Category Archives: Gigs

Gig Diary Shuffle Down 2017 20th May

Credits

The Crowd

Sweet P Photography 

What Eddie Sees Photography including featured image.

Gregor Boyd Photography

Afterglow events

Ben White sound

words Pabs

 

I don’t get gig nerves as much as I used to. Of course I still get jitters these days, usually just before we go on stage, when I’d be wondering if I’d forget the first line or drop the first chord. However I don’t get the crippling nerves I used to feel when we first stepped onto the Martell stage back in 96.

Shuffle Down (20th May 2017) was different, I’d been thinking about this gig for the last year.

 

Let me take you back. Shuffle Down 2016 was well in the the swing and I was tapping my feet, enjoying the bands, the craic and the ale. Rikki Tonner, one of the event organisers, is someone I’ve gotten to know over the past couple of years. I believe we share a passion for the Falkirk scene (he’s more pro-active than I am!) so he came over for a chat.

Towards the end of our blether he hinted that Weird Decibels would play Shuffle Down next year. I’m not sure if he was just being nice, but he said it and it got me thinking. A rock band on Shuffle Down? Would it work?

Rikki stayed true to his word, a few months later we got the invite and then the nerves started to gnaw at the back of my mind. Then came the doubts. Would we be on first? Would their be a crowd? Or would there be a vast empty space as people went out for burgers and fresh air as we played.

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we’re on the bill! A great line up. Artwork Afterglow Events

Fast forward a turbulent year of Brexit and Trump. Now it was the morning of May the 20th 2017, I hadn’t got much sleep the night before but I was full of energy pacing around an empty house. Kirsty had taken our boy out to to stay at her mums for the night so I had silence for company. The nerves really started to kick in. I opened the guitar case and the old golden Yamaha was resting in its cradle. I picked it up and started strumming some of the songs. I forgot the words to Speak…Now I was really nervous.

I packed my pedals and our merch into my rucksack and put the guitar in the case and grabbed a bite to eat. As I picked at my sandwich I wondered what lay ahead. I checked the train times. It was time to leave.

I booted up Spotify and played some Soundgarden; the amazing Superunknown blasted my ears as I walked to the station; I spared a thought for the late Chris Cornell. Gradually Soundgarden’s music lifted my spirits.  Now i was getting excited.

On the train I sat down and checked out the instructions for arriving at the venue. The whole set up provided by Afterglow was very professional. We’d be on at five and I had a hunch that this time might work out well for us. The beer would be flowing and maybe we’d get a few people listening.

The Dobbie hall was just short walk from the station (I love those gigs where it’s you, a guitar and a rucksack) I entered the main door there was a busy but calm atmosphere in the venue. The sound crew had already started work on a drum sound and I took a moment to admire the stage on which we would play. It’s easily the grandest stage our modest band has played on for a view years.

I got a warm welcome from an understandably distracted Rikki who pointed me in the direction of backstage where I gratefully laid down my guitar which had now grown heavy. I had a wee peak from the side of the stage, it was a fine size of floor space, very pleasing to the eye of a musician.

Half an hour passed and my phone buzzed, Greg and Stu were stuck in the car awaiting for the rain to stop, it was heavy, bouncing of the pavement as the dark clouds above us emptied. Finally Stu hauled his large guitar pedal case which I rather stupidly offered to carry backstage. It’s a heavy burden of effects!

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The mega case of effects. Pic Sweet P Photography

We had a look at the other room backstage which had a small selection of beers and food, this is a lot more hospitality than many bands are used to! Derek arrived and this was the first time he had attended Shuffle Down and he seemed to be impressed with the set up.

With the soundchecks done we took our place in the audience. I was now observing how many people were walking through the door, looking behind me every couple of minutes like a paranoid spy from a 70’s Bond film (all that was missing was the newspaper and a dodgy pair of sunglasses). At 2 when the doors opened there was a small crowd, my fears of an empty floor for our gig were not easing.

The first acts played, you can read about Shuffle Down 2017 here. More people started to filter in and fill the hall. Now I was starting to feel that there would be a decent crowd. However I was fretting that our music would not sit well among the acts of this years lineup.

Have Mercy Las Vegas we so different to us and the crowd loved them, my anxiety grew. Now I just wanted a beer…Pronto Mama walked on with keys and brass and I thought the worst. Would these guys play music so different to us? However there set was great full of surprising guitar driven indie rock which I felt would ease the listeners into our music.

Now I was starting to get excited. Their set flew past and as I walked towards backstage I heard the crowd cheer their last song, it was quite a noise so I turned around and saw quite a mass of people. I was praying they would stay.

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Stu settles quickly and nails the gig. Pic Gregor Boyd

There was a nervous excitement from Stu, he suffers terrible pre gig nerves and he really felt this one. Greg just seems to stroll up and take everything in his stride. Derek is often the most composed. Quietly adjusting the cymbals and snare before settling into his stool prepared to beat the hell out of the kit.

I had to hold to my nerves, I was playing in front of a neutral audience, our friends and of course our peers of the Falkirk scene. We had won best rock act of Falkirk 2016 at the AMIF awards and I didn’t want to let anyone down. (thanks for voting!)

So I didn’t look out to the crowd as I plugged in my leads. Then I strummed the guitar…nothing…I walked over to the Marshall stack…turned up the volume…nothing. Then a slight adjustment and just a faint whimper of distorted guitar could be heard. Time was passing. I took a breath and had a look at the setting of the Marshall amp head. There were presets and I started to select the various settings, one of which said ‘classic’ voila. Sound.

I quickly got a level then scattered the setlists at the four positions of the band, Stu was ready, Greg, kitted out with his Weird Decibels denim waistcoat was ready. Derek was poised. I got a level with Stu and then looked to the crowd. They had stayed.

