Shuffle Down hits its stride.
A one point during this years Shuffle Down I soaked in the atmosphere I found myself genuinely impressed by what the festival organisers Laura and Rikki Tonner have achieved.
Now in its second year Shuffle Down is the Falkirk areas yearly fundraising music festival held in the elegant surroundings of the Dobbie hall. Laura, Rikki, their friends and family bring together the artists, sound crew, stalls, food and beer; much of which is produced in the local area. This year Strathcarron hospice was chosen to receive the funds raised.
Shuffle down first caught my eye when they booked the band Broken Records for last years headline act. This was when I believed that the festival meant business.
The first year was good, a strong line up and a good crowd. These were the first tentative steps of running a music festival. This year it felt like Shuffle Down had hit its stride.
The sound was improved, there is no doubt it’s a challenging room, it’s a large space with a high ceiling. The sound guys did a sterling job.
The vibe was good, the hall was bustling with a mixture of people intently watching the bands and others having a catch up with old friends.
The stalls were varied and my wife and I spent more than we planned to. John Grieve should get a mention for his artwork. I bought two of his sketches, one for my son and one for the studio but my son has claimed them both… Later Noise Noise Noise would set up a stall for the night time punters eager for merch.
Beer was flowing and the staff were happy to pour it. Tryst Brewery had set up a craft ale stall separately from the main bar which was an inspired idea as this helped reduce the waiting times for thirsty music lovers.
I didn’t know many of the bands in the line-up this year but this is part of Shuffle Downs appeal, you’re guaranteed to discover a band you’ll enjoy. Yossarian, from London, were superb. They started playing as I made my way to the bar, I was stopped in my tracks.
Their guitar driven tunes that build to a grandiose conclusion and singer Ash Spencers baritone immediately had me drawing comparisons with Matt Berninger of National fame (which is a noted comparison in their Bandcamp page). After their set Kirsty and I headed out for some food, the May breeze thankfully didn’t take the edge off my tasty chilli dog.
Satisfied we headed back into the festivities. The second stage is run by Gavin Brown and his crew. I caught a one man multi instrumental electronica sensation that is Paddy Steer. We waited a while for him to set up and that was part of the curiosity, there was a mixture of live drums, synths, keys and costumes.
When he started his beats he had the modest crowd engaged within the first loops. Behind him, as he amazingly played several instruments at once, a video stream was projected onto the wall, one scene had bananas on the moon, yes it was mad.
About half way through his set he asked the now swelling crowd, ‘Do you want more chaos?’ he didn’t wait for the answer as he reached for a mask. On his head he put a white robotic dome with glowing eyes that stared around the room as the artist inside continued to offer a varied melee of electronica. His music has a hint of Grateful Dead’s spontaneity. A superb live show and one of the nights highlights.
Back down stairs there was a buzz in the air for Glaswegian ska rockers Esperanza. The numerous band members confidently strode onto the stage and launched into 50 minutes of infectious music. My wife and I were dancing about at the back of the hall with the rest of the crowd, it was a fantastic part of the night.
The Treetop Flyers finished the festival and their set was watched by a slightly smaller but enthusiastic crowd. I enjoyed their music on Spotify and they came across well live. By this time the craft ale was taking effect and my hazy head needed to get home.
We grabbed the last train on the Falkirk line both happy at what was a very enjoyable day of music surrounded by friends.
Rikki and Laura should take pride in what they have achieved. It’s hard enough to organise a successful gig in Falkirk let alone run a festival. This town has often had an apathy towards live music; you can’t really say that Falkirk has vibrant scene but Shuffle Down is certainly helping to address this.
So hopefully once all lights have dimmed and the amps are turned down; they’ll have a chance to appreciate that not only have they raised money for charity, but they have also brought many people together to celebrate the great things that our local area can create.