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Thursday 27 June 2013

The NHC Music Hub
So lets just say that I don't know anything about the Hub.
How would you describe it?

I would say It was a first and foremost a music café specifically aimed at unsigned and independent musicians and bands, and their fans of course!
It's also a place where they can sell their own music, merchandise, and gig tickets, and advertise/promote themselves with it not costing them a penny. We want to nurture new music, not smother it even more.

How can we run it without charging bands a cut of their profits?

Simple, we make out money from the cafe side of things, and also sell our own stock of used books/CD'S/Vinyls.
There's always ways of making money without charging the bands. Not only that, but we run it as a non-profit venture, meaning every penny we have left at the end of the month goes right back into helping the local music scene through taking bands on the road, letting them borrow gig equipment free of charge, putting on bigger gigs, etc etc.

You are looking for funding for it, but of course the first thing that some will say is 'what's in it for me' simply because that's the world we live in.
So what would you say to them?

Simply put, if you want the local music scene to be a better, and fairer, place for a band/musician to work and operate in then it makes sense to get behind something that aims to help you, rather than hinder you.
I have to admit that we have had our fair share of 'mistrust' lumbered upon us from a select few bands, which is only to be expected I guess when you look at the state of the music scene as it is now, that and the sheer amount of sharks in the water feeding off the hard work and sweat of bands who don't know any better.

Obviously you wouldn't be doing it of you didn't think that there would be a degree of success to to the project.
Realistically what are your expectations for the first six months, then where would you want to be a year down the line?

The first six months will probably fly by to be honest! I am happy using that time just to cement our NHC MUSIC brand in the Glasgow area, and getting the word out about who we are and what we do. A year from now? Well, the plan is to open up more hubs in different cities, but that's probably farther down the path than 12 months.
While others have done similar to a smaller scale, and in doing so only covered certain aspects, this does come across a rather grand undertaking. Basically a one stop shop for musicians and music lovers with an ethical foundation to it all.

Lets be honest about it. Have you woken up sweating about it all and wondering if you have went mad?

Ha! I do that at least once a week! The stress is all just part and parcel of the package for me though, if i'm not worried and stressed out, then i'm probably not pushing both myself and NHC MUSIC forward enough. It IS a grand undertaking, but thankfully I have a few good men on my side (and woman - can't forget Kirsty!) helping me push it forward so I now feel, on top of everything else, that to 'shortcut' any part of the bigger plan now would not only be a let down to myself, but a disservice to them and all the work they have put in. Strangely enough I always felt that I was kind of 'pushed' into this role anyway, though not in a bad way, just in an 'all roads lead to this place' type of way. I guess it was just meant to be the thing that I did, it just took me a bit longer to get here!

Do you have a time frame for opening? Is that all tied into finding premises?

Our initial target for opening up is 31st August, but as with all targets that is open to, and pretty much expected to, change. We have had so many things delay us by a wee week here and a wee week there that we fully expect to now not be open till about mid-sept. I still have hope that there will be no more delays though, it's small but it's there!

What has the main criticism been about the idea? (This goes back to the mistrust issue that people feel)
The one specific thing that people seem unable or even unwilling to wrap their heads around?

Apart from the mistrust issue we haven't had any actual criticism of the main idea and the hub itself. The only gripes we had where the old classic 'there must be a catch, no-one helps folk for free'.
That really does seem to be the main bone of contention with a select few people. There will of course be some perks that bands can pay for, if they like that is, such as page ads in the instore mag etc, but this will be totally up to the bands with no coercion from us to take part.
We WANT you to use our free services, and anything we sell that's yours, as we promised, goes right back into your own pocket.
Remember, all profit made from other things such as the coffee shop and our own stock etc, all goes right back into the hub and the local music scene anyway. It's a win-win for bands and musicians. 

