Back in 2017, at the end of September, the nights were growing longer. Nestled in the centre of Falkirk there was a small, brief, but memorable alt. rock/punk scene playing its first showcase in Behind the Wall. It was (and still is) called RIFF. The explosive music night was driven by Dolly, the indefectible frontman of Falkirk punks Thirteen.
At the end of the night, when the satisfied crowd disbanded under the watchful ushering of the bouncers the bands involved had a chance to huddle around a table, count the ticket money and plot the next event.
At that point it felt like the start of something new.
A second successful night followed, then the momentum fell away. Thirteen regrettably imploded, leaving Dolly to pick over the remains of what was a successful era for the band.
Over the months and years that followed Dolly sought and found new personal for the band. Then came the lockdown. This didn’t stop them; instead, they headed to the studio to lay tracks for what would become ‘Ego Trap’.
Press play on the CD, and the guitars leap out, they have familiar tone that had me expecting Axl Rose to start screeching ‘You Could Be Mine’, but Dolly bursts in with his trademark vocals and Thirteen come alive with their own classic, high octane take on punk.
It’s an excellent production from Bryan Ramage, the pace is relentless, the second track, ‘I Am the Fire’ sparks off a flurry of snarls and guitar screeches. ‘Pearls and Piss’, perhaps the highlight, is uplifting. ‘How did to come to this? Drowning in Pearls and piss!” asks Dolly.
‘Trampled Flag’ offers a well-judged change of pace before the EP concludes with the squalling menace of ‘Thirteen’. This is a statement from the band; “I will never tire” asserts Dolly, “We are Thirteen” replies the band.
This is a great record; created and recorded throughout the most challenging of years. What once was the Spirit of Resistance now appearing to be the Spirit of Resilience.
‘Ego Trip’ is Spirited call to arms for all the Punks, Rock and Rollers and we know that they are out there in Falkirk, they’re just waiting for the shout. This could be it.
Another week’s work done, heading off slightly earlier on a Friday is always a good thing; but this weekend was going to be rather special. Shuffledown was back, and this time the festival was to be split over two days, the Friday and Saturday. A bold move for the young festival now entering its fifth year.
It was a blustery walk under light grey skies, April coming to an end and the hints of an early summer were already starting to show in various gardens, as we walked down to the train station, once again on our journey to the Dobbie Hall, a fine venue that has become home for the best indoor music festival Falkirk has to offer.
When we finally arrived at Larbert station and made the brief walk to the venue, it was an unusual experience to be attending Shuffledown on a Friday night, this was the first year that the festival had expended to two dates. I must admit, I wondered how I was going to hold out when I heard that Harviestoun were serving real ales. (their Bitter and Twisted is my tasty favourite.)
We arrived at the doors, it already felt that Shuffledown Friday would have a different feel, absent were the craft stalls and various activities that usually take place inside and around the venue, instead this was a night purely to enjoy the bands and it would prove to be a cracking line up.
Rubian took the stage first, they were a mixture of bright breezy rock with perhaps the occasional hint of sadness highlighted by Cheryl Risk’s impressive range of vocals. They have been one of many bands that regularly play in Falkirk that are enjoying a fairly steep ascendancy in the Scottish scene. With the crowd steadily arriving, a lot of younger faces were making me feel my age, but a good atmosphere was building. Real Life Entertainment stormed the stage with a passionate set, they saluted the crowd with a can of lager and angrily swaggered into their set of slick cut alternative rock. It was enjoyable, and they cleverly varied their pace throughout the brief time they were on stage. Falkirk’s Pleasure Heads have been doing well and the young team down the front of the stage loved them (the auld team watched from up the back). The band, all donned in white tees crafted a brilliant set, early on there was reminders of early Artic Monkeys, with a bit of attitude and sharp guitars. However, the second half of the set was superb, with more emotion, depth and contrast in their music, proving that they have the ability to evolve their sound. Just a few miles from Larbert is Denny, home to Shuffledown veterans the Nickajack men. They played well and are always enjoyable, they are well suited to SD. The Friday night had worked.
By this time, we were fairly well on and left before we had a chance to see Baby Strange, the last train was coming although I do remember having time for a quick pint and a nip in the Station Hotel. Turns out we missed the train…
When I awoke, the whiskey I swore I would never have, reminded me that respect for Scotland’s wee dram should never be forgotten. So, my fuzzy head put paid to an early return to Shuffledown. Instead we ate a sensible lunch and meandered back to the venue. Unfortunately, we missed a few of the earlier acts. However, for the first time, (ever I think) we would see the full set of the headliner, who this year would be Malcolm Middleton.
