XpoNorth 2019 – The story of Duncan

Reading Time: 9 minutes

First and foremost, I am a music appreciator and I am most definitely not a musician. Nor am I a musical creator and I do not work in the music industry. But, I spend a vast amount of my spare time listing to music, either at home or while driving as I go to gigs. And I go to a lot of gigs. Really a lot. At the time of writing, I have been to 148 gigs so far this year, seeing 406 individual performances. I have a further 81 gigs planned until the end of the year. I am sure there will be more before the year is out. I like my gigs.

My favourite kind of gig is one involving local bands starting off, who play a half hour set of original music and then watching them grow as they mature, gig after gig. XPONorth is an ideal platform for these bands’ showcasing and so 2019 is the 4th year running that I have been in Inverness for this event.

Like Woolly, I did not attend the seminars. I was purely at XPONorth 2019 for the music. But, unlike Woolly, I saw a whole load of different bands.

I had the basics of my two evenings planned out, which stretched from 7:30pm to midnight. My must-sees were bands and artists I had seen many times before and knew they were unmissable, namely –
Wednesday = The 101, Moonlight Zoo, False Friends, Cara Rose and Annie Booth.
Thursday = swim school, Walt Disco and Luke La Volpe.

There were no clashes with these but it still left me a few gaps to allow the discovery of new talent; to review previously seen talent and to poke my head around the door of something interesting. The weather was ideal. Dry, warm and still. Nice.

The 101

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My starting point was The 101 at the Ironworks. They are a good band, although perhaps just a bit bloated by having 3 guitar players. Still, with one of them on backing vocals, it all adds up to a good sound. Having seen them before, I broke away half way through and walked the maximum venue-to-venue distance (a 3 minute walk) to The Tooth And Claw to catch Elisabeth Elektra.

Elizabeth Elektra

Sadly, she was not my type of music and singing solely to full-on backing tracks does seem like karaoke to me but she makes music that is clearly popular right now and the crowd liked her style. Her energetic performance included heading into the crowd at times, which can be quite intimidating so they politely kept a safe distance. She has a single launch gig soon in Glasgow, if you wish to investigate it.

Having seen enough, I dashed to Hootenanny where the rising stars Moonlight Zoo played a blistering set to a near-capacity crowd. Make no mistake here, they have really catchy songs; a great stage presence and vocals which will astound you. That was 30 minutes of sheer animal bliss.

Moonlight Zoo

Instantly I was off to the next venue; erm upstairs! To Mad Hatters where Lunir was having a bit of difficulty setting up. The beauty of XPO North is they run a very tight ship and the music starts at the allocated time and ends on or before the allocated end time. So, any late starting does mean a truncated set. They finally sorted things out and started 7 minutes late so I guess they had to cut it short. As I listened to the first two songs I realise their soulful sound were not my scene so I decided to head off to the PentaHotel.

There, SHEARS was playing. I have known Rebecca for many years and her recent reinvention fits the mould of the current trends of music. Her voice is utterly amazing but her music is not really for me so I bid a hasty retreat and went back to The Tooth And Claw to try out Folda.

Folda

They are electro pop and probably quite interesting but time was marching relentlessly onwards and one of my must-sees was up next at the Phoenix. False Friends were calling me. If you are keeping track, they are band number 7 so far.

False Friends

False Friends always put on a great show and are so much fun to watch. You have a front line of Irish voices, all four who are on vocals at some point. Jonny on acoustic guitar with Anna on keyboards share the main vocals and they put all their might into it. Corrie is on bass with shaved head and Fearghal on lead guitar and they both supplement the sound so well. Callum is on drums at the back, holding the whole lot together. To their absolute credit, they played mainly new songs. I know because that was the 17th time I have seen them live. Jonny debated whether playing new songs was a good move or not but sometimes when it is the first time people have seen a band, any song is new. The crowd enjoyed their set, as did I but Cara Rose was up next at the PentaHotel so I had to run as soon as they were done. I did a lot of running.

I suppose that “unmissable” means just that, but Cara Rose is one of those artists who is truly and utterly unmissable. Her solo piano playing style is a joy to hear and her vocals are wonderfully clear. Her songs are remarkably mature for someone so young and she is a very relaxed and happy performer. The venue was about half full for her set but as her set progressed you could tell they were being quickly won over. I spoke briefly to her an hour later as I spotted her in the Ironworks. She was genuinely surprised but pleased that I liked her music and I had no qualms in telling her this. Good music needs to be appreciated.

