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Friday, 28 December 2012

Final post of the year. The December round up.

December is a busy month for everyone.
I'm no different.
Between work, scurrying about shops in a panic and dealing with a million and one other things I've neglected the blog to an extent.
So in lieu of individual reviews here's a round up of what's been going on in the last months of the year.

01/12/12 – Rancid in the Barras.
Less a gig and more of a social occasion for the punks of Scotland.
A gathering of the Clans.
I missed both supports as it was virtually impossible to walk three feet forward without being accosted by a face from the past.
If I was to start listing people I would be hammering at the keys for hours on end.
By the time Kelly and myself extracted ourselves from the 13th Note and pushed our way to the bar the lads from the Bay were storming the stage.
Lars carried most of the set with Tim guesting on a few songs, but I doubt anyone was complaining.
They pushed it hard and had the Scottish crowd eating out of their hands.
Sort of a punk 101 class.
Similar to SLF always doing a St Pats night in the legendary Barrowlands Rancid should consider a yearly hit and run visit.
Utterly mind blowing.
Less a retro fest and more a statement from the punks that they aint going anywhere.

13/12/12 Shelf:Life

Here's one I did manage to review.

15/12/12 Burnsfest.

A mighty oooft. Twenty two acts over two stages. One electric and the other acoustic.
Johnny Graham who organized this did himself proud.
A few weeks prior to it he asked if I would lend a hand so I don't want to really push how good it was as there could be accusations of solo trumpet playing, even though I had no involvement at all in the organizational side of the event.
So now that's out of the way here we go with a take it or leave it summing up of the day and night.
Holy Pistol Club were everything I expected them to be. Some dog is sniffing at an open wound right now as these guys are off on their heels with its bollocks.
The Holy Ghosts were as usual firing on all cylinders and I would recommend that everyone get on board with them as 2013 has to be their year.
The OK Social Club was a minor let down. I have no idea what the score was, but there was just something missing from the performance.
Maybe the band were tired, maybe there was some behind the scenes issues, or possibly one of many little problems that can take the edge off a performance had reared its ugly head.
None the less the set didn't have the energy that I know the band have so I'm chalking it down as a one off minor slump and I'm sure if others hadn't seen them before then they probably didn't notice.
Soldier On were and mods dream band.
They have a solid foot in the past and a hungry attitude that's bristling to grab the present and give it a shake.
I can see them being the Scootering scenes darlings of 2013.
In fact if anyone involved in the rally scene is looking to book a band that will deliver on every level then they need look no further.
Another highlight was the very young Purple Corruption who opened the day and then filled in later for a second, and better, set for a larger audience.
They're still raw and there's enough rough edges to make them slightly abrasive, but there was also far more future promise displayed than is normally expected from a bottom of the bill event opener.
The elevation up the bill was less a by chance opportunity that they grabbed and more a well deserved break.
I was mainly covering the electric stage, but highlights from the acoustic stage as mentioned often in the frame of 'you should have seen.....' were the sets from Anna Sweeneys, Andrew Nicol, Alan Frew, Matt Scott, Mairi Kerr and a Band Called Cadence.
Over all Johhny should be giving himself a pat on the back and considering the whole day a huge success.
Roll on Burnsfest 2013.

16/12/12 – Molotov Jukebox/Dixie Fried/Callum Beattie.

Bit of a last minute gig for Kelly and me, but one we are very pleased that we got to see.
Dixie Fried will no doubt draw comparisons to The White Stripes as it's a guitar and drum duo playing the blues, but that's about as far as the comparisons go as Dixie Fried have a real drummer and vocally there's no White Stripes angle on what they are doing.
Instead they are more akin to a stripped down Led Zeppelin on a busmans holiday to the Delta.
That they aren't sitting on the banks of the Mississippi drinking moonshine and dangling their feet in the muddy waters is probably something they cry themselves to sleep about nightly, but the loss of the state side juke joint is our gain.
I have no doubt that I will be seeing these guys again.

Callum Beattie is a rock star in the mould of Bon Jovi in the making.
Every song he played could be sitting comfortably on a Top Gear CD, and in no way do I mean that disrespectfully.
He has the star quality, the voice and the looks to make it big, but of he doesn't in his own right then he's a songwriter that bands of a certain ilk would pay big money to get a slice of.
I have no idea what the future will hold for him, but he's deserving of a bright one, and I'm sure that the many people who travelled through from Edinburgh on a Sunday night would agree.

Molotov Jukebox, I would presume, are one of those bands who have to deal with the double edged sword of public perception daily.
With Natalia Tena fronting them the first thing that the mind springs to is her acting career, and the successful appearances in the Harry Potter films and Game of Thrones television show that she has enjoyed, but while that undoubtedly brings people to the door the band are then left to usher them through it on their own merits.
Not an easy thing to do as we have seen from so many thespians who have dared to branch out and stretch their vocal chords as credible musicians/artists in the world of music.
However for me Natalia will always now be the front woman of Molotov Jukebox who also acts.
Flamboyantly eccentric the band are a gypsy carnival in full flow who incorporate every single sound that those of a nomadic disposition could pick up on.
They are a twelve legged salsa ska disco punk behemoth of immense talent and I reckon that anyone who fails to let loose and dance to their energetic performance really needs to get a medical check up quick as I suspect they might be dead and just haven't realized it yet.
In fact scratch that.
If any band could reanimate a corpse and get it to dance then this is the band.
From start to finish they are a cardio vascular workout that you can enjoy with a smile on your face, a big muscle stretching and face aching smile.
If you can wrap your head around what is in essence and accordion and violin led party band then this is for you.
Far more accessible and enjoyable than Gogol Bordello who may be about the only other band that you could name drop comfortably next to them.

