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Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Little boxes

I got an email today.
Well actually I got quite a few emails, but nestled between the one from Jessica who wanted to sell me a penis enlargement product, and the request for my bank account details from Benjamin from Nairobi, who apparently wants to transfer a sum of money that has been left to me by an African prince, I got this.

Do you not think that more people would read your blog if you focussed on punk, as it IS supposed to be a bloody punk blog.
No one wants to read about local folk bands and you taking your kid to see fuckin Rhianna.


Initially I wondered how I had managed to rattle their cage, and when I had specifically claimed it was a punk blog.
I also wondered why they so emphatically thought that this was the case.
I was going to respond that while punk bands and gigs are featured some people actually seem to like the local folk bands, indie bands, rock bands, hip hop acts and mentalists that are sometimes mentioned, getting some blog space to.
I was also going to throw in something about the hits that the reviews of Rhianna and her ilk get, but then I decided that there wasn't much point though.
I mean c'mon.
I'd probably have more luck opening a successful bacon buttie franchise along the Gazza Strip than swinging the myopic view of this individual.

The problem is that I seem to have upset this person by spectacularly failing to fit my blog into some little box that they consider it should exist in.
A neat little box that meets their specific blogging needs, but I can't help but think that this short - and misguided in my opinion - message is indicative of a wider issue in society.
In just a couple of sentences someone who fails to give a name - and who I may not even know - is putting a request in for me to basically tailor MY blog to their specific tastes.
Am I alone in thinking that's just slightly arrogant.
That maybe it displays a rather egotistical attitude.
It's not something that I'm that surprised at to be honest.
It seems like an extension of the monkey sphere theory (Dunbars number) where it is proposed that as humans we can only manage to maintain relationships with a certain number of people. (Who we compartmentalize as existing in our personal self created monkey sphere)
In this case it would appear that I, and I presume others, should arrange everything into neat little packages that fits comfortably into this persons life sphere (limited bubble of existence), as anything that doesn't fit either can't be understood, or drags them too far out of their comfort zone and fills them with anxiety.
The short missive from planet 'give a monkey a brain and it thinks it's the centre of the universe' doesn't really surprise me though.
It seems that on a daily basis I see that very same attitude being mirrored by people in general.
People who hold a fundamental view to their breasts like a soiled comfort blanket.
Those who have evolved as far as they wish to and see any other advancements out of the cul de sac they find themselves in as unnecessary.
I don't really grasp where they are coming from.
I'm personally all about advocating that we dip our collective toes into a very large melting pot of experiences and consider that we can all have our lives enriched by doing so.
For those who can't jump on board with that then they can either skip the posts that hold no interest to them, or find a more one dimensional blog that does meet their requirements.
This isn't a punk blog, or even a music blog.
It's just a whole mess of randomness spilling out of my head, and that's what it will continue to be.
I hope that covers everything for them as the return address on their hotmail account appears to have been deleted after the message was sent.

The Banana Sessions plus supports @ Jollys - Kilmarnock (25/2/12)

We had been talking about this for weeks, months possibly, and were so looking forward to something very different to the norm going down that night, but we still managed to be late
My fault entirely and we missed Homesick Aldo completely and the majority of A Band Called Cadence.
Fools that we are, well I am mostly.

That being the case I cannot comment on Aldo that night, other than to say I have seen him in the past, enjoyed him greatly and fully intend seeing him again.

As I also said we missed on most of A Band Called Cadence, but that which we did catch we thoroughly enjoyed.
I am predominately a fan of beats, dance, hip hop, Northern Soul, anything that gets you moving and nodding your head…not the only genres I enjoy but a groove, a nice beat, a catchy melody and I am hooked…with no shame incurred, I likes what I likes ye ken? :)

And that is what we heard from A Band Called Cadence. I have been ill recently and I don't go out much any longer, I don't operate well in crowds so when we initially walked in I felt a tad overwhelmed,perhaps we had to many "hits from the bong" beforehand but I felt no urge to " jump around." ( sorry for the terrible hip hop quotes) That changed upon hearing these guys. We went in and made our way towards
the bar, thankfully where our friends were located. We exchanged greetings, had a few minutes chat, got some drinks and it was then that I noticed everyone I knew round about me, myself included, were shuffling around to the music, clearly relaxed and having a good time..a good sign.

The next thing I knew they were almost over and I was getting down with some dodgy dance moves to a cover of Michael Jacksons 'BAD.' I actually could not believe I was hearing a cover version of the song nor that I was dancing to it.
But it WAS good, and my that boy could sing, not Michael of course, he was not there. I am going to make a point of seeing these guys in the very near future.

Next we had Hector Bizerk.
Like I said I am a hip-hop fan.
The one band I have stuck by since I was 16 being the Beastie Boys. I have listened to , and seen live, many, many other acts of course but Scottish Hip -Hop?? F**k off, the. accent has just never fitted for me. I have over the years listened to london accents giving it large and working, GunShot for instance, but the Scottish thing just never really sat well for me, god I even cringe when I hear someone talking
slang on the television.

That changed for me there and then.

Hector Bizerk were bloody fantastic. The delivery of the rhymes, the flow and the subject matters chosen were all beyond fault. Clearly a very intelligent and talented wordsmith! (Is that even word??) And the drumming???? My god we were BLOWN away! The girl on the drums was really something else. She changed tempo, texture and volume
seamlessly, a beat was never missed.
It was so good I honestly at
times thought there must have been some sort of sampled/recorded backing being played. Nope. It was just the two of them. And they complemented each other well, the rhymes and beats were so locked down together, so perfectly entwined that what came across was a polished and impressive performance. If I had any criticism, which I don't, I would say that I was hanging out for a bass line to be laid in-between
vocals and drums just to satisfy me. They seemed fine without it, as did the crowd, but to me it would have added up to almost perfection.
I am serious, that is how much I rated these guys, my attitude towards the Scots doing rap has been changed forever.

If i wanted Hector to bring in some bass then Loki did not let me down.His backing tracks had guitar riffs, funky ass beats and bass a plenty. And his rhymes were none to shabby. Many a subject was covered in an intelligent and lyrically creative fashion, ecstasy, Glasgow and politics were all touched upon, it was a lesson.

People talk about hip hop, rap artists, spitting out rhymes. This was certainly heard tonight, these guys both had conviction in what they were saying and we listened. Man I enjoyed that.


On second to last were the Girobables, an act whom I have seen live now around 4/5 times, each time in the same venue and each time I have enjoyed the performance. How can I describe them?
Well talented nutters sits with me.
Not the kind of nutters you would find outside a pub at closing time looking for bother, the kind that would be in the field opposite wearing day glow tutu's in complete darkness, jamming on an acoustic guitar, 2 zylophones and screaming into a broken loudhailer, the good interesting sort of nutter.
The only person who may not enjoy their live act is Jeremy Kyle as he has had sexual relations where he should not have, or so the song goes.

A great precursor to the main meal. and delicious it was to be!!

The Banana sessions blew me and everyone I spoke to that night, and since, completely away.
They were tight musically, had a good sense of humour about the performance and an infectious groove that had the whole place bouncing along. Including the buildings foundations.
It felt like an earthquake had singled out that pub alone and was determined to shake it to bits, yet have fun doing so.

I don't know how they managed an entire brass band in there, or that they actually did, but it sure as heck sounded like one. In my head I heard tuba, flute, trumpets, drums, a celestial choir singing about what I am convinced was buckfast, a melodica (yup I never really knew what one was either) about 43 penny whistles and I was consumed with an overwhelming urge to clomp around like a wild eyed ring leader at a
circus leading band of gypsy pirates as opposed to circus animals.

I have listened to a lot of their stuff and watched previous performances and videos curtesy of YouTube so I thought I knew what to expect.
Song wise I did, they played everything I had hoped for. What I wasn't prepared for was the sheer joy and 'bounce along' factor that
hearing and seeing them live created. Everywhere I looked people were dancing along, smiling , doing a crazy form of the pogo and loving every second.

They captivated the place, it was hard to take your eyes off them and your ears? They were hooked. It was like a musical narcotic was being lovingly stuffed into your mind via your ear canals.
My head felt like it was filled with a funky feel good candyfloss and I was grinning
from ear to ear as though someone had just whispered in my ear that I had won the lottery while a dusky maiden gave me come to bed eyes over her drink and slipped her mobile number into my hand.

That is how good their performance made me feel.
All this in my local pub in little old Kilmarnock?
I could scarcely believe it was happening.
Not only must a HUGE thankyou go out to all the acts who performed, but to David Hanvey for pulling off this amazing feat and to Jollys/Kelly's management and staff, past and present,for a truly enjoyable evening and one that will leave me going cold turkey until, hopefully, something as brilliant happens again and every fibre of my
body can once more feel fed the drug of music, fun and friendship.
A GREAT night, a great friendly crowd and a great atmosphere. I doff my cap to all those involved.

