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

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Part 2 of 3 – Wednesday night

I have been lucky enough over the last few years to see some amazing bands for the 1st time because of XpoNorth, and it was always going to be the case this time out as well. In fact, the only band out of 8 of seen this year that I had already seen before was Lional, and the only reason I was going to see them again was that I just will see them, come what may, given the opportunity.
In saying this, as the separate ‘Intro/ overview’ review explains in slightly more detail, I found out about the event very late in the day, owing to what I think was a balance between poor advertising, and me being in a cave, apparently.
To try to counter this, I spent a frenzied, unfair and very off-the-cuff couple of hours trying to sample each of the 68(!) announced acts, by virtue of the links to their Facebook pages provided on the XpoNorth page, and hearing that which they wished to promote themselves by therein.
Some (the minority) didn’t have actual videos posted there, and I felt for the one on the XpoNorth page who’s link wasn’t actually a link, just the name ‘ewenc.grant’. I did actually see that act on the Thursday, but didn’t hear any correction of the name, so on the Thursday review that’s how it’s dubbed. If anyone wants to correct me here, please feel free to do so.
This process was unfair, but also just a guide, knowing that I’d also go to things by virtue of what others I was going with wanted anyway, which did eventuate.
More than anything, I had to approach this with a certain mind-set – a ‘sensibility’, for the Jane Austin oriented. I had to head into town with an open mind and just see what the next couple of nights would offer.
And so to start…

Megan Airlie:

(There was more of the band tucked around the corner also. And while they deserve exposure, it shouldn’t be ‘over-exposure’ like my phone did here – apologies. She does have a face, I swear)
One who did catch my ear straight away from the maybe not quite 60 seconds my extremely non-rigorous sampling research was Megan Airlie.
As an aside, one of the unknown things that such an event provides is the ability to see venues that you wouldn’t normally go to or associate with such activities as live music. The PentaHotel was such a place.
One of the bonuses of this was the discovery that they had a really nice outdoor courtyard space. Although this was somewhat countered by only having Bud Light on tap (everyone had drunk the other tap dry before having to succumb to the fate of Bud Light), it is still a nice thing to discover and keep up the sleeve.
Anyway, the short research I did made me think of someone crooning some lazy soft rolling blues in a 1930s Speak Easy, which was enough to pique the interest and get me there.
There was definitely some of this feel in the mix on the night, but the image that most strongly resonated was that of how the band were tapping into something that was, now they were showing me the links, quite cyclical, popping up through the decades. I thought of the speak easy, and then of the edge of MoTown with a Booker T groove but with an Otis Redding gravel in the voice. A friend leaned in and said it reminded them of Jeff Buckley, which actually was very fair comment, and something I wish I’d thought of.
All of these over the decades tap into a smooth, soulful goodness. The band behind Megan Airlie were understated but definitely made a good mark. Some with bare feet, or intense emotion on their face (that’s you, Mr Bass Guitar), or salt-shaker in hand to smoothly add to the rhythm, and with at least 3 of them harmonising well in the back-up vocals, they completed a good sound which centred naturally and rightly around the lead of Megan Airlie herself – guitar in hand, and voice that capped off the whole ensemble.
I liked the whole band and would definitely give them another go, but if I had to pull out one stand-out element it was her voice. Controlled, going from sullen moody to emotive and raw and raspy, she was seriously good.
It was also a good start to this whole XpoNorth thing, I thought, happily knowing that I’d had my last Bud Light in a long time (if all goes to plan), and that they were a band to look out for in the future.
Next step, Hoots.