27/12/12 - Little Fire/Rose Parade - George Square Glasgow

I really thought that the Molotov Cocktail gig would have been the last of the year, but we managed to squeeze this one in.
The whole Christmas fair thing was in full swing.
The lights, the outdoor ice rink, the carousel and exorbitant prices - £3.50 for a thimble full of hot cider – screamed seasons greetings, and right in the middle of it all a tent with bands and solo artists performing.
We arrived just in time to catch the last few songs of Little Fire.
The difference in seeing him perform on a stage with some excellent sound instead of in bars and clubs was drastic.
It took me right back to when he had the support slot to The Secret Sisters in the Oran Mor at the beginning of the year.
So that's two great shows to bookend 2012 from him.
Similarly Rose Parade once again showed people why they are being touted as a band to watch out for.
The addition of Oscar on bass can't be understated and the whole sound has swelled to a level that would be exist comfortably on any size of stage.
There's a whole host of bands that I have seen in 2012 that with a nudge from Lady Luck will do very well in 2013 and both Little Fire and Rose Parade are up there jostling at the starting line and looking at the new year as one that they can grasp with both hands and use to cement a wider reputation that takes them from being local heroes to names that are known nationally if not globally.
I wish them all the best.

Now here's to 2013. It's soon going to be ours. Let's be havin' it.

Apologies to Twisted Illusion who were mistakenly referred to when it should have been Purple Confusion when this was first upped.
I really should have written something more in depth the morning after the night before.

Friday, 21 December 2012

2012 - Roll call of honour.

Well it's that time of year when the best of lists start to make an appearance.
I'm going to give it a miss and instead have a roll call of honour.
I'll try and cover as much as I can, but I'm sure that once I have upped this that I'll then start to think about all the names I've missed and cringe at my forgetfulness, but in the meantime here we go.

Straight off the bat I have to thank my son and daughter for putting up with me.
We don't have a very conventional life and the way they roll with the punches (not literally) is an inspiration to me.
I am a proud father and I love them both more than can really be expressed here.
Similarly my partner in crime Kelly and her daughter Sophie deserve medals for being a part of my life.
Behind the scenes Kelly provides a great deal of support and without her 2012 wouldn't have been such a good year.

Then there's our friends like Claire, Pauline, Robbie, Angie, Trish, Omar and Matt who have all been excellent company on our adventures.
If it's the journey that is important then I have the best travelling companions that a man could ask for.

Now here's the business side of things.
All at Pivo. Foley, Sam, Omar on the sound desk, and the rest.
Each gig that I have promoted from their venue has been a pleasure.
Same goes for the night I had the 13th Note for the Wooden Sky gig.
Hassle free is the way to go.
Always work with music lovers and half the work doesn't feel like work at all.

Special mention has to go to Jamie of The New Hellfire Club and Gobo photography.
Their support is much appreciated.

Incidental stuff I should say.
StuWho has very often brightened my days. 
Mucho gracios for the online friendship.
Paul Henderson. (Is it only weeks I have known you? Mental.)
Jayne RIP (Much missed)

Now here's the bands and artists.
From the most recent gig back.
Rat Scabies, Brian James, Texas Terri, The Coffins, The Media Whores, Ferrari Eaters, The Dreaming Spires, Rose Parade, Johnny Graham, Matt Scott, Kirk Brandon, Alan (Red Eyes), Cal Murray, The Wooden Sky, Evening Hymns, James Foley, Belle in the Meadows, Hurray for the Riff Raff, The Dirt, Little Fire, Devilish Presley, Homesick Aldo and of course Melisa Kelly.
Zero ego from any of them, and an absolute pleasure to work with one and all.

Hmm so what's next?
Well there's the music.
I really wouldn't know where to start. 2012 has been an excellent year.
Especially for live shows.
The Alabama Shakes gig in Tuts, Social Distortion in the Garage, the many excellent performances from Tragic City Thieves, Electric 6 storming it in the ABC, The Secret Sisters in Oran Mor, The Noizy festival, Band of Skulls, The Imagineers, Brown Bear and the Bandits, The Coffins, Cory Branan, The Damned, Ray Davies, Alkotron, The Jim Jones Revue, Paul McGranaghan and Turbonegro have been just some of the many highlights.
As for releases there's been Jamie Flett, Paul McGranaghan, Rose Parade and Tragic City Thieves even though they aren't out yet, Deer Tick, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Sonic Templars, Dirt Box Disco and so many more that my head has been left spinning at the thought of all the talent out there.
This is where I start to struggle and worry about who I have missed.

So I'll just finish it here and add that I hope everyone has a fulfilling 2013.
Onwards and upwards eh?

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Reiteration ad infinitum

Everyone has the right to their opinion.
They have the right to hold opinions that are as close minded as they wish, or as open minded as they would like, opinions that lean to the right or to the left.
It's all fine.
They have the right to hold whatever opinion that rocks their world.
I respect that right.
I respect it no matter if they think that being gay is right or wrong, a choice or not.
Pro life, pro choice, pro basketball, pro wrestling, Israel or Palestine.
I respect your view if it is that David Cameron along with his friends will save the UK from financial ruin, or if it is that he's signposting the road to hell for us.
You are entitled to express your opinion that The Avengers movie was better than the last Batman one, or even that the last Batman one was better than The Amazing Spiderman.
You, yes you, have the right to believe whatever you want, and the right to express it.
I may not agree with you, but you have the RIGHT.

and guess what?

