven’t already – and buy the album too, eh?  It contains everything you need for a good weep in front of the mirror about how you fucked up this and that, but it also contains everything you need to 

remember that you had good bits in between all the fuck ups too. 

What more could you want?

Scooter.

Aidan Moffat and Scooter.

That’s all you need.

XpoNorth and the joys of rapid fire music education – Part 3. 28/06/18

Reading Time: 7 minutes

XpoNorth and the joys of rapid fire music education, Pt 3.

 

Continued from Pt 2

There is a genuine potential risk in putting on an event 2 nights in a row throughout the week. People go out the first night, as I did. Get caught up in the moment, and potentially have a bigger night than they expected on the first night, as I did.
Then have to get up and go to work, not pacing themselves for the longer haul over the 2 nights as their rational brain had sternly imposed upon them before the first night got going. As I did.
So there is a period at the start of the second night where you (read ‘I’) wonder about the balance between sense and fun. I also remembered exactly why I decided the last couple of years that I was gonna take some time off of work for this event and do it properly.
Ah, the best laid plans of bullshitting oneself. A fine art, honed and polished well. At least that was how it seemed after work, thinking about and banking on the restorative powers of beer, the energy of the crowd, and – to bring it back to the matter at hand – live music.
Luckily the restorative power of all came through for the Thursday night, and with (second) wind in the sails, 3 bands were seen.
I had planned to start the night seeing ‘Carma,’ but foolishly was directed to the wrong place by a friend, and didn’t double-check. Then I planned to see Ida Kudo, but the friend with the early start who I kept out too late the night before wanted to go back to MacGregor’s for the beer, and would’ve be a right schmuck to impose myself again. Sure I saw a friend straight after that couldn’t stop raving about how amazing she was, but that was after the fact, so I had to suck that one up and put it down to the pre-acknowledged random nature that I knew would be a component part of the night. Instead, the night was started as stated at MacGregor’s with good beer and:

Ewan C. Grant

Those into them were keen, and were keeping their front and centre spot
Hard to get closer to get a photo. 

 

 

 

 

 

This was an intriguing way to enter into a second sequential night on the town sampling bite size chunks of music. We had come here (MacGregor’s) for the beer, but there were many known faces already grooving along to the music upon arrival, us having missed the first 2-3 minutes making our way from a restorative, constitutional start-up beer at the Black Isle. No music there, but the upstairs garden and sunshine nevertheless providing its own part in kicking the evening off, after the non-starter wrong venue fuck-up that saw us miss ‘Carma.’
Walking into Ewan C. Grant, there was a packed house already. I don’t know if they are much better known beyond my particular ignorance (if so, someone please contact The Nettle and clear up the name bit above…), but people were out for it and up for it. They were grooving along in that subdued, internal dancing while looking at my feet way that combines so natural with certain brooding forms of base driven melody.
This certain brooding form of melody was driven by tech – board, keys, wires, dials, and a whole lot of the boy/ girl duo creating the music staring at what they needed to turn or press at the right time. It was good for what it was. Not front and centre for my taste, but really, I enjoyed them and so did the crowd, and what can you say against that?
There was a background overarching deep base feedback loop resonance that permeated for the entire set, continuous across time and linking the individual songs by virtue of this continuance. It varied in accordance to the songs, but it was a steady heartbeat feeding through the entire set.
This in itself created an ambiance and atmosphere in the way that steady, repetitive bass it wont to do. Beyond the regularity of this side of the coin, there was actually some decent diversity of tune on the other side of the coin. They were at what could be considered to be the start of the night, and being this time of year where the light from the sun stays on well into the night, they were playing in semi-twilight.
While perhaps best sampled drug-fucked at 2am in a smoke-filed basement somewhere, this twilight element was perhaps a good 2nd best experience of the mood with which to see them. I wouldn’t say that it was amazing, but it was certainly good. I’ve seen more inspired in the genre, but for what it’s worth, they were mostly after the witching hour, an advantage not given to these 2 surely fine people. I think that with more inebriation and a later hour it would have helped, but still, I think that if they were to play in town again, I’d give them a go.