It was Saturday afternoon, we were back at the Dobbie hall, my head was a little fragile, so when I could hear the music from the main road, I knew it would be loud. When we opened the door to get into the main hall we were hit by a wall of sound that emanated from a trio, that would be Primes. They were brilliant; tight knit as you’d expect from a three piece, their soulful vocals lifted over the hall. They didn’t let up as they leaped from song to song, I quickly forgot about my sore head. Greg was a big fan. Ghostwriter were back, fresh from the high of getting airplay on BBCs ‘Introducing Scotland’ the band looked confident as they once more took to the stage, it’s a venue they clearly enjoy playing. There is a good dynamic range in their songs, ‘I’m Not Trying To Get To Heaven’ remains a highlight, ‘Trashy Blond’ another. They ended with a brilliant tune (I don’t think its released, Sorrow Machine, I think), building from a slow start to an epic solo filled finished, It was impressive. They do soulful bluesy rock well.
After a brief venture into the fresh April air for some street food (amazing pizza, Irn Bru then a coffee, yep I was in for the long haul) We headed back into the dark of the main hall. Playing accordion backed by some subtle electronic beats, Callum Easter confidently took to the stage alone, a silhouette, in front of sweeping blue lights. He changed the atmosphere, the crowd focused as he played his harmonious offerings. I thoroughly enjoyed Broken Chanter, a music project by David MacGregor backed by his band. With a proud Scottish accent in his vocal delivery akin to the Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit; they had an excellent mix of emotionally lifting songs. They were my festival highlight, playing well constructed songs, this appears to a be a music project in its infancy and I wish him and his team luck. Medicine Men delivered some heavy pulsating tunes with a bit of 80’s electronic synth, their album ‘Into The Light’ is worth a spin and were another great SD discovery; fans of Tame Impala will like these guys (one of the reasons I go every year, find new bands). After a brief break, Bossy Love stepped up; the duo, described by the Guardian ‘like Prince on a trampoline’, commanded the crowd. Singer Amandah has such a presence, an energy that she wanted, and succeeded to share with the crowd. Finally, we had Malcom Middleton the headline act of Shuffle Down 2019. The last time I saw him live was at the Falkirk town hall supporting Teenage Fanclub. The Dobbie hall got busy, a late surge in punters came into the take a look. It was a great set, with a few lifts from his latest album Bananas, Buzz Lightyear Helmet, (not sure we’ll get better names for a song this year) was a highlight.
Malcolm Middleton finished and left as the applause died down. The lights on the stage fell dark and it was quickly stripped by the busy sound crew, we looked on as we sipped the last of our ales. The crowd slowly left the building, it was the end of another Shuffle Down. ‘Next year?’ a few people could be heard saying as they drunkenly swayed passed, I met some friends who had never been to the festival before, they had thoroughly enjoyed their experience. They were amazed that all these bands play in their town, on their doorstep.
The work that goes into the festival, I would imagine, is substantial. The volunteers who give up their time and the organisers Rikki and Laura who, when family time permits, throw everything into this. The result? A family run, local festival with an atmosphere that brings people together in these times of self-interest. And you can’t forget the money that has been raised for many local charities (this year Maggies) Five years of Shuffledown, what an achievement. This year has not disappointed. In what has become my yearly ritual, I keep my fingers crossed and hope it returns.
Credits: thanks to Andy Gee, Banks Radio Australia, Scott Swanson design, Montys, Buzzards of Babylon, CAMRA Larbert, Rocker Bob, Moments of Eclection, Tommy Clark.
And most importantly you, our, family, friends, fans, listeners, readers and rockers.
In 2018 while the world around us was circling in a political hurricane we were very much at the calm centre, battening down the hatches, taking stock of whats coming next and where to go. We’ve been around long enough to appreciate that years like 2018 happen, we went a bit quiet if you like but we spent a lot of time reflecting and the latter part of the year discovering that our love for our music had not waned. We have our 25th anniversary coming up and we’ve been trying to put all our history together, we’re getting there, once its done we can look forward.
In January we faced a huge hurdle, we were faced with losing our beloved practise room that we had spent over two decades writing and recording in. One cold winters day Stu and I had returned after the festive break to finish our EP Everyday Heroes only to discover it was invested with vermin. Sadly we had to wave goodbye to the room as the risk to our health wasn’t worth it. Thankfully we moved to a new location but for a couple of weeks we really did wonder where we would go. So I’ll take this moment to say a huge thanks to Beany (Fraser Law) for letting us call the room home for so long. We even had our own keys and could spend as long as we wanted there. I hope he gets it back on track some day.
A801 was the second lift from the EP and we released this video in January.
We went along to the RiFF showcase, while we were not playing it was still nice to be involved. Its hard to say what will happen to this movement. I’m sure it will return.