I do to.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Shelf:Life - Nice and Sleazy - 13/12/12 (Glasgow)

The launch party seems to be the current 'must have' for every band treading the boards these days.
The latest that I attended was for self proclaimed post grunge act Shelf:Life in Nice and Sleazy - more about that post grunge tag later - who were looking to promote their debut ep.
First there was the supports to get out of the way though, and while both UrbanMyth and The Aviators feature talented members they seemed to be at a level that falls short of playing for a paying audience.
There's a quality bar that has to be attained and that doesn't just mean that the musicianship is up to scratch, but that the band has a clear direction that they are all pulling in.
Neither Urban Myth or The Aviators are there yet.
At the moment Urban Myth look, and sound like, a class project with five random people being grouped together and told to form a band.
It's all a bit haphazard.
There's no faulting the talent that they individually have, but they could all fit more comfortably in other bands rather than in this one together.
The Aviators have half a set of songs and bolstered it with covers.
A very good 'My Generation', a very poor 'Last Night' that lacked all the laissez faire fuck you of the original, and a passable 'Come Together'.
Highlight was when they swapped the vocal lead for an original song called 'Tell Me' that hinted at a sound that they could all use as a template to work forward from.
All together a disappointing beginning to a night.

Thankfully Shelf:Life were pretty much everything that the supports weren't.
The post grunge description may have been apt at a point in the past, but they have left it far behind them as a genre box that could hold them.
There's still hints of it, and even some post US hardcore sounds, but there's also a great deal of little aural snippets from multiple genres that they have dipped into and grabbed bits and bobs from to create the Shelf:Life sound.
At one point there was some Futureheads kitchen sink acapella harmonies that they borrowed from The Housemartins making an appearance, but even then its a blink and you will miss it blast of just one little touch in among many more.
In fact it's all pretty much a downhill sans brakes performance with the whole band pushing hard at delivering a show that can't be ignored, or even dismissed as just another indie rock band doing their thing on a Thursday night.
There's an aspect of them that reminded me of Biffy Clyro.
Not in sound, but in that you could see and hear that they could move up the ladder quickly, and possible even bypass those who are currently considered to be the ones to watch out for.
It doesn't take a great deal of imagination to jump to thinking that they would be entirely comfortable in stalking the SECC stage, or possibly making a main stage festival appearance.
Hopefully by early 2013 their name will deservedly start to fall from the lips of some movers and shakers as the next step for them is to spread the word.
Everything else is pretty much in place.
Definitely a headlining band in waiting that I would comfortably recommend to everyone to check out.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Skullians - Don't take it to heart

Better known in the US, the UK and in mainland Europe than their own country of Canada Skullians must wonder what they have to do to catch a break in their own backyard, but their second release 'don't take it to heart' could very well be the thing to kick down some doors and draw some home base recognition because it's a pretty damn rockin' release.
The Canadian punks need to sit up and take notice of what they have.
In among some samples from television shows and movies they are providing a sharp blast of punk that refuses to be tied down into a specific sub genre.
The duel male/female vocals manages to allow them to go from street punk a la Rancid to Ramones-esque wuntwofreefo snot and roll and all points in between with relative ease.
Nothing sounds too raw, but equally there's nothing so polished that it loses the aggression either.
While some bands could be criticized for leaning unimaginatively in one direction or another here's a band that are tearing through a minefield of years of often cliched and cartoonish punk crap and managing to reach the others side unscathed.
The shit aint sticking as they aren't going to stand still long enough for that to happen.
This is the sort of album that you get when the musicians involved sit down with all their influences and then enforce their own vision onto the best that they have all brought to the table.
If you want to thrash about at the barrier then they have a song for that and if you want to pump your fist in the air and sing along then they have another for that to.
If you are a fan of punk music then consider the band to carry the attitude of the marines' no one gets left behind.'
It's another release from the excellent STP label.
While you are checking out Skullians have a look at what else is on offer. 

Portents of DOOOOM

Okay, as posted the earth hasn't come to an end, but today it has been revealed that there will be a Spice Girls musical coming to a theatre near you, and that Sir Paul McCartney has been playing with the remaining members of Nirvana in the role of front man.
'Tonight on Celebrity Stars in their eyes I'm going to be Kurt Cobain.' says Macca with a  twinkle in his eye.
Meanwhile Beatles and Nirvana fans weep and tear at their clothing in grief stricken anguish.
If that's not some portents of doom right there I don't know what is.
I'm not going to bat an eyelid if they claim at lunchtime that they have successfully cloned Elvis and are on track to release an album of him covering Justin Bieber songs in time for it to be a Christmas chart topper.
Stranger things have happened.
Like Macca fronting Nirvana. Or Nirvana backing the Beatle.
I bet Ringo is pissed off.
Next it will be Susan Boyle going on tour backed by Jimmy Page and an animatronic Bonham under the name of 'The Real Led Zeppelin' while Robert Plant tours under the 'Fully Leded' banner.
Where will this madness end?
Thankfully I have a wee sneak promo of the new Rose Parade album to cling to until either this madness ends or the earth dies screaming.


