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Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Goodbye Valhalla - Dirty Martinis - 26/2/11 (Kilmarnock)

Everyone hates reviewing charitable gigs.
If you offer a shred of criticism about the bands or artists playing you become as popular as a coalition government, and then some politically correct extremists may even consider taking out a fatwa on you for daring to say anything negative about those who have offered their time and talent for free.

It's a thankless task.

I can understand that attitude to an extent as anyone arranging, helping out and performing at these shows deserve to be lauded, but then again...........................................Ah fuck it. Everyone knows I'm a cunt and will just say what I want anyway.

That was an attempt at providing a sort of disclaimer, but I just couldn't do it.
Oh well.

Anyway this one was in honour of “Oor” Dave who ran Valhalla Records in my home town with all proceeds generated going to Strummerville.
As last man standing locally in offering a real alternative to the supermarket lottery of music on offer, he has literally set many, many young men and women on a path of musical enlightenment.
It would be fair to say that probably unwittingly been partially the catalyst for virtually every band that has been formed locally in the last couple of decades to.
He is the guy who widened their taste and provided them with music from every genre that would serve to be the influential foundations from which they would build from.

How mind blowing is that?

I feel a great sense of personal sadness that the shutters have finally went down on his little shop as it is without a doubt that I can state that we have lost something very special.
While he has not retired and simply downsized to an extent and will be running a stall in a neighbouring town it isn't the same. Valhalla, the record store, was Ayrshire's music Mecca with people travelling from far and wide to see what treasures they could find.
We all read the papers and bemoan the decline of the local high street, but here is the real end game.
We lost much more than just another retail outlet when the doors closed for the final time. We lost something that defined us as a town, something that gave is a degree of character, and that is a great shame.

Anyway. Enough misty eyed reminiscing for me.
What about the music?

Well I missed the first act and arrived just in time to catch the start of a young solo artist called Taylor Buntain who was playing songs that I would call Sunday morning come down tunes.
The sort that you can play in the background without eliciting offence.
All over Ireland there are guys with guitars tucked into the corners of bars doing this sort of thing for tourists and it's never going to set the heather alight.
He's got a good voice and his guitar playing is entertaining enough, but it's lightweight folk meanderings and his early afternoon time slot is a fair indication of where he should be on the bill. Ending the short set on a cover of “Don't stop believing” was presumably supposed to be ironic, but the cast of Glee have tainted that song beyond redemption and if this was an attempt to reclaim it for the soft rock fans it failed.

Cal Murray was however the polar opposite. He embodies the claim that the apple never falls far from the tree and has all the talent that his father Davy Wiseman, and uncle Stephen Wiseman of – in no particular order - Nyah Fearties, Dub Skelper and Junkmans Choir have.
Once he started I was transported back decades to seeing them play, but it's not a carbon copy, more so that you can trace the roots of where he has blossomed from.
Everything that is barked out is rich in earthy humour and along with some other people on the scene like Roscoe Vacant you could argue that this is the true sound of Scotland. It's got the passion of Strummer and Bragg while there's a cheeky glint of McGowan in there to.
I've seen Cal playing guitar with The Plimptons and even strangely enough playing percussion on the fire guard of a Calor gas heater once, but this was the first time that I have seen him perform his own material and while I have always considered him a very talented young man I was still caught out by just how talented.
It's not easy for me to say any of that either as I know him and any praise can be open to a claim of promoting a mate, but this simply isn't the case here. This was a huge surprise to me and I'm of the opinion that he should get into a studio straight away and get these songs recorded as they are that good.
I want a disc right here in front of me so that I don't have to rely on waiting for the next gig to get a fix.
To say I was blown away would be an understatement.

Following Cal was a guy whose guitar was out of tune, but maybe it was deliberately done like that so that it would distract people from his voice being equally out of tune.
Is that rude of me to say that?
Answers on a postcard.

Deadlock were next up and they were playing an electric set upstairs from the bar. Made up from some of the older local guys with a rich past of playing the bands they are more of a knock about band that just do it for the fun of playing and performing, but that's not to say that it's a joke.
They are seriously hard rocking guys. Covering everything from Deep Purple and T Rex to The Sex Pistols and the Cult they had everyone whooping and hollering from start to finish.
It's not even straight covers as they add little twists and flourishes to keep it all very interesting.
On Deep Purple's Black Night they stray into some of Kasabian's Shoot the runner without missing a beat and by dint of having three guitarists their take on Bolan's Children of the Revolution is the meatiest I have ever heard. It doesn't even stray into being bombastic Heavy Metal, but just powerfully throbs in your chest.
Barman Dudge and doorman Ryan of the pub are the youngest members of the band, but between them they have played the Royal Albert hall and Hampden in the past and that will maybe give you some sort of indication of how talented these guys are.
Munro on vocals is his usual “look at me I'm a sexy rock god motherfucker from planet lock up your sons” and we wouldn't have him any other way.
A bloody fantastic set that I can't fault at all.