Cara Rose

Indeed, what happens at these events is that the artists themselves become fans of other bands. I lost count of the number of performers I knew who were in the audience for other sets and thoroughly enjoying it all. It has long been said that the Scottish music scene is perhaps unique where bands will praise other bands when they gain success and do not just humph about it with a “why not me?” attitude. That camaraderie is a testament to its strength and potential to grow. It was also nice to see music pundits Vic Galloway and John Robb in the crowds, loving every minute of it.

Zoe Tait

I missed Acrylic as I wanted to hear Zoe Tait back at the Phoenix. There is an engaging quality to the loud and forceful delivery of her own songs. Her lyrics are still quite teenage but I can see a lot of potential as she will inevitably move into more mature subject matters than just bad break-ups. One to watch.

Keir Gibson at the Ironworks was someone I had encountered before, although I did not realise this until I looked up my gig history a lot later. With the help of a guy on piano and backing vocals, the half hour was filled with good songs, well sung and the crowd knowing they were seeing a class act. It was after this set I chatted with Cara Rose but I had to be brief as I had that running to do.

Emme Woods
Keir Gibson

What then happened was a comedy of errors. I caught Emme Woods play to a capacity crowd in the Phoenix dry ice fog but a restricted view meant I tried out The Woods quickly next at Hootenanny. This was a solo act doing a really long looping song which I did find quite tiresome. Escaping, I headed back to the Ironworks to catch Annie Booth. Once there, I realised she was not the band who was setting up. I was confused and it was 11:30pm at night. My brain really could not process why she was not there so I gracefully retired back to my hotel room. Only as I was falling asleep did I realise I had gone to the wrong venue. Duh me. I was too late to remedy it but was happy that I had seen 12 bands in full or toe-dipped and I had had a really good day.

Thursday evening was set to be much of the same but the daytime need to get out of the way first. So, I hire a bike and cycled the 30 mile very scenic loop around to Beauly and back. As you do.

Goodnight Louisa

Seconds away and round two. 7:30pm was seeing Goodnight Louisa at Mad Hatters. I could only stay for the first 15 minutes but that was a good set. I had not realised that Skjor had broken up and this is what Louise is up to now. Very nice indeed.

Swim School

A dash to The Tooth And Claw allowed me to catch the full set by my current favs swim school. They play superb songs and even threw in a new one, which I spotted. The crowd liked them too and that is always nice to see and hear. Another quick dash back to Ironworks and I caught the tail end of Fauves who really know how to get the crowd going.

A few experiments were next and I saw Ukku who were really not my scene. So, I went to see Lizzie Reid charm the socks of everyone at Phoenix. That band really knows how to play well. I saw most of False Friends in the audience and caught up with half of swim school too as I headed out to my next gig. The next blind date was Spoke Too Soon who played a superb set at Hootenanny. They are well worth seeing again.

Spoke Too Soon

Outside there was pavement art persuading anyone and everyone to see Ivy Flindt upstairs next. Well, I am not one to decline such positive invitations but was sadly disappointed by the music which really did not have that much substance to it. So, I went to see A Dazed Digital Age back at the Ironworks who have the sound that is currently bubbling up from nowhere which everyone will love in the next 6 months or so. They are going to be big. Mark my rather feeble prediction.

The Dazed Digital Age

The cream of the night was the fact that Walt Disco were scheduled for Mad Hatters and that venue was just not big enough to contain them. Right from the start, they blew the roof of it with an explosive performance which is as infectious as it is spectacular. If you have any chance of seeing them live, never pass it up.

Walt Disco

They were band number 9 of the night and things were starting to thin out. I went to the Market Bar for the first time that trip and it was packed to the gunnels with folk waiting to see Pleasure Heads. It was clear they could put on a show but the crowd’s very boisterous enthusiasm meant that even seeing them was difficult and so I had to leave to actually be able to breathe! People were being turned away at the door as there was literally no room left inside.

I headed back to Hootenanny and am very pleased that I did as it was a first time see for James Gordon And The Power who were a late substitute for the unable-to-make-it-due-to-family-matters Mark Sharp And The Bicycle Thieves. James put on a superb show with great songs. Once again a nice find and another to put on my watch list.

Finally, as pumpkin time approached, the last band to see were Luke La Volpe at the PentaHotel. Imagine, if you will, that George Ezra bloke but with so much better songs and a much better attitude and you are half way there. They are a superb band and the lack of audience did not do their great music justice. Prior to that though, I had a lovely chat with Anna & Jonny from False Friends. Such nice people.

Midnight and I was truly done. Another 12 acts seen and a fantastic time was had. XPO North is cementing its place as a music festival of pure quality and long may they continue to support these up and coming bands in Inverness. A big thank you to the organisers for all their very hard work.