Tamzene:

The place was already packed by the time I got there, although obligingly people were standing a little back, offering space gladly pilfered front and centre.
I, like many living in Inverness I’m sure, had seen Tamzene a few times, yet for me it was a little while ago, and as a solo act. There were 4 on the stage in this incarnation, and the band behind her, back-up vocals included, definitely added a roundness and completeness to her presence and the whole performance.
In terms of the music, it was utterly intriguing to me, in a positive way, in that it slapped some of a well-worn musical prejudice out of me, smartly. For the thing was that her songs sounded like straight up and down, clear, bonafide Top-40 songs.
Her voice was of the quality, as was the mixing. More than that though was the sound, the feel, and looping and rhythms in the songs. I kept thinking that these would be good songs to use for some ad where they have the young and the beautiful selling a pair of shoes/ a watch or some clothes brand as a lifestyle choice. Maybe shot in black and white, or as though every day was in the golden light of the sun setting over the warm, embracing water in Spain.
The funny thing is, for all that, I really enjoyed the music. Seeing this stuff live, I understood some of the appeal to it. It was smooth, it was layered and patterned in the change-ups in the songs. It showed imminent skill and was fundamentally likeable. It was also astounding, as an aside, to not only see what would happily fit into the Top 40 live, but to see it in, and from what I understand, from Inverness.
I liked the band and in and of themselves, but also very much liked that they kicked me up the arse (if it was the soundtrack to an advertisement, the foot doing the kicking would have had either radiant, never worn before white or maybe gold trainers – possibly Adidas – adorning it). It pushed me past being dismissive, and showed me the skill and likability of it.
It still wouldn’t be my ‘go to’ music, but out of all the music over the 3 nights, I can see the marketability of this act as much as any. Good for them!

The Dunts:

The eclectic nature of the XpoNorth programme hits home when you wander from Tamzene straight to The Dunts, as we did. From the clean, light and relatively airy downstairs of Hoots we traipsed up the stairs of The Tooth & Claw.
It was a hot day anyway, and the heat held sway up there in this venue. I distinctly remember feeling the humidity starting to cling to me walking up the stairs, and by the time my waist was about level with the floor on the ascent, it was like being waist deep in water, the 2 levels of warmth and atmosphere being so distinct – head muggy, feet cool. I warned the partner in crime for this gig coming up behind me, but still wandered in.
We’d bought a beer downstairs for the glass over plastic factor as well as the chance to chat, wandering up when we heard them start. They were easy to hear but not as easy to see. The heat and the dark sheet walls and the smoke machine that someone was a little too over-excited about meant that for large patches the 4 on stage were more or less silhouettes in the mist.
That is all the ‘other stuff’ though. The music itself was pretty good. Not great, but absolutely toe-tapping worthiness. They were also the 1st band I saw that had people gleefully dancing to them, including me, so gotta give them this as well. However, out of all of the bands across the 2 days they were the one that myself and said partner in crime turned to comment a couple of times about what did seem quite clanging errors. Spots where they just, not to put too fine a point on it, fucked up. They played though them and kept their heads about it all, but they were there.
Saying that, I wouldn’t say that they had polish at the forefront of their minds in quite the same way as Tamzene directly before or Lional directly after them. They were a fun, raucous, raw, charged up, young band that needs a little polish, needs to define what they actually want to play, but do not need to find more fire in the belly. That they have down pat.
Above I mention about them potentially wanting to decide what style that they want to play. Maybe this isn’t a thing, maybe they’re bouncing around genres happily – the audience were. It did raise comment between us though. There were times at the start where I most thought of influences like the Fratellies, or even the White Stripes. In the middle they felt a little bouncier and pop-punkier (is that a word…), and for the last few songs, more standard rock/ hard rock/ pub rock angle.
They were hard to pin down in terms of style, they were a little unpolished, and they were obviously pouring buckets of sweat and trying their hardest in the upstairs heat. In among all that, there was something genuinely infectious about their playing and their energy.
They make me want to see them again.
In a year or so, when they’ve got some of the kinks ironed out.

Lional:

(The heat went up, the jacket came off. The music remained consistently good.)
I’ve talked before about Lional, and shall again, with any luck. Fuck they’re good. I liked The Dunts, for sure, but going straight from there to The Phoenix, this element of polish resonated.
As it turned out, the dining room of The Phoenix is a surprisingly good size and feel for a venue for live music. If they were wondering about it ever, they should consider it as an option. It’s popularity – i.e. Lional’s – did seem to surprise the venue, though.
I was glad that there was a small break to get there and to get a beer, and I really felt for the 2 poor, hardworking bastards behind the bar that were understaffed and working their arses off. It was a wait for the beer, but they do good beers there. Apologies, but I had to segue to applaud these 2 for their obvious hard work in lubricating the crowd for the gig to come. To the bar staff!!
Lional have brought out a new album recently, and a couple of weeks ago did the launch at The Ironworks. They’ve got a video clip for the new single, they have a strong, deep back catalogue now to work with, and they have a guy on the keyboards wearing super cool sunglasses inside at night. Oh, and a shout-out to the bass player’s shirt n’all. Class.
Upon reflection, if you say them walking down the street, they had such different fashion to each other you wouldn’t connect them, but luckily this says nothing about the tightness of the playing, which again struck me ‘bout them.
The style is mostly 80s through 90s Brit-Pop influence, but it’s hard to leave the categorisation there. They bring something else to it, which I know is there, and like, but unfortunately cannot pin down, no matter how many times I see them. By this stage I’m inclined to say that this final ingredient is their own originality. Being a band from inverness people may baulk at that, but the more I think about it, the more it seems valid.
Either way, they are a tight, sharp outfit. Even now I can recall the clarity of the guitar riffs, the build-up of the songs, the clean pause, slow-down and build up again. That, or the drive of other songs – punchy, sharp, infectious. It’s quality rock, with some pop, some syth on keyboard, and some noticeable groove support with the drums and bass.
If anyone actually reads these, then there sick of me saying this by now. Just go and see them, ya bastards.

Emme Woods:

By this time of the night I really was sated. Had happily got my fill of good music, and partner in crime for the night was working early in the morning and agitating to go home. The vibe in town was good though, the weather warm, and the part of the personality that sees the reason and logic of going home happy was unceremoniously brushed aside by the part of the brain saying ‘fuck it, let it roll on!’ Convincing them that half hour more wasn’t going to do them any harm, and that it was my buy and their choice for good beers at MacGregors, lack of sense happily held sway, and we got to see Emme Woods.
Again this nudging was in part due to the instinct over science research conducted, wherein it took under 10 seconds to decide Emme Woods had a good voice, moody and dark and smooth, and a good sound.
The confession here is that by this time of the night, the ‘feeling the vibe’ had definitely taken over any thoughts of ‘let’s really stop and analyse this for the purposes of a review’. This was added to by the packed bar, open back glass windows letting in the cooling air and also letting the crowd spill out into the beer garden. People, beer and good times were flowing by now, and the band were underpinning this atmosphere admirably.
The voice was not only dark and smooth, but also demonstrably a powerful roar when she wanted. The band was good. They played the songs and the crowd, and all were happy with them being in control, if control was a word for the atmosphere generated there and then.
They resonated in a few ways for me. Her voice reminded me at times of Patti Smith, and at others of just plain Smith (e.g. songs like ‘Baby it’s you’).
There was a distinctly 70s angle going on, but then among that there was a trombone doing rhythm. A fucking trombone! And it was good! It worked! It added fun, style and dancability (again potentially making up a word here sorry, by in keeping with the feel of this stage of the night, it feels somehow legitimate to do so).
From all this, though, what they gave, to give it anthropomorphised form, mostly resonated in the big smile of the guitar player in the hat, which was matched by the crowd all around. They were solid, tight, but creating a vibe of late warm night looseness in the place. A smart scheduling move to put them on there and then, and they carried it off with aplomb.

And then:
After they finished, it was definitely late for a school night, and most knew, even if they had only planned to go out the one night, that they’d had enough fun that they’d be lured back out again the next night.
That’s in a separate Thursday review, hopefully easily clickable from where you’re reading this.
-Cornwallace

Links to Facebook pages:
Megan Airlie
Tamzene
The Dunts
Lional
Emme Woods

 

Part one can be found here:

Xpo North and the joys of rapid fire music education

Part three can be found here:

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

Xpo North and the joys of rapid fire music education

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Part 1 of 3 – Introduction and Overview

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Part 2:

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

Part 3:

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

 -Cornwallace

The Hostiles – Tooth & Claw 25/11/17

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Hostiles, Tooth & Claw 25/11/17

 

It doesn’t take much to force me out on a Saturday night, but on hearing of a Ska-punk band playing in the town city I skipped with glee through the biblical rain to have a drink and a wee skank (no, I don’t mean your mum).  The night started with a swim through the pishing rain to The Nettle’s unofficial HQ the Market Bar, where Woolly Dermal had already got the ball rolling with a pint and a chat about the underwhelming Day of the Dead at the Ironworks the previous night (pure glad I said no to that now!).