The Hub is currently looking for donations and sponsorship.
More info here

Wednesday 26 June 2013

Sneaky Pete - Everything Wrong at the Right Time

I share a degree of dismay when people oft say that there's no good music out there anymore.
That's only true if you reached a point in your life that you grew tired of people talking rubbish and inserted your fingers in your ears never to remove them again.
There are none so deaf as those who choose not to hear, with the obvious exception of deaf people who have no choice in the matter.
I am in a privileged position as I can't help but continue to be impressed with the calibre of tracks that are sent to me to air on the Third Class Ticket radio show
I have also been humbled by the amount of bands who send their music for review before public release.
It's genuinely gratefully appreciated.
The latest band to do this is Greenock rockers Sneaky Pete.
A trio who, according to their facebook page, have a mission to infect the world with their catchy pop/rock/whatever.
Quite a mission but after a listen to their debut album I can say that if Sneaky Pete are a virus then I’m not looking for an antidote.
From the first track they manage to snatch your attention.
The blend of synth and guitar based rock grabs at you while the pumping bass lines and strong drumming brings a wall of sound to the mix that allows the well written lyrics to flow.
The band seamlessly move from song to song, and you can hear that they have put the time in to ensure that the running order is smooth and that they care about how each and every note is represented to the listener..
All too soon you reach the end of this eleven track album leaving you only one option, and that's PRESS PLAY AND START AGAIN.
Everything Wrong at the Right time is probably not the best title for this album as I cant find a thing wrong with it at all.

You can hear tracks from the album on The Third Class Ticket show on Mesi radio on 4th July or  grab a copy of the cd from July 15th by contacting the band at
(Tommy Clark)

Ghost Mice, Billy Liar, Winona Forever, Nyla. - Plan B Books (Glasgow) 25/06/13

There's a first time for everything people say.
That's one of those redundant sort of comments though.
Of course there has to be a first time.
You can't just leap frog the first time and go straight into the second unless you want to mess around with time paradoxes, and that usually ends up messy so please don't.
I remember once skipping forward in time a matter of mere hours and I missed out on enjoying a vindaloo, but managed to live through an extraordinary long toilet break.
All the sweat and none of the taste bud fun.
That's not true though.
I made it up to poorly illustrate a point while attempting to be funny.
Let everything that you have read so far be a warning to you that trying to be clever and funny often doesn't work.
Unless you are drunk, and then being clever and funny comes naturally to us all.

Anyway, on the subject of first times, and not second times, Plan B Books – a small comic/book shop that also sells coffee – hosted their first ever gig last night.
I think in the cold light of day they can now chalk it up as a resounding success.

Reminiscent of how I presume the original anti-folk scene evolved in New York it was a basement gig that refused to engage with things like a PA, lighting and a barrier between the artists and the performers, and instead it focussed on the artists playing in a true acoustic manner and creating a communal vibe.

First to perform was one of the staff of Plan B Books called Nyla.
She looked like a comic book character brought to life to an extent.
The archetypal slacker heroine.
I have no idea if how she carries herself - from her performance, including how she engages with an audience, to how she dresses - is a result of working in the book shop and over time she has morphed into someone that fits the surroundings, or instead it's that she gravitated towards employment there because it was a calling.
It's a chicken and egg conundrum.
As expected she has a shy, but cute, delivery that makes people laugh and warm to her, and she also has some disarmingly quirky lyrics that were equally expected.
For moments it felt as if I had walked into the filming of a scene from a certain type of hollywood movie.
Maybe 'Scott Pilgrim vs the World.
That's not a criticism though.
It all just seemed very casually evocative of something that is rooted in a perception of American youth culture rather than a reality.
All things considered it is probably something that shouldn't work, but does.
For those who prefer to escape the harshness of the world by being embraced by an alternative provided by a graphic novel then Nyla is here to blur the edges between fact and fiction for you.

The name Winona Forever on a poster would lead you to believe that they are a band, but they are actually just a he.
In a short set he managed to sing in the wrong key, start a song again, change his mind about what he was wanting to play, and generally sounded like he was sitting in a corner of a bedroom on his own trying to wrap his head around a song he was learning.
Yet all of that, and more, made it a rather compelling and entertaining performance.
One of those moments that if captured wouldn't make much sense in hindsight, but makes complete sense in the moment.
I suppose there's some worth in that, but it's not something that can be quantified, and why the hell should it.
There's certainly an 'it is what it is, so take it or leave it' attitude to the songs and interaction, but it never comes across as arrogantly bullish.
Thoroughly enjoyable.

I would love to tell you about Olive Anne, but I was upstairs at that point looking at the graphic novels.