It's the end of the world....again, but it's not.
So maybe it will be the 21st after all, or the day after. Who knows.
The end of the world is a bit like a package that has got lost in the post.
It's missed its estimated time of arrival more than once, but people keep having faith that it will come.
It will, it has to, but like the parcel that turns up just as you lower your backside into a bath it will be at the most unexpected time.
If you could call people through time then maybe we could get a party line going with the Mayans, Nostradamus and Mother Shipton and ask for some clarification.
Then again maybe Cameron and his best bud Clegg will have a fair idea as they seem to be implementing policies that will lead to society crumbling.
They might even have a timetable that is up on the 'net as a pdf.
If we find out that he has booked a flight to the moon through Branson then expect the end of the world to be the day after his departure date.
I wonder how many people didn't buy any Christmas presents for their family thinking it would be a waste of time and cash and are now looking at the bare space below the tree and praying that everything goes tits up on the 21st as they have now missed the liquidation sale that Comet had.
Comet closing.
Wait a minute.
I can feel another conspiracy coming on.
I mean what are the chances of an electrical outlet called Comet closing up shop around the time that a real comet is allegedly going to hit the earth.
That can't just be a coincidence.
I see North Korea has been firing a rocket into space.
Everyone is cacking their pants in case they have nuclear capabilities, but maybe they are just getting the jump on colonizing the moon.
That will piss off the yanks.
The choice between embracing the Rapture and continuing life in a communist regime is no choice at all.
It's a frying pan to the fire scenario that will make their heads explode.
Richard Branson will no doubt have evacuated his family out to his little island just in case.
Once the Comet hits that's only going to give him a few hours more than the rest of us though as once that tsunami gets rolling his island is going to drop below sea level pretty damn quick.
Probably just enough time for him to press a button and have a waterproof dome slide over his paradise in the sun.
He will end up like the squirrel in spongebob squarepants.
David Beckham will have no doubt blagged his way onto the helicopter to the island to.
Can you imagine it. Branson, Beckham, Bieber and that lot - just the rich folk whose surname starts with a B obviously - sitting around in their underwater dome waiting for the water levels to go down.
It would be like Dantes version of Big Brother.
They would have to play daft parlour games just to pass the time.
I spy with my little eye something beginning with F.
It's a fish isn't it?
Or how about trying to pin a smile on Victorias face.
Now there a television show that everyone would watch if there was anyone left.
Maybe we should get Derren Brown to fake the scenario anyway.
Let them all out 6 months down the line.
Oh how they would laugh.
Roll on the 21st though. I've still not bought any fuckin' presents and I'm hoping I don't have to.

Unimaginative video reference below, but street cred points secured as it name checks Lenny Bruce.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Paul McGranaghan - Carry the Torch

I'm going to say something about this album if it kills me.
If this was a decade ago I would be sitting knee deep in balls of crumbled paper.
Each little ball mainly white, but with words and partial phrases peaking darkly out from the ragged folds around the surface.
It's not a decade ago though, so instead I've sent file after file to the recycle bin and emptied it often.
The problem is that it's so good that it is deserving of more than what I have previously come up with.
So good that nothing that I have written has come close to touching on how satisfying the album is in its totality.
It's easy to write that something is good, or even bad.
Keeping it simple like that offers no challenge, but trying to explain why it is good, trying to convey how special something sounds can be a problem.
It's far harder than most people appreciate.
So here I am again.
Sitting in front of what was a blank screen and just trying to let the words flow out and hopefully something will come if I don't try to hard.
Maybe if I don't over-think it and let my brain guide my fingers semi-consciously something of worth with appear.
First I suppose I should mention that Carry the Torch is a concept album, a loose concept album.
Each song has its roots in the writing of Hunter S Thompson and that's where the genius - that over used word - starts to reveal itself.
There's that germ of an idea that has been watered and cared for by Paul McGranaghan until it has flowered into something that could take your breath away.
He has then done that with each and every song.
Consider them all as flowers.
Each independently beautiful in its uniqueness, and then when you take a step back there a flowerbed in front of you that's a riot of colour.
Each stalk bends in a different direction, they all catch the sun and hold it's rays differently across the breadth of a petal, and on one level there appears to be nothing that could allow them to sit comfortably together, but they do.
Beautiful singularly and equally inspiring as a whole.
That's Carry the Torch right there.
Every single song is unique in itself and all together the different styles of music, lyrical inflection and even the content probably shouldn't work, but it does.
It's sounds like a pattern in the anarchic flow of a snow storm being seen.
There's a bit seventies rock sound that keeps revealing itself in so many ways. Some rock and roll Bolan, some prog Floyd, a bit of Zep, yet it's not really a rock album in the true sense of the word. For every solid riff and guitar solo there's some glorious pop moments and acoustic led ensemble pieces that are just as excitingly compelling.
The main thing that I can't seem to wrap my head around is that this is the debut album from Paul McGranaghan.
This sounds like an album from a artist who has been slowly working towards being able to express himself over many releases.
The album that critics would step forward and proclaim as the pinnacle of the artists achievements.
It's my album of the year in a year that has been heavy with fantastic releases, and it's not just scraping in at the number one spot.
It's way out there on it's own standing proudly catching its breath while everyone else is still running towards the finish line.
Even now I'm reading this back to myself and thinking it's still not really conveying just how good it really is.

Monday, 10 December 2012

I'm not a promoter. No honest. I'm not.

Over the years I've been called a lot of things.
No surprise there.
Some good and some bad, but in the main when descriptive terms have been thrown at me they haven't really been that accurate.
Music journalist. There's one.
I've never been a journalist in my life. Music or otherwise.
Music critic. That's another.
Of course I've criticized music, but not in any sort of professional capacity. I'm just a guy who does a blog and previously a couple of fanzines.
Hey. I think McDonalds make shit burgers but that doesn't make me a food critic.
The main one that is out there and running free though is the oft claimed promoter.
Over the last year I've been called that far more often than anything else, but the truth is that I'm not a promoter either.
Instead I'm a music fan who puts on a gig or two, or three.
Some may ask what the difference is, or even claim that their isn't one, but there is.
Or there is to me.
A promoter sees a gig as a business proposition.
Very often they will put on a show that features acts that they don't particularly like.
As long as bodies come through the door then it doesn't really matter who is playing.
It's the same deal if it's a company that books international tours or someone who puts on a gig in a venue that holds a hundred.
The bottom line is that they want their event to be a financial success.
Now I'm not having a dig at that.
Everyone should be recompensed for the work they do, and if someone books an act who has a buzz about them purely to make some cash, and they then work their backside off to make their show a success then more power to them.
It's not my thing though.