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Big stage to fill time to run around! Pic What Eddie sees

Ben White was on the sound desk and he picked up our prompt and dropped the background music. Derek started the beat of Speak. I picked the notes…the correct ones. The band blasted into the intro then I stepped up to the mic and sang the first line. Then I relaxed

Setlist

  1. Speak
  2. Once More With Feeling
  3. Ms Asphyxia
  4. Wonder
  5. Kill it Kill it
  6. Who You Know
  7. Medicine
  8. I Hear the City

The stage was superb, I had room to run around like it was our first gig. Stu and Greg looked like they were have the time of their lives. Derek, as usual, keeping it all knitted together. The nerves were now evaporated. It set up the rest of the show.

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THAT waistcoat! Pic What Eddie Sees

When we finished Speak the response was superb and that energised us further, it gave us confidence. The sound was fine for us on stage but I believe that it was well received in the audience.

Our half hour slot felt like five minutes. We extended I Hear the City and I tried to get the audience to clap along, we extended the solos and build up to a finale. The song finished and I knew then we had played one of our best gigs in our two decades together..

The stage, the audience, the setting, it was all superb. 22 years in and we often wondered if we’d ever play shows like this again. I guess we’ve been rewarded for sticking together through the highs and the lows and while we’ve never made any sort of impression on Scotland’s scene we can look back on days like this and take a bit of pride from it. We made some new friends and reunited with some old. There has been some great photos of us on stage having a bawl.

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Derek keeps it all together. Pic What Eddie Sees

 

So if you are a young local act, don’t get too obsessed with breaking through, just know that if you stick to what you believe in then there will be good times ahead. You cannot beat the high of achieving something with your best mates. Backstage after the gig was testament to that, bands often feel a closeness that you cannot explain to those who don’t play.

So a huge thanks to Afterglow, Rikki, Laura and the team for having us, indeed for taking a risk. We feel it paid off and we hope you did to. It was an absolute pleasure to play.

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Thank you Shuffle Down! Pic What Eddie Sees

Shuffle Down 2017

credits

the crowd

sweet p photography (featured image)

Gregor Boyd photography

what eddie sees photography

afterglow events

ben white sound

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we’re on the bill! A great line up. Artwork Afterglow Events

 

 

Shuffle Down had a different feel about it this year as we were playing! Read more about that experience in our latest gig diary.

As I arrived at the Dobbie hall some two hours before the doors opened there was a surprising calm in the air. The various volunteers and stalls were quietly setting up their various stations, there was an air of anticipation, would it be as busy this year?

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Capturing the live sound for so many different bands with so many different instruments is a skill mastered by Ben. Pic What Eddie Sees

Shuttling back and forth from the stage was Ben White who once again had the duties of mixing and amplifying a number of different bands with a wide range of instruments; he did a superb job. Anyone who has ever provided the sound for a gig will understand how difficult this is to do for two or three bands never mind a festival roster! So hats off to Ben and his team they did very well providing a nice meaty kick sound that cut through the full range of frequencies that are needed for a balanced sound. Everything from the guitars to the bass sounded well knitted. I would argue that this year was the best sound, a couple of technical glitches aside (which you have to expect), it was clear the sound crew have got to grips with the acoustics the hall

In the background Jim Dunbar was once again overseeing the task, A stalwart of the local scene for many years. During soundcheck he reflected on his many years hauling speakers to various venues and hinted that it may be time to put his feet up.

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Jim Dunbar was doing our sound when we first started playing live. Local legend.

He did the sound back in at our first gigs at the Martell some 22 years ago, now here we were in the Dobbie hall about to embark on another Shuffle Down and all the challenges that come with putting on a show that gives local bands an opportunity to reach a bigger audience on a grand stage.

Once the soundcheck was completed the lights slowly came on, the true beauty of the stage was revealed. Shuffle Down always has the personal touch of the loyal volunteers and of course Rikki and Laura Tonner. This year was no different with a waterfall of lights hugging the back of the stage and the ever present Afterglow Lamp, stage right, proudly illuminated..

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Beauty and the fest, The Everglow lamp. Pic Gregor Boyd

The heavens opened outside, biblical rain fell as the last of the early bands arrived to drop off gear backstage and exchange handshakes. There was a good air between the artists, mutual respect and a common desire to entertain the crowds that were on their way. The doors opened and the rain started to ease, a good number of punters drifted into the scent of coffee from The Common Grind and a whiff of ale from the Tryst Brewery.

Up first was Kieran Fisher playing an acoustic set of originals and covers; his gravely voice reminded me of Kelly Jones I thought this was a lazy comparison until he nailed the Stereophonics. Kieran looked confident up in the big stage which is a hard thing to pull off given that you’re up there on your own. Continuing the acoustic theme was Robbie Lesiuk, when he took the stage the hall was starting to fill with punters. The noise of the crowd chatter grew as people greeted each other the atmosphere was starting to build; there was now a buzz about the place. Robbie played well, his subtle use of loops is always good to listen to and Fault Lines always gets stuck in your head

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A charismatic front man who had the crowds full attention. Pic Gregor Boyd

I was surprised to see Have Mercy Las Vegas on early but it really did help get the feet stomping. Their charismatic front man had the audience stamping and clapping and for the first time I felt genuinely nervous that our rock set would plummet to the earth like a dropped pint of real Tryst ale. Then up stepped Pronto Mama, whose dynamic sound no doubt tested the sound engineering skills of Ben but I felt that the mix held well. Their set was a good blend of synth, brass and guitars. I really enjoyed their show. There was an intense feel to it.

We were up next and you can read all about that in our gig diary.

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Rock comes to Shuffle. Pic Gregor Boyd

We played a half hour show which felt like 5 minutes. As we stepped back stage and took a few photos and admittedly did a couple of high fives the Lonely Tourist stepped up to the mic. The stage curtains were drawn so he had a more intimate platform for which to share his tunes. I caught a couple and I really enjoyed his music; I love the full band sound on his record and I hope he ventures up here with the band in the future.

I headed out the the stalls to grab a fine burger and the sun peaked out from behind the dark May clouds, they broke and scatters of blue sky could finally be seen. Finally I could relax and enjoy some Dobbie Shuffle from the Tryst stall (can I by bottles of this somewhere?! It’s sweet!). The alcohol hit me pretty quick!