As I have previously described Billy Liar as unmissable I was however back downstairs to catch him raise the bar.
Billy is now at the point when all that is good about him has been refined.
If a year ago was the prototype then here in the present is the finished product, and all the songs need is to find the appreciative audience that they deserves.
Lyrically there's some brutal honesty laid bare. So much of it that there is no gaps to slip in any hiding meanings.
No one has to read between the likes of what is being spat out, and no one leaves the show wondering how to interpret what they have seen.
'If I could stick my pen in my heart, And spill it all over the stage' may be a Stones lyric, but it may also be the motto that Billy is living by.
He's a force of nature, and by the end of this year with a few more releases under his belt, and some dates in the US logged it is entirely possible that he will not be playing basements, unless of course he wants to.

Ghost Mice keep it simple to an extent.
There's no intent to reinvent the wheel and why should there be as the wheel is entirely functional, as are Ghost Mice.
At their core they are a punk band who want to push their stories out there wrapped in a folk overcoat.
Everything is pretty much short and sharp, has a point, and ultimately it grabs you.
All the songs are road tested to destruction and tight, but tight in that effortless way that gives the impression that it's all just second nature.
The mandolin, guitar and violin set up is in itself compact and offers a solid backbone to the tales that are recounted by Chris Clavin.
It's an organic relationship between the words and the music that works extraordinarily well.
I should throw in the word impressive here as it's probably overdue a mention.
Yeah. Impressive.
They are.
Ghost Mice are impressive.
In addition to how good they were the whole setting had lent itself to building up to their performance, and similar to the environment itself I think much of the young audience were newly being introduced to an artist performing right there in the flesh without any of the usual trappings of a gig.
Most people currently have an idea in their heads about how a performance should be framed and Ghost Mice partially turn that on its head.
Here in the UK we often put a barrier up.
Clearly define ourselves as an audience with a role to play while the artists have theirs to play to.
Yet sometimes there's something a bit more communal about it all and this is exactly what Ghost Mice are bringing to the table.
I sincerely hope it acts as a catalyst and now an alternative has been provided to those who were there.

Respect to Punk Rock Rammy and Plan B Books for pulling the night off in style.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

In defense of capitalism (sort of)

There's been a flurry of outings on social media recently.

Not the revelations of any individuals sexuality that had happily lurked in a closet, but instead outings of poor business practices.

One example was a Glasgow studio taking a band to task for not honouring a booking, another was a venue highlighting an outstanding hire fee.

There has been a mixed reaction to these public missives.
Some consider it one hundred percent the right thing to do while others lean towards it being a step too far.

It would be fair to say that those who have went down the route of outing certain bands and individuals have not done this lightly though.
The outings are not a reaction to being financially stiffed once, but instead the last resort after being ripped off multiple times.
What some of the detractors to the public shaming exercises appear to fail grasp is that both the studio and the venue are businesses, and to maintain a viable business the cash has to flow.

Now of course business for many is a bad word.
It conjures up capitalist excesses and a lack of morals, but in these cases we are not talking about CEO's of a multinational slapping down a pensioner for not paying their gas bill in the middle of winter, but instead small local businesses that provide a service to the communities that they exist in.
What we are seeing is people who in all probability scrape by from one month to the next, and their survival is dependent on people paying what they owe.
They have wives, husbands, kids, rent and mortgage payments to make just like so many others.

So lets make this all very personal.

You work behind the bar in a music venue and one day your boss asks you into the office and tells you that in a few days the shutters are coming down for good.
It's a bit of a blow to you.
Thoughts swirl through your head about how you are going to pay the next bill and even manage to keep a roof over your head.
You ask why?
The boss then shows you a list of non payments of hire fees.
A hundred here, a few hundred there and the bottom line is eye watering.
You are then shown what the outgoings for the business are and what has been coming in.
With the hire fees it was possible to keep afloat, but without them the bottom line is all printed in red.

Does a public outing of those who haven't paid what they owe seem a tad harsh now?

Filed under 'strange but true' but it's quite common for musicians to out promoters and venues whose ethics are questionable - while stating strongly that it is for the greater good - and not so common for studios and venues to out musicians and low tier promoters for shaky attitudes.
In the interests of fairness I don't see much of a difference between an artist ripping off a studio - or a band bailing out on paying a booking fee to a venue - and those who we widely hear about that are happy to exploit the musicians.

So maybe all the cards should be laid on the table and when the dust settles we shall see who is left standing.

Or maybe not.

In all seriousness I doubt that the two examples I have provided of people being outed were the opening salvo in a war of words, but instead a warning shot across the bows.
A warning shot that should serve to draw some attention to an issue that can have very serious consequences.