Mucho gracios to Alan Thomas for filling in as guest reviewer. Yer a star mate.
Don't hold your breath just in case it doesn't happen, but there may be another review of this same show from another perspective.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Mark and the Mystics - Su Casa - 25/02/12 (Ayr)

It seems that it's been a long and difficult week for everyone I know.
So how better to finish it than with a trip to Su Casa in Ayr to see the début gig of Mark and the Mystics.
Well that was the plan, but it wouldn't be a night out without at least one spanner being thrown in the works.
This time it was that Kelly, Claire, and myself had travelled to a small place called Crookedholm to collect our brother in musical appreciation who is otherwise known as Robbie Mills.
Unfortunately Robbie wasn't there.
He was hanging about in a car park in our home town and waiting patiently for us to pick him up.
It was a simple mistake of some crossed wires, or as we would say locally 'numpties with tatties in their ears' but after a few cryptic text messages back and forth we were all reunited and still managed to get to Su Casa in plenty of time to catch Trusty and the Foe who were the first act of the night.
I've seen them a few times now and they've never failed to impress me, but tonight everything seemed to take huge leap forward.
It wasn't that they were playing better, but instead that the sound guy nailed it.
Every single note from their guitars weaved in and out with perfect clarity, and the vocals were perfectly balanced in the mix.
This was exactly how Trusty and the Foe should sound.
Imagine if Simon and Garfunkel were in their early twenties and just starting to play coffee shops right now.
If you can manage to wrap your head around that then you wont be far off from grasping where Trusty and the Foe are coming from.
It was a sublime set of folk inspired music and as the audience were appreciatively quiet when they were playing it made it all the more special.
Following Trusty and the Foe was Julia Doogan who has a lovely soft voice that expresses some timidity without sounding fragile or weak.
This was my first experience of her performing and I was quietly impressed with her folk pop songs.
There did appear to be some nerves on show, but in a way it allowed the audience to pull for her.
To quietly urge her on by allowing the atmosphere to be quietly supportive.
It all made for a very lovely experience.
Next on the bill was to be Melisa Kelly and her Harmless Thieves who have now appeared so often at Su Casa that they could be considered the house band, but similar to a few other Ayrshire acts you can never tire of seeing them play as every performance is different.
This time the Harmless Thieves are missing Jamie on Cajon, but are bolstered with a a couple of members who I've not seen play with them before.
One on saxophone and the other on acoustic guitar.
The dropping of one instrument and the addition of two more alters the sound dramatically, but it's not that it sounds better or worse, just different again.
Unsurprisingly the set is shockingly entertaining, and it will never get old reiterating what a soulful and barely tamed vocal delivery that Melisa has.
She could sing the phone book and still enthral an audience.
Mark and the Mystics, the headlining act of the evening, very obviously had to pull something rather special out of the bag to follow Melisa and her Harmless Thieves, but that's exactly what they did.
I was under the impression that what we were going to see would be the usual front man and backing band set up, but instead what we got was Mark Rafferty, Teri Booth and Terry Balfour, displaying their individual talents together as they effortlessly swapped instruments and the taking on of the role of lead vocalists.
It's difficult to put a finger on how they did it, but something that could have been a very disjointed affair was far from it.
As instruments changed hands and the differences between vocal deliveries became apparent it could easily have lent itself to soaring highs and crashing lulls in the performance, but there simply wasn't a hint of that.
Instead what we got to witness was three fine musicians managing to convey a great deal of camaraderie, and in doing so elevating what could be considered a jam session to something much more appealing.
It all sounds polished, but also organic. A finely balanced performance.
Even the changing of seats and minor technical hiccups come across as part of the performance as Mark uses them to display a quick and sharp wit that some stand up comedians could learn from.
To say that I enjoyed them would be an understatement.
I'd happily part with some hard earned cash to see them all individually never mind pay a paltry five pounds to see them all.
It's going to be interesting to see what they come up with in the studio and how they will be able to convey what they do in a live setting.
Su Casa host Little Fire was the man to finish the night off and that he did in fine style.
Recently he supported The Secret Sisters on their Celtic Connections appearance in Glasgow and later this year he has secured the support slot to Joan Armatrading.
So things are going rather well for him and once he starts singing his songs it becomes obvious why.
Everything revolves around the well trodden path of the boy meets girl story, but the reason that path is so well trodden is that the subject material is timeless and as long as it is put out there with passion then no one will tire of it, and that's what Little Dire does.
A fitting end to yet another great night in Su Casa.
February has just delivered one excellent gig after another. March has a lot to live up to.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Band of Skulls - The Arches (Glasgow) 21/02/12

So ages ago a mate, Mark Hickey, bought three Band of Skulls tickets and told another mate Chris Mooney and myself that we were all going to see this great band.
No excuses would be accepted and much drink would be drunk was the remit from Mark.
It didn't matter that at that point Chris and myself didn't know who Band of Skulls were.
Fast forward a bit and I hear their second album.
Aye it's good.
Fair play to Mark for having his finger on the pulse.
Fast forward to the night and we've missed one train due to an inability to extract ourselves from the pub and then we miss the next to.
It's all right though.
The wonders of technology has allowed Mark to squint at a wee phone and punch stubby fingers at it until it revealed that there's another one due, and if we catch that we will still see the band.
So more vodka, guinness, jack daniels and lager was ordered and the chances of us catching it dipped dramatically, but catch it we did.
Hurrah.
The Arches was pretty busy, as was the bar, but with cans of Red Stripe procured we managed to get into the side of the crowd and catch the end of Broken Hands.
I was so impressed with them I decided that I would buy their ep.
Now in hindsight I can't remember a fuckin' thing about them, and for some reason they have managed to seal their CD above and beyond what is required and I'm still scratching my head and wondering how I can extract the actual disc from it.
At this moment Broken Hand are an unknown quantity to me.
With more Red Stripe repatriated from the bar and we settled in for Band of Skulls.
Were we disappointed?
Not at all.
From the opening chord we stood there gape jawed in between filling that gape with Red Stripe.
There's bits of Led Zeppelin pounding out, Some early Fleetwood Mac. The Velvet Underground make an appearance, but it still the Band of Skulls party.
It's hard to wrap your head around how much noise can come from three people, or how much musical ground can be covered by them.
The crowd is very appreciative, but I couldn't help thinking about how many were there as the band are the latest white hopes in the music scene.
Only time will tell, but at that moment in time I was more than happy to be holding a spot in the Arches to see them play, and I wouldn't hesitate in saying I'd go and see them again.
Time seemed to have been compressed though, because although they did a full set it had flashed by and as we went out into the street it felt like only minutes had elapsed.
Oh was that a pub open? What? We have time for a couple before last orders?
Don't mind if I do.
Crackin' gig and a great night out.

Su Casa - 23/02/12

I don't often review gigs or do interviews and tend to leave that to Mainy.
My main involvement over the last few years has been with putting on the gigs with him, but as he wasn't at Su Casa last night and I was I've decided that I'm taking over the blog for the day.

There's no order to this. Just thoughts on the high standard of entertainment provided by what is probably my favourite venue in Ayrshire.

Pammy Quinn - Last time I seen Pammy play she was heavily pregnant and had a guy accompanying her on guitar.
I enjoyed her set at the time, but I don't remember it as something that made me sit up and really pay attention.
Now here she was completely solo and it's a whole different story.
From the start I was captivated.
Her singing is just so strong and has a purity to it that is astounding.
She reminded me of The Secret Sisters. Not in style or attitude. Just in the clarity of her voice and how she manages to personally connect with an audience.
Lyrically I was also impressed to. There's nothing throw away about her songs.
She touched on the fairy tale expectations of relationships and it didn't sound like one of those songs that a writing team comes up with that's designed to hit all the buttons, but instead it did the same job by sounding honest.
This is why I never write people off when it comes to going to see bands and artists perform.
If I have seen them once and they ranged from being not too good to good, but nothing special, then that doesn't necessarily mean that will always be the case.
In the two performances I have seen from Pammy one was very good and while I enjoyed it it didn't prepare me for how good this one would be.
I absolutely loved it.

Robin Adams – This was my first time seeing Robin play and I was quietly impressed but not blown away. Maybe in the same way that I was with Pammy Quinn when I was first introduced to her music.
Something that Mainy said to me sprung to mind about how commenting on music is subjective because you can watch someone and see that they are talented musicians, have a great voice and strong song writing abilities, but while you can hear all that none of their talent is moving you.
There's nothing wrong with it at all and you can understand why others find it appealing, but you don't personally.
This is what I started to get to feel with Robin.
I started off liking him but as the set went on I was looking for it to have a bit more shading to it.
It's not that he's short on talent. It's just that what he does didn't make a strong connection with me, but I would like to see him again as I have a feeling that what he does just needs to bed in with me and then it will click.