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Ghosts on the stage. Pic Gregor Boyd

I was really looking forward to Ghostwriter who I believe are one of the best bands to have emerged from the scene recently. For Hire (Summer never ends) was a great opener and that guitar riff is one of the most infectious I’ve heard for a while. Technical issues distracted singer Iain King and it caused him frustration. To be honest I felt his anger added a little edge to the performance which I enjoyed; however it proved to be too distracting for him and sadly their set finished early.

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There was an edge to Fly Jackson at Shuffle, my fav show of theirs to date. Pic Gregor Boyd

Fly Jackson ambled up to the stage they seem to take these events in their stride, I saw them at the Trinity Church gig and enjoyed them but I preferred this performance. It was a very focused set by the band and the sound had a fine clarity to it. They have some great songs on their roster.

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Iain King found his composure and joined Fairweather and the Elements for their set. Ross and co headlined a great night at the Trinity church, this performance seemed to have more energy, perhaps driven by the occasion, vocalist Deborah Lang was clearly enjoying herself as she danced about the stage. By now it was clear that the electric atmosphere of Shuffle Down was influencing the artists; the performances seemed more energetic and the crowd were loving it. This is why we need this event.

I felt myself glued to the main stage, the atmosphere, the bands and the beer. In previous Shuffle Downs I found myself wandering upstairs to see some fine acts but this year I couldn’t leave the big room as it was proving too enjoyable. It helped that the bands were really quick to switch over. The hall seemed to be as busy as previous years, those watching the acts seemed to enjoy the various genres and warmly applauded all that played.

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Highlight? Yes. One of many. Pic Gregor Boyd

Miracle Glass Company were superb, I was transfixed by the drumming of Andy Duncan, he was keeping these Ringo Starr esq beats going at a pace while aptly performing his singing duties. There was good pacing to their set, Trouble is a great song.

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Transfixed we were, 57 rock. Pic Gregor Boyd

Then came a surprise. 57, a hard rocking duo from South Korea, took me by surprise.The crowd loved them. I liked the set it was impressive and it was a huge sound for just two people. I had no idea that this was coming.

By this time I was a little tipsy and thinking of work the next day (started in the afternoon folks) so my wife and I headed off into the night. The sounds slowly faded as we walked away from  the Dobbie hall.

Perhaps I’m biased as we played Shuffle Down this year but I felt that this was the most enjoyable year so far. The first year had big acts, the 2nd found its groove but this year felt different. It felt like a big party, a gathering of people who love music and will come to Shuffle Down regardless of who is on the bill and every band benefited from an audience that was open to hearing something new and it was fantastic to witness this.

Was Shuffle Down 2017 a success?  If success was a large group of happy people enjoying a wide range of music, surrounded by friends drinking local beer, eating local food and listening to local acts then yes it was a huge success.

I will probably attend another overpriced festival sponsored by Tennents at some point but I doubt that will enjoy it as much as I did Shuffle Down 2017.

So as the bands packed up and the Afterglow lamp was switched off, I do hope that next year it will illuminate the Dobbie hall once more. The Falkirk music scene would miss what is now becoming the most important date on our local live calendar.

words Pabs

 

 

 

We Played in A Prison (a story from 1996)

It was around 1996 when on a normal Wednesday night we gathered for practice, Stu asked us if we fancied playing a gig in a prison. He had a relative who organised entertainment for the inmates HMP Longriggend (which has since closed). We had reservations, as four young guys all we knew about prison was the stuff you saw on television. Prisoner:  Cell Block H was terrifying… However when Stu added that it would be our first paid gig we quickly manned up, did a few push ups and agreed to play.

We had to learn a few of our first cover songs to mix in with our own numbers; and we hired Jim Dunbar to do the sound. For additional support we brought our friends John Baines and Ruari Pearson. For the purposes of security Stu had to phone the prison with the names of our party. For some reason he couldn’t remember Ruari’s surname so under a bit of pressure from the gruff voice of the warder on the line, Stu said Ruari’s name was John, John Ruari…

Longriggend was located near Airdrie and as you drove along the winding B803 taking in the desolate back farmland your eyes would be drawn up the hill towards the walls of the prison, it was an eerie scene often shrouded by the clouds that hung to the hillside.

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One of our first photoshoots for our first demo

On the day of our gig we drove up to the gatehouse unsure what lie ahead. It was the late 90’s and while the prisons had settled back to some sort of normally after the turbulent start to the decade there was still an imposing welcome at the gate.

We gave our names. Ruari gave his; Rurai Pearson he said to the guard. Sorry we don’t have that name stated the gatekeeper. Derek whispered, today you’re John Ruari. ‘John Ruari’ said Ruari. Finally we were in.

We were led around to the games hall past the prison wings; the cell windows were adorned with steel bars no doubt there was an unknown soul awaiting his fate from the courts locked within. Barbed wire hung to every wall. Some of the inmates were having a kick about in a five aside pitch they took little interest as we passed.

The guard escorting us pointed to a parking bay and showed us inside the hall. Some prisoners were in the wing adjacent, staring at us through a grill gate as we went in. Intimidating to anyone first entering these institutions however to the guards this was just another backshift.

It didn’t take long for us to set up, Jim turned up the volume and it was loud. Time passed and slowly the prisoners shuffled into the hall in an orderly fashion and took their seats. Derek noticed a couple of guys from our school that had wandered onto the wrong side of the law. Not one of the guys heckled us, indeed they seemed happy to be free from the confines of their cells. When we started playing things changed slightly.

As we launched into our first songs some of the prisoners walked out to the toilet. A few minutes later they came back with toilet roll stuffed into their ears. Others sad impassively, some laughed as I tried to rock out to the music.

It was a fine gig though and our inhibitions were unfounded; for as we neared the end of our set the power cut and the lights went out…that was hairy but we got a warm round of applause at the end. It was nice to get paid, just a bit unnerving seeing the guard counting out the money in front of the captive audience!

