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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Ethical promotion? Can it be done.

The Bellfield Tavern, situated in Kilmarnock, may seem at first glance to be the last place where revolutionary ideas would be nurtured, but with the planting small acorns approach to the music business the proprietors Amanda Robinson (former band manager and event booker) and Bill Gilchrist (musician) are looking to change the perception of how live events can be delivered to the public one step at a time.

Amanda - It’s time for a change to how the business is done.
I mean no one is really open to looking at an event as a whole. Musicians aren't really interested in how a venue is run, the financial implications, and to be fair many venue owners have no artistic opinion on the acts that play either.
On the surface it might look like everyone is working towards a common aim, but that’s not normally the case.
Everyone has different agendas.

Bill - Amanda is right. As a musician with many years of experience I can say that we often don’t take into consideration the costs involved and likewise those booking bands are reluctant to take on board that there are also financial implications for the bands.
On one side we have those who think that bands just turn up and play and drink and go home laughing.
Years of practice, the late night rehearsals, wringing songs out, buying instruments and equipment, repairing both and then replacing them, leaving a paid job early to accommodate a gig that doesn’t pay to return home in the early hours of the next morning to grab a few hours sleep before heading out to the full time paid job again. That’s the real life of most musicians.
And then on the other there is the bar owner who is covering tax, utilities, wages, keeping an eye on the competition, waking up before everyone else and going to bed later than them to, and all for less than what they may be paying their staff.
None of it is easy.

Amanda – And then when you sit back and think about it you have to consider that there must be a way to do it better.
Some way that benefits everyone involved.

Bill – So that’s what took us to where we are.
We looked at the problems the bands have and the issues that a venue owner has and started thinking how it can be done better.
The answer was literally screaming at us and it’s not complicated.

Amanda – It’s just really about working together. No one should be looking to take a greater slice of the pie than anyone else.
And neither should anyone be carrying the responsibility of all the financial risks either.
When we put our minds to it we came up with the idea of providing the space, a PA and backline and we will assist with promotion.
All of that minimizes what the bands have to cover.
No hire fees for the venue, no equipment hire fees and even travelling costs are bitten into as they could conceivably all just jump in a car and come here to play rather than hire a van to carry everything with them.

Bill – and the first thing that I would expect people to say to that is ‘that’s great, but how do the acts get paid?’
It’s a fair question.
The answer is that they keep all the money from ticket and door sales.
The more people they attract the more money they make.
It’s cutting out the middle men to an extent I suppose.

Amanda – and the next question is what’s in it for you?
That’s not complicated either. We get the bar sales, and not bar sales plus a hire fee for the space and all those other additional costs that seem to be slipped in.

Bill – When I put my musicians hat on I find it hard to see a flaw in this. On a good night everyone benefits and on a bad night everyone suffers.
That’s just more balanced.

Amanda – We stand or fall together.
We are just starting out on this. At the moment we have covers bands playing more regularly than original acts and our patrons are comfortable with that, but we want to move forward and accommodate both.
We think it’s doable with the support of the community.

Bill – It’s certainly doable. We have already reached out to those who have similar ideas. We looked at NHC Music in Glasgow and liked what they were doing and sponsored them.
They now have an event sorted out with Dixie Fried, Matt Scott, Steady State Regime and John Strachan playing on Saturday the 7th of March.
It’s part of a run of shows across Glasgow that is providing an alternative to the pay to play system and we are the only venue outside the city to be participating.
All of the bands featured are experienced and have played all over the country.

Amanda – Matt Scott and John Strachan are Ayrshire guys who have both done very well. Matt played in front of thousands in George Square recently and was featured on the riverside show (STV) while John has been a festival mainstay across the UK as front man for his band Jiezuberband.

Bill – And Dixie Fried are well established. There’s not many blues festivals they haven’t played. Steady State Regime are coming from the East Coast for this and are making waves as a yet another credible Scottish indie rock act.