Johnny Graham – Wow.
Johnny has the same set up as Ari from Rose Parade when he is playing solo. It's just guitar and drum, but that's where comparisons end.
How two people can use the same basic instruments and make something that sounds completely different astounds me.
He's from Irvine, so another local artist who is stepping up to showcase there talents and yet another doing it with style.
His cover of The Killers song 'When you were young' was a fantastic example of how an artist can take the music of another in a different direction and in some way make it just as relevant, or maybe more so, than the original.
From now one when I hear that song it could very well remind me of Johnny rather than the Killers.
Now I'm thinking it is unfair to comment on that and not say how enjoyable the rest of the set is.
If you make the effort to catch Johnny play somewhere soon then you will not be disappointed.
I love it when I personally discover someone new. Not discover them like find them for everyone else, but for myself.
He has an album launch coming up, but unfortunately I'm working.
So all the best to him with that and I'm going to bend Mainy's ear and get him to buy a copy.
(Edit – I've just seen there's a post about Johnny on the blog. My partner tells me nothing.)

Alan Frew – I never know what to expect from Alan. His sets have his own material at the core, but he always throws in some covers that make every show completely different.
Sometimes there's a laid back bluesy feeling to it all. The other week it all ended on traditional blues based rock and roll stompers.
But it's on his own song 'Moonchild' that he makes me wish I could play guitar. It looks like the instrument is an extension of Alan himself when he plays it.
He has a great reputation and when you see him you just know it is well deserved.

Little Fire – As Jamie is a mainstay at Su Casa I should be starting to get tired of him playing, but familiarity isn't taking anything away from what he does.
His songs are ear worms. I just love listening to him and I've yet to get bored of his performances.
There was some problems with his sound during his set, but nothing to complain about and in a little way these hiccups are all part of the intimate nights that Su Casa provide us with.
It makes me feel that there's no barrier between the acts performing and the audience.
It's just a bunch of like minded people in a room enjoying music and I like that.

Mike Nesbit – I don't know if it was just me, but Mike sounded like am cross between Bruce Springsteen and the band James.
The harmonica was what gave it the Springsteen sound, but his vocals were like Tim Booth.
I'm a fan of both so I was quite happy with this, but I'm still trying to get to grips with it a bit.
I'm going to have to check out youtube, bandcamp and facebook and come back to him.
What I will say is that he was yet another talent that Su Casa has brought to Ayrshire and credit has to go to him for travelling all the way from Oban to entertain us.
His dedication to his art is much appreciated.

(Kelly Conway)

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Johnny Graham

I don't know much about Irvine artist Johnny Graham apart from some glowing praise from a work colleague and Jamie 'Little Fire' McGeechan, but on the strength of their recommendations I had a wee search and was more than happy to find his debut single has a video to go along with it.
It bodes well for the forthcoming album.
Ayrshire's definitely on a roll in regards to talented artists.

Monday, 20 February 2012

In conversation with The Imagineers

Ignore the hype. The reality is better. That's the phrase that comes to mind when I speak to anyone who will listen to me about how good the Imagineers are.
Until you actually get the chance to occupy the same space and time with the band then any laudable praise will fail to live up to what you will experience.
The music will lift you up and in times like these we need a band that has that ability. So I was very pleased when last week circumstances led to me having a chat with Ali of the band who generously gave of his time for the blog.
So I guess this is where I simply say read on.

Mainy - I've got to say, The Imagineers is a great name for a band. It conjures up limitless possibilities, but how would you describe yourselves to someone who hasn't heard the band?
Ali – That's one of the harder questions because our sort of ethos when it comes to song writing is whatever happens in the studio we will try it.
Mainy...and if it feel right then that's it.
Ali – Yeah. So we thought The Imagineers could sort of cover any sort of genre we might try at any point, and then we could see just how far we could take it.
Mainy – When you are playing live there seems to be a sixties influence to what you do, but while that seems to be there you don't actually sound like any actual sixties bands
Ali – We have a few songs that have that sort of three chord chorus, and that was something that really started in the sixties. We are a kind of guitar band that's not too dissimilar to a lot of the bands from then like the Kinks and the Beatles to so I can see where the comparisons can come from, but we're also very influenced by modern music.
Mainy – So what modern music has been influencing you?
Ali - We really like the Arctic Monkeys just now, and there's lots of good bands getting aired on 6Music just now.
That's a great station.
Mainy - The Arctic Monkeys are one of those bands who I think came up fast. Sort of got thrust straight into the public eye, and then dropped out just as rapidly as they went from being a singles band and became more of an album band.
They write fantastic music, but there's not so many great singles any more, and in the long run that's seems to have benefited them
Ali – I think it was that third album they did that.
One and two were full of pop songs, but on the third they probably felt more secure and did their sludgy show gazing music and then latterly they brought it back up with an album with a few more obvious singles on it.
Mainy – The album angle is something that I consider will bring them more longevity as a band, but what is preferable? A couple of hits in the charts or decades of albums, I mean what would you prefer?
Ali – Well I've always wanted to do this as long as possible so probably an album, but you want any album to have a mood to it as I've always grown up listening to specific albums and you think 'this has got a great atmosphere to it' and you want to lose yourself in it.
I want to be part of making something like that.
I think everyone in the band has that aim.
Mainy - ..and when is your album coming out?
Ali – We have plans for recording it soon, but you know how that goes. Best laid plans and such, but we are moving the the right direction.
Mainy - You feeling good about it?
Ali – Yeah. Really looking forward to it. We are going to do this properly.
Mainy – It's the only way to do it really.
Ali - Obviously it's a dream for most to work in a job/earn a living from something that they are passionate about.
Do you think that sometimes people lose sight of that in music?
They tour, release records, and then ego gets in the way and they lose sight that they are actually living their dream.
So how do you manage to...well I guess, keep your feet on the ground? (At this point increasingly more people were starting to mill about the bands tour bus looking for autographs and photo opportunities)
Ali – That sort of comes from the environment. Most artists appear to start off very humble and then people will say 'you've really got something with your music' and then as time goes on and that becomes more and more common they start believing it themselves as it becomes their reality, and if they have money coming in then it takes them further away from the life they had before.
Mainy – So if The Imagineers reached that level then how would you deal with it?
Ali – How would I deal with it? Well I've got quite a simple life at the moment without a television or internet in my flat just so that I can focus on writing.
So I'd try and keep that the same and hopefully that would keep me grounded and I could just keep on reading and writing.
Mainy – Taking this in another direction. Do you feel that music appreciation is separating at the moment?
I find that there's so many people who when they talk about music are really talking about the X-Factor and such.
The people who appear on shows like that aren't necessarily wanting to create art. They seem to simply hunger after fame.
It's irrelevant to them if they become a presenter, dancer, juggler or singer.
Making music isn't there thing, as opposed to those who want to make some sort of artistic statement through the creation of it.
Ali – The X-Factor seems to be the first show that pandered to that instant gratification of people wanting to be somebody.
The talent doesn't appear to be something they think about.
Although the persons chosen artistic field probably provides them with the same feelings as someone in band, and I suppose that's pushed as much as they can, and then it probably crosses over in the middle somewhere and there will be generalizations on each side.
Mainy – Well there always are, but I've felt that over the last year things seem to be breaking apart slightly.
There are people who are generally into that instant gratification.
The music is less important than following the latest band gracing the cover of a magazine for many, and then there are others are who are more drawn to the actual music, and going and seeing the bands live.
It's that sort of separation I mean.
It's not something new, just something that from my point of view seems to be a bit more obvious at present..
Ali – Within the whole sort of song writing process you can look and see that the most credible artists are still doing three minute pop songs and that will be because, whether they admit it or not, they are writing for a public,
Mainy - ….......by creating a song that can maintain an attention span?
Ali – Yeah, and that's where I see the crossover being. That middle ground, but there's all different strains of authenticity within that.
Mainy - It's a strange word authenticity isn't it?
Ali – I know. You could say Lady GaGa is authentic and when you play one of her songs on an acoustic guitar it stands up as a good pop song.
Then if you took someone like Leonard Cohen I'm sure you could take the melody and add it to Lady GaGa's production and you wouldn't know.
Well apart from the lyrics being about Christ or something as Leonard has that niche going on.
Mainy – He does seem to have cornered the market on theology in music.
Ali -. Ha. He likes his Christ.
Mainy – Maybe it's because he's getting older and he's starting thinking me might meet him soon.
To get back to The Imagineers though. When you are playing venues like Jollys, and the sizes of crowd that it can accommodate, is it difficult to imagine the next step up.
Ali- In a way we have been getting the best of two worlds.
On a night like tonight it's great because it's sort of ramshackle, and the sound is pushed to extortion. People can jump in and dance around while we're playing a stomper of a song which I really like, but at the same time we are doing support slots for bigger artists and we've had that distance from the crowds to.
So we have had both things, and we keep going back and forth between them. So we can imagine doing one or the other as we are currently experiencing both.
They both have different advantages and disadvantages though.
Mainy – In a recent conversation I had someone was expressing a bit of a disheartened view of how their career was progressing and I was saying that often success has little to do with talent, but instead being in the right place at the right time, and the way I described it to him was that you could be the best surf guitarist in the UK, but if the surf guitar sounds aren't in vogue then it doesn't matter, and while that rather sad it#s sort of true.
So keeping that in mind and considering you have an album coming out are you guys just crossing your fingers and hoping to be in that right place at that right time?
Ali – Yeah, well all we can do is go with the feedback of how audiences have treated us. If they like it live then hopefully they will like what we come out with because with the record we want it to sound as live sounding as possible.
We did the demo ep a year ago and I don't think it does the live show justice. I think it's a lot more processed and produced, but with this we hope to get both.
Try and get that live edge.
Mainy – Are you putting out the album yourselves?
Ali – I think we will go with self publishing with our management. It's in the early stages just now.
Mainy – always best to keep it close to yourself. License it of needed.
Ali – I don't think we will look got a major though. I don't see any advantages in this modern age.
Mainy – I would agree. Everything is changing drastically ever month. Look at the mega-upload situation. They were stating a label that would offer bands 90% and then the FBI kicked their doors in.
I don't think that you need to delve into conspiracy theories to consider that the two are linked.
If their plan had went ahead then every successful artist would have went there as soon as their contract with their major was up.
The whole world is actually changing and music is right there to take and I suppose that in itself is a problem to.
How do you make music and then make money off of the fruits of your labour?
Ali – I suppose the money is now definitely in the live sector now isn't it. All the downloading is like a backlash to how the music business has treated people for the last forty, or more, years.
The prices, the reissues, the bonus tracks, a band jumps labels so you get the best of the previous labels years released
Mainy – The bonus CD with tracks from the albums sessions that didn't make it to the album. Or in other words the songs the band didn't think were good enough for the album.
Ali – I found that with the LA's album recently. I just got into them as our manager was always recommending them as he worked with them back in the day.
Mainy. That one singular great album.
Ali – It's amazing isn't it, but there's tracks at the end added and I can't imagine the band being happy with them.
It's these negative aspects that record companies have that just make you want to do it yourself.
Mainy – So you know what to do now. Destroy everything that you never want to see the light of day before someone decides it's ideal for the bonus tracks on the reissue of the albums anniversary release.
Ali – That's very difficult to do in this digital age.