A few weeks later Stu and I were in Glasgow picking up our printed demo tapes that were still to be filled with the audio tracks. As we headed down Sauchiehall street back to the station we heard a ‘hello’ from behind us. A young guy staggered towards us, ‘you guys played at the LRU didn’t ye?’ ‘eh yes’ we replied; ‘Brilliant you got me oot ma cell for the afternoon’. ‘I’ll buy wan eh yer tapes’ Stu tried to explain that the tapes were blank but he waved his words away. He handed us a couple of quid and stumbled down the busy street with one of our demos before disappearing into the mass of shoppers.

 

Rock On Tap

Words Pabs

Photographs Juls Sampson.

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photo juls sampson. Look at those lovely shoes I’m wearing.

Thanks to the crowd, Afterglow and everyone involved in the organisation of One Weekend in Falkirk  

2017 was just a couple of days old when the hype for the first ‘One Weekend In Falkirk’ music event was starting to build. It seemed as if a lot of people were genuinely excited and we were delighted to be part of it.

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another fine flyer from Rikki Toner

The Falkirk Herald got in the act with a full spread article listing all the events; our picture (taken by Kevin Byrne) took centre stage on the page. It was nice to see the local paper helping to raise the awareness of the gig.

One Weekend in Falkirk was hosted by the Write Angle with a little help from several people including Adam Donaldson and Afterglow music. It was five days of music, poetry, open mic and arts. We were asked to be part of the Rock on Tap, the Friday night at the Artisan Tap (Falkirk’s best new pub in years). We were also asked to recommend a band to complete the lineup and we could not look past the wonderful Buzzards of Babylon.

On gig day I was a little more nervous than usual as there seemed to be quite a bit of gravitas with this event. Also it was the start of January and I was worried that wallets would be lights and that would stop people coming out. After a small bowl of pasta I headed out with my wife kindly dropping me off at the venue. (when you get dropped off for a gig your first thought is often ‘beer’)

I was first, gear in hand it was nice to see the punters opening doors when they saw I was laden with an amp and guitar. In other venues you do not get this show of kindness. There was a good vibe around the Tap as people were tucking into their pizzas and burgers which looked damn nice but my stomach was not up to it.

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Pic Pabs Greg, Derek and Stu take in the best street in Falkirk

Given that Artisan Tap had all its tables full of diners the stage was set in the center of the venue; the stage area was small but manageable so all was good. Slowly the bands filtered in, warm handshakes were exchanged between Blind Daze, ourselves and the young duo of Skelfs. When Buzzards arrived it was great to see our friends again and we shared some stories of gigs from the past. These stories often included many an ale and the last time the Buzzards soared over Falkirk they scooped up an almighty amount of beer that only Greg could match however this time it was strictly Irn Bru as some of the gents had commitments the following day including taking the kids to the Marvel stage show!

Soundcheck was fine, quick and straight to the point the mix from the stage sounded great at this point I started to look towards the bar, yearning for a beer but i didn’t want to over do it . Greg in his usual laid back style strolled up and ordered a pint at the back of 7.

The punters finished their meals and most stayed throughout the soundcheck which was a great sign, some of our crowd started to file in and the venue was looking rather busy. Skelfs stepped up first, these guys have only been together a year or so, now on a new lineup they had only played a handful of gigs to date. The played a set of bluesy rock tunes not dissimilar to the White Stripes and they went down well with the crowd.

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Pic Pabs. Skelfs debut gig in Falkirk

The Buzzards of Babylon were next; they marched up to the mics and played a blinder. Monkey Knife Fight remains a favourite and they played a ‘ballad’ in reflection of the venue however it was a heavy brooding number. They also knocked out some blues with Eck showing his skills on the mouth organ although at one point it looked as if he just about run out of oxygen belting out the notes. Fine stuff.

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Pic Pabs Nice tee Rab
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Pic Pabs The masses approve

Our Falkirk peers Blind Daze cranked up the volume to 11 they have a good mix of melodies and pure rock, the place was busier now and the crowd soaked up the tunes. The band really seemed to enjoy the atmosphere.

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Pic Pabs Blind Daze crank it up

Then it was us. We stepped up to a welcome applause and we were determined to blow away the slightly disappointing performance of our last gig. First tune Kill it Kill it was nailed and our confidence grew. As a rule we tend to play an easy track first to set us up.

We belted through the tunes and tonight I felt we were on form, then around halfway through the set, a familiar call came from the crowd. Once again our friend Chris Wilson shouted for High Heels. I asked the rest of the venue and eventually an almighty roar gave us no option but to play Waiting on The Sound of Your High Heels, which is great as I love playing that song!

I loved playing Feeling and Medicine; Curtain Hits The Cast went down well and Industry seems to have growing support as a set finisher which is fine by me!

As we neared the end of the set I could not help but pay tribute to Jim Dunbar who has been providing PA for Falkirk for many years, including our first gig back in 1995. To see him doing the sound for our gig 22 years later is simply amazing.

 

  1. Kill it
  2. It’s Who You Know
  3. I Hear The City
  4. Feeling
  5. Joker
  6. Quoted
  7. Medicine
  8. Wait
  9. Speak
  10. Curtain hits the cast
  11. Deliverance
  12. Industry

 

The set was over too quickly and before I knew it I was standing at the bar necking a few pints of Bitter and Twisted. The atmosphere was still great but by this late hour the crowd was slowly filtering out the door, I had the warm fuzz you get when a gig has went well. Stu was delighted, he tends to get very nervous even after all these years and you could see he was floating on the euphoria of a successful night.

I’m glad that rock music got its place in One Weekend in Falkirk and the organisers should be commended for that. The following night I went along to the Inverno event (more on this later) and from my own experience One Weekend In Falkirk has been great success; it’s been years since I spend a whole weekend both playing and enjoying acts from Falkirk and beyond. The venue, the atmosphere and the music all added to a brilliant experience. I hope this becomes our ‘winter’ event from Falkirk, yet another sign that our music scene is back and in good health.

 

Artisan tap as part of one weekend in Falkirk festival 6th January 2017

 

Our year 2016

Words Pabs

Photos. Kevin Byrne Photography, Eindp Photography, Purple Dot Photography Juls Samson.