In April we played a covers set for the first time in a while at the Larbert Beer Fest. It was fun, although I was far too sober… We had also settled into to our new practise room and started to write new material.
On the 11th May we released Everyday Heroes a four track EP that we are rather proud of.
We played a great wee gig at Montys in Dunfermline and we met some new friends while we were out there including Kirby and his band The Other Side. Kirby came to the rescue when he loaned me his amp to get through the show after the venues cab blew.
Gee Force radio played us for the first time. Andy Gee was one of a few presenters who have played our music this year, our good friend Tommy Clark of Third Class Ticket gave the EP a spin. We thank you all!
In August we were due to play at The Big Picnic at the Helix but the dreaded Sma’ rain put that gig to bed and it was cancelled.
On the 23rd of September we played at an old haunt of ours, the Windsor Hotel with our great friends the Buzzards of Babylon. We had no idea that this was the last time that we would be playing alongside Rab Dempsey who announced that he was leaving the band. This was a bit of a shock but we hope that we will see him on stage again.
So that’s 2018 then, a fairly quiet year? Yeah maybe but things have been happening while we’ve not been looking. All these brilliant radio shows playing our music has kept our name out there. The latter part of the year has seen us strip down some of our best songs to acoustic. We’re really encouraged by these sessions and we will be recording live in January 2019. So while the world around us is unsure of where its going; we have a few goals next year, bring on 2019 and a new album to distract us from all the bedlam that’s coming our way…
Stu and Pabs take a look back at our first gig at the Martell Falkirk in 1995. Thanks to Derek for the archive flyers, posters and clippings. Stu for the pictures. Not sure who took them.
It was Thursday 17th August 1995, Bill Clinton was still president of the USA, Take That were in the top five and in the the cinema Waterworld was watched by noone. Another seismic event was about to take to place. Weird were about to play live for the first time.
A few months earlier Greg and Pabs had set their first target, to form a band and play the Martell. They created Weird with Stewart and Derek in the deepest of winter in February 95. A few songs later, probably around 6 or so we were looking for our first gig. That offer came from the late Chris Masson who got us on the bill to support Cage, one of Falkirk’s finest and fiercist bands.
We just had a handful of songs, we hadn’t even graced the studio but we had written some songs that earlier Weird followers would enjoy for years namely: The Rain, Vancouver and Educational Suicide, some of our best known tracks. We felt these songs were strong and it made us confident going into our first gig, well fairly confident!
Back then the Martell was a big deal, it, alongside the Happening Club were the places for local bands to play. Greg and I had went every Thursday night for weeks, months even, to drink beer and listen to Cage. When the call came to play the Martell I was excited, nervous, but really excited. Derek kept a copy of our first flyer. We were third on the bill, we would open up the show for Cage and a band called Twister. A lot of bands in the local scene had ‘er’ at the end of their name.
Our first set list was penned in black ink, what a feeling that was, writing our first set list. Six songs. The Rain, Educational Suicide, Show Your Face Soon, Stay In, Vancouver and Go Away. We never recorded Stay In or Go Away.
We pulled up to the Martell and had to load into the side door straight onto the stage. I walked onto the stage as Jimmy and the sound guys were setting up, I had long hair draped over my face I didn’t want anyone to see me. I was just doing vocals, the freedom! I could just turn up and sing. The classic days.
I remember walking into the venue and hearing Ewan the drummer from headlining band Cage sound check and the hairs were standing on the back of my neck.
Sound checking my guitar felt amazing as It sounded huge through the massive pa system.
I remember hearing the kick drum through the PA for the first time. What a sound. We just used a vocal PA down at our practise room. Derek never used mics on his kit in rehearsal so we had never heard the drums like this before.
Derek was the cocky youngster so full of confidence and even in the early days he used to love winding me up. Greg was laid back as always. Stu if I remember correctly seemed quiet and a bit nervous.
Looking up I saw the lights during soundchek, the blotted out my view of the Martell, at this time it was empty, I remember Stu shredding the guitar to test it, it seemed like a huge sound. This was it, we were going live. I can’t remember what song we soundchecked with but I do remember reading about Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam. Even at soundcheck Vedder would give everything to his performance, so I did the same. I put everything into the soundcheck!
We were about to go on, by this time a crowd had gathered, there were a lot of friends from high school. Phil and Juls were there as well (I’m sure Phil is in one of the photos), they only knew Stu at this time but we all became friends over the years. I walked up to the stage ready to play, I was really nervous. It’s always the first line you have to remember. Do that and the rest of the gig is fine. So I walked up ready to play and Derek was nowhere to be seen…
Stu played a riff as the crowd waited. Then Derek runs up after getting changed in the toilets. I was raging. Finally we were ready to play. I just recall the lights, the music took me and I just went crazy. I had seen Chris Masson of Cage do the same a few times on this stage, he put everything into his live shows so I did the same, it was natural. Something comes out when you play live, its like all the anger that builds up just pours out. My hair was everywhere. I was singing my songs to other people now.
