Part 1: Daytime events, and Wednesday night music
I love a pre-amble as much as anyone, but there’s a lot to get through, so shall try to be succinct in this. Let’s see how that works out…
XpoNorth is a regular annual event in Inverness. Its by-line is “Scotland’s leading creative industries conference.” I don’t know if this is true or not. Don’t know if there’s any competition in this from which it could ‘lead.’ However, I’ve been, at least in part, for the last 3-4 years, and plan to do so again next year.
It is packed with enough content that whether through the events/ seminars through the day, or the music at night, you know that you’re going to miss out on something of interest in equal measure to being happy with what is given. Given as in the practical ‘I don’t have to spend any money for this cool shit’ use of the word.
This idea came while sitting (well, standing) at Eden Court on the Wednesday at about 5pm, enjoying a free wine and haggis ball (fancy term is haggis bon-bon, I think. ‘How’ such a tasty delight could get a fancy name is another question. If it can, then let’s look for a fancy term for the deep-fried mars bar).
This food and drink came after listening to a free and very interesting lecture, and just before hearing some great free music in the marquee on the lawns (that was a great introduction/ addition last year, and it is back this year – see you there!). All this gave further appreciation of the fact that cost and value are not connected things.
Usually my preparation for it is a little different than it was this year, in a couple of ways. Usually this is a fantastic event, pretty badly advertised. To be fair, this was also the case again this year. Then again, I don’t always look to where people advertise, so maybe fault in this is mine.
However, for the care and craft in putting together such a great event, and also in light of a number of the lectures through the daytime are specifically to people who aim for a career in the creative industries and were highlighting ways in which to get noticed, this does seem like they are not taking in the good advice that they provided the punters like – well, me for example.
However, I digress. Usually the event leaps sideways out of the shadows at me when at about home time from the day job, someone will ask if I’m heading out to see some of the bands for the night. I’ll curve myself for not knowing about it yet again, do a quick sample of some of the potential offerings, and then see what I can see.
This year, Fremsley was on top of it, and got word out a few weeks early, so I took the time off of work to finally see the daytime lectures. Apart from that old adage ‘the best laid plans,’ meaning that I was helping a friend move house in large part over my 2 ‘free’ days, I did get to see 4 lectures in all over the daytime slots on the Wednesday and Thursday.
Daytime at Eden Court:
For the daytime stuff, it is lectures, workshops, advice, connections, networking, and other things that a conference should be when working well. A way in which to get good advice, in context, as well as lots of websites and products to chase up later on. Terms/ thoughts/ links that caught my ear include:
- Tik Tok
- Mood metadata
- Picture fiction (they said it was emerging and new, and it seems correct. Cannot get a good link to the idea, being children’s picture books, but extending to an older age group, and longer, i.e. between 3-5k words).
- Chirp (audiobooks by BookBub, getting into Audible territory)
- Smart URL
- BBC Music: Introducing
There was also a lot more content – these are just personal ones of interest from the tip of the iceberg that I managed to capture.
On top of the session, there were stalls and flyers and a great deal to take away and learn more about.
For the last couple of years I thought that the daytime was going to be interesting and useful. Now I know it. I aim to make even more of XpoNorth next year – it is a seriously useful, beneficial event for anyone looking to the creative industries, particularly starting out and needing guidance in the early, overwhelming information flood times. Do it, give it a chance. It’s well worth it, if this is an area you’re exploring.
Night time, and the music: Wednesday
By way of excuse, we pushed a little longer into the night with the whole ‘friend moving house, us lugging boxes’ thing on Wednesday (as a side note, the free wine wasn’t feeling as great sweating out of me lugging boxes as when drinking it in the lovely picturesque atmosphere of Eden Court just before).
I also timed things badly, so got out and about much later than expected.
First up, I saw a tiny (tiny) bit of the tail end of Zoe Tait at The Phoenix as the starter for this all. I liked what I heard – solo, good voice, good beat, good resonance, good passion. However, didn’t hear enough to judge beyond being curious to look again properly another time.
Next stop was to grab a pint and stare at an empty stage at Mad Hatters awaiting “Wuh Oh” to come on. There wasn’t the slightest hint of life or activity going on up there, and 1/3 of a pint in it was obvious that this wasn’t going to happen. The Wednesday programme doesn’t even mention them now, a classic whitewash of history. Little sour note, but gave chance to move onto the next spot and see someone else, which is what such a packed programme offers, happily.
This turned out to be The Strives, at The Tooth & Claw. Chips & Gravy was a touch trepidatious over this choice, being that they were meant to sound a little like Kings of Leon, which was obviously not a favourite. I could see the association, but it was more with the excellent ‘Youth and Young Manhood’ 1st album goodness, before the classic historical ‘they’ve changed’ blah-ness that I’m sure many have their own opinion over.
For mine, they were enjoyable. The lead singer had a good, catchy voice, and there was striving (I’m totally milking the name here), pumping good fun tunes. Classic good fun 3-piece rock and roll with a bit of edge. Likeable.
There were thinning options from this stage, but the lugging boxes had got to me, combined with the lack of food since a singular haggis bon -bon at 5pm, so chippy-of-choice rounded off the night, in preparation for the daytime events for Thursday.
I haven’t put up photos here, as didn’t much plan to write about the bands on Wednesday night. I also was going to put it all in the one review, but think now that I’ll separate it out.
So this one is about the daytime events, and a brief overview of Wednesday night bands, and the next will be a bit more thorough going about the Thursday night sounds rounding off the event that was XpoNorth 2019.
After all the wordiness above, the take home message is that I finally got to see the daytime stuff of XpoNorth, and am going to strive (there they go again – sort of band name that becomes an earworm!) to make more of it in years to come. It is not the best advertised event going, but for content and delivery, it was seriously, seriously good, and also a seriously beneficial event.
As one wee voice back to the organisers – thanks, and hope to say thanks again next year!
If I was to offer advice to anyone seeking entrance or expansion into the creative industries, it would be to give the daytime of XpoNorth a go. Hopefully you’ll be as happy with your decision on this as I have been.
In case you need more happiness, here’s one of the squirrels as current Inverness art installation around the town. We at TheNettle.scot give until the end!