Amanda – We have already booked XSLF for the 5th of June. This is Henry Cluney and Jim Reilly who are formerly of Stiff Little Fingers band. They play all the material they were involved in recording and have just released new material. We are a bit excited about that and tickets are going very fast.
The supporting line up is strong as well.
Modern World have the Jam era covered and always pull a good hometown crowd, while both Reaction, The Sux Pastels and Semtex will no doubt impress.

Bill – In Kilmarnock there are many people doing a great job in keeping live music alive. I’m hoping we can be a part of that.

Amanda – Tiny steps just now, but things are coming together. Kilmarnock is well served with public transport and we are hoping that we are not only going to serve the people of the town, but Ayrshire as a whole. 

Facebook links.


Monday, 2 March 2015

Music through the ages - Abraham Lincoln.

Most people consider that the murder of Abraham Lincoln by John Wilkes Booth - a little known actor and Confederate spy - was politically motivated.
However what is not commonly known about Booth is that he also had a sideline job promoting young musicians whom he would exploit by enlisting their help in selling tickets and performing at events he would arrange.
These young men and women were clearly being exploited as they would receive no monetary compensation for their efforts, and instead Booth would only make vague promises about future opportunities where they may perform alongside a rising star of the time.
These promises were of course never delivered on, and due to his failure to follow through with what was in many ways a verbal contract a young woman called Elsie Walker contacted President Lincoln and informed him of her disappointment in Booth and claimed that his actions were ‘far from what would be expected from a gentleman.’
Lincoln agreed, and in return publicly stated that he would not rest until these practices were stamped out prior to going on record to say that ‘the music business is a swamp where the scum always seems to float to the top.’

Booth was allegedly then informed of this while drinking heavily in a local tavern.

Eye witnesses questioned later claimed that in response he criticized Lincoln at length and shouted ‘no man steals the money from my pockets. I party hard on that money’ prior to him overturning a table and storming out gesticulating wildly and heading in the direction of Ford’s Theatre.

The rest is as they say history.

In her memoirs Mary Lincoln (nee Todd) spoke fondly of her husband and his achievements, but expressed some regrets that Abe mistakenly thought that after challenging the slave trade he could do something about the music business.

From the 5th of March, in honour of Honest Abe, and his attempts to change the fortunes of struggling artists The New Hellfire Club have a run of live events arranged under the banner of the big band pay day.
All the money taken from ticket sales will be - after outgoing costs* - split evenly with the artists involved.
Please do support the cause.
Honest Abe wants you to.

* All outgoing costs are basic and the artists participating in the events can be made aware of them.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Moonage Daydream/Starman/Soul Love - Milky Edwards & The Chamberlings

Thanks to Jimbo for making my day brighter by sharing this.

Apparently it is a fake.
No one knows yet where it surfaced from or who is doing it, but when fakes are as good as this then who needs the real thing.

McCann - 21/02/15 - NHC Music (Glasgow)

Minutes before McCann started their set in NHC Music I was frantically looking for the numbers of either MacGyver or Mr T as their expertise in making something from nothing would have been helpful.
Due to a mix up in communication the band were semi electric rather than full on acoustic and the set up in-store doesn't accommodate that.
Someone, anyone, appearing with a soldering iron, a kettle plug and a degree in electrical engineering would have been a godsend at that moment, but it wasn't to be.

However as I muttered under my breath repeatedly that the show must go on the gods of rock and roll must have heard me and nudged the band to very graciously say ‘don’t worry about it’ before they then proceeded to give everyone an example of a master class in how to entertain.

To say that they were well received would be an exercise in stating the obvious.
There was no slow introduction as the band deal in delivering a jolt of the good stuff straight to you.
Even with the full flow of them being partially contained by operating without a large PA backing them up the power they put out would be enough to light up a small town.

Give them the full works and they could generate enough to make a wind farm owner blush.

Steeped in decades of appreciation of good music they are the sonic alchemists who are taking multiple strands of influences and moulding them to their own will before then weaving those golden threads into an impressive tapestry of their very own.

If you are a music lover, and have a large collection of releases covering multiple genres, then imagine someone taking them all and melting them down to ultimately press an album that sounds like an over arching representation of everything you love.

That’s what McCann sound like.

Well they do to me.