 

 

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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Stetsonhead – Marketbar 22-02-2019

Reading Time: 5 minutes

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

  • By Cornwallace

C:\Users\Chris\Writing\Nettle Reviews\Photos\StetsonHead2.PNG

Preach muthafucker!! Preach to the converted!!

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

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

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

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

C:\Users\Chris\Writing\Nettle Reviews\Photos\StetsonHead3.PNG

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And these for the slower ones:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Reading Time: 8 minutes

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

        

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

The banter from the singer was pretty decent

 

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

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

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

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

  • Cornwallace.

 

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

Reading Time: 5 minutes

A Lass Called Wednesday

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

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

 

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

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

Prince Eugene-y

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

Eugene Ripper made Fremsley cry, hahahaha

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

Sasquatch This

X-Ray Cat Trio – that guitar though!

 

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

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

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

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

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

He played a load of covers.  It was nice.

 


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Thomas Truax – Market Bar 08/10/2018

Reading Time: 15 minutes

 

 

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

So the 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 2018 – Friday 7th September – official – Woolly Dermal

Reading Time: 10 minutes

A wee day out and that

 

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JOCKTOBER!

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!

DINOSAURS EVERYWHERE!

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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😮

Hamish MacDonald, Victoria McNulty and Abi Normal, the Market bar 21/07/18

Reading Time: 7 minutes

It’s a rare Friday that I’m out in Inverness these days, but the call of Hamish MacDonald doing some music and slam poetry was more than enough to entice me from the mundane to the exceptional. 

I’m a big advocate of spoken word, and was keen to see Hamish , and the headline performer Victoria McNulty.

At some point in the future TheNettle.scot will be branching out into hosting a regular, and accessible to all spoken word event too, but that’s further down the pipeline – there are other things to be sorted first, but watch this space!

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I did get a brief reminder of why Fridays for me are one to avoid. I arrived there just before eight – a brief encounter with a prosaic manifestation of a character that could easily have fitted in as the the subject matter of the play that I was about to witness. Thankfully the Belladonna opted to drift away before the event itself bloomed, which cleared the way for an enjoyable night. 

(I keep wanting to write Hamish Henderson for some reason, but he was a very different, worth checking out poet) Hamish MacDonald is who our attention is on though.

The stage is set

The Market Bar filled up fairly quickly, with many people drawn in specifically for the event. Friday is normally a busy one for HQ anyway, but there was definitely a fan base for the impending performances in question. 

After a good bit of craic-having with the enthused audience, Hamish opened at just after nine to a now tightly packed venue.  The initial offerings were songs accompanied by Hamish’s guitar, including a fairly damning – and damningly fair – composition about the cheesy wotsit dipped in mayonnaise that is Donald Trump.  A description of the beast as a “scrotum moron” within the song’s lyrics give a good taste* (*boke) of the song.

Hamish ge’in it laldy

There were several other songs played, including a number which also involved a prize at the end for the audience member who was able to identify the name of the person that wrote the piece. The lucky recipient of the Bounty sweetie managed to identify that it was a Rabbie Burns number, and was rewarded with the taste of paradise ™

The last guitar piece that Hamish played before resting his guitar was his own, cracking number, which as the title Existential Blues, would suggest is about death.  I’d like to affirm, that although through the duration of the songs I stated that Hamish was accompanied by his guitar, it was in no way sentient. All credit to him as a musician.

The real strength and biggest draw for me with Hamish is the slam poetry, and once the guitar was to the side, the full force of Hamish as a performer was in view. His piece on what I’d interpret as a damning view of territorial hostility, prejudice and eventually general imperialism; ‘Ma Bit‘ was delivered with ferocity and passion. 

The next treat was a treatise on Edinburgh as a city, it’s tourism, history and social equality. We’ve added a badly captured vertical phone video of it below. We’re not the BBC, and aren’t quite ready to get our social enterprise funding to get a decent camera/mic set up – so this’ll have to do. Sozzers.

Hamish MacDonald’s slam poetry led perfectly into the headline act, giving the same feeling of satisfaction that you get from something joyous and tactile. Not sex, perhaps something crunchy, like walking on virgin snow,  eating freshly baked still hot bread, listening to the crackling of wood on a stove, or some other apt simile. It was good an’ that. 

On the Stage and in the Crowd.

Emerging from the crowd, Victoria MacNulty grabbed the attention of the sardine packed Market Bar, by ringing a substantial old style school bell, the sort you imagined yer da would have heard, or yer da’s da if you’re born after the turn of the century.  