I stood on stage blasted out the 1st song the Rain the crowd went mental I thought that’s awesome but my guitar didn’t seem that loud on stage…I then realised the sound engineer hadn’t mic’d up my guitar amp!
First song done and my confidence grew. The crowd cheered, the folk from the high school, were loving having a few beers on a Thursday!
After I moved the microphone in front of my amp it sounded a lot better and I grew in confidence.I was pretty nervous which I always am at gigs but after I nail the 1st song the nerves settle and after rehearsing at the practice room for months the live sound on stage was incredible.
The gig flew past, it was only six songs but it felt like 5 minutes. It was an amazing feeling coming off stage and our friends were congratulating us. We dissolved back into the crowd and enjoyed the rest of the night. Cage were amazing, Light years ahead of us, they had been together for a while and were getting into their stride. Stu
Our 1st gig flew by so quickly. So many people came up to us after in Firkins on the Saturday night saying how good we had been. Such a buzz. We had arrived on the live scene.
Shuffledown is now ingrained into the psyche of the local music scene; regular Shuffle goers will look eagerly for the line up announcements around the Autumn and plan a day of music and drink ahead. Past years have seen successful, subtle additions to the lineup that have helped broaden the range of people who soak in the sights and sounds at the Dobbie hall. Past lineups have included the impressive headliners Broken Records during Shuffledown’s maiden year to the unearthed gem that was Paddy Steer in year 2. There have been successes and surprises every year.
Gifted to the people of Larbert by Major Robert Dobbie, the hall has matured into a grand building that generations of locals have been proud of. It’s become Shuffledown’s home; adding a touch of grandeur to the festival, many of the bands that play are often used to the trappings of more modest venues.
As I reached the doors, ready to enjoy Suffledown’s fourth year I was greeted by a vocal quartet, food stalls and an area for arts and crafts. Not to mention a warm welcome from the many volunteers. I walked into the hall and admired the well decorated stage, I looked for the trademark Shuffledown lamp and it was proudly illuminated to the right of the stage. In addition to the lamp there was a new lighting rig and a large screen to enhance the visual experience.
Two inviting drinks stalls were set up across from the main bar. I decided against the Prosecco, that stuff goes right to my head, it was Birds and Bees for me. The surroundings gave me the impression that Shuffledown is now well established and the leading music festival of the Falkirk area.
At the back of 2 o clock the early comers were greeted by The Sonic Blues, a late but welcome addition to the Shuffledown lineup. In what is to be their last gig for an undefined hiatus, the Blues looked like there were at home on the big stage. The great sound helped the trios bluesy rock transcend over the hall. They played a few tracks of last years album ‘Something Today’ and ‘Purgatory Blues’ was as enjoyable as ever.
A growing crowd gathered for Fairweather and the Elements; arriving back for a second year in a row. Under the impressive lighting and sound the band put on a great show. They closed with the impressive Go Far, the latest single from F.A.T.E.. This was a confident set from the six piece.
London act Davey Horne and his band arrived to a vibrant atmosphere. With threads of the War on Drugs their edgy southern rock had a psychedelic feel. Davey Horne switched between keys and guitar with ease. It was a very enjoyable set and went down very well with the audience. A highlight of the day for me.
Somehow keeping cool in a large jacket the lead singer of Mt. Doubt and the band delivered a set of pop and rock with some urgency. Reminding me of the Sleepy Jackson they put on a good show. I enjoyed the set and as they finished I headed around the festival for a wander.
This year there was more food stalls which was a good move given the growing army of all day drinkers. I had a few Birds and Bees from the Williams Brewery stall and I was even tempted for some Buckie from the main bar. I left it this time. I grabbed a quick coffee and a roll on pulled pork (nice) before heading back in to the venue from the crisp spring evening.
Refreshed and refueled I grabbed another beer and waited for Fuzzystar. The bands bittersweet melodies are well suited to Shuffledown. Sporting one of the most impressive beards in the Edinburgh indie scene, Andy Thomson, Fuzzystars singer, sang low melodies over the impressive solo guitar work from Michael Morrison. Longest Day was a nice indentation amid the flurry of guitars; its subtle handpicked chords and slow build was a smart change. Given my love for Grandaddy and the National, plus the fact that I enjoyed Fuzzystar at the Artisan Tap back in 2017 this band was always going to be one of my highlights of the day and they didn’t disappoint.