Sprinkled through the set of originals were some crowd pleasing covers from the Clash, Icicle Works, Depeche Mode and The Cult.
All played with passion and tailored to the bands sound rather than being note by note facsimiles of the originals.
This allowed everything to flow rapidly from the start of the set to the rapturous end without the quality levels rising and falling as can occasionally happen.
Especially when a band throw in a well played classic and expect it to sit comfortably with their own lesser known material.

This is the second time I have seen the band perform since they reformed and both sets played, while different, have been a gig goer’s wet dream.

So keep your ears to the ground as they are on of the current crop of not to be missed bands that are doing the rounds.
Maybe this time around they will reap the benefits they so richly deserve.

I tip my hat to these guys. So should you. 

Monday, 23 February 2015

I liked your old stuff

A few nights ago I had the distinct pleasure of being invited along to a special secret show by some very talented people.
The idea was to create a multi media performance that covered original artwork, film making, poetry and music.
The performance was recorded and filmed and maybe the footage and recordings will see the light of day.
Or I should say hopefully they are a quality that they can maybe see the light of day.

The reason I say hopefully is that while the majority attending were fully aware of what was on offer, and were happy to participate as witnesses to it, there was one person who seemed to have failed to read the memo.

In his head he was at a gig.
A gig that should be tailored to his tastes.

At random moments he would shout out names of songs that were irrelevant to he performance.
At others times he would make noises.
I am sure he was trying to communicate something, but what it was failed to travel from mind to tongue in any understandable way.

It was rather sad to watch this grown man so disconnected from the moment.
To emphatically fail to appreciate that he was giving nothing to the performance, but instead was taking a great deal away from it.

On the plus side I got to write a short poem about the experience.

I've called it 'I liked your old stuff.'

There was once a man who lived for a moment in time
Every moment lived prior to it was in preparation
Every moment after was lived in remembrance
He lived in the moment, but it was only one moment
And in living in it he eschewed all other moments
So beware the moment in time
Never be drawn by the siren song of the moment
Living on a rock in a moment in time is no place to be.

Dan Reed - 20/02/15 - Ivory Blacks (Glasgow)

As Dan Reed worked his way through his set in Glasgow you could tell that there is something special about the man.

Here was someone who had commanded stadium stages, played with the likes of The Rolling Stones, won awards and sold albums wherever he went, and then stepped away from it all as he didn't feel fulfilled by the life he found himself living.

Then he carved out a very successful business as a club owner before ultimately coming to the conclusion that what he was looking for was something more spiritually rewarding.
So he simply walked away from the day to day running of that to.

A year in Tibet living in a monastery followed, then some time in India, before settling in Jerusalem for a period prior to then returning to the western world naturally reinvented/rejuvenated by his experiences.

And now in the present you can see and hear the culmination of his experiences in everything he does.
There’s calmness and a positive vibe that spreads outwards from him and warmly embraces those attending the show hosted by ‘Events for Charities.’

It is actually difficult to convey to a reader what the experience was like as words often fail to describe an emotional state of being.
We can dip into a thesaurus, stretch our own vocabulary to its limit and yet still fall far short of being able to effectively describe a feeling.
He makes you think, re-evaluate your own life even, feel something, and he can do that without preaching or being overtly obvious about it.

There was no specific religious message pushed and instead he just engages.
Personal anecdotes were shared alongside personal thanks to individuals and dedications to those he had met on previous visits to the city.
Together they allowed a connection to be made.
And for those who have not experienced a Dan Reed performance over the last few years it may be difficult to understand how powerfully attractive and evocative the communal event is in reality.
There’s a great sense of people coming together in a way that religion often is falling to deliver in the modern age.
Everyone is inclusively welcomed and the barriers are down.

How often as music lovers do we go to a show and leave not just feeling entertained, but also feeling better about themselves and others in the world?

The answer is not very often.
So the ability to do that has to be applauded, maybe even cherished as it is so unique.