Here's some things I do, or don't do, that to my mind separates me from what a promoter does.

I've already pointed this out, but I only book bands and solo artists that I personally like.
Basically from the supports to the headline act I'm a fan of what they do.

I don't book a venue first and then look for disparate acts to fill it.
I like eclecticism, but there's nothing worse than a show that doesn't flow.

I don't block book a venues Friday and Saturday nights months in advance without a line up or at least a headliner secured.
(I've never understood that from a venues perspective. Very often they are knocking back booking queries as a promoter has a date pencilled in with no actual acts sorted for it. So they are relying on nothing over something?)

I do compensate supports for their time and of course I provide them with a drink or two, or three, or four to.

I don't do ticket split deals.

I don't demand that bands sell x amount of tickets to be allowed to play. In fact I don't ask bands to sell tickets at all.

I don't ask bands not to play a gig a week, or a month, around the gig to ensure that if people want to see them then they have to come to my gig. (Of course common sense comes into it and it's never a good idea to play the same venue, or one around the corner, three nights in a row prior to the one they are going to play with me, but of course we all know that)

All of the above are why I'm not a promoter. I don't stick to the remit and I have no interest in doing so.
I'm not running a business. It's a glorified hobby really.
I enjoy booking acts, the bands themselves seem to all have a good time, and the people who have attended the gigs have been very kind with their praise.
I get a kick out of it and I reckon others do to.
In fact I don't have to post on facebook asking if there is anyone, and I mean anyone at all, who wants to play a gig as I have a long list of fantastic acts who I like that want to play for me.
In time I hope to be able to provide them all with a slot that suits them.
On top of that I have a list in my head of people who don't know me, but who I would love to have play.
They don't have to approach me.
I'll pursue them.

So there you go. Don't call me a promoter. I do promote gigs, but I'm not a promoter.

Others who I also consider to be music fans who put on gigs as opposed to being actual promoters are.
The Vagabond Social Club guys, Flowers in the Dustbin, Noizy, Phoenix Mayhem and The Fallen Angels Club.
There are more of course, but these are the people who look for the talent and then promote it to us all.
They invest themselves in their shows. You should check them out.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Stonehouse Violets - O2 Academy (Glasgow)

Pass me a hammer

Futures fest in Glasgows O2 Academy was advertised as a show that would feature the best new bands that Scotland had to offer, and that's a grand claim right there.
It's also a subjective one.
As part of my radio show I'm lucky to hear my share of what is bubbling under, and while I could easily start a very long list of great acts who are out there I could equally spend the same amount of time compiling one filled with bands who just don't do it for me.
That's not to say they aren't good, but just that they fail to key into what I want to hear, and I suspected that this night would possibly reflect my inbox of demos with the good, the maybe bad, and the awful all making an appearance.

I was right.

I had arrived early enough to take it all in and to be honest disappointment was what I mainly felt.
Disappointment that is until Mike and the boys of Stonehouse Violets bounced onto stage to entertain a very eager crowd.
Grabbing the opportunity of playing the main stage at the Academy was maybe a bit too exciting for the band as they spectaculary failed to give the nights compère the chance to introduce them and instead Mike - who looked every bit the rock front man - took the opportunity to scream ‘Hello Glasgow we are the Stonehouse Violets’ before thundering into I am the light (which also happens to be the first track of their EP).
It was a bit like the heavyweight running out from his corner and decking his opponent with a KO blow to the sound of the bell starting to ring.
The crowd were up for it with a strong fanbase making their presence felt as the roared along to every word.
The momentum was kept up as they introduced the relatively new song Empty Spaces which another upbeat track that guaranteed to get you bouncing.
The crowd duly obliged.
Mike spat out Vampires like a man possessed as Mark on bass patrolled the stage like a tiger stalking its prey.
They roar that came up at the end of the song threw shivers down my spine and the boys could clearly feel the energy as Scott, with his trademark gloves on, raised his sticks in the air to count in Nothing Moving a song that they jammed from when they first got together as a band.
Next up came my favourite ’99 Degrees’ and I felt myself even singing along it as I was swept away in the moment.
Callum took the opportunity to shine, and with his keyboard slung round his neck and a smile beaming across his face he looked as if he belonged on the big stage.
Stewart on lead guitar didn't seem phased as all and standing there with his hat and shades on like he did this every day.
With two more songs to go they barrelled into ‘woman’ and it sounded as good as I've ever heard it.
When people talk about stepping up to the plate then this is what they mean.
Finishing with Leaves will fall they left the stage to rapturous applause and instead of walking off they could have floated into the wings.

I have seen the band in a few differing venues over the past 18 months and have seen them blossom to the big stage of the O2.
Highlight of the night would have to be Mark getting the crowd to join him in a hand clap with the precision you would expect from Guy Garvie.
Pass me hammer boys – you nailed it.

Review submitted by Tommy Clark Third Class Ticket - Mesi Radio

Merry Whatever.

Well it's getting closer to that time of the year.
Christmas, Chrimbo, x-mas or the season of consumerism.
Whatever you want to call it is fine by me.
Some hate it, some love it, but for me I lean more to embracing the season of goodwill than the bah humbugs.

For all the negatives I prefer to focus on how it can bring people together.
Families that don't see each other often get the chance to meet up.
Friends can make firm arrangements to catch an hour or two together.
There's no real downside to that aspect of it.

For those of a contemplative nature then they can look back on one year and hopefully learn from it.
Leave the negative behind and drag the positives into 2013 with them.
That's what I'm hoping to do.