I do have a solution to the problem though, and it's a very simple one.
If you hire studio time or a venue for an event then pay what was agreed on.

The world isn't a perfect place and there are issues needing to be addressed wherever we look.
Of course we have dodgy venues and promoters.
Of course we have sleekit chancers who are always open to exploiting anyone to make a quick buck.
Few are unaware of the minefields needing to be navigated when you set out to work in what is called the music business, but equally let us all accept that sometimes some people are part of the problem rather than the solution.

In Glasgow alone there are more venues and studios than I would care to list right here.
If you are a musician or a promoter do yourself a favour and check them out personally.
Speak to the people who run them and work for them.
Then gravitate towards who we would call the good guys and then don't bloody shaft them because if you do then all you will be left with are the bottom feeders.

Thursday 20 June 2013


With a yeee and haaaaaw the guys in the Ballachulish Hellhounds are offering up two free tickets to tonight's show in King Tuts.
No one is planning to take prisoners tonight so you can spend all your bail money on beer and blame the hangover on that acts who are going to encourage a great deal of debauchery country style.

Disclaimer : While some country acts are still looking to hitch their wagons to a style of music that belongs in the grand old opry, this is a line up that screams moonshine and trailer park hoe downs.
So you have been warned.

Now this is where I give you three questions to answer, and then we work out a convoluted process for how I pick a winner, and then I do my best to ensure that the said winner manages to get the tickets and.................................Nah, forget that.
First come, first served.
First 2 that email get the tickets.

That's it.

Monday 17 June 2013

Eden Festival - 2013

So good that like New York they should probably have named it twice.
I'm an old festival hand, but it's been a long time since I have been to one.
Well that's not actually strictly true.
I've been to plenty of events claiming to be festivals, but in the main they are gigs held al fresco.
For me setting a large tent up in a field and then putting some bands in it does not a festival make.
There has to be some key ingredients added to make it worthy of the name.
One is that it can't just be devoted to music.
On board has to be poets, jugglers, magicians, jugglers, actors, jugglers, artists, jugglers and mentalists of every hue imaginable......and jugglers.
Fire eaters are always a good addition to.

In fact if there isn't a man dressed as Henry the VIII unicycling past at 8am on the way to the burger van then it is safe to say you are not at a real festival.
That being said I can now categorically state with my hand on my heart, and no fingers crossed behind my back, that Eden is a 'real' festival.

Nestled in what is a large meadow surrounded by a thick forest it is akin to a psychedelic Brigadoon.
Magically appearing for one weekend a year it serves to provide a real alternative to the outside world.

When I arrived I had a real sense of deja vu.
I could feel the Glastonbury vibe from many decades ago.
The anarchic taste of rebellion hangs heavy in the air, but it's not the sort that the media would promote.
There's no aggression or negativity associated with it.
Instead, as the name of the festival suggests, they are looking to create a party atmosphere that encapsulates a sans original sin angle.
We are all innocents in the garden of Eden with self discovery and the wonderment of the anticipation of unknown adventure laid out before us.

I loved it.

While other reviews may focus on the bands and artists who performed, I really think it is worth taking an overview on it all and try and convey a sense of the whole rather than a part of the whole.

On saying that it is true that I was blown away by the artists who performed.
From The Ballachulish Hellhounds to the Correspondents and from Wise-L Leathermonk to Mr B the Gentleman Rhymer the organizers rarely put a foot wrong with the acts that were booked, but while the music is the skeleton of the festival it is the meat that hangs from the bones that is a wondrous sight to behold.
Chill out tents with festival goers cocooned in hammocks, sound systems that could shake the earth, pirates and mermaids, paint and jelly fights, kids marching around with mile wide smiles.

This is what Eden was about and without a shadow of a doubt I shall be returning next year, and every year thereafter.

Best festival in Scotland?
I'm leaning towards saying yes.

PS. Curse you midges. Damn your black hearts

Monday 3 June 2013

The River 68s

Other bloggers and music journalists call this a spotlight article.
I'll just call it bigging up talent.
It's when you have been listening to a band and decide that you really can't keep the praise to yourself and you have to share it with the world.
It's The River 68s I'm talking about here.
It's not that they are the new kids on the block as they have been building up a solid reputation as a band to watch out for over quite a period of time now.
Still that's no reason not to shout their name from the rooftops.
I'm sure that there's still plenty of people who are unfamiliar.
Those who are not in the know are probably wondering what the fuss is about, but a quick click on the link here will sort that out.