Upstairs in the cloud room there was a bit of retro gaming reminiscing going on. Dusty Hayes played an uplifting set to a busy room, he clearly enjoyed the occasion as both artist and audience were punching the air in synchronized delight. I was mesmerised by the videos of Sonic, F Zero and the Ninja Turtle games. It was a neat touch.
I also caught OntheFly. A live drum kit was set up in the corner of the small stage providing analog beats to OntheFly’s digital mastery. It was an excellent set, a moody mix of driving electronica. This was the last act I saw in the cloud room and I’m glad I took the time to head upstairs this year, there was an intimate but great feel about the smaller stage of Shuffledown.
Back downstairs the main stage welcomed Denny’s The Nickajack men, who flung themselves into an energetic set that went down very well with the crowd. Dead Man Fall entertained the crowd with a lively set, I missed much of this part as I soaked in other areas of the festival. The Birds and the Bees ale was still going down a treat and the end of the night was nearing. There was still time for Colonel Mustard to walk onto a colourful stage donned in yellow mustard hues and big hats. A party atmosphere had taken over (as it often does at the end of Shuffledown), the uplifting mood of the music transferred to the crowd.
Shuffledown was over for another year and with all things you look forward to, the festival was over rather too quickly. The artisan feel of the event lends itself to a welcoming day of entertainment and it continues to evolve every year. It’s now an integral part of the Falkirk music scene; given its location and returning crowds there is no reason why Shuffeldown cannot become the leading indoor event of the Forth valley area.
This was an excellent year, continuing a consistent run of successful events. Next year will see its 5th anniversary, it’s now a young and confident festival, long may it continue.
Recently, in October 2017 RiFF was born. The first showcase night saw a collective of four bands playing harder edged songs. Throwing hair that (for some) was slightly longer and wilder, to a loud chorus of music that had a bit of attitude. We were trying to show Falkirk that there was a heavier scene waiting to be discovered. That night there were a few nervous glances at the door; would it be a success? That question was answered pretty quickly when punters started to wander into Behind the Wall. There were fans of the bands present but there were others, genuine hard music lovers who had waited years for a scene like this to fire up again. The place was packed and every member of each band that played that night were buzzing. So it was this success that RiFF 2 was aiming to emulate; another night where the legions of rock, punk and metal lovers would swarm to BTW with their regular punters throwing confused glances towards the many tattooed and pierced music fans heading up the stairs for some colourful mayhem. This time Greg and I went to watch, drink beer and listen to our fellow RiFF bands scream, sing and shred. It was like old times for the both of us; 20 years ago during the 90’s in the Martell on a Thursday night we would be doing the same thing. By nine the doors opened and a decent crowd took their places; staring at the stage eagerly awaiting the first of the bands to appear, RiFF does not tell the crowd the running order of the bands. The message here is to stay and watch all the acts, not just your friends and family. Come and discover something new. Greg and I did just that. It was also nice to see many band members from the first RiFF showcase back to support the fledgling cause.
The Drop kicked things off. The trio were the first of three new bands to join the RiFF collective. Driven by a distorted bass, drums and strong vocals; the Drop’s lack of traditional guitars was not a problem for their sound. Their hard driven rock impressed the crowd and the powerful vocals had me thinking that I wanted to listen to Rage Against the Machine all over again.
One band that is on a rocket propelled trajectory is Sianar, currently impressing much of Scotland with their music. Somehow they managed to fit 7 musicians onto the small stage and they played an excellent forty minutes of rock; full of swirling guitar solos and dueling vocals. Kristian, on lead guitar, appeared not to be distracted by impending fatherhood. He had us on stand by to step in for Sianar should his other half give birth on the day of the showcase. It was good to see the band play on home turf.
RiFF veterans Thirteen picked up the third slot of the night and launched into a roaring set of punk. Tune after tune hitting the audience like a prize fighter. They also flung a cover tune that had me chanting along, by this time Greg and I had few pints under our belts and getting into full flow. Thirteen never disappoint: Dolly likes a snarl when he sings, Craig leaps in the air to slam home a chord on the bass and Greg is one of the best drummers in Falkirk at the moment. His energy behind the kit was felt by the audience adding to a rather brilliant performance.
Not to be undone by Mr Breens masterful performance, Brian now shirtless, took the sticks and pounded the kit into submission for Shatterhand; driving the music veteran’s powerful anthems home. It was the first time I’ve seen these guys, it was a commanding performance from the four piece whose experience lends itself to producing a tight unit. Shatterhand have been around long enough to know how to overcome the hurdles that bands face and it was great to see them in fine form at RiFF. The late hour was not on their side, but the hardy souls that stayed to the end were rewarded by a set that had an urgency about it. The audience had little chance to catch their breath as the four piece launched from song to song. They gave everything to the show and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Having been a member of the audience for this RiFF showcase its was a little harder to gauge the success without the hard evidence of counted ticket stubs. But from what I could see there was no denying that once again BTW enjoyed a busy night and there were far more of the RiFF community members supporting each other. At the start there was a swell of people turning up to support RiFF, packing out much of the stage area and it was great to see that most of the audience stayed all night, (a rare occurrence for local gigs); hopefully the venue appreciates this. The RiFF community is alive and well. This gig proved the first showcase wasn’t a fluke, it was a sign that there are music listeners that want harder edged bands playing in Falkirk. Too see them come back for more was fantastic, let’s turn it up and let the rest of the town hear it.