So while I appreciate that this can be for many a stressful part of the year please remember not to beat yourself up if your cup isn't runneth over with religious fervour, and try not to bankrupt yourself pursuing what you think is the perfect gift only for it to end up be tucked away at the back of a drawer by mid January.
Instead look to your family and friends, the people who you care about, and care for you, and have a good time with them.
Relax, enjoy, and have a good 2013 when it comes.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Champion the underdog. A missive from Chris Catalyst.

Christ Catalyst of Eureka Machines has just posted this on facebook and I firmly believe it's worth sharing.
So repost it if you will.
Someone somewhere is wondering if anyone is listening and the answer is yes.
So let's tell them.
There are those of us who care not a jot of you have a large multinational supporting your art.
If you are good we want to hear what you are doing, look at your art, read your stories, poems, listen to your jokes.
Enough from me though.

Here's Chris.

This week, Tulisa's debut album entered the midweek charts at Number 17, despite her position as a judge on supposedly the most popular programme on the telly.

A few weeks ago, No Doubt (once a reasonable band, but no longer sold on their tunes or ability) sold 680 copies of their single, after appearing on said TV show to 10 million people.

The Ginger Wildheart album I was involved in earlier this year went in the midweek charts at Number 5, with no press fanfare, no hype, and no TV. Just an independent guy who has worked hard and built up a fanbase WHO CARE ABOUT MUSIC.

The forthcoming Eureka Machines album has now pre-sold 700 copies, not a gargantuan figure by any means, but one borne out of hard work, love in what we do, and the belief in us by a bunch of people WHO CARE ABOUT MUSIC.

Nobody ACTUALLY REALLY GIVES A SHIT about Tulisa's music.

What this all means is that there is a divide. There are two kinds of people. Those who are into MUSIC, and those who are into MARKETING. It's the same for everything, really. For every ten faceless Starbucks will spring up one independent coffee house, run by people who care about coffee and buns for people who care about coffee and buns. For every hundred flashy Hollywood blockbuster CGI fests will spring up one homegrown self-funded film with a thousandth of the budget but with ten thousand more ideas.

None of this is new news, but it gaining momentum and will only continue to do so with your support.

Music over marketing. Graft over good looks. Content over cheekbones. Ideas over idolatry. Community over competition.

A new world is arriving. More and more people are seeing through the landfill and dross that fills our every day existence. We don't have to put up with the nonsense. Supporters of the bespoke underdog are rewarded with decent quality, while the rest of the world continue to fatten on their McDonalds. It's no longer cool to be stupid, and we don't have to stand for it. Vote with your feet, your heart, your lungs and your minds.

The End.


While this blog update is not an advert for the forthcoming Eureka Machines album you can buy it here, and should do.

Jamie Flett - Tales from the Cuckoo's Nest.

Over the course of 2012 I have very often been bowled over by the talents of the artists who have been sharing their music with us all.
In fact week after week there has always been at least one release from a band or artist that I was previously ignorant of which has lifted the hairs on the back of my neck and left me breathless with appreciation.
Jamie Flett's 'tales from the cuckoo's nest' is one such release.
Some may call it alt-folk, but that as a descriptive term for it falls short of really conveying the breadth of what is on offer.
There's some electronica, jazz, americana folk, celtic meanderings and so much more.
If I was to be pushed to use one word to describe the music I would gravitate towards graceful.
There's a warmth to each song, and there's some raw honesty to.
A heart on the sleeve revealing of the world according to Jamie.
Beguiling is another word that could comfortably wrap its arms around the material.
There's also a softness to it all that shouldn't be mistaken for weakness.
Instead the sounds relentlessly flow from the speakers and envelopes a room, or if you have headphones on, then equally fill your head.
While so many troubadours are aiming for heartfelt and come across as twee Jamie has hit the bullseye with this, and regardless of whether it brings critical acclaim, or even fame and fortune to his door, I think I can safely say that anyone who owns a copy of it will treasure it and revisit it often as I have done.
We can often forget about the beauty that is out there in the world, but thankfully there are artists like Jamie who are open to easing us towards remembering.  

Hancox - Vegas Lights

Pip Hancox is probably better known as the mercurial front man of psychobilly stalwarts Guana Batz, a band that to this day can still rely on a solid global fan base long after many of their peers have slipped from the pubic eye.
On this, his first solo outing, we join him as he stretches his muscles a bit and embraces some influences that may not comfortably fit in with his bands structured rock and roll remit, and while he's not straining to pull too far away from his rockabilly roots it's a refreshing change in sound that should allow fans of melodic punk to comfortably get on board with what he is doing while managing not to alienate his many Guana Batz fans.
That could be a deliberate move, but over the course of the album it becomes difficult to lean towards it being a calculated effort as each song organically bursts out of the gate and gives the listener a gentle, and often playful, slap.
Think about the Stray Cats and Social Distortion, bands who can mix rock and roll with punk and polish it up with some mass appeal, and you will be in the ball park of what's going on here, but don't for one second consider that he's playing second fiddle to these bands as there's enough solid gold nuggets on this debut, including a power pop classic in 'Sally', that puts Pip straight in there shoulder to shoulder with anything that they've released.
Don't believe me?
Buy it and tell me I'm wrong.