Mechanical Smile, another of the electric acts, set up and ran through a short sound check next before kicking in to what I would describe as a sort of post grunge sound.
They've tucked plenty of live outings under their belts, but this was the first time that I had seen them and I'm not really sure how to convey how they made me feel.
The talent is there, but they could do with loosening up a bit.
My attention was drawn to the bassist who didn't miss a beat of some intricate runs, but I was hoping that she would simplify it a bit, and maybe open up and offer a little more attitude.
Save that expertise for the studio, but balance it with being maybe more visually entertaining live.
The same could be said about the rest of the band. It was a if I was witnessing a sort of apologetic performance when there was no need for it as they are good.
I would love to see them injected with a great deal more confidence and self belief as the music is good as it is. They just need to give the impression that they are enjoying it more and remember that while what they do is an expression of themselves it is also supposed to entertain.
I'm going to have to go and see them again and see how it all develops as there's a good band in there fighting to get out.

Tragic OHara was running a little late so it gave us some time to enthusiastically sample the drinks on offer until the late for his own funeral Tragic did appear.
Yet again I'm in the position of having to say what else can I write about him. A singular and unique talent? The big fish in a small scene? A star in waiting?
It's all true and relevant to him.
People are really going to have to pick up on him soon or I'm going to resort to kidnapping people en masse and forcing them to lend an ear. No one does the blues like Tragic and if you doubt me then go and fuckin' see him and then argue the point as I would love to get into it and defend my corner.

The first act, Keiran Robinson then filled in for someone and did a second set and I was very pleased the get the chance to see him as he was yet another act that I knew nothing about, but who also left me impressed.
He is like our very own Ray Lamontagne. A very soulful voice accompanied by acoustic guitar and it all fits perfectly. I was speaking to friends when he was on and failed to make an introduction or pick up a CD if he had any, but I'll certainly be having a google search and checking out what else he is doing.

We were going to leave at this point as fatigue was setting in, but Ross Gilchrist was on later and I really didn't want to miss him so we filled the time with jagerbombs, vodka, lager and cider in no particular order and time become a little elastic as all of a sudden there he was.
Yet again I was left thinking that with guys like this we really do have a shockingly vibrant home grown scene here and it really needs to break out to a wider audience.
Ross is pretty much indescribable as an artist. I could start throwing reference points forward and it would just confuse you. He dips into a deep melting pot and takes what he wants before moulding it into something partially familiar, but also just out of reach of stating a firm comment on as it is lost in a maelstrom of other influences.
His covers of Talking heads and The Clash are well executed and get people up dancing, but would you believe me if I said that the pale in comparison to his own material?
I guess the best way to try and convey what he is like is to say that mid set I was dancing and shouting at random strangers “See..White men can dance”.
Don't ask me why I was, but what the hell I was full of alcohol and the music made me do it.
I'm just hoping no one filmed it on their mobile and I end up on Harry Hill's You've been framed next week.
Over all I had a great time. Old friends, new friends, drink, more drink and mainly great acts playing for a great cause.
Cherry on the cake was that 400 quid had been raised.
Maybe we should make this an annual event.


  1. A shame to see Dave Ross up sticks and move again, a general reflection on kilmarnock in general. I went with friend to Irvine one day in 1989 and discovered Valhalla and was a loyal customer for 21 years. Now he has went back to Irvine again. Was a damn shame to see him go. He always soldiered on and moved from shop to shop, but i always said to him that the town center may of been better option for him as many pass by BHS,Boots etc. But maybe thats crap cos look at what happened to our price. I once remember a song Video Killed The Radio Star, well Internet Buried The Record Shop's.Have a wee look at this aritcle from the Guardian Hey,by the way,who was that smelly geezer who run Back Street entertainment?, more like Backside entertainment,lol,his prices were unreal and i'm sure the autographed items he had were all faked by him! lmao

  2. I remember Back Street, Didn't know the guy at all, but I do recall never ever buying anything autographed as he seems to always have a ready suplly of rarities. Aye right.

  3. we played a joke one day, we asked him if he could get an autographed cliff richard honky tonk angel single, he said aye! little did he know that it wasnt released and banned by the artist himself ha ha!