Check out the Imagineers or contacts them here - http://www.the-imagineers.com/

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Michael Davis / 1943-2012

A few years ago I had the great pleasure to interview Michael Davis of the legendary Detroit proto-punk band MC5.
I'm loathe to describe what I do as a career as in all reality it's just a glorified hobby, but if I was to call my scribblings about music a career, then it is that interview that is the shining jewel in its crown.
To this day I still pinch myself that our lives crossed in what to others will appear to be such a small and insignificant way.
Some may even laugh at that admission, but at my core I'm just a fanboy who got to interact with one of his idols and didn't leave disappointed from the experience.
To say that he was a warm, articulate, honest, compassionate and brave man only hints at all the positive attributes he had.
He was genuinely inspirational and not just as a musician, but as a man, as a human being.
He simply walked the walk while others talked the talk.
So today as news of his death at the age of 68 reaches me I feel rather saddened.
I don't want to write an obituary detailing his many achievements as that can be left to others who have a more erudite talent in those fields.
Instead I hope that today, or tomorrow, or the next or whenever anyone reads this, that they will then fill the moments after it by listening to the MC5.
If every star in the night firmament represents a talented individual here on earth then one has just winked out of existence and the universe has just got that little bit darker.
RIP Michael Davis.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Dirty Edition 2 - 11/02/12 - Kilmarnock

Dang. On arrival everyone is raving about The Holy Ghosts.
When the praise comes hard and fast from every single person you speak to then you know that you have missed something special.
It's a damn shame that I literally failed to catch their set by minutes, but the name is now lodged away and I'll be making the effort to see them sooner rather than later.
So instead of The Holy Ghosts my nights entertainment started with Jamie Keenan who is probably better known as the drummer of La Fontaines.
Now Jamie is another artist who everyone raves about that I hadn't seen, but within a few minutes it was obvious why his reputation precedes him.
His set of skewed covers are a joy to watch.
From his twist on 'You canny shove yer granny aff the bus' that forever more is going to spin around in my head as 'I canny get ma granny aff the drugs' to his rousing take on Hamish Imlach's 'Cod Liver Oil and the Orange Juice' I was paying rapt attention.
There's something casually intimate, but also joyously inclusive about Jamie's performance.
It could be a mate providing the soundtrack to every house party you've attended.
From the rowdy bits when everyone is singing along and the neighbours have called the police, to the point when everyone has crashed out apart from the guy who is going around shaking cans to see if he can get a credible drink from from, ( Aye right. Don't look at me like that. We've all been there) it seems plausible that Jamie has a song that will fit the occasion.
I like the La Fontaines, but if given the choice between a ticket to see them or Jamie then I'd snatch your hand off for the one with Jamie's name on it.
You could sum up his performance as it's all good fun until someone loses an eye.
Rose Parade were billed to be the next band on, but due to their guitarist being a tad under the weather there was a last minute change and lead singer Ari did a solo set.
As he is such a big part of Rose Parade it doesn't mean that much has changed.
There's a softer approach to the material that doesn't sound better or worse than the full band experience, just different.
With an album in the process of being recorded it was interesting to get to hear a few new songs and try and imagine them as they will ultimately sound.
The main impression I got was that what we can expect is more of the same.
A natural progression from the 'Grace' EP.
I'm actually getting a bit excited about the prospect of a full length from Rose Parade (Stop sniggering at the back there) and Aris performance managed to keep that excitement on the boil (Okay. Now you're laughing out loud).
Matt Scott, who followed Ari, is difficult to review now.
It's nothing to do with his material or his delivery, but instead all about trying to strike a balance as I know him.
Too much praise and the accusation of pushing a mate could be levelled, or too little and the accusation of holding back would be equally expressed.
So how do you get around that?
Well the truth is that you can't, so you have to just plough on and try and be as honest as you can be.
So in the spirit of direct honesty I have to say that yet again Matt played a blinder.
As I've mentioned before there are elements of everyone from Dylan to Springsteen, Cohen to Waits. Frankie Miller to Jim Morrison in the songs Matt writes, but they all just flavour the music and lyrics rather than overpower them.
No matter how many influences you can hang your hat on it is still Matt Scott that is the central hub that they all spin around.
From a conversation later in the evening I'm aware that he had a few new songs that he was wanting to try out, but as they have a softer tone to them, and the audience were rather loud with their chatter, he decided to swap the set about a bit and stick to some material that people were accustomed to.
On the one hand it means that we got the familiar that we are accustomed to, but there's a part of me that feels that we may have missed out on something special.
Hopefully the new material will be outed soon in an environment that's more conducive to to a bit of appreciation.
Maybe I need to get a t-shirt printed that says 'More ears, Less mouths.'
The Imagineers were the band whose name was on the lips of most people attending, and that's not something that surprises me.
With a burgeoning reputation as the band who will make it big in 2012 people are keen to see what the fuss is about and they are very rarely disappointed.
Regardless of how loud the hype becomes the band have the musical ability, the songs and the attitude to deliver on all that is promised.
There's a melting pot sound that encompasses decades of quality music and it's all bolstered with a great deal of the bands own character.
Over the years I've seen quite a few Scottish bands who have hinted at possessing that certain something that a wider audience would appreciate.
They've had the songs, but maybe not the attitude, or they have plenty of attitude but fall short on delivering the music.
There's often just a bit of the jigsaw missing, but The Imagineers are ticking all the boxes just now, and with an album on the horizon it is entirely possible that the stars are going to align for them and they will be in the right place at the right time.
I doubt anyone who witnessed their set here would claim that they were undeserving of a much higher profile, and if anyone does then they need their hearing checked.
No honestly. If you disagree then get to the doctors as it could be something serious.
Headline act of the night was Tommy Reilly who I have to say I was rather ambivalent about seeing, but he was quite literally outstanding.
If there's an award for smashing preconceived opinions about an artist then Tommy gets my nomination.
I'm not even sure what I was expecting, but what I got was a real eye opener.
It feels like I've discovered a brand new talent.
There's something very comfortable about how he interacts with a crowd, and while that will win over a certain amount it's his songs that really pull you in.
After winning the Orange Unsigned competition it must have been a bit of a roller coaster ride for him, and it's to his credit that he has managed to keep his eye on the ball and develop as an artist.
For proof of this all you need to do is lend an ear to a song like 'six billion people' that will be appearing on his next album.
(There it is there from the always excellent Tenement TV Sessions below).
To say that I was impressed would be a understatement that would be up there with 'that Adolf was a very naughty boy'.
This was to be my road to Damscus moment of the night.
Up until seeing Tommy live I was quietly impressed, but I hadn't really wrapped my head around just how good he actually is.
Since this night I've revisited his debut and second time around I've fell in love with it.
His performance was the perfect ending to what in hindsight was the best line up I have ever seen grace a venue in Kilmarnock.
Now how often can any music lover claim that on their adventures in music that they have been to a multiple bill line up that has delivered on every level and didn't lag or disappoint for even just one minute.
Up until now I certainly couldn't have claimed that.
So mucho gracios to all the performers on the night and David Hanvey for arranging the evenings entertainment.
Now I'm left with a rather serious problem.
How is that, in its totality, going to be matched in Kilmarnock?
Answers, as they say, on a postcard.