With the crowd now suitably engaged, subdued and eager to see what was coming, Abi Normal, sitting on the wee market bar stage with her guitar opened with a song about leaving England.  With prominent lyrics on the subject of departing the less than utopic environment for a better life for her kids;  “That’s why I’m leaving; I 

Abi delivering her enchanting lyrics

don’t want him to know there’s anything such as grieving”.

As the song closed Victoria emerged with an impressive presence, especially given that the venue was ram packed full.  Victoria delivered verbose and resolute soliloquy, bringing the environment of Glasgow to the humble Market bar. (As a side note, at the end when talking with Victoria, it was noted that the downstairs Market Bar thoroughfare bore a not dissimilar vibe as that of some pubs in Glasgow.)

The emotive monologue presented the market rabble with experiences of the division in Glasgow, sectarianism and the wrath and of the British dominance. With a reflective nod to the Scottish independence referendum and an affirmation and enlightening realisation that the treatment of Ireland, and the manner in which Scotland was seen to be treated after the referendum were not mutually exclusive. Interwoven into this were references to the poet Seamus Heaney and his works referencing the uprisings, such as Requiem for the Croppies.

This fed into talk of domestic abuse, the initial regretted tolerance of it, and it’s escalation. Bruises, control and domination – coping with it and all that surrounded it. The circling criticism and hardship that followed. The play was an intertwining transition between Victoria’s spoken word and Abi’s well delivered vocals and guitar. For the most bit lightly sung, but with meaty subject matter. 

Victoria, catching the attention of her audience

 

There was an added feel of interaction by the fact Victoria was able to walk around the venue, interacting and engaging with the audience in a manner which made the experience feel extremely personal. There were smashed bottles, talk of split families, and perfectly crafted terms such as being subjected to verbal ivory towers. Hidden bruises, but don’t call it abuse, and apologise for those that commit them. That struck a personal chord for me. Having to build up confidence again in the Market Bar itself, and working my way back into social interaction. Lines like “The poor bastard that has to stand and take it.” and “My body hasn’t felt like it belonged for a long time” were especially striking. 

I’m going to be careful not to paraphrase the entire work, but it’s worth looking out for.  The play was a journey through the depths of sadness, through optimism and all in between. They finished on a cover of Christie Moore’s Bee’s wing, which was a personal favourite of mine, and I can’t imagine a more fantastic way to close.

The aftermath

We left before Annakii made their way onto the stage; it was busy,  and there were people to meet in Mad Hatters. We headed across the road to see what was what. Downstairs had a folk arrangement, Shiltrum on stage, upstairs had The man from Delmonte playing, a rock number. Shiltrum were an upbeat trad band – we only caught a bit of TMFD, they seemed to be doing covers from what we did see of them, but they were energetic and had the crowd pumping. 

We got charged £2.60 for a small glass of draught coke though – is that normal? Apparently it is. 

We went downstairs after coke-gate. Oddly, as we were heading down the stairwell and away from MadHatters, TMFD were doing a cover of ‘I’m gonna be (500 miles)’. Arriving through the downstairs swing doors into the Hoots area, Shiltrum were also playing the same song. We decided having walked fifteen metres, we’d also walk fifteen more, and headed out to the outdoor area.

After a pleasant catch-up with a few friends, and an assessment that spending such an amount on carbonated kola nut and sugar was not sustainable – we ventured into Johnny Foxes. Although, you could probably market it as a cocktail base if you referred to it as that.

Carbonated Kola nut and refined sugar, with a dash of vanilla, served at Mad Hatters, for the reasonable price of £2.60. Tell your friends.

Johnny Foxes also featured ‘500 miles‘ being played, this time the performer we believe was Dark Horse. Was everywhere playing the Proclaimers? Sunshine on Leith was on in Eden Court last week. The Market once hosted the Proclaimers, but that’s more than acceptable, and pretty cool.

It gets people jumping, but they’ve got more of a repertoire than that. Lets get Married, Cap in Hand, plenty more. We should do a Foxes review one day.  I just find it difficult to write reviews of bands doing like for like covers. I remember once being in The Den, and there was a brilliant jazz pianist playing, but that was a long time ago. The evening’s only other notable experience of Johnny Foxes was a pale faced chthonic looking person staring at me like Annabelle from The Conjuring. I think her and the earlier bell’s behaviour are related. That was the last of the belles, or the bell-ends. Not much was doing in Foxes, so home it was to binge on Bob’s Burgers and cringe about how dated the TV series Extras has become. Seriously, have you re-watched it? It’s chauvinistic, sexist, homophobic tripe. In a non self-aware way, rather than satire. Save yourself the hassle. 