Miracle Glass Company:

Vocal harmonies, energy, and seriously good 70s throwback fun

 

The next stop was over at Hoots, and the Miracle Glass Company, another chosen on the merits of under 60 seconds ‘they look the goods’ research.
Straight up, these were – for me – the best band of the night. I put in the caveat ‘for me,’ as it is important in context. I was there at the start with a number of people, and I was there at the end with one friend. The rest had looked, not much liked, and wandered off to await the next band upstairs. To double-down on this, another friend came up and asked us if they were good and worth staying for. We both enthusiastically gave the thumbs up, but he was off again after less than a minute of his own assessment.
This was a band that divided the crowd. Some – like most of the fuckers I knew – gave it a thumbs down. However, me and my dancing buddy absolutely, categorically, fucking loved them.
Hooting-and-a-hollerin’ loved them. Bedouin tribe rattle the tongue call out across the desert love them.
This was some stand up, take it for what it is throw-back classic 70s R-O-C-K rock! Parts reminded me of the Steve Millar Band, part West Coast American easy rock like the Eagles or some such, part Boz Scaggs, even (because of the beginning harmonies on one song) part Sandy Rogers.
Most songs we thought reminded us of something or other from the decade, it seemed.
The lead guitar was classic surfer dude rock, the base player classic stoner, greaser dude tight-shirt bounce, and the drummer decked in Bee Gees glory was giving it his all, and was good at it.

The most striking thing about them was that all of the 3 sung, either individually or in harmony. They engaged the crowd, they caused dancing and smiling and tapping on the shoulder to point and smile. Fuck they were fun. It was a shame that the nature of the music divided the crowd, but then again I suppose that this is a risk of music which is so unashamedly that which it is. For me, they were great. I’d bounce and smile and holler to them again any time.

The Dazed Digital Age

Heading upstairs from Hoots to Mad Hatters, we gained just the single decade, transforming from 70’s guitar-driven harmonising vocals 70’s rock, to synth-driven, low wave pulse driven prog-rock. Think less new romantics like Soft Cell, less Talking Heads in their bouncy synth moments, or any of the 80’s rap and hip-hop, and more Gary Newman or Peter Murphy and Bauhaus.
Again, there was a good crowd and a good mood for this one. The stated partner in crime from the night before had announced as from the first song that they were a fan. For me, it was an interesting one to try to pin down. And I also acknowledge here that there was a sidebar influence on my thinking herein. The keyboardist for Lional was the frontman here, still with the groove factor sunglasses on, but now with his own sunglass-bespectacled partners in crime on stage helping him out.

Throwback to the 80s this time. What they aimed to do, they did

The issue of conflict for me is that in Lional I think that his music brings something seriously good into the balance and the mix of the band. For me here, it was less a component part, more the unleashed main game. And once again for me, as opposed to healthy swathes of more appreciative crowd, this percentage growth affected the balance unfavourably.
To which, I know that this is unreasonable thing to say, they being two different band and outfits. This was very clearly an 80’s loving outfit that were good at replicating the feel of the area. I remember thinking that they should get a go on the soundtrack to the next series of Stranger Things, or that they would have happily grown up on the goodness movies like Short circuit or Weird Science, and would have fit beautifully into the genre.
It just wasn’t necessarily that inspiring to me. It was good, it was enjoyable, it was even authentic. But after a while it was a bit samey. In a 30-minute set, this is either a desired effect, or a problem. They are relatively newly formed however, so the answer to this will work itself out in the mix.
They also formed the end of the whole program and thus the XpoNorth event. Good kudos for them, and one appreciated by a good deal of the crowd. Not my thing, but I can appreciate being outnumbered in this, as well as the respect that they were afforded in this spot on the running list. They are what they are, as described above. If this is for you, then check it out.

And then…
After them, the lights went on, the bouncers stepped close into people’s personal space and politely but convincingly suggested that everyone would be happier to drink up and get out. I’m sure that there was a bunch of people hyped up and keen to move onto the next place.
I took the opportunity to remember the bed that I didn’t give enough time the night before, and headed off. 2 nights, 8 bands, and a lot of ‘I’m gonna keep them in mind should they ever come back.’
Mostly though I just went home full of new music and happy that such a thing as XpoNorth exists.
Until next year. I’ll do it right then, I shall once again promise myself…
-Cornwallace

Links to Facebook pages (except for E.C. Grant, who didn’t get that love from the XpoNorth page, and who I couldn’t confidently track down): [We did – Ed.]