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Creeping propaganda.

I was just reading the latest nonsensical and patronizing guff that is so readily excreted from the mouth of tory troll Baroness Warsi and I thought 'I'm not having that'.
Her latest is that religion is 'being sidelined, marginalised, and downgraded in the public spheres'.
She states this as if it is a bad thing.
Apparently we are under threat from a rise of 'militant secularism'.
Now far be it for me to draw attention to that dirty word secularism, but for those who don't know what it means then I'll tell you.
It simply means that we should keep church (any church) and state separated.
Now as we live in a multicultural society I could argue that to truly represent us all that this is more important than ever.
Now how is expressing that a militant action?
Let's be honest here and accept that while people are hitting the streets to protest about virtually everything from the cuts to the NHS to the bankers bonuses, we don't actually have secularists banging on the doors of Westminster and threatening to eradicate anyone within who attends a church.
Genocidal behaviour seems to be largely the remit of religious folks.
Secularists are more into changing peoples views with reason.
In general we just ask a few questions such as why should a religion have any say in the running of the daily lives of those who either don't subscribe to that specific religion, or religion at all.
It's a fair question and the reasonable answer is that no religion really should.
That's about the extent of a secularists battle with the current system.
It's a slow process of enlightenment rather than a militant attack on the establishment.
That Warsi feels the need to make an attack on secularism is interesting though.
What has she to gain from expressing these views in such a manner?
I certainly don't know.
Maybe she doesn't either though. She could just reading a statement based on a joke memo that was doing the rounds in Tory HQ.
In all honesty the space between her ears is a place that I never want to visit.
I suspect that it's a dark and ugly place where nightmares run free.
So even if this was a joke from Tory HQ she is the very one who would run with it.
Similar to how the Jews were denounced as the root of all evil by the Nazis I get the impression that Warsi would love to do similar to secularist.
It's simply scaremongering propaganda and that's her thang baby..
If the News of the World was still with us I would fully expect a 'secularist ate my budgie' headline in the coming months, and unless someone with more clout than a lowly blogger says enough is enough of this crap then I suppose the Daily Mail will have to do the job for them.
Although they wont be as obvious.
It will probably be a story about how a professor from a university in Ohio has discovered after extensive research into the first series of friends that there's a link between secularism and cancer.
That's more their style.
It's all rather pathetic and even rather sad that such empty rhetoric is given any credence in the media.
She then managed to get some more column inches when she said 'we in Europe should be more confident and comfortable in its Christianity'.
Yes. Baroness Warsi, the Muslim peer, has also said that. ( I add 'the Muslim peer as apparently no one is allowed to write anything that mentions her without stating that. I don't know if it's a law, but best to be on the safe side.)
I have only three words to say to her about this and they are 'Remember the Crusades'.
Okay, I lied I do have more than three words to say.
Why should we in Europe feel comfortable in holding on to Christianity? Or any other religion for that matter.
Now people who claim to be Christians can be as confident and as comfortable as they want with that, but why can't she just leave the rest of us alone.
Religion does not define me, nor my existence and I'm tired of its tentacles creeping into aspects of my life.
So leave it out Warsi.
The future will be brighter for all if secularists quietly get their way.
Now if this is an example of the militant secularisation that she mentions then I haven't a clue how she is going to deal with the economic backlash that is looming on the horizon.
Now that's a shitstorm that she should be worrying about.

In conversation with Mechanical Smile

Mainy - I've been following the progress of Mechanical Smile for a while now, and it has to be said that all the hard work seems to be reaping some rewards with recent mentions in the nationals and a solid buzz settling around you as a band to watch out for.
You must be quite pleased with the current state of affairs?

Garry – We are. Last year was a massive year for us and we feel we've achieved a lot and that's set the standard for 2012.
While we had a couple of years of playing the odd gig it was around January in 2011 when Mechanical Smile really started.
With Nic joining us we saw that as a fresh start and we seemed to take off from there.
We all became more focused on our goals and the passion for the band solidified.
One of the main things that has made us all very happy is how we have garnered loyal fans.
Our fans have been great over the last year and our online presence has soared. You have no idea how much it means to us to have fans as genuine as we have.
It's maybe a cliché to say it but we genuinely appreciate their support.
We try and get them involved as much as we can with giveaways and competitions as we feel it is the least we can do for the that support they give us.
Being featured in national papers and radio leaves us feeling good though.
It shows us that we are making progress and it’s great to know our work is being regarded highly by industry professionals.
We were delighted to get such positive reviews from the likes of Jim Gellatly.
You would think we would sit back and lap up the plaudits but in fact it just gives us more inspiration to push ourselves harder.
This year we hope to achieve even more than last year.
We would love a shot at playing some of the major festivals, and that’s the main reason we are pushing for the red bull bedroom jam competition. We seem to be doing well in that and hopefully we can top the buzz chart one week to be in with the chance of playing the festivals.
We are really happy the way things are going just now and have big ambitions and hope we can realize some of them this year.

Mainy - Did you ever have much of a game plan, or has it always been just a case of keep playing and keep pushing and lets see where this takes us?
 
Nic - A bit of both really. Llast year we had a rough game plan, gigging as much as possible, and doing a couple of single releases.
We spent the entire year really pushing ourselves, taking every opportunity we were offered, big or small, to try and get our name recognised.
It seems to have paid off and now we're getting some recognition both locally and nationally.
It's great to see that we're starting to get somewhere, and this year we do have a much more specific game plan, starting with this week when we head into the studio and then the launch of our new EP on March 30th at Bakers in Kilmarnock.
We are really excited to hear the results and we hope othrs will be to.!

Mainy - You seem to have managed to keep your feet firmly on the ground. Even at this early stage of picking up some wider recognition.
Is it important for the band not to be seduced by the music business and rock star attitudes?

Dawn - I think keeping our feet firmly on the ground is a very important aspect of what makes us Mechanical Smile.
We have all worked extremely hard at getting to where we are. We take nothing for granted because all that we have, we have worked for and strived for by ourselves and it means so much to us of what we have achieved so far.
Both the highs and the lows are equally important to us, because it's a learning process.
That whole rock star attitude that seems to be associated with playing in bands, well I feel that it isn't really something that applies to us.
We couldn’t be less rock and roll if we tried. Saying please and thank you comes naturally to us and we are extremely grateful for everything that has came our way and all the free beer, money and parties in the world has never and will never seduce the music that we play.
We pride ourselves on being as professional as we can when performing to our fans and people who take the time to come and see us perform.
I would rather give all the free things to my fans to thank them for coming to see us at a gig.
If we ever made it huge in the music business would we be seduced at that point by everything that comes along with the fame?
Then my answer would be a firm and honest no.
It always has been, and always will be, about the music that we play and the people who enjoy it.
I get my happiness from people and from the music I play, not from anything that comes with being a famous rock star.

Mainy - The world is moving fast. Vinyl gave way to CDs, and then they have gave way to downloads and while that happened the business side of things has remained quite static
As a young band do you have an awareness of the changes and have maybe relinquished the dream of grabbing a record deal and instead are looking to maintaining a sense of independence and control over your own career?