In fact right now it has just hit me.
What Dan is promoting by example is hope.
That’s where the attraction lies.
He is showing us an internal path that we can walk down if we so choose.
A path that will take us to a better place and in how he carries himself he also highlights that it is achievable.
We can all be Dan Reed if we want to be, but there is maybe the crux of a problem.

Do we want to be?

Maybe many of us just aren't there yet, but that’s okay as it doesn't mean we can’t start making moves to improve as people in general, and who could argue that we as humans haven’t got very many areas we could make improvements in.
But as long as we set foot on the path it probably doesn't matter where we are on it as long as the intent to move forward is there.

For myself I will happily admit that on the way home after the show the world looked slightly different, slightly better, and there is power in being able to change perceptions of our surroundings like that.

A great deal of power, but thankfully Dan is using it for the greater good.

Is he charismatic? He most definitely is.
Is he talented? Without a shadow of a doubt he is.
But that’s not the appeal.
He’s human and striving to be the best person he can be, and therein lays the magic I suppose.

Best show of the year?

Time will tell, but right now it is the one that holds a great deal of transforming power to it.

Dan Reed CDs are currently stocked in NHC Music in Glasgow with his forthcoming new release 'Transmission' available for pre order.
Out March 1st. 

Sunday, 22 February 2015

The Bloodstrings/Party Asylum/The Sux Pastels - 18/0215 - The 13th Note - Glasgow

The Sux Pastels are at the watershed point artistically.
Hovering at a point where they are entertaining people with a fifty-fifty set of originals and covers they are certainly touching all the bases, but it is equally obvious that they are also pressing hard on the tipping point as their self penned songs are starting to muscle the much loved classics to the side in the set.
Covers of early Antz and Clash tracks may well have people singing along, but the songs that are about to surface on their debut ep are the real attention grabbers.
Live the four piece power though their set and it’s damn exhilarating to watch them take the year zero punk template and give it a reboot so that it is ready for the twenty first century.
Very often there’s an inordinate amount of attention paid to youth in the music business, but experience trumps it time and time again.
You only have to give a couple of minutes of attention to The Sux Pastels to appreciate that.
They have all been there and bought the t-shirt, and while some very talented young musicians are out there doing a great job of emulating their heroes there is a certain something that the peer group of the greats has that can’t be grasped.
Maybe it’s a fundamental and organic understanding of the roots of the punk ethos that seeps into everything they do.
Regardless of what it is it sounds authentic and evergreen.
If the term punk rock conjures up an image in your head of well crafted songs that have attitude, swagger and aren’t afraid to challenge the listener then The Sux Pastels are for you.

Party Asylum are once again taking things to another level.
With each show they play you can literally see that a fan base is building.
Slowly and assuredly they are making converts and it is obvious why.
It is simply that they are becoming ever increasingly a better act.
We are seeing and hearing evolution in progress here.
There’s still a garage rock element to their set, and the Ramones ramalama that was inspired by Phil Spector is still there, but everything is tighter, more vibrant, more self assured and more, more, well just more really.
There’s a point in a bands career where they go from being considered a good club band to taking on the mantle of just being a good band, and that’s where Party Asylum are now.
They may still be playing clubs, but they are no longer defined by the venues they play.
Take them out of a small club right now and place them on a big stage and they will command it.
You only have to look at the calibre of the support slots they are tucking under the belts to appreciate that the hard work they are putting in is starting to deliver rewards.
And justifiably so.
Go and see them and enjoy your favourite band of tomorrow today.

The horror punk/rockabilly sound isn’t one that has been widely picked up on in Scotland.
While we do have a few excellent bands ploughing that particular field it is basically true that the fans of the bass being slapped and b-movie lyrics have often had to get their kicks from touring acts who are willing to take a chance and venture north of the border.
So all hail The Bloodstrings, who were making their debut in Glasgow.

It has been a while since I had a fix of this particular genre so it was a very pleasurable experience to get the opportunity to get reacquainted with it.
From the beginning they put their foot down and played a set that rarely had a foot near the brake.
You want it hard and fast? Then this was it.
At points Doc Nics hand was blur on the double bass and the guitar licks were an inspired mix of heavy rock and rock and roll.