The Dazed Digital Age
Miracle Glass Company
Ewan C. Grant

 

Part 1:

Xpo North and the joys of rapid fire music education

 

Part 2:

Xpo North and the joys of rapid fire music education – Wednesday 27/06/2018

Xpo North and the joys of rapid fire music education

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Part 1 of 3 – Introduction and Overview

Tall and talented bass player for Lional, stylish shirt indicative of the unheard of Invernesian heatwave XpoNorth added to the joy of

XpoNorth, as advertised, is a creative arts festival. The main heart of the event is centred at Eden Court, where over a couple of work days, traditionally – perhaps I can legitimately use that word now that it has been has been going for a few years now in Inverness – there are a range of amazing sounding talks and events to whet the appetite of the culture inquisitive and hungry.
This is coupled by evening entertainment which stands out in the calendar as 2 amazing, diverse nights of multiple, beautiful, rapid fire music opportunity, coming from 7-8 venues across the heart of Inverness, all with 3-4 bands on both nights.
The basic premise is that each band get 30 minutes to showcase themselves and capture the audience. For live music fans, what this equates to is a veritable smorgasbord of tapas bar hopping goodness, sampling a wide range of experience in a small space and time.
And with this opportunity comes people, out and about on school nights, pumped and primed and keen as mustard at the feast on offer.

Emma Woods late on Wednesday, MacGregors. Beer, music and crowd all flowing fine

In relation to the main event/ day events at Eden Court, I unfortunately cannot comment, really, apart from what I read and what others told me.
I’ve been keen for this part and it sounds amazing, however for the last few years I have either been at work for these sessions, they have been booked out, or I have in some other way stuffed up and not got to this part of the event.
I have to say on this point though – either in my defence or as a gentle prod to the organisers – that this year it felt that the event was criminally under-advertised. I remember seeing a poster in where the upcoming gigs and events are placed in the front alcove of a music shop on Church Street a couple of months ago, and thinking I really want to do this properly this year. About Tuesday this week a friend asked if I was all set for it starting the next night, and knew that from this beginning, I had to get my skates on.
I’m sure some of the fault is in me living in a cave, but the numbers and feel on the street, as well as direct questioning to many all speaks, I think, to the legitimacy and generality of my experience here. A great product, under-advertised, and undersold.
While this is a shame, there was still an amazing amount on offer that I did get to see and want to thank the organisers for – thanks! – and it will be that which will form the reviews of the event.

The 2 reviews I’ll be writing here on XpoNorth will be on the music programme part of the overall event. I’ve split it into the 2 as a natural split exists, i.e. Wednesday and Thursday nights. Also because of the volume of content. I saw 5 bands on the Wednesday night and 3 on the Thursday, so might as well carve them up in this way.
One aspect of this event to consider, before launching into the band reviews, is that the nature of both the event and us as humans, as social creatures, necessarily played their parts in the choices of the bands that I managed to see.
My Thursday night serves up a couple of examples. I wished to see Carma early on, however relied on my friend saying it was at the Ivy Bar, instead of looking at the running sheet to confirm it was at the PentaHotel. My bad.
I also wanted to see Ida Kudo, who a friend said afterwards was amazing and their stand out – a fact that was both heartening and shit me off a bit, as I said no to that, as a friend preferred to go to MacGregors instead as they wanted a tasty beer just then. At least the beer was tasty.

 

Beyond the haze, The Dunts, top of The Tooth & Claw

As a connected aside, there’s a part of me that wonders about doing this ‘better’ next year – for I will get back to this great event next year.
Better may turn out to be selfish – decide on the bands I want to see, and go ahead and listen to them, instead of either being pulled to other people’s options, or pulled at times from listening and into conversations, which also happened a good deal.
I know that this will provide a better focus on the music, but also hesitate as it’ll influence the experience in other ways as well. As I say, as collective, social beings, there is something lost in this choice of path also.
I have no real answer here to this thought, only a ponderance that perhaps the beauty of the event lies, ultimately, as demonstrated in the music programme, in the choice we were lucky enough to have on offer.
And over to the reviews,  which will appear in tomorrow’s edition bastardwordiness.thenettle.scot,  just a simple click away… 

Part 2:

Xpo North and the joys of rapid fire music education – Wednesday 27/06/2018

Part 3:

XpoNorth and the joys of rapid fire music education – Part 3. 28/06/18

 -Cornwallace

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

stetsonhead-marketbar
Reading Time: 6 minutes

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

stetsonhead-marketbar
Stetsonhead doing their thing.