Go out and watch Victoria McNulty instead. She’s playing at Belladrum on Thursday night at the Verb Garden. Do eeet!

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Also, some links:

RANTER & CHANTER

Ben and Emily – The Market Bar – 08/07/2018

Reading Time: 5 minutes
 

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It’s hot as hell here at the minute and as someone who’s day job is in a greenhouse, I’m fucking miserable. With a strong desire to drink myself into a false sense of not melting, I decided to check out Ben and Emily’s gig at the Market Bar. They sell booze, I am poor, and if the music is terrible then tequila is affordable. “Let’s get shitfaced”, I thought to myself. What could go wrong?

I arrived early, knocked back a beer and got settled in. It was quiet during the soundcheck, with Ben ordering a Guinness here and there to get ready to face his public. At least, I think that was Ben. He didn’t look like an Emily, but I could always be wrong. I usually am.

Anyway, enough rambling. Let’s get down to business. I’ve seen the pair’s other band, Spring Break,  play multiple gigs in Inverness and was forewarned that this gig would be very different from them. I like Spring Break and their tropical highland hip hop. I’ll admit, I had no idea what to expect. That turned out to be a good thing.

The warmth of Emily’s vocals filled the room with happiness

The crowd had picked up a bit by the time Ben and Emily took to the stage, opening their set with a cover of a song I didn’t recognise. That’s normal, I’ve been living under a rock for the past three decades. The opener was a good indicator of what was to come; upbeat, snappy chords from Ben accompanied by Emily’s powerful and precise vocals. I knew I was going to enjoy this.

As the duo flawlessly careered through covers of Damien Rice, Paolo Nutini and Jason Mraz, it was clear that Emily was making herself at home on the stage. Ben has this air of confidence about him that allows him to look comfortable regardless of setting, whether it be a headline stage at Xpo North, or taking a leisurely dip in an Icelandic volcano. His presence seemed to reassure Emily, and coupled with the crowd’s reaction to her outstanding vocals, she blew the room away.

Ben, in an Icelandic volcano
Not Ben in a volcano.

I have to say, I was quite drunk at this point and my notes get messy. I drew a cat, pictured below for the sake of transparency.

Fuelled by vodka and heat exhaustion, my heavy heart was soon to explode with joy. Adele is a guilty pleasure of mine, and Ben and Emily’s rendition of ‘Hiding My Heart’  – and here’s a journalistic cliché – did not disappoint. Emily’s vocals were exquisite and haunting, while Ben’s soft strumming provided a melody arguably more fitting than the original. Emily’s voice filled the room with seemingly no effort, and delivered each note with the precision you’d expect from a seasoned superstar. I can say with confidence that I fell in love with her at this point, and my notes turned into a drunken stream of consciousness that was no more useful than it was comprehensible.

Next up was an acoustic cover of Lorde’s Royals. Astoundingly it was just as full of attitude and – dare I say – sass, as the original. A true testament to the talent of these two musicians. I think it was next up, anyway. I was truly shitfaced by this point; the novelty of a recovery Monday will do that to a working class hero like myself.

I am aware that I am essentially proposing marriage, six kids and a big house to Ben and Emily in this piece, but bear with me. 

Emily on full throttle

The undeniable highlight of the gig was Emily’s own song, “Little Girl”; an upbeat melody with a heartbreaking lyric to balance it out. That’s what I like- misery – dressed up all pretty and socially acceptable. The delivery of this song was full of emotion and somehow even better than the covers I’ve gushed about above. I would buy this. Hell, I WANT to buy this. Hit me up, my dudes. Hit. Me. Up.

A few more fantastically performed covers and the gig is at and end. I don’t think I’ve ever been sad to see the end of a local gig before, usually I’m dying to get to the bar and help my cirrhosis along. Not this time. It seemed the crowd agreed with me, chanting our national anthem “WAN MARE CHOON” at my new deities of choice. I resigned myself to a tomorrow full of agony and ordered myself another tequila.

As I’m writing this, I am realising that I’m finding this exceedingly difficult. That’s because I’m not used to being positive in any sense. I’m known for being, well, a bit of a dick. Yet here I am, using more complimentary adjectives than I have in my life, combined. It’s time for me to go, I’m sure there’s a child I can steal ice cream from somewhere to restore the universe to it’s natural balance, and hopefully put an end to this torturous heatwave. You’re welcome.

 
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Crowd in the palm of her hand – the one without the microphone.