Warrior Soul - Stiff Middle Finger

Warrior Soul have been edging ever closer to going off grid with what they do for a number of years.
While the vast majority of bands are looking to ease themselves into the glare of the media spotlight they've instead chosen to step into the shadows and entertain the disenfranchised, the lost, the politically sussed, and those who refuse to live with their eyes wide shut.
In doing so they are grabbing at the rebel crown of the underground and setting themselves up as the band who are pushing a message from the writing on the wall.
Global economic breakdown, social meltdown, Orwell and Huxley, riots, blood on the streets, corporate bankers and the people who pull their strings hanging from the gibbet is all grist for the mill, and it's all being played out to a backdrop of grinding rock and roll.
It's revolution rock, a call to arms, a stiff middle fingered salute to the minority who reap all the rewards and the people who lives their drab lives doffing their caps to their so called betters.
If 'Stiff Middle Finger' had a crass scratch and sniff cover it would smell of molotov cocktails and destruction.
If the last album was the soundtrack to revolution then this the perfect accompaniment to standing amidst the rubble and watching the sun come up on a new dawn.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Brown Bear and the Bandits - Bakers - 30/11/12 (Kilmarnock)

I've been saying 'oooft' a lot recently.
Not out loud, but in print.
I have no idea why it has slipped into my limited online vocabulary, and it doesn't even legitimately mean anything.
It's more an indication of a small brief exclamation of surprise, positive or negative, but the fact remains that over the last few weeks there's been a lot to oooft at.
There was the couple arguing at Rizzle Kicks. Oooft.
There was the fantastic show from Tragic City Thieves and Electric 6. Oooft.
There was the news that Springsteen is coming to Glasgow next year. Oooft.
The release of a nice Jam box set. Oooft.
,,and then there was the Brown Bear and the Bandits gig in Kilmarnock that wholly deserved an oooft as well.
Oh that was a night of ooofts!

First was Matt Scott who I have seen many a time, a guy who I now consider a friend, and for the sake of honesty I'll admit to quasi managing him although I hate using that term as it really just about spreading the word a bit about a talented young man.
I never really expect him to play badly, and I always enjoy his performances, but everything clicked into place in Bakers.
The quality of the sound and lighting perfectly set the stage for him to showcase his voice, and the environment just lent itself to lifting the performance from a good one to a great one.
There was nothing in his set that wouldn't have been out of place on a bigger stage in front of a larger audience, and the magic that had drawn me to appreciate his talents was there for all to hear and see.
I could quite easily imagine that if a record label executive was in attendance then Matt would have left the stage to an invite to a meeting where they could discuss his future.
There's very few singer songwriters plying a trade in the Waits, Dylan, Miller style as he is, nor doing it so well. 
If you haven't seen him yet, then do so.

Following Matt was the much touted Baltimore League, and while I was impressed with the studio recordings of Martyrs and Town that are on their facebook page I couldn't say the same about the live performance.
I just wasn't feeling it
There was a disjointed feeling to the material with them sounding as if they were being performed by different bands depending on who was assuming the lead vocal.
Maybe in a few months the songs will be able to assume more of a band sound and a live set will come across as less fragmented.
There's no doubting the band are talented enough musicians, and the song writing is fine.
It's just that it feels to me that they are still stepping around each other, and the day is yet to come when all three members fit together to work towards a common sound and aim.
It could well be very interesting when they do.

There's no such drifting from Paul McGranaghan who was introducing his new full band project to promote his debut album.
While I've always enjoyed his solo acoustic outings I would have to say that none of them prepared me for the album when I heard it.
Taking his influences from the writing of Hunter S Thompson the album has a broad range of styles that reflects the lyrical content of each song, and while it's an eclectic mix it also has a solid solid thread that holds it all together.
It's an album that I would expect to hear from an artist many releases into their career, and not on a debut.
It's damn impressive.
So impressive that I have tried to review it on a number of occasions and ended up hitting delete as nothing I have managed to get down has come close to putting across how good it is.

Prior to the band playing - who were made up of the drummer of ShelfLife and the bassist of Brown Bear and the Bandits - I was wondering how it was going to be interpreted on stage, especially with it being a trio playing the material, but as the last note rang out I was none the wiser.
Right there was the main oooft moment of the night
The performance didn't sound like it was possible to have been made by three guys.
Great guitar work throughout, solid drumming, and bass runs that helped fill everything out and made it all sound far bigger than it really should have were the order of the evening.
If I was asked if Paul delivered then I can only say that it was like ordering a main course and getting the full three courses for the same price.
From blue collar rockers to a singular moment when if you closed your eyes you would have thought that led Zeppelin had entered the building it was quite possible the best debut of a band that I have seen.
Utterly compelling stuff if you are a music fan.

Brown Bear and the Bandits had a great deal to follow after that performance, but follow it they did with a set that comprised of pretty much everything they have recorded, and a few tasters of material that will be on their debut album that could well be with is for March.
They did exactly what a band has to do when a support play a blinder and that's step up to the plate and take a deep breath and go for it.
The new songs that were introduced sound like a natural progression from the material on the Truth or Dare ep so it's doubtful that anyone who considers themselves a fan of the band just now will be disappointed, and there's enough forward momentum to allow the album to attract new fans to.
So all sounds well and good in the Brown Bear camp and once again I got the distinct impression that I was seeing a band who are not going to flounder at the big fish in the small pond stage, and instead on who were ready and willing to make the leap to bigger things and take it in their stride with some aplomb.
I would be surprised at all if in 2013 the band become the next Ayrshire one to make a splash nationally.  

The drifting focus of Leveson.

In life we all seem to lean towards having a tendency to over complicate things.
We start off with a good idea and then begin to add a bit here or there to it in an attempt to mould it into what we consider to be something that is better.
Then we invite suggestions from others.
It's not that we want suggestions.
We just want someone to say 'that's a great idea' and bathe in the warm glow of their support.
That rarely happens though and the people that we ask to provide suggestions very often take us up on our request and do just that.
This then leads us to adding bits that maybe we aren't comfortable with, and possibly even taking away parts of the original idea that underpinned exactly what we were looking to achieve.
After a couple of hours after the original thought popped clearly into our heads we are left with an unwieldy construct that has little relation to the idea as it was.
Consider it akin to drawing up the plans for the Taj Mahal and submitting them for consideration to a group of architects who two days later claim that your design was fantastic, that they loved it, but a few adjustments were required.
What you then get back is plans that resemble the much touted third runway for Heathrow.