 

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

 

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

 

Light and Decks at the ironworks
Lights and Decks

Lights and decks at the Ironworks

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

 

Too Many T’s –  Madhatters – 13/10/17

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Friday the 13th is normally a night that is earmarked for me and ma mate Voorhees to pursue some teenagers of loose moral fibre through a nightmare of their own making, and this Friday the 13th was no different as I was pencilled in to watch the f-f-fresh faced rap duo ‘Too Many T’s’ at Hootananny/Madhatters.

 

Earlier in the day I had a call on the Batphone from another mystical member of The Nettle crew who was keen to sink a few at The Exchange and pretend we weren’t skint for an evening (‘evening’ begins at 3pm right?).  This was good news as it meant I could limber up before Too Many T’s and it also meant I would have someone to talk to/bitch with about the impending gig.  It can be lonely, drunken work reviewing gigs around the ‘Ness so it’s always nice to have a wingman to point out what’s good about the band onstage and then I can point out why they are wholly wrong and why no one likes them or their mum. 

Too Many T's Hootanany

So, cut to 5 pints of lager, 1 steak dinner and an in-depth discussion about whether Davy the Ghost was still with us or not later, we finally made it to Hoots – the venue of (super)kings.  I’m always a big fan of a free gig in Hoots as the place has everything I need to have a spiffing time; Red Stripe cans behind the bar and a smoking area that will tolerate my drunken patter no matter how misanthropic my craic might get.  GOOD PEOPLE!

 

We grab a can and climb the well-trodden/fallen stairs up to Madhatters to see just how many T’s are too many T’s on this Friday night.  Too Many T’s (from here on in they will be referred to as ‘The T’s’ as it’s a pain in the arse typing that name) are a Hip Hop/Rap/Young Person’s group from that London who have just started a nationwide tour and chose to grace our town city with a good old fashioned free gig to whet some Jacobite appetites.  Despite Inverness not being blessed with an abundance of Hip Hop gigs, attendance was unfortunately sparse from the snapback snapchat crowd and it was mostly left to the irregular regulars to encourage the rap trio to ‘spit dem bars’(street AF, eh?). Empty venues are the curse of Inverness I’m afraid these days.  Unless the band have appeared on the Hit Parade or are some middle of the road indie band with a U2 complex, generally it can be a hit or miss if anyone even turns up so we shall not blame the The T’s for this. 

Too Many T's Madhatters Inverness

I’m not a massive fan of the Hip Hop but these guys were very good. They are lyrically blessed and had patter to spare between each other and with the sparse crowd.  The comparisons with the Beastie Boys came thick and fast from my pished compadre, and he wasn’t wrong, but I then offered a “lyrically they are probably closer to Abdominal or maybe Dj Format”, but that’s only ‘cos I can be a total wank when I want to be. 

 

The T’s had a hell of a flow and a great to-and-fro with each other and got the intimate crowd moving despite the very few folk knowing their tracks.  The T’s have an advantage over most as they have had the vision to add some proper fuckin’ toe tappin’ hooks into their densely packed raps.  Tracks like ‘1992’ and ‘Sixty’s Ford’ show exactly how hip hop should be done live (YouTube that shit now brah).  It left me head noddin’ and beat boxin’ like I wasn’t a wee Scots fella from the wrong side of the River Ness (IV3 ‘til I D.I.E, boiiii). 

 

To those not in the habit of listening to Ugly Duckling or J5, these pair are a good entry point to hip hop.  They beautifully sidestep the misogyny and the solipsistic arrogance of the rap game and pick up the mantle from The Beastie Boys and continue to champion the much-overlooked rap subgenre of ‘rap for people with Sodastreams’ (fancy bastards).  This categorisation is cemented when they start a flow about Sainsbury’s plum jam and the proclamation of “Fuck marmalade” becomes my catchphrase for the remainder of the night and I am forever grateful for that gifted patter from the MCs.  

Too Many T's Inverness gigs

By the time the lads had done 45 mins or so I was pretty leathered and I retired to the smoking area to ruin someone else’s evening, but I did so with some ‘sick rhymes’ rattling around my Nick Cave loving brain, and for that you have to give The T’s ‘massive props’.  The T’s are totally worth a look even if you’re not into hip hop as they have some great hooks and they have an inclusive way about them that means you enjoy the patter no matter your patter for that matter.  I just wish I hadn’t had so much to drink otherwise I could’ve spent this article picking apart their rhymes and really digging into their social commentary concerning Super Soakers and middle class preserves, but alas, as Popeye once said “I ams what I ams”.