2017 is a year I will quite happily brush under the carpet. I’m thankful for music, Weird Decibels, the fact that we are still recording, writing and playing music around our day jobs and family.
So as the 2017 Curtain starts to fall upon the Cast I thought I’d look back at our year.
Pics. Sweet P Photography. What Eddie Sees. Juls Sampson.
Rock On Tap. Great night for us at the Artisan Tap. we were a wee bit worried about playing a gig so soon after the Christmas wallet apocalypse however our concerns were unfounded as it was a busy night
12th Jan. We release some footage of us playing in our trusty old practise room
Weird Decibels drop a wee hint…
We had a look back at the many years we’ve had in our practise room, this proved to be one of the most popular posts of the year.
Weird Decibels performing at The Dobbie Hall 2017.
Here’s what reviewer, Stuart Ritchie, had to say:
“Weird Decibels are reminiscent of the early punk movement, especially The Clash. They played a bulldozing set of songs filled with no-nonsense Wah-Wah-drenched guitar solos, heavy sounding riffs, and a rampaging juggernaut tempo. ‘In the City’ sounded like a louder heavier ‘Suffragette City’. The singer tried to get the crowd to put the hands in the air but, most were afraid to spill their pints. Overall, a great effort and showing.”
When you live all your life in Falkirk it’s hard to gauge what people outwith the town really think of our place. As far as 2017 goes Falkirk is having its ups and downs. The high street is struggling but they are trying to rescue it, the football team were humbled in the playoffs then plummeted near the foot of the championship. People come to visit though, the Kelpies and the Wheel are now ingrained in Scottish tourism.
So what about the Falkirk music scene in 2017? Just a few year ago you could argue that it was on tired legs. The last couple of years have been very promising, people would describe it as recovering. Now as we reach the end of the ‘teenies’ I would assert that we have a vibrant scene, there are now a number of excellent bands and events. Here then, is my personal experience of the Falkirk scene; bands I have seen live, played a gig with or albums I have bought. There are many bands that I have missed so any recommendations are more than welcome.
The year started of with an almighty bang as Blind Daze played alongside us at Rock On Tap as part of the excellent One Weekend In Falkirk. These guys play loud, behind the mega sound is a very accomplished band. I caught their soundcheck at RiFF (more on this later) and their guitar work is excellent, finely crafted solos weaving through the tight bass and drums. They are a nice bunch of guys and it was a pleasure to play with the loudest band in town. We were also delighted to have our long time friends Buzzards of Babylon on the bill; they impressed a lot of the locals with their gigantic tunes.
The next night, as One Weekend in Falkirk continued Greg and I went back to the Artisan Tap to see more live music. Callum Baird played a fine set of acoustic folk, he had to nip away after his set as he had a gig in Linlithgow the same night, He’s toured extensively and is one of Falkirk’s hardest working musicians.
Fuzzystar are not from Falkirk but I couldn’t help but being blown away by their bittersweet music. They had a mixture of distorted and clean tones with strong lead guitar. Its was great to learn that they will be returning to these shores at 2018 Shuffle Down. They will be well suited to the Dobbie Hall. A fine band.
I have often said that Shuffle Down is perhaps my highlight of the local scene. 2017 saw it arrived at the Dobbie hall for a third year and there was more a focus on local bands than ever. We had the pleasure of playing this time, it was a fantastic experience. There were many great acts on, Miracle Glass Company,Fly Jackson and Pronto Mana were my personal favourites. There was a strong showing from Fairweather and the Elements and despite tachinal nitches Ghost Writer were good as well. All the bands seem to energise each other. Cannot wait until 28th April 2018!
There was an edge to Fly Jaclkson at Shuffle, my fav show of theirs to date. Pic Gregor Boyd
Ghosts on the stage. Pic Gregor Boyd
Musicians Against Homelessness raised money for the chairy with a number of bands playing at Behind the Wall, including the impressive, youthful trio, SHIVA.
pic eddie mceleney
RiFF was another big highlight of the local scene, 4 bands (again including ourselves. Could be a pattern here…i’m not bias honest!). It was a pleasure to play alongside 13, The Nebulosity and Blind Daze. It was amazing to have these bands come together to achieve what was a successful and busy night. Look out for a showcase in 2018; I hope the RiFF community grows as Falkirk needs a sub-scene of harder edged bands
The Local Records released in 2017 that I had to buy.