Just what the doctor ordered, two great supports and then the icing on the cake.

Surprisingly enough the audience was not made up of the usual psychobilly suspects, and instead a very mixed group of music fans, but not playing to what would be a traditional didn’t seem to matter at all as both the band and audience were operating a mutual respect deal.
The band came to rock, the audience came to be rocked and everyone went home happy.

This ability to entertain out with the genre that they exist in is something that has to be credited.
It draws attention to the crossover appeal that they have and on the cover of the Sonny Bono penned Bang Bang they just hammer home that they have a broader appeal than some of their peers.

Quality entertainment and you should keep an eye out for the bands return. 

Friday, 20 February 2015

The King Lot - The King Lot

Once again the quality of the rock scene in Scotland has to be commented on in glowing terms.
While the mainstream popularity of the genre has waned to a certain extent over the years the actual rewards to be found by delving into the treasure trove of talent out there is rich indeed.
From the hardcore end of the spectrum to the more melodic there are diamonds glittering in the rough everywhere.
And that’s what the King Lots d├ębut is.
A bona fide sparkling diamond in the rough
There’s a very obvious GUN influence in their sound and in many ways they have picked up the baton from the Rankin led period of that bands career, but it would be disingenuous to leave that reference hanging there alone as throughout they sprinkle a great deal of their own talent over everything.
From delicate ballads to more in your face rockers the trio are self assuredly covering the bases.
And that’s one hundred percent of all the bases.
They could have called the album ‘whatever you want, we got it’ and left it at that and felt no shame in being so upfront about making such a grand promise.
Best of all is that live they can deliver to.
There’s no disconnect between studio and stage.
While some bands can capture a sound live, but fail to transfer it across to the confines of the studio, or vice versa, The King Lot are firing on all cylinders no matter where you come across them.
Once again this release highlights that being in the right place at the right time is important, as without a doubt if this landed when rock as a genre was at a peak commercially then they would be responsible for a platinum selling album and jetting all over the world to promote it.

But that’s not to say it won’t happen as while the mainstream is currently resolutely failing to engage with rock music it increasingly feels like they are the Dutch boy with a finger in the dyke.
The pressure from the bands and fans alike is mounting and surely it can’t be long under the barrier is washed away under a mighty tsunami sized wave of rock and roll goodness.

If it does then watch out for the King Lots as they will be right at the front of it all screaming ‘look how fuckin’ good we are’.

Forthcoming tour with Venrez
05 - The Asylum - Birmingham
09 - Audio - Glasgow (With Rank Berry and Static Rock)
11 - Madhatters - Inverness
12 - Dreadnaught Rock - Bathgate

Tickets for Glasgow date currently available from NHC Music and support bands. 

Monday, 16 February 2015

SCARLETS - Little Rumours

A few nights ago I was bemoaning the fact that there’s barely anything that the mainstream is peddling that has any real vibrancy.
It’s as if the surface noise has to be stripped clean of any passion and all that is deemed acceptable for mass consumption has to be filed under B for bland.
Even when they try to dress the latest hit up in outrage we can all see the seams.
It’s all just so transparently boring.
And yet lurking just slightly out of view there is a never ending stream of outrageously talented individual writing and performing material that really should be gaining far more attention than it does.
It’s as if the music Business (lower case m and capital B) flipped everything on its head and the acts that would have struggled to get a deal a few decades ago are now on top with the real talent is hanging on the bottom rung wondering what the fuck happened.
For example here we have Scarlets newly out the gate with a three track ep that in years gone past would have started off a bidding war between major labels.
A&R men would have been stripped to the waist and trading punches out of the back for the chance for an audience with the band.
Promises would be made, stardom offered and a limo would be on speed dial for them.
It really is that good.

On the opening track ‘Waiting for the Birds’ they lay down some stomping glam infused rock that sits comfortably astride the Levellers-esque sounding violin.
If the devil went down to Georgia then he would have been handed his arse in a basket.
Insurance companies are going to have to add some more small print to venue policies stating that roofs being blown off will be considered an act of God or maybe due to a performance by Scarlets, but regardless they aint paying out.