If you like your rock music with a bit of southern soul then look no further.
These guys haven't been anywhere close to Muscle Shoals in Alabama, but I wouldn't be surprised if they get there one day.
Aurally speaking they are already ensconced in the legendary studio in spirit.
So it's only a matter of time before they make it a reality.
Remember I said that so that when the time comes around I can say I told you so.

Like others who have came before them - like The Stones and the Faces - you can hear that they are feeling the music.
It's not all about the technical ability to play, but more about conveying a feeling, an emotional statement that's organically driven.
It's not important that they weren't raise within a stones throw of the crucible of the blues. It matters not at all that they haven't paid their dues in juke-joints at the side of dusty highways because whatever it is that no one can ever really put their finger on is there.

Next week – on the 9th of July - they are playing in Nice and Sleazy (Glasgow) with the equally fantastic Holy Ghosts to release their second ep.

It's a Sunday night, but this band make Monday morning hangovers worth the pain.  

Sunday 2 June 2013

Rod Stewart - Time

Apart from a bus pass Rod Stewart appears to have a been given a get out of jail free card to tuck away in his wallet.
Every review I have read is praising his latest 'all original' tracks release as the best things since the last living legend was in the studio.
Let me tell you that it's not.
It isn't even anywhere close.
If you asked me if it was in the ballpark of his previous classic albums then I would have to say that it's in the line to enter the car park of the ballpark, but Rod's short of the parking fee and the attendant isn't feeling charitable.
When I hear material like this all I can think is that no one in the studio had the cojones to tell him that it was substandard.
It's not horrifically bad, but it's bland.
With a few exceptions, such as the title track, it's all shiny production and no heart.
So where was the one person to stand up and ask him to dig deep and find his Rod the Mod persona and unleash him in the studio?
Out to lunch perhaps.
I like Rod Steward, and still do.
I'm not going to write him off, as due to his time with the Faces, and then a run of solid solo albums, he has stored a great deal of goodwill in the bank.
He's a talented singer, a great performer and an artist who always springs to mind when we think of legendary UK rockers, but unfortunately in time when the rave reviews for this album are a distant memory the reappraisal of it will tell a different story than the one being peddled in the present.
I could add a youtube link here of Rod, but instead here's The Holy Ghosts.

You will get far more satisfaction from watching this than you would from sitting through 'Time'  

Goldblade - The Terror of Modern Life (Overground Records)

Having followed the mutation of Gold Blade from the gold lame suited “Hometurf” through the sing-along-punk n roll follow ups it’s finally come to this. These guys are seriously pissed off. The heavy overdriven  bass of the opener “This Is War!” lets you know you’re in for more than you bargained for. This is no easy listening album, nor is it a recording for the sake of a band having something to promote at their shows. This definitely is war.

There’s also a few political digs in there with “We’re All In This Together” and “Sick/Tired” having a pop at the current state of good old Blighty but it’s all done in John Robb’s clever lyrical style rather than coming across as all party political broadcast. “They Kiss Like Humans Act Like Machines” is probably the track you could liken to the recent offerings but even so, it feels like they’ve taken a track from 2008’s “Mutiny” and kicked seven shades of shit out of it. “Someone Stole My Brain” is a darker grungy metal affair which works in the overall context of the album. Don’t ask me why – it just does ok? It sets the sights nicely for “My Life Is Like An Atom Bomb” to make a clean headshot with its balls to the wall punk rock hooligan blues and for me the stand out track on here but it’s had to go some to get that honour.

Don’t get me wrong there’s still the trademark get-the-crowd involved sing-alongs like “Psycho Takes a Holiday” and “Hey You Elastic Face” but there’s more than one surprise along the way to make you sit up and take notice and much as I love the previous albums it’s been a while since I’ve been as surprised as this by a Gold Blade album.  Being one of the very few bands I have managed to follow since their debut I normally judge any new release by what would make it onto the Gold Blade mixtape and from the reggae infused “Serious Business” to the 8 minute behemoth of the title track you could probably make a case for any of the 13 tracks to warrant a place on there. The Blade has been sharpened and they’ve cut themselves of punk rock perfection. It’s raw, it’s real, it’s a belter. (9/10)
(Billy Buzzbomb)