 

A few cans of the Red Stripe and some bawdy banter later and the night was well underway.  We had intended to only stay for a couple to warm us up and pray for the rain to let up before hitting the Tooth & Claw, but before we knew it we were waist deep in conversation with local drumming legend (not a euphemism) Dickie Bills, and we had almost forgot we also had an actual gig to go to.  By this time unfortunately we had missed the splendid support band for the night ‘All So Simple’ and I can only blame the weather, my colleague and the 6 drinks he made me have before we left.  I’ve seen ‘All So Simple’ before and I’m disappointed I missed them, so I hereby promise we will give them a proper review the next time they play somewhere that doesn’t require a backy from Noah to get to. 

Anyway, we finally made it to the Tooth & Claw where we were greeted with a very reasonable entrance fee of only £3 – an amount unheard of for a Saturday night gig in that particular bar.  ‘The Hostiles’ were already on stage and kicking out the proverbial jams by the time we had sauntered in, sodden and half-cut and it is to be noted that the place wasn’t packed out but that is more than likely because Inverness seemed to have become the setting for the much-anticipated new movie ‘Waterworld 2 – Global Warming lol’, so you can’t blame anyone for not braving the waves.  There was however a half-packed room and some ska punk to dispense to the moistened crowd and ‘The Hostiles’ provided it in buckets.   Normally by this time the venue is absolutely roasting and what with me wearing my student/offender duffel coat I was concerned I was going to burst into flames, but the venue was cooler than Samuel L Jackson eating a Nobbly Bobbly so my fears were unfounded.  We can only hope that the venue has sorted out the air conditioning issue as it was becoming a problem for many. 

I fucking love ska.  I know that’s not a popular statement anymore to make but it is one I am very vocal about, so I was pure into these lads.  I don’t have much experience of ska-punk, but you could hear the influence of each genre, both being paid the attention they deserve.  It has been said that if you put a Shrek into anything it makes it better; Titanic, Men in Black, Neighbours, News at 10 – put a Shrek in it and it makes it better every time, FACT.  I think the same can be said for a brass section.  Just add a couple of brass instruments to an already decent pop-punk outfit and then you have winner on your hands.  The Hostiles track ‘Night Out’ is a perfect example of a great Ska-punk song and is delivered with absolute dedication by the 2 vocalists Josh and Theo.  Theo in fact was mesmerising with his delivery of his vocals.  It wasn’t the noises he was making (he was perfectly in tune and keeping with the sound of the band) it was more the devotion and commitment he chucked the vocals at the crowd.

 

There was plenty of head nodding from the crowd and had it been a little fuller or if I had had just one more pint I think I would have endeavoured to try some skanking (how is your mum anyway?) but alas I am too much of a fucking professional to let myself have actual fun like that.  Another stand out track from the band that almost had me was ‘Happy Hour’.  It starts with a more pop-punk edge before they drop in the ska like dropping in a Shrek into Game of Thrones (fuck Ed Sheeran eh?) taking the whole composition to another level of bouncing goodness. 

I would normally have a lot more to say, but it was just a short gig from The Hostiles and we had turned up late due to our Poseidon adventure but from what I saw they were well worth a higher entrance fee and I would really like to see them in full somewhere.  Thankfully they are on a short tour round this fair nation right now, so they can be caught here and there if the mood takes you (and it should).

 

The Hostiles upcoming dates:  
2/12 Book Yer Ane Fest, Dundee
9/12 Smash, Edinburgh w/Jaya The Cat
31/12 Green Room, Perth

 

Tooth and Claw Open Mic

Reading Time: 1 minute

Open Mic Night – Bring your own instruments!

Tooth and Claw Open Mic

Reading Time: 1 minute

Open Mic Night – Bring your own instruments!