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Behind the wall has never been one of my favourite haunts; when I heard that a new local music event was happening in BTW I felt a tinge of disappointment that they picked that location. I headed through the main doors and passed by a relatively quiet bar with Thursday drinkers enjoying a week day pint perhaps glad that Easter had afforded them a long weekend.
I headed straight upstairs to the ‘Loft Sessions’. A different atmosphere presented itself here; there was a pleasant welcome from the gentleman collecting door money and promoter Rikki Tonner. Rikki looked happy, he offered a handshake but he was slightly distracted. He told me one of the PA speakers was down; underneath his calm exterior was a slight hint of exasperation. Immediately I could tell the guy puts a lot into these nights and he feels all the highs and lows.
There was an expectant air about the venue; the bar was the same as I had always remembered the Ale House to be (it’s in BTW). I grabbed a nice ale and enjoyed a cheeky school night pint (I was not off for Easter).
I bumped into Ranny, an old music friend who started a band around the same time as Weird Decibels. We had a wee chat about the old practice room and times gone past. With a nostalgic smile on my face I headed through to the stage area.
I was impressed. They have changed the layout for the live nights. Most of the tables are gone; under the soft blue lights lies a bigger stage than before. The darkness was pierced by the stage lights which remained static for the night and added to the intimate feel of the venue.
The sound desk and PA was provided by Jimmy Dunbar who has presided over much of Falkirk’s live sound for years. I expected loud. However he has handed the reigns over to a younger chap, Ben White. The drums were excellent. The kick and toms were deep without muddy overspill and the snare cut through as expected. The band sound checking were The Sonic Blues.
I admit this was the reason I was here. Weird Decibels had a gig at the Kilted Kangaroo in Stirling, the Sonic Blues were on the same bill as us. I saw these guys soundcheck and I was impressed. We rudely left (to get a train) before they played that night. I had listened to their tracks online and wanted to see these guys.
The Sonic Blues have great invention; if you listen to their tracks you can hear many many influences straining to be heard. The blues feel is very much in their sound, they play really good Zepplin esq jams. They started the first half of their set with covers and they picked songs that suited their sound. The band members changed instruments and Greg Breen, a friendly guy who is very enthusiastic about his music, seamlessly switched from an excellent drumming performance to some, quite frankly, stunning guitar work.
They started to play the songs I heard online. Like many bands when they play live they sound not better but free to improvise. Sometimes the thrill of the live performance outweighs the discipline of the studio. This was an excellent gig.
As The Sonic Blues jammed Rory passed with camera in hand and ear protectors in place. Tireless is a word I would use to describe this guy who is capturing the many events around Falkirk and the surrounding area.
They finished with ‘I can’t Get You Outta My Head’ by Ms Minogue (soon to be married, celeb goss on the WdB blog). It was fun and had me laughing as I made my way to the bar to meet my friends.
I spoke to Greg after their show and he shared the most common of ailments for any local musician. He’s moved to a new flat and this has curtailed the recording of drums for now. Hopefully he and the rest of the guys will get round this and released more music soon.
Pleasure Heads were next. The sharp dress code matched their music . The singer tall and dressed in a shirt and tie commanded the audience to move towards the stage and promised he wouldn’t bite. Those in attendance moved towards the stage. Their set was good and they had an enthralled audience watching their every shuffle.
Last up were Ghost Writer. The crowd had thinned by the time these guys came on. One or two punters were talking of heading to City to no doubt listen to club music which, if that’s your thing, is fine but they missed a treat.
These guys take risks with their music. The singer Iain King stood taller than the rest and commanded the stage. Mags Dignan, on keys, shares vocals and this mix reminded me of Low and Foals but without the doom of Low, if that makes sense.
The different textures (keyboards and female vocals) in their sound was welcome and their songs were ambitious. I have tried to listen to their music online, so far their fine work is shackled by the 30 sec clip from iTunes. Their Outskirts Vol 1 EP has promise. I don’t do apple. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to download (and pay) for their music on Bandcamp. (if it’s on bandcamp please link, I couldn’t find it)
The proceedings came to a close; for the first time in years I had taken in a night of local music and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Rikki, who had been darting around the venue all night, had a moment to chat. He hopes the Loft Sessions will work but I sensed doubt. He is a family man with a life outside music who has appeared on the Falkirk scene with a desire to improve it.
The Falkirk music scene is notoriously unforgiving. It will give you a flash of potential, of promise. Crowds will come then they will disappear for no reason. Scenes have come and gone. The Martell, the Happening Club and Dancing In the Dark I’m looking at you.
Now we have Rikki. He has stepped up and accepted the challenge that many have shied from. He and his team have invested time and money to try and make something work in our town. The green shoots of a new Falkirk music scene are all around you.