While the world around us was erupting in unexpected vote results, civil unrest and the Great British Bake off scandal; some of our music legends decided enough was enough and packed their bags for heaven. We released our 8th album Weird Decibels 2, we embraced the local scene and won our first award, although we didn’t play live as much as I would’ve liked. 2017 will be fun. (its got to be!!)

So we wish our listeners, friends and family a healthy new year. Here is our 2016.

January

10th. The master (of Weird Decibels 2) is finished but Pabs went and re-mastered…

13th. January, front cover of Weird Decibels 2 is leaked!

February

17th. Firkin Outburst our second album written years ago in 1998,  is shared across the world including Spotify

27th. We told the story of how we made weird decibels 2 including our temporary studio in the Springfield cottage down in the Scottish borders.

March

4th. Kill it! Kill it! Video is unleashed. Cracking piece of work from Kevin Byrne and a great performance from the indefectible Ruari Pearson.

10th. We are featured artist on the Third Class Ticket. Tommy done us proud with this show. Sadly due to an increasing workload Tommy later closed the Third Class Ticket.

We had a good spread about the album in the Falkirk Herald big thanks to James Trimble and co for the article. 

11th Weird Decibels 2 is released on all digital platforms and a thing called a CD

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29th Great review of the album in the Moshville Times. Thank you!

moshville times review

April

May

8th. Live tracks from the rehearsal room are released and filmed from our practise room that we’ve called home for two decades. Find the videos on our YouTube channel

18th. Another great review from Kenny Bates and Gregor Flynn at Stirling DIY press collective

27th May we rock out with The Sonic Blues and Rabid Dogs at the North Star. This is the story

 

June

20th. We head off for a lovely family day gig at Whitecraigs. Here are our thoughts.

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pic purple dot photography

July

August

20th. Pabs returns to the studio for some solo work. Slow Motion Action Punch

28th. Pabs teams up with Neil Logan and they release two songs hear them here

September

4th. Pabs starts a wee look back at Falkirk venues which proves popular with the community. The Martell and Firkins both feature with more to follow in 2017

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a younger Stu playing the Martell

16th We pay homage to the photographers who have kindly taken snaps of us over the years.

26th. Pabs and Stu release a single Passers By from their EP Hero or a Villain

October

14th Stu and Pabs release their debut EP Hero or a Villain

17th We head through to Stirling City Radio for a live acoustic session. Read about it here

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November

24th. Coldest rehearsal for years but something great happened; you’ll find out next year

December

One More Solo appears on digital platforms commuters everywhere listening to the sound of high heels as they walk to work.

We win our first award! AMiF Falkirk’s Best rock/metal/punk act 2016. Humbled to say the least and you should check out our follow nominees 13, The Animal Mothers, Media Whores and Blind Daze.

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A great moment for us, thank you for voting

26th Stu, Derek and Greg didn’t notice the ‘No Parking’ folder which had been on the drive since early November…in this folder there was a live album…

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Falkirk Music 2016

 

Pictures Kevin Byrne Photography and Eindp Photography 

Its well documented on this site that I’ve been in Weird Decibels for over 20 years playing in the local scene and sometimes beyond. For a majority of those years I’d admit that I was quite insular and interested in promoting only our band. However time and attitudes have changed and I have found myself taking in more and more of the local music scene around me. I’m not out at every gig or bought every CD (although I’m drawn to downloading from Bandcamp!) from our town, I don’t have the time (and money!) but when I can take the sounds in I enjoy being a part of it  So here is my brief look back at the local music and events I have personally enjoyed (and been a part of) in 2016.  Pabs

Bands/ Artists.

Ghost Writer. I saw these guys at Behind the Wall and the Trinity Church, they have a dynamic sound and really bring something different to the scene. They have been busy recording and released a few singles this year. They’re worth checking out.

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Bootsie Blue. These guys bagged best new comer in this years AMiF awards this young three piece lit up Behind the Wall a few times this year, I saw them in June but they also played as part of the Falkirk Live festival. Looking forward to hearing what they lay down in the studio.

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The Sonic Blues. The Breens (and Douglas Campbell) have had a busy year in the town, they played alongside us in May at North Star and several other gigs. They have regularly been sharing their music to the Falkirk masses via Facebook. I admire their DIY ethic to recording (its what I do)

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Robbie Lesiuk. There is a big acoustic movement in town at the moment and Robbie is very much at the forefront of this. An accomplished live performer, I caught him at the Trinity and Coffee on Wooer where he supported Stirling act Lefthand.

Blind Daze. Its good to see more rock bands appearing on the scene (Falkirk badly needs more rock bands), these guys are playing with us Jan 6th 2017 and have been busy this year.

Albums

I’m still an album guy and there were a few that I discovered from our Falkirk acts this year.

Dextro. In The Crossing. Discovered this sublime electronica while listening to all the acts nominated for the brilliant AMiF awards. This is a well crafted piece of work that flows from track to track. Hunt this down.

13 A Line of The Dead on Deadline Day. Great, raw garage sound, really like this album from punk rockers 13 they’ve played a few times in 2016 and I’ve not been to one of their gigs yet. Need to sort this 2017.

The Animal Mothers. The Incredibly Strange Animal Mothers Who Stopped Living And Became Mixed Up Zombies. Great album full of attitude and fuzz, i’ll be keeping an eye on this band and hopefully I’ll catch then at a Falkirk gig

Live Events

I have a soft spot for Shuffle Down 2016 and it was great to see the festival return this year. The lineup was more varied and better for it. Still grin when I remember how good (and bizarre) the Paddy Steer set was. Great to see SD is back 2017

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Weird Decibels/Rabid Dogs/ The Sonic Blues. Finally we got to play with Rabid Dogs at the North Star and it was a great night you can read about it in the link above. We’re hoping to hook up again in 2017, sound bunch of lads.

The Loft Sessions. Very enjoyable and it’s good to see that BTW have adapted the ale house to have more of a music venue feel, especially when they get rid of the benches. I really hope this continues and it gets busier. There were a couple of times it was busy and a couple when it was quiet.

Fairweather and the Elements Falkirk Trinity Church. A heavenly evening was had by the impressive crowd that attended, read about it here This was another watermark for the scene, new venue, great acts and a great atmosphere.