Then in an obvious attempt to show the breadth of what they can do the band take it down a few notches and dip their toes into the power ballad pool.
‘Already Knew’ features the duel vocal talents of Scarlets frontman Dougie McSween dieting with Scotlands leading female rock and roller Christie Connor-Vernal.
The word play, the vocal performance, strings and guitar solo in this would weaken the knees.
It’s literally faultless and while I have no doubt that the band can do it justice without Christie live it has to be said that when they share a mic on this you will be treated to an experience that will immediately crash in on the your top ten gig highlights ever.

Finishing on a high literally as the track is called ‘High’ they channel all their love for rockin’ power pop into a song that evokes the best of the eighties without sounding dated in any way at all.

Well crafted from start to finish this ep screams that you aint seen nothing yet.

Don’t wait for the album coming out.
Jump on the bandwagon just now.

Available from Scarlets or NHC Music.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

John Strachan - NHC Music - 14/02/15

Everyone lives their own unique story.
From the moment we draw our first breath we exist to be the central character of a tale that features a cast of tens of thousands over a lifetime.
Some of our stories are rich and vibrant; others are mundane and rather repetitive.
Some are of course beautifully elegant, and then there are sadly those that are brutally ugly.

In many ways we don’t even appear to have much control of our stories either, and rather just seem to be swept along trying to use a rudder to partially steer in a preferred direction.
Sometimes though, within our stories, paths will cross and sparks will fly and last night those who took the chance and wandered along to NHC music enjoyed that specific moment as our own stories collided with that of John Strachan as we made a guest appearance in his tale.

Obviously John himself has already put a few chapters of his life into the rear view mirror.
One just recently closed - for now - covers his time as the front man for the much lauded Jiezuberband.
That in itself is actually less of a chapter and probably a story that deserves its own book.
From striding across festival stages to escaping the clutches of a Walter Mitty type con man it could probably be expanded into a ‘can’t put it down’ best-seller, but only time will tell if that happens.

Meanwhile our crossover appearance is all about John looking to take a tentative step back into performing solo with a set that was largely made up of material that hasn't been publicly aired before.

Initially he stuck to the tried and tested template of sticking to a set list that featured the songs that he was comfortable in sharing, but it was a sublime pleasure to watch him incrementally become more at ease and then stray away from it and embrace the idea of just throwing caution to the wind and seeing how receptive the audience were to some of the ideas he is working on.
As he said himself while introducing another new song ‘this is only about 98% finished, but we will see how it goes’ and then he augmented the set with some older songs that he admitted that he may struggle to remember.
A brave move, but a welcomed one as it was within the comfort zone of letting the set find its own path that we were all able to take the performance to the level of one that was no longer crippled with the invisible barrier between artist and audience.

Banter flowed back and forth, people were encouraged to participate with a couple of tambourines that were handed around and the experience became more akin to an house show party rather than that of the usual venue gig.

As a songwriter John certainly has a great deal to say and covers a great deal of ground in doing so.
From intimate and personal love songs to those with a protest message he put a great deal of thought into what he is looking to convey and then passionately sets his stall out as he performs the material.

Whether the roots of the lyrics are bedded in the works of Orwell, the current news or personal relationship experiences the quality bar is set high and while some of the songs are currently recorded at a demo level it’s going to be interesting to hear them fleshed out and in their full glory.

Personal highlight of the set was the reconstruction of The Creedence classic ‘Bad Moon Rising’ that was stripped down and rebuilt as an austerity dustbowl anthem that was more Woody Guthrie than John Fogerty.
It would be fair to say that John’s interpretation of it breathed a great deal of life into the lyrics and in some ways emulated how a few artists recently took the Springsteen ‘Born in the USA’ album and by removing the bluster shone a brighter light on the lyrics and made them bluntly and uncompromisingly obvious and left no room for misinterpretation.

Hopefully John will look to return to NHC music sooner rather than later as it’s an honour to be part of his story.

John will next be performing alongside Dixie Fried, Steady State Regime and Matt Scott in The Bellfield Tavern, Kilmarnock on Saturday the 7th of March.