There have been many recordings released by local artists this year, I haven’t bought nearly enough and I am looking forward to seeing what I find in 2018. Noise Noise Noise is a great place to pick up CDs from local bands. Just head near the counter at the back of the shop and you’ll find an impressive array of local produced CDs.
Ghost Writers well produced Legends is a great record; it has good pacing with an exciting range of dynamics throughout. 13 put out a strong EP ‘Spirit of Resistance’, its a solid punk outing from the ever busy trio. The Nebulosity remastered their 2015 C+ album this year and its definitely worth a listen to their brand of heavy alternative rock, their music goes places you don’t expect and they are a pleasure to watch live. The Sonic Blues released ‘Something Today’, produced by Greg Breen it has a DIY ethic that I really like, it gives the album a personal touch that can often be missed from over produced recordings.
I have to mention the mighty Rabid Dogs, they released a rare recording of their live North Star show from June last year titled ‘The Best Party in Town’. I fear we will no longer see Rabid Dogs live so if you can, try and get your hands on this record.
The annual AMiF awards are another fine way to discover local talent. Pleasure Heads, SHIVA and Bootsie Blues all have great music (the latter having their track Song For Insomniacs streamed over 10000 times on Spotify). 2017 also saw the arrival of Sianar and Bitter Alice and they have a promising year ahead.
At the end of 2017 Razor Cuts had just run off a print of its 4th edition. It’s packed full of stories, poems, interviews and music reviews. I even managed to get an article about the old alternative nightclub Pennies included. Derek Steel is the passionate editor of the magazine, he is keen for submissions from budding writers email email@example.com with your creations.
There is so much happening in our town now; 2017 has been a stellar year. There were so many bands and events that I couldn’t attend so this look back is only scratching the surface. So if you believe in new year resolutions try to find a wee place on your list to support the local scene, you won’t be disappointed.
When my phone pinged for a new message it was nice to see Rikki from Afterglow getting in touch about a gig with new Falkirk rockers Bitter Alice at Behind the Wall. Given that just a couple of weeks had passed since we played the RiFF showcase at the same venue I explained to Rikki that we’d love to play but our audience had just seen us live and our turnout would likely be low. In his ever laid back way he said that was fine and the offer stood; its very rare to get a promoter this understanding these days. The gig was on!
Bitter Alice have been on a fast rise since their inception this year and they have mustered a handful of their own rock tunes as well as an array of covers. We knew a couple of guys from the band, Ben White on drums has delivered sound at numerous live shows around the area, even manning the Shuffle Down sound desk. So it was great to be added to the bill for their first Falkirk show.
In the couple of weeks we had to practise before the gig the nights were getting darker, we huddle around the old sofas in the room trying to work out a set for the gig. We were looking at old setlists from recent gigs and we noticed there had been a lack of songs from albums outwith Decibels 1 & 2 We took great delight digging out old songs; we picked a couple for Behind the Wall and we can’t wait to revisit more of older albums next year.
The day of the gig quickly arrived, we were quite relaxed in the run up to the show. We would play a relatively short set before enjoying the tunes of Bitter Alice. It was nice to have no pressure on us.
SHIVA were also added to the event; we had a quick chat with the trio before that. Their on stage swagger belies their friendly nature off stage. They have a good presence playing live. Singer/guitarist Aidan Callaghan donned in a retro Man Utd top led SHIVA around a fast set of raucous guitar music. There was a young crowd there to see them taking in every note and clearly enjoying themselves.
We arrived on stage with our beer, looking forward to sharing our music with a new audience. We opened with Feeling, one of our favorite live tracks. A short song, just under three minutes live, felt ideal to open the set with. When we strummed the final chord there was a silence in the room. We quickly moved our set on, hoping the audience would warm to our tunes.
Who You Know
I Hear the City
Underachiever was great to play again, while not my favourite song it is well suited to a live performance. The crowd really started to get going once we had hammered out Quoted Not Voted, by now the audience was clapping and appreciative of the tunes. I was grateful for that. Medicine seemed to go down well, it’s fast becoming my favorite song and it’s great fun to play live.
As always our set flew by; I Hear The City seemed like an apt end to the set and the audience now seemed to be on our side which was great. It had been a while since we had played to a crowd that we didn’t know and sometimes you have to win them over. After we finished many kind people were quick to praise our set; for any musician that’s always welcome.