Now that's a bit like the Leveson report isn't it?

Keeping it simple we should ask ourselves if some of the behaviour of the press, the police and the politicians was acceptable?

The answer is of course no. Not at all.
Apart from being unacceptable it was illegal.

So the next question is what should we do about it, and this is where a very simple question becomes bogged down.

Today I see that Shami Chakrabarti has been stating that compulsory regulation would breach Human rights laws and we are holding the press to a higher standard than we would others.
Now I'm not claiming that she is wrong, but is her response is maybe directed at the outcomes of that over thinking process?
Is it more about the conclusions of the findings after everyone has thrown their tuppence worth in than it is about addressing the original issue?

We have seen that the press have failed dramatically to self regulate and I doubt many people have any faith in them being given another chance at it so what can we do?

Well the obvious answer is to create an independent body that maybe doesn't do so much as regulate the press, but instead ensures that they keep within the law as it is.
One that is funded from the public purse, but is not linked to government.
A body that will have the power to implement eye watering fines for articles that promote a falsehood, and one that could pursue through the courts illegal activities such as listening in on peoples mobile calls, reading their text messages, slander and such.
Does it have to be more complicated than that?

Would I like to see the press being muzzled in this country?
I would strongly say no, but if you asked me if they should be allowed to lie about individuals, promote rumours as facts, push political agendas in an effort to steer public opinion, bribe serving police officers and manipulate facts to their own ends then equally I would say no to, and I suspect that honourable hard working journalists would agree.

We are in danger of allowing the Leveson enquiry to be the focus of our attention rather than the practices that led to it being necessary to have an inquiry..

Keeping it simple would probably be the best course of action here.
After all isn't the whole issue about what behaviour is considered right and wrong?  

Sonic Templars - Mephisto's Minions

Due to financial constraints, and maybe a lack of knowledge of how a video should be constructed, many young bands struggle to get a debut promo video completed that does their music any justice.
The whole process is a double edged sword.
In the music industry they are a required promotional tool, but a bad one can do so much more harm than good, and sometimes I have cringed at the footage that has accompanied a great song.
Forever more the images are tied in with the track itself, and all it does is suck away at the music.
Takes away far more than it gives.
The creating of a video that enhances the music is a bit of a minefield to navigate.
Thankfully that's not always the case though, and with some imagination Sonic Templars have sidestepped every single issue that I have about promo videos and took a concept and ran with it to promote the excellent Mephisto's Minions.
I have no idea how much it cost, but I suspect that they have worked within a budget that most established bands would set aside for a print run of flyers, and that makes it all the better as it's up there with anything that you would see run on television channel dedicated to music videos.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Electric 6 - ABC - 29/11/12 - (Glasgow)

The best, and probably most manic, rock and roll act on the west coast of Scotland have made the leap from the bars and clubs to the big boys stage.
It's been a long time coming, but I'm filing it away in the 'good things happen to those who wait' folder.
In support to Electric 6 in the ABC, Tragic City Thieves, the only band worth a spit from Port Glasgow, tore it up with a set full of debauched songs that celebrated the exhilarating excitement of all that goes on after dark on the wrong side of town.
It's a heady brew of sleaze, glitter and blood.
A solid throbbing beat from the rhythm section of the band underpins some blistering guitar work, and frontman CJ Monk is a thrashing dervish of a focal point.
What they deal in is lightning in a bottle punk rock.
The sort that bands like The Dead Boys, MC5 and the New York Dolls did, but there's nothing that screams seventies retro at you from them as they have their feet firmly set in the here and now.
It's all as fresh as a slap in the face.
The new album is out in march so look out for the launch of that as the live date will go down in history as one of those 'you had to be there' gigs.
So consider yourself forewarned.

Electric 6 are of course the dogs b's.
I've never been ashamed to express my love for the band, and so far they have never left me feeling that my support of them has been misguided.
They simply don't do bad gigs, or it has to be said, crap albums.
That they aren't selling out the SECC is a mystery to me, but as long as they aren't then the main hall in the ABC will do.
On this outing it's an anniversary celebration of their debut album and the nostalgia crowd are out in full force to get down to Danger (High Voltage) and Gay Bar.
The band could have played those two songs and walked off and most would have been happy, but thankfully they didn't.
Instead the opened with a cover of The Osmonds Crazy Horses, threw in Formula 409 and Body Shot, two tracks that I suspect that a good 90% of the audience didn't know, and then they proceeded to do the whole of Fire at breakneck speed.
I mean what can be said about that?
To hear it played in its entirety is just aural gold.
Pour that shit right into my ears and it goes straight to my legs and I'm dancing.
I'm throwing my hands in the air like I just don't care and if someone has supplied the linoleum I may have had a crack at some break dancing.
The rest of the set kept the standard super high. Like superman super high. Like just a dot in the sky so high that you can barely see it high.
Down at McDonnelzzz tripped into Dance Epidemic and then along with The White Wolf, Dick Valentine gave us Jimmy Carter prior to the rest of the band joining them and doing my favourite Electric 6 song I buy the drugs.
After a short break they returned to ecstatic applause and finished the crowd off with Rip it.

Now the next time they come back I expect to see everyone who attending this gig to be be at the that show.
No way after a gig like that should they slip back to playing a club sized venue.
Consider that a warning Glasgow.
You better all be there. I'm not kidding.