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.
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.
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’.
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.
‘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
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
Want to see more reviews, previews and stuff like this as it’s published. When gigs are appearing and all that?
Click the like button below 😉