Nic - We've all studied music, and some of us are still finishing our degrees, so we're kept constantly updated with the way the industry is changing. I think fans of music in general still really appreciate a physical CD, especially with local bands where if people like what they hear live, they'll tend to look for EP's/albums to buy.
We sell a lot of EP's at live shows, and will definitely be offering physical copies of our new EP
A record deal is a bit of a pipe dream, and sometimes can put you in a worse situation, with much less creative control, and delays in releasing material.
At the moment we're doing pretty well with our self release plans, and have a good idea of where we'd like to be.
Obviously we don't have the promotional budget that a record label would offer, but if we continue to work as hard as we have been for the last year we're confident that we can grow our fan base across the country.
Saying that, we'd always be happy to consider any deal we might be offered in the future, but we wouldn't rush to sign a deal just for the sake of being signed.

Mainy - Some people were rather bemused at your attempt to get a support slot with McFly, but when you consider that it would have given you the opportunity to play in front of a few thousand people, garner some new fans, and showcase your talents in front of some media people that could have aided your career then are you surprised that some people just couldn't seem to wrap their head around it?

Murray - We weren’t surprised at people’s reactions as we expected people to raise an eye brow at our attempt to land the support with Mcfly.
As you say regardless of who the main band was, the chance to put yourself forward to play in front of a massive audience and potential industry personnel was the main reason behind why we pushed it so much.
Plus in all fairness, out of all the similar pop bands etc to Mcfly, they are actually decent musicians. But another reason for pushing it and promoting it so much was the fact it put our name out there.
Any publicity is good publicity and if people are sharing our page, tagging us or bitching about us wanting to support Mcfly, our name is getting out there which is what we want. But we got our tactics wrong with the promotion and learned from it. Hopefully there will be other opportunities.

Mainy - So with a few EPs under your belt are you looking to record a full length album next?

Murray - In December we were seriously considering going for a full album, but after some careful though we decided we weren’t quite ready for that and we believe we made the right decision.
We put some money into the recording of our single ‘Close Your Eyes’ and the rest of the money we had was spent on stocking up on merchandise, which has been a real asset to our income.
We see the band not only as our passion and our love, but as a business and every decision we make is one that we feel will benefit us and at the time (December) we felt a single was the right step.
So far we have released 2 EP’s and 2 singles and are currently recording a brand new EP which will be released on 30th March.
3 of the 4 songs are completely brand new, no one has heard them and they won’t until the release.
This is different than previous recordings as normally we write a new song then are buzzing to play it asap to let people hear it and by the time the recording has come out people have heard you play it live a few times.
We feel that might take away some of the excitement, so this time we don’t want to give anything away until the release.
I think this time next year you will see our debut full length album. At the stage we are at, EP’s are the best option as they are affordable for people to buy, cheap and easy to download, and we want to keep people interested and wanting to hear more from us.

Mainy - And on the live front what do you have coming up?

Dawn - After a quiet start to 2012 on the live front we have a busy few months ahead of us again this year.
Fresh of the back of our gig supporting Kassidy at the Grand Hall we are in the studio recording our new EP which will be released on 30th March. As mentioned we've just released details of the launch night at Bakers in Kilmarnock which we are really happy with.
We also have some great bands travelling to Kilmarnock to play with us.
There is a few gigs lined up before that though - Pivo, Glasgow 19th Feb, The Flask, Salcoats 24th Feb, PJ Molloy’s, Dunfermline 28th Feb and The Eagle, Prestwick 9th March.
We are getting a lot of gig offers from all over just now, it’s just a matter of picking the most suitable dates etc and we have a few big potential gigs up our sleeve which will hopefully be confirmed soon.

Mainy - The current loose scene in Ayrshire is very strong and probably one of its strengths is that it isn't genre specific.
What do you all think the pros and cons are of being associated with it?

Murray - First and foremost I believe the Ayrshire music scene is the best it has been for a long time, certainly in my generation.
There are so many great bands emerging and as you described in your question there is nobody really following a trend as each act is different in their own right.
I also love the community aspect of Ayrshire, the way the scene has been working together with My First Music, KA Radio, Little Fire etc all working hard promoting Ayrshire bands and artists.
There are definitely pros and cons though. Everyone wants to be in Glasgow, it’s just the way it is, that’s where it all happens, and it’s sad but it’s just the truth.
There aren’t enough venues in Ayrshire to attract punters and bands from outside Ayrshire to use it as a touring town, bar the odd few, and I’m afraid I don’t see that changing anytime soon.
Also for people looking at you from outside Ayrshire, they seem to compare you to bands from the Ayrshire.
It’s rare you see or hear someone talking about a band for what they have done, or what they have achieved, without bringing another band into the equation and whether they are achieving more or less.
There is less of a community in Glasgow or Edinburgh and far more gig’s happening and obviously far more bands.
Due to that you get less of these comparisons being made and if a bands doing well it’s because they are simply doing well
The community, scene angle on it doesn't come into it as much if you get what I’m saying?
On the plus side it’s great to be part of a community and it makes us happy to know that people from Ayrshire, our friends and fans are proud of us because of who we are and where we are from.

Mainy - Who would you all mention as bands or acts to watch out for this year and why?
Garry - This type of question is always a difficult one as there are so many acts and artists out there which make the current scene so exciting to be a part of.
Matt Scott has really impressed me with his unique voice which really compliments his songs. He brings the modern swagger into his bluesy music which is really doing it for me just now.
Tragic O’Hara, like most people, we have been massive fans of his for a few years. It is always a joy to see him perform and he just seems to get better.
We are over the moon to have Tragic opening our EP launch.
Aside from Ayrshire, I feel I should also mention alternative pop rockers Make Sparks from Dundee, who to me are the best band in Scotland. They have just signed to a small indie label, but it won’t be long before they are snapped up by a bigger one.
They're outstanding live and write the catchiest tunes you will ever hear.
Another act to look out for are Paisley based band Carnivores who are also making their name known with their unique sound inspired by various styles of rock music, which is something that we can relate to.
They have had a massive 2011 playing festivals, radio 1 session etc and are main support for our EP launch.
Scotland has so much to offer in terms of music there always seems to be so many good things happening it really is a great time for Scottish music.
Now I feel I should have mentioned more. I'm aware that by mentioning a few and not others could be misconstrued.
I could have been here for hours answering that as there really is so many bands and solo acts that are worth mentioning.

Links
http://www.mechanicalsmile.bigcartel.com/
www.facebook.com/mechanicalsmile

Monday, 13 February 2012

Dirty Edition - The Longhorns, Roadway, Acrylic Iqon, Dirty Angel, The Empathy, The Mighty Kung Fu - 10/02/12 (Kilmarnock)

Where to begin?
Maybe I could be a bit of a contrary bastard and start at the end and work my way back to the start.
Yeah. That sounds right up my street
So anyway we left as Roadway started into what must have been their third song.
By that point of the evening it was creeping ever closer to the end of what had been a very long day.
I would have liked to have hung about a bit, but my bed was calling me, and no matter how good the band was, and they were good, I was reaching the stage where my feet were aching and the small of my back had taken out a fatwa on the rest of my body.
The young guy singing was hitting all the right buttons though.
If exhaustion wasn't weighing down on me I would have probably made more of an effort to make it to the last note as he's got the cocky rock front man swagger going on that I like
It's not just the impressive vocals that carry the band though.
The guitar work is equally as impressive, and the keyboards work well within the framework of the songs, but I'm not sure if the world really wants a band like this any more.
If Whitesnake where Israel and Deep Purple were Palestine then Roadway are the Gazza Strip.
They're occupying that land between the two, and while they sound great, it still might not be a place people want to visit.
It's not like they were adding a modern twist to the style of rock music they play that would lead people to say that they have some current relevance.
There's maybe a smidgeon of a grunge influence, but in the main they gave the impression of a band suspended in amber.
The Mighty Kung Fu finished their last ever gig to rapturous applause, wolf whistles and probably a tear or two.
Not bad for a local band calling it a day after eight years.
Playing funky rock in Ayrshire was always going to be a bit of an uphill struggle, but they managed to carve themselves a credible niche, and although the band are now on the path to being a memory their final performance was something that their fans will no doubt cherish as they went out on a well deserved high to what was the biggest crowd of the evening.
The Longhorns seem to make random hit and run appearances since they got back together after seventeen years of a lay off and I haven't managed to see any of them.
In fact it's quite possible that I haven't seen them in twenty years.
Not that it felt like that.
Once they fired into their set the years just slipped away and it could have been yesterday.
There's no hint of anyone considering this a nostalgia trip with everything sounding as if it could have been written in the last few weeks.
In fact one of them that had a nice bit of a nod to the Spanish Stroll of Willy Deville and may we have just been written in the last few days.
The band were tight, on form and as relevant now as they ever were.
There was one problem though. Where were the Killie faithful who usually come out to see them?
Ahhhhh. The calm before the storm.
A few friends, family and random punters like myself hang about and watch The Empathy who are on before The Longhorns come on.
Virtually everyone vanished to the bar downstairs, or outside for a fag after Dirty Angel played and left the four piece struggling to connect with an audience.
I was a bit rude.
Totally understandable if they sucked like a Dyson turned up to eleven, but they didn't.
I quite liked them.
There's nothing that screams at you 'look at me' but it's equally there's nothing on display to have you running to the hills covering your ears either.
In fact the Abba cover rocked big balls and anyone who missed it should be kicking themselves now.
It was always going to be difficult to follow Dirty Angels, but they made an admirable job of it and it's a shame more people didn't manage to make the effort to watch them.
Is the roof on?
No honestly is it?
Someone better check as it could have been blown clean off
Dirty Angel finished as they started.
They came, they drank, they fucked about and then they left, or more accurately they left everyone with smiles on their faces.
Imagine Jack Back in School of Rock and then scratch out the R and replace it with a C.
It's the School of Cock......and rock.
They were feckin hilariously entertaining.
From the classic fretboard masturbation to the iconic cum face guitar solo they nailed it, and that was just Dudge.
The only thing missing was spandex, loads and loads of spandex, but we can forgive them for this......this time.
It was the perfect balance of taking it seriously enough to get by, but not taking it too seriously that it impacted on the fun.
Brilliant. Simply brilliant.
Acrylic Iqon are in the wrong place though.
Some music just doesn't suit a pub, but how do you jump past playing in them to get to the larger venues that your sound needs to live and breathe in.
There's hints of the eighties that float in by way of some tinkering on keys, a bit of a stadium rock sound and plenty more current influences weaving in and out of their songs.
As a start to the night it seems odd.
The position on the bill and the band actually playing in these surroundings just doesn't work, but that's not a bad criticism.
Hopefully soon I'll get the chance to see them play in a larger venue that suits what they do as there's plenty of interesting things going on in the Acrylic Iqon camp.
Excellent. The first night of the Dirty Editions dates that David Hanvey is bringing to Kilmarnock. I reckon it's going to be good.