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Falkirk music business.

Big shout out to Noise Noise Noise a wee music merch shop tucked away in the Avenue on the High Street of Falkirk. Craig is also stocking a number of albums from local acts; he even sets up stall at local gigs which is an inspired idea.

Revolution Music. Just down the street from Noise Noise Noise is Revolution Music, I know you can get strings and stuff cheaper online etc but it is nice to hand over cash to a fellow human now and again. Falkirk has had a long tradition of music instrument shops this is the only one (to my knowledge) still standing.

Honourable mentions

2016 saw an upsurge in Falkirk acts releasing music videos; however a fantastic playlist has been created by Stuart Gray (Children of Leir fame) he has painstakingly scoured the internet for videos past and present and brought them all together in one place. I heard Belt songs for the first time since I heard their tape in high school (that as a while ago) Hit this link and give yourself a couple of hours to discover some great stuff.

Adam Donaldson took the time to compile a playlist of local acts on Spotify and it is a superb way to hear them all in one place (if you use Spotify)

AMiF. The constant local music news updates, spreading the word and of course the AMiF awards has really helped engage the people of Falkirk with the scene and raised awareness among artists. Big congratulations to Fly Jackson on winning album of the year, Nickajack Men on winning song of the year and Sarah Em who won video of the year. The full listing of winners and nominees can be found on the AMiF page (link above). Check them all out, including best rock act of 2016 😉

Falkirk Music Scene 2016

So this was a quick glance from my personal perspective of the Falkirk scene this year but I can guarantee that there is so much more in our town.

The Falkirk scene is in good health but it is still not held in the same light as Fife or even Stirling  I have really enjoyed giving a wee bit back to the scene and hope that all Falkirk artists support each other. If this happens I reckon it’ll get busier and more people will sit up and notice. Download from Bandcamp, go to a gig, write a blog, spread the word, anything to help Falkirk music grow, after all it’s your scene.

Pabs

 

Falkirk Live Venues Past and Present. part 2 Firkins

Pabs looks at another iconic venue of Falkirk

Thanks to falkirkmusicscene Eddie McKenzie and David M Lowe. The historic content of this blog is sourced from this wonderful site

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On the corner of Vicar Street.

Where Melville Street and Vicar Street meet there is a corner and in this corner there is a bar called Freebird. Once it was called Burns Bar then Firkins which was our era. This pub would become one of Falkirk’s most loved music venues, not only for live bands but for those who liked to pump pound coins into, what was, the best jukebox in town. Many local musicians would converge on this corner of Falkirk and became a focal point for the formation of bands.

According to the wonderful but underused Falkirkmusicscene website The Burns bar was a venue for folk acts in the 70’s and 80’s. Davy Waugh started to promote blue bands before the Happening Club seeds were sown in 1987. The Burns bar changed names to Firkins in 1988. I was only 11 years of age when this re-branding took place, I would frequent the establishment some 8 years later and it would have a massive influence on my music and that of the band.

According to the falkirkmusicscene site (it will be a crime if this is lost) there were occasional bands played between 1997 and 2005, Punk bands like our friends Rabid Dogs would become the mainstay of the venue in future years.

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I tried! I Tried the Easy Way!

It was in 2004 that we played a gig at our favourite pub (later we would play alongside Kranksolo). We were playing our comeback album One More Solo live. Our friend Kevin Byrne opened up for us with some acoustic songs. After he finished we headed to the make shift stage. We were cramped into the corner of the venue, tripping over each other. The place was hot and sweaty, with only the house lights on, there was no place to hide. The background was the large corner windows so passers by could catch a glimpse of us rocking out the Easy Way.

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Kevin belts out a few tunes

Firkins was an amazing place to drink in the late 90’s and early 00’s. On Weekdays when I should’ve been at college, I would blether with the late Chris Masson of the band Cage. As the week wore on Fridays would be a whole night playing tunes on the jukebox and Saturdays would be a meet and greet warm up before most of us would head down to Pennies (more on this venue at a later date).

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Guess the tee shirt caption

The pub would be packed, not something that has been seen for years. People would sit on the floor, you knew everyone and you felt at ease. This was a crowd of people who repelled the dance scene of Falkirk. I was also Virtua Tennis champ, the arcade which starred Tim Henman and Tommy Haas (who I picked), this helped forge friendships.

One night in I headed into Firkins alone, I headed towards my usual spot on the bar to order a Calders 70. I was always confident that I would meet someone I knew. However a beautiful woman caught the corner of my eye. Her elegance made her stand out amid the hustle of the pub. This woman would eventually become my wife.

Slowly the crowds moved on and the pub lost its feel. Firkins became a shell of what it once was.I’d revisit occasionally just for was last taste of the old atmosphere but it was gone. Then the old corner window from which you would watch the traffic go past, got smashed boarded up and never replaced.

Firkins closed and was reopened as Freebird.

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Drinks on the cover and drinks in the album. This is a wee table in the quiet corner of Firkins. Firkin Outburst plays here

 

 

 

Falkirks live venues past and present. part 1. the Martell

The Martell (now the Warehouse)

You never forget your first time, the anticipation, the hope that everything works, getting the mood right and of course making sure the drummer comes out of the toilet before we start. Yes i’m talking about our first gig back in the summer of 1995. We had a setlist of around 6 songs (it’s all we had) and we had a stage. It was a Thursday night, it was the Martell.

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Our Wonder video has Stu playing outside the iconic venue.

Just off Grahams road near the canal sat the Martell. It was hidden from the road by a furniture store. Once you walked past the lastest sofa sale signs you would arrive at the big sign lit up with the Martell font. You can hear the music as you approached the small unassuming front door and when you entered the music hit you. To the left was the till that took the ticket money. Then you would enter the front room, tables often bustling with punters and directly in front the long bar would stretch back to the pool tables.