Photos will follow.

Time to say no.

Every day there seems to be yet another plan to extract money off us all.
Someone, somewhere must be sitting thinking up different little schemes on behalf of faceless government officials.
Unless we are vigilant and say no to them then most are ushered in quietly and it is only when they are enforced that we learn of their existence.
Lets not let that happen here.
This isn't legislation that will just cover Glasgow, but all of Scotland.
So cut and paste this link and say no, then pass it on to friends.
It only takes a minute to post a link to facebook or twitter.

http://www.change.org/petitions/the-scottish-government-scrap-public-entertainment-licence-fees#

Su Casa - 9/02/12 (Ayr)


This review is sponsored by Irn Bru and Insomnia.

Mainly (sic) when I head out for a gig I know I'm going to see varying degrees of talent on display.
There's very often the good, the bad and the ugly thrust forth into the spotlight, and more often than not all on the same bill.
It's rare for a night to run smoothly with every act being a delight to listen to.
Even rarer is for every single one of them to manage to bring something different to the experience and enhance the evenings entertainment in its totality.
Yet that was exactly what happened in Su Casa.
This was to be my first experience of seeing lauded local artist Scott Nicol play and I wasn't disappointed.
It would be fair to say his performance effortlessly matches the praise he has received locally and globally.
I'm sure Scot himself wouldn't claim to be reinventing the wheel with his music, but it sounds honestly passionate, and what he does is delivered so well that while others are doing similar he manages to come across as the cream of the crop with his take on what I guess you could call mature acoustic rock music.
An indication of how good Scott is as a performer is how from a cold start he managed to get people singing along to his own material in a very short space of time.
He arrived, made an impression from the off, and then hung onto the attention he had drawn to himself.
Harder that some would think, but it's to his credit that he made it look easy.
I was so impressed that as soon as he finished his short set I approached him and bought a couple of CDs and I wasn't the only one.
Next the very young (It's obligatory to say that) Sam Christinson was to grace Su Casa with his presence, and while I thoroughly enjoyed his previous set many months ago - and his more recent 4 track EP release -,I was surprised at how he had progressed in such a short space of time.
He's far more self assured now, and with that confidence the music has flourished.
The singular new song that he sang is yet another down payment on a promise of things to come.
Definitely a young talent to remember the name of as a singer songwriter of the future..
The co-host and regular performer that is Jamie - Little Fire – McGeechan was next and managed yet again to breath some life into his material.
Each time I see him I find him tinkering with his delivery of his material with no two performances sounding the same.
It's a pleasure to hear the evolution of his songs as they grow towards being recorded..
This year will see him releasing his début album, and at this moment in time I have no clue as to how it is going to sound.
That it's going to be good is - in my opinion - a given, but I wouldn't dare to hazard a guess as to how the songs will finally find form.
It's going to be one of those 'watch this space' situations.
Anna Sweeney followed Jamie and similarly to Sam has taken a huge jump forward in the confidence stakes.
It's a captivating introduction to her as an artist for those who haven't had the pleasure of seeing her before.
Her song writing abilities are well defined and show a level of maturity that is rather astounding for a young woman of such tender years.
This was the first time that I had seen her accompany herself on piano rather than guitar and I'm in a quandary as to what I prefer.
Maybe it will all depend on my mood on the night as both are equally entertaining.
Now I haven't got a problem in saying that Rose Parade are one of my current favourite bands.
I'm an unashamed fan and love how they can create perfect slices of pop music while maintaining a great deal of indie credibility.
Acoustic guitar, single bass drum, banjo, electric guitar and glockenspiel doesn't sound like a marriage made in heaven, but close your eyes and listen and it all makes complete sense.
There short set in Su Casa admirably displayed their talents, and I would be very surprised if they don't manage to draw some wider attention from music fans as this year progresses.
If so, then it will be well deserved, and if not, then I'll be at a loss to understand why.
Similar could be said about Melisa Kelly and the Harmless Thieves.
The word authentic gets bandied about with alarming regularity to describe so many carbon copies of what has come before, but when I hear the word I think of Melisa Kelly.
Previously I'd only ever seen her perform solo, or with Jamie of The Harmless Thieves providing some cajon, but this time it's the full ensemble with bass and keyboards.
The difference is like night and day.
While Melisa's voice soars with minimal accompaniment it's taken to a whole new level when supported by accomplished musicians who know the songs inside and out.
There's a free flowing aspect to how the music is played that only comes from being intimately comfortable as a band.
It sounds organic. From rock and roll to a snippet of some Stevie Wonder it was just pure magic.
I reckon that every time Melisa sings Jools Holland gets a hard on.
He just doesn't know why yet.
Finishing the night was Alan Frew who managed to avoid being upstaged by delving into what must be an encyclopedic knowledge of music and delivering some belting numbers that included the trad song 'Pick a Bale of Cotton' that was more vibrant and rockin' than the Leadbelly version that most would be familiar with.
He left me with the impression that with a guitar there's not a lot he can do.
I've had some great nights in Su Casa, but this is right up there.
Outstanding.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Dirty Angel – Kellys Bar - 10/02/12

It's been a while since Dirty Angel brought their glam hair metal rock and roll circus to town, but here they are back for a second bite at the cherry.
Older, wiser, waist expanded and hair receding maybe, but still full of the spunk of yesteryear.
Dudge, Monty, Dean, Gav and Grom are ready to rock.
Sadly the band has a problem.
It's not that they are under rehearsed, too pissed, or that their covers of the whole of Bon Jovi's back catalogue just doesn't cut it anymore.
The problem is that Dudge's trousers are so tight they are distracting the crowd from listening to the music.
You can see every vein in the two and a half inches he has, and I'm not sure if it's an optical illusion, but one ball looks to be half the size of the other.
Or if your a glass is full sort, then one ball looks double the size of the other.
Every woman in the place has their eyes glued to his crotch, and Harry the only gay in the village looks as if he is hyperventilating with excitement.
Flashbombs at a pub gig aren't the norm, but they go for it with style.
As they steam into Sweets Blockbuster there's an almighty flash and the crowd roar their approval.
The front row lose their eyebrows, but no one is caring.
This is rock and roll with a capital R.
Once the smoke clears there's a bit of a panic though.
It turns out that there was no pyrotechnics arranged and the flash and fire was just Monty drink sodden t-shirt going up in flames due to a dodgy spark jumping from the microphone that Faither had gaffa taped together.
Fair play to the band though as they don't miss a beat as they step over his prone body.
When they play the Thin Lizzy classic 'The Boys are back in town Grom decided it's that time of the night to get naked.
The reaction from the crowd makes the arrest later for public indecency worth it.
To my left Harry is pressing close to the front and flashing his moobs at Gav the pretty boy of the band.
It woudl seem that they may have a bit of history as across his moobs he has written Harry and Gav with the legend 'you want some seconds big boy' under it.
Not to be left out of the action Dean starts to light farts, and after following through proves once and for all that shit does burn.
No one wants them to leave the stage and the cries of encore reach the deafening heights of a whisper.
So never a band to leave a crowd short changed Dean plays 'Rock you like a hurricane while Dudge strums the riff of Allright now as Gav mimes the words to a Spice Girls song and Grom sings Paper Roses.
Meanwhile Monty harmonized along with the words 'someone phone for an ambulance'
Killie has definitely never seen anything like this before, and as the Bar has now taken out legal restraints on all of Dirty Angels that now mean they can't be found within a mile of the venue, it's doubtful it ever will.