A small CRT monitor would flicker as the tills rang though the drink sales. Gold Bier £1. This was the mid 90’s and many of the local kids were heading to this venue to see 4 bands on a Thursday for a fiver. Our friends Cage, rock gods  Monitor Lizard, the wonderful Foam and various other local acts played through Jimmy’s PA system. It was loud and some of us had school in the morning…

The stage was on the far right of the room, it was separated from the audience by a small brick wall for which many stunts and guitar poses would be struck. Up in the booth was the DJ, big Sid and his clap monitor for measuring the Battle of the Bands victors. (yes that was how it was decided…)

Watching bands at the Martell was brilliant; it was a small but loyal community that attended every week. From watching the bands to shooting pool you would find you started to know people’s names and hang out talking about the bands of that era, Oasis, Nirvana, Blur and various other acts. Some nights were packed, others not so and occasionally the place would be dead apart from the hardcore frequenters.

Our First Gig.

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Smokey. loud, young and proud to playing the local music scene

At around 19 years of age I had a mop of long brown hair and a stooped gait. Stu was in full Metallica mode, Greg also donned with long hair often tied up so he could show of his rose tinted shades and Derek the cheeky youngster who infuriatingly got changed a minute before we took the stage. I swear he enjoyed seeing my exasperation as he ran past me towards the drum kit smiling.

The first time we played the Martell was amazing. The lights blinded you, we were probably ropey but we played some of the best songs we had written. The Rain and Vancouver to name two, followers from the start will know these songs well.

The high school crowd that has followed Derek loved it and we were finally part of the Falkirk music scene. What followed was amazing. The battle of the bands.

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Advert for the battle of the bands. £1000 in those days would get you a decent stint in a studio. Our gig with Nervana and local lengends Cage advertised. Miss Wet T shirt perhaps showed the other side of the Martell…

Our first attempt at the battle of the bands would see our largest crowds swell the Martell to bursting. To date it is the biggest audience we have played original songs to. It was the quarter finals. Thanks to the clap monitor being pounded by the crowd we sailed through to the semis and the dreams of winning started to become a reality. The semi final was another packed gig but it was not to be, we lost and did not make the final.

We played a number of gigs at the Martell during the late 90’s it was like our Cavern, it’s where we cut our live teeth. Gigs ranged from supporting our friends Cage and Turtlehead to opening for cover bands like Nearvana. Eventually another battle of the bands took place and sadly we were not as successful.

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Stu on the bigger stage that was opened up at the rear of the venue. It would prove hard for us to fill.

The venue opened up a bigger hall at the back where the snooker tables used to be. It felt different and for us it was too much to fill with our small but loyal fanbase. Highlights started to thin out and the Martell’s appeal was starting the wear thin. Eventually we knew all the bar staff, had lock ins with George the bar manager and played live recorded shows with Central FM (hard to believe a local station used to record live local bands). The alcohol flowed, the gigs came and went. One night when I crashed beer all over the counter I knew it was getting out of hand.

We left the Martell for a while, the Thursday nights were no longer a regular occurrence.

In the 2000’s (do we have a decent name for this decade yet?) we were approached to play and we obliged but the magic was gone or perhaps Falkirk had moved from our brand of rock. The Martell, the birth of our gigging experience and the hub of the Falkirk Music scene for so many years had unwound. As we finished our last set at the Martell there was no ceremony, just an air of disappointment. We thought perhaps the next time we play will be better but there would be no next time for us the Martell.

Life went by as it does, new venues opened and I would head down Grahams road sometimes going home in a taxi after a night out up in the heart of Falkirk. For years the neon sign of the Martell would glow statically in the night. You would hear about the Martells reputation for club music and the place became alien to me. Eventually it changed hands, now it’s named the Warehouse and encouragingly the venue puts on bands albeit tribute acts and mid size touring bands. There has been little mention of local artists playing there.

The Martell was one of the best venues we ever had in Falkirk. It worked for years, bringing together like minded people who wanted to listen to or play in bands around Falkirk. Together we created memories that will never leave us. Indeed some of the people who lit up the Martell stage are sadly no longer with us which makes the memories of this iconic local venue all the more important.

Whitecraigs Rugby Club June 18th 2016

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Pictures taken by Purple Dot photography and Kirsty Smith

We had been invited to play a set of cover songs at Whitecriag rugby club as part of their yearly beer festival and family day out. We decided to go along and join in with the festivities.

We do not play a lot of gigs these days and we play cover gigs even less. So this set played at the Whitecraig’s summer beer festival was a welcome change.

For various reasons our confidence hit a wee bump at our last gig at the North Star so some easy (but enjoyable) covers would help us get back on track.

13433273_1356522297695425_3147361512921178835_oIt was also a chance for our kids to finally see the band live.

I packed the gear into the car and this time Kirsty and Lewis joined me, a stark contrast to the normal band banter that the designated driver has to face on the road to the normal gigs! The Scottish sun was scorching the sky, our wee nation looks fine when the blue skies are up high.

We reached the rugby club in Whitecraigs without fuss. Standing proud in the southern outskirts of  Glasgow this lovely club had already started the party. When we arrived Lewis helped his dad flit the gear onto the small stage that was sheltered by a canopy tent.

13497562_1134545353249938_5255583186297035836_o (1)It looked brilliant. The only gig we had played outdoors was years ago at Crossgates (a story for another day). It was a small area in which to play but as soon as i saw the surroundings and felt the atmosphere i had a good vibe about the afternoon ahead.

A DJ was blasting tunes as I met the rest of the guys who were busy setting up. It wasn’t long before we  were ready to go. Then there was the power cut.

13483142_1134545273249946_8832837971535641227_o (1)As guys organising the music were scratching their heads, i was told the sound guy hadn’t turned up. Thankfully our experience has taught us there are always ways around these things. We found the problem with the power, a plug had come loose. Always carry duct tape… we used that to hold the connection together, and viola, the rest of the DJ set went well,

We had a song to soundcheck, no time at all but the sound was floating into the fields below. The vocal PA, as it was setup, was fine so we went with it. The guy who was running the show had a cowbell.. We would hear more of that later. He was in good spirits and introduced us to the crowd that was not interested in us. They were drinking fine ale and basking in the rare sun. We could’ve been naked and they wouldn’t have noticed. Thankfully we weren’t. Now that I understood we were music for the background I was more than content and it was brilliant to see Lewis and Niamh in the front row! (Luke was there as well but I think he went for his nap!)