Southern Culture On The Skids - Zombified

Southern Culture On The Skids often get pigeon holed as a psychobilly band, but similarly to the legendary Cramps they're not.
They're much more than that.
On 'Zombified' the sound of the band effortlessly encompasses the garages of the sixties, some surf guitar, swamp rock and hillbilly parties.
Imagine Booker T and the MGs playing Green Onions at a voodoo ceremony in New Orleans.
Dr John is there and the Sonics to.
That's the sort of party that Southern Culture On The Skids would be invited to.
Much of this first appeared a few years ago as an eight track Halloween release, but here it is given the full album treatment and the addition of more songs doesn't sound grafted on at all, it sounds as fresh as it did on its initial date of release..
If you like B-movies, exploitation films and sitting in honky tonk bars after dropping acid then this is the soundtrack to your perfect night out.

The Plimptons - Are Cynical and Bloated.

There's not a day passes that I don't hear something from a well known mainstream band that makes me question who it is that buys that blandly repetitive auto tuned crap.
What the masses are listening to especially suffers in comparison when I've just reached the end of a Plimptons release like 'The Plimptons are Cynical and Bloated'.
For every 'Baby Baby Baby Ooooh', it would seem that the Plimptoms are more than capable of delivering a rock solid blow of originality wrapped in the warm embrace of sardonic wit in return.
As Newton says in his third law 'For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction' and that's what the Plimptons are.
The reaction to the actions of the blandly offensive brain dead nonsense that litters the airwaves twenty four hours a day.
Fans may consider that there's not a lot different going on in the Plimptons camp, but I would ask them to have a closer listen.
Individually the songs are just as deviantly poptastic as expected, but whereas in the past each album sounded like an anarchic scramble to get every single idea in their head down in the studio, this time there's far more of a flow to it all.
Previously every song was a singular gem, but there was times that it sat uncomfortably next to its album mate..
Imagine a 500 piece jigsaw.
Each piece looks lovely, but they're from 500 different jigsaws.
That's what previous releases were like.
Collections of great individual songs.
Now on 'The Plimptons are Cynical and Bloated' everything fits together and provides the listener with a clearer picture of who The Plimptoms are.
It sounds like a real album as opposed to a compilation.
Of course it's still packed to overflowing with warped vignettes of small town life that come across like surreal mission statements from the front-line, but this time out the band have certainly hit their stride in delivering them.
That's the main difference.
So if you're tired of the same old same old as people say, then maybe it's time for you to stretch your imagination and sample something that sounds far fresher.
There will be a moment when you could suffer from a bit of culture shock and you would have to acclimatize yourself to listening to it as I'm sure your ears are currently comfortable with the sheen that is put on pretty much everything, but take my word for it.
There are rewards to be found.
Lasting ones to.

Oh aye, and go and see them to. Details are on the poster...clickety click.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Who said protest music is dead?

Thanks to John Duffy of Duffy's Gypsy band for upping this on facebook.
Lets make it go viral.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Dirty Edition from the last man standing

The balance in the universe is off.
We have global conflicts, ecological disasters and here in the UK a coalition government to deal with.
The potents of disaster are everywhere.
Here in Ayrshire we have our own imbalance to.
We have more talented bands and artists per square mile than I can ever recall, and yet in Kilmarnock we have nary a stage for them to promote themselves from.
It's small potatoes in the large scheme of things, but never the less it still twists my melons man.
Thankfully some people are still fighting the good fight.
David Hanvey is one of them – in fact he could be described as the last man standing - and this coming weekend he's back trying to valiantly breath some life into the faltering lungs of a scene that will start spiralling downwards to extinction if it isn't supported.
Make no mistake about this.
The success of The Dirty Editions weekend will go a long way towards ensuring that live original music continues to flourish in Kilmarnock.
So it's up to you.
It's not even a case of dragging yourself out to support mediocre talent.
Over the course of the three nights in two venues there's something for everyone.
A line up to make the most disillusioned music fan swoon.
This is some of the best of what is on offer locally building up to known headline acts that wouldn't normally see Kilmarnock listed on their tour itinerary.
The weekend starts on Friday (10th) with local heroes The Longhorns headlining a night in what used to be Jollys/Dirty Martinis and is now known as Kelly's.
This is just the beginning, the teaser for what is to come.
The Longhorns have a solid local following and could fill the venue on their own merits, but the addition of The Mighty Kung Fu playing their last ever gig means that it's doubtful that there will be room to breath.
These bands alone make the ticket price a bargain, but the addition of Roadway, the Empathy, Dirty Angel and the obligatory more to be confirmed makes this seem like an opportunity not to be missed.
Saturday sees Tommy Reilly finishing off another fantastic line up in Kelly's
In support he has one of my current favourite bands who are tipped to make the big time and that's The Imagineers.
(Check them out at the bottom of the page.)
The rest of the line up aint too shabby either.
Matt Scott, Rose Parade, Jamie Keenan, The Holy Ghosts, Scott Nicol and Colin Hunter.
Tell me that there's a duff artist amongst that lot and I'd have to check and see if your ears are painted on.
No surprise that that's not all either.
Turn up on the night and see who else will be there.
I doubt it would be a wasted effort if anyone arrived early doors.
The weekend culminates in the extra special appearance of Steve Cradock (OCS/Paul Weller) in Bakers, who is doing a solo acoustic tour at the moment.
Although I've been assured that there will be some special guests joining him.
(Shhhh. Don't ask. It's a secret.)
Apart from Steve, who many will consider the jewel in The Dirty Editions crown, joining him will be What the Heroes Say, Tragic O'Hara, Graemes Minky Tiger, Dead Wolf Club and yet again more.
If that's not enough to blow your mind then what more do you want?
How about some DJ sets and Northern Soul at an after show party with Steve Cradock spinning some discs?
Yeah. I though some people might like that.
Now if this doesn't manage to kick start something locally then someone should just tag the toe of Kilmarnock and leave its corpse in the morgue.
Any local music lovers who don't attend at least one of these nights better never ever ever ever utter near me that nothing every happens in Killie.
Peace.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Band of Skulls - Sweet Sour

Sometimes a band just manage to slip by like a ninja in the night.
You seem to recall having seen or heard something lurking in the shadows, but there's nothing that you can really hang a memory on..
That's what happened with Band of Skulls and their début album with the fantastic name of 'Baby Darling Doll Face Honey'.
For some reason I was aware of it, but it didn't really register.
In hindsight it was maybe because it came out in a month that was heavy with great releases, but then again maybe not.
I'd just be guessing.
All I know is that the band didn't really register until a friend (Mark Hickey) sent me a link to them and informed me that he had grabbed some tickets for a forthcoming show and I was going.
Since then I've been checking them out and with each listen to them have become increasingly impressed.
The Alt Rock label that they have been tagged with is a bit of a woolly one and doesn't really convey the rich and textured music that they play.
Neither does the seemingly strange reference points that are being bandied about.
They sound a bit like U2?
Really!
There's some Coldplay in there?
Is there!
Forgive me, but I'll happily be the one man marching in step here and say I don't hear that at all.
What I hear is a band who have managed to take some classic rock that's steeped in the blues and gave it a bit of a modern sheen without losing any soul or slipping into the grunge rut.
It's equally refreshingly exciting and familiarly comfortable.
The duel male and female vocals are the hook that will drag you in.
There's not much that is out of their reach, from balls out scuzzy rockers to more introspective and contemplative refrains that give way to crunching sonic assaults. This is a band have got it all nailed down.
On 'Sweet Sour' all the retrospective promise I found in their début is realized.
The shading within the music is expertly laid down and over the course of the album it rarely jars regardless of how heavy or softly they want to tread.
Possibly it could be said that on this outing they are a bit more accessible, but I'm not the sort to have ever had an issue with that.
The more people hear Band of Skulls the better.
Check them out.