13442628_1134545253249948_449859285787194552_o (1)Whitecraig setlist

  1. Teenage kicks
  2. Fight for your right (to party)
  3. Should i stay or should i go
  4. Last time
  5. Say something
  6. Wonder
  7. All or nothing
  8. Creep
  9. Ever fallen in love
  10. Don’t you forget about me
  11. Come as you are
  12. Get back
  13. Curtain hits the cast
  14. Jumpin jack flash
  15. Sex on fire
  16. Whole lotta rosie

13443320_1356522304362091_1020145119376325230_oThe set went well without any problems and it was a tight gig which we thoroughly enjoyed. A real boost for the band as soon as the set was finished we agreed we had to get back on the live scene. After the first song Lewis covered his ears and walked away. It’s great to i see my kid is my most honest critic. However he came back when we played Wonder (he knows our songs more than the covers). Niamh and Lewis danced away as we played, A sweet moment.

13482857_1134545349916605_7663655686751780004_o (1)As we packed up Stu and Derek nicked all the beer tokens delighted that Greg and I were driving. With grins and empty glasses they headed to the bar.

Kirsty and I soaked in the family atmosphere and let Lewis jump around on the trampolines before heading off into the sunset.

 

Weird Decibels live at North Star 27th May 2016

Credits

The Crowd: Thank you for attending a local gig and supporting the artists. Thank you for staying right to the end.

The Sonic Blues, Rabid Dog: Thank you for playing along side us

Rory (Eindp Photography): For taking photographs for this and many, many local gigs

Juls Sampson (photography and pictures used for this blog): Our friend has shot many pics over the years

Kevin Byrne: for keeping an eye on the desk as we played

North Star staff: for keeping us fed and watered with a smile and allowing us to use the venue.

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Setlist

  1. It’s who you know
  2. Speak
  3. I hear the city
  4. Forward
  5. Curtain hits the cast
  6. Quoted
  7. Molly lips
  8. Miss a
  9. The dancer
  10. Once more with feeling
  11. Joker
  12. Wait (request)
  13. Deliverance
  14. Medicine
  15. Kill it
  16. Industry
  17. Whole lotta rosie (request)

 

A couple of days before we were due to play, Clubby vocalist with Rabid Dog, texted to say that the North Star soundman couldn’t make the gig due to work commitments.

These things can’t be avoided but I was frustrated as I wanted to record the show. This would put a different spin on things. There were options, to use the house PA but I didn’t know its layout. To be honest it’s a vocal pa and it wouldn’t have been hard to use. Our pa had more versatility to send feeds to the multitrack so I opted for that.

 

It had (shamefully) been a couple of years since I operated it so that added to the stress. I had to relearn the desk within a couple of days. A few turbulent hours pushing buttons and moving faders I had managed to get to grips with the machine.

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Looking back I understand now that doing the sound, recording the gig and playing at the same show is perhaps a step too far. This aside it was a great night.

 

Once I unloaded the vast amount of gear (probably too much) into the buzzing North Star I got to work setting up the sound, the time was half 6. Unbelievably it was now 8 o’clock and The Sonic Blues were due on in 30 minutes.

 

I ditched all ideas of checking mic placements for the recording. It was more important to get a decent live sound. That went fairly well, and for the recording I literally flung mics in front of the amps and the drum kit.

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The Sonic Blues were up first and played another great set of bluesy rock songs and covers. Greg (guitars vocals) Allan (Bass) and Douglas (drums) are a sound bunch of lads and they are very keen. Their performance went well with the crowd and they set up the night in fine fashion

 

Clubby and the gang stepped up next; their ultra loyal fanbase was pleased to see them back on stage for the first time in a while. Andy had a cracking guitar sound, he has two amps hooked up and a wave of chords hit the eager audience. Andy on bass and Alan on the drums provide a solid backbone for Clubby to sing their set of punk covers. They played very well.

 

The gremlins came to visit us, it’s been a while, you can go many gigs without incident before the little creatures visit. Usually in the form of technical glitches and set up problems.

 

Just as we were getting ready to go on stage the power cut to both the PA and the desk. Scratching my head I looked back to the plug at the rear of the venue. Two chaps had seated themselves the unit in front of the socket and had unwittingly cut the power to the show. (not your fault gents)

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Once I got the PA back on and the desk reloaded we were ready to play, only Stu couldn’t get the guitar amp on. (using someone else amp is fine but every guitarist will tell you having your own backline has its advantages). Once that problem was fixed we were ready.

 

We launched into the first song and the first time I went to hit a chord the lights were right in my eye. Whoops! A bum note right at the first song ain’t good.

 

To nail the opening track is essential; if you miss it it can unsettle you for the rest of the set. To a certain extent it did; although I have to concede I had been concentrating all night on the sound and with this loss of focus came a pretty standard performance from myself. So i’m a bit gutted about that. Stu, Greg and Derek all played well and helped keep the gig on track
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Things did improve. As the night wore on we regained our composure (and confidence) and belted out tunes from both the decibels albums. I was too eager to play Quoted and nearly skipped Curtain hits the Cast! Quoted was manic as usual, Wait was requested and that gelled well with Deliverance and by the time we hit Industry I was scraping the guitar off a nearby pillar without much regard for my instrument.

 

As we reached the end of the night we reached our zenith and I was pleased it had ended on a high. If we can’t nail the songs we give it all to the performance and personally it was the most exhausting I have delivered for a long time. Our friends requested While Lotta Rosie, who could we be to resist! A little rusty would be an understatement but we had a whole lotta fun playing it!

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So as our song Quoted and the politicians it depicts often say lessons have been learned. If i’m playing, I just want to play. I’ve I’m doing the sound, i just want to do the sound. This was the first time I had manned a desk at a gig and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience perhaps this could be an avenue for the future.

 

All round it was a great hot loud sweaty night, with a little rawness and a whole lot of heart which is what music at its purest form should be.