After the set we grabbed some of the free beer for the bands, Derek and I grabbed a bit of fresh air at the back of the venue and we caught up with some of the lads from Bitter Alice and the drummer from SHIVA, Michael Donachie. It was a good chat with the young musicians and there was a buzz in the air as Bitter Alice grabbed their gear for setting up on the stage, bass player Dylan Fullarton was hyper and it was a laugh seeing the other lads hollering at him to get ready, he was too busy chatting backstage with the rest of us. Sadly the sound engineer left the venue for a reason unknown to us and I was rather taken aback when I re-entered the venue to see no one at the desk.
Bitter Alice are a five piece, with two guitarists Jack Turner and Joe Turnbull leaving Kieran Hunter to concentrate on vocals. He clearly looked like he was enjoying himself and the adulation from the packed venue. Given the sound engineer had departed there were sound problems, the vocals disappeared for some reason. A volunteer had step in to man the desk, its difficult task trying to produce sound from someone else’s setup. The sound issue didn’t seem to phase the band though and they rocked through a range of original tracks and covers. They have an edge to their set up, youthful exuberance in a classic five piece rock setting.
After Bitter Alice finished we grabbed a few more beers and eventually headed off to our first aftershow party for years. Well I say party, it was just the four of us back at Greg’s new house. It was a nice end to the night, it’s been sometime since we’ve been able to share a beer or two after a gig. We had a listen through to some of our old tunes and even managed to find an interview with Stirling City Radio that had been stored deep in the vaults. That was a laugh. We discussed our plans for the future and looked back at the past. Time flied and it was now three in the morning.
The next day the sun was out and we grabbed some tea and bacon rolls, It had been a great night and a cracking catch up for the band. Some deer were grazing in the woods at the back of Greg’s house as I sipped on my hot drink. It was another fine gig in the local scene; hopefully 2018 will bring more of the same and perhaps gigs a little further afield…thinking caps on!
It all started on June the 26th; it was a Monday night, Dolly Robinson of 13 asked for local musicians to meet and discuss the possibility of a showcase for Falkirk’s harder edged music. A handful of local musicians wandered into the pub looking around for other band members that they had not yet met.
Peter Gilbert and Nathan Paterson both from Blind Daze, Alan Costello of the Nebulosity, Bob from the Star Inn, Craig Hayworth and Dolly from 13, Rory from Eindp photography and myself sat around a table in Behind the Wall’s conservatory. One of the things I remember Dolly saying was “I don’t want this to be another pub gig”, he had a vision for a showcase for a number of bands.
The venues that were being suggested were bigger than I imagined. The Warehouse and the Loft upstairs at Behind the Wall. I was thinking of smaller, more intimate venues akin to the Happening club, somewhere were 40 people would make the place looked packed. We settled on Behind the Wall, I felt that this was ambitious for the first RiFF showcase. Start small I thought, then build a scene.
One thing was clear from the first meeting that all the bands were heading in the same direction, some felt ignored by the local scene and others felt there was no scene. I was in the middle. We’ve played some great gigs in Falkirk recently and been to see many great bands. One thing that was missing was harder, in your face, alternative music.
We departed from Behind the Wall all with various tasks to carry out. The date was set, September 29th 2017 upstairs in the 180 capacity Behind the Wall. Now we needed to get a crowd through the door…
Rikki Tonner of Afterglow offered much needed advice, Bob from the Star Inn offered help, The Bunker offered gear. It was looking good for the setup. We set up the usual social media pages and I contacted the Falkirk Herald, James Trimble was happy to be on board.
A few weeks later I was back in Behind the Wall. Craig Hayworth and I stood outside the pub at 11am like a pair of keen drinkers waiting for our first pint when we were actually waiting on James. He arrived clearly happy to get out of the office, notepad in hand, pen at the ready.
Alan Costello bounced in the door just as we were starting the interview, slightly harassed having just awoken after a shift he was keen to be part of the article. We repeated the RiFF community’s philosophy that RiFF bands will support each other whenever possible. It was a pleasant chat over a few coffees.
Everything seemed to going well but the tickets were slow in selling. I hoped that the old tradition of an article in a newspaper would help raise awareness.
The bands worked hard to spread the word. It was now just a couple of weeks to go, more people were starting to commit. Craig reported an increase in sales at Noise Noise Noise. Word was getting out, people were sharing posts. Maybe, I thought, we’ll reach 50 or 60 sales and the place will at least look busy.
Now with just days to go, we had more of our fantastic supporters wanting tickets, again Craig said that tickets were selling. We put all the figures together we were looking at around a 100, Now I was getting excited, was this really going to work? Was this going to be more than just a pub gig?
The Night Of The Showcase
It was a bright September day, reds and ambers now appearing in the trees. Time had flown since RiFF was created back in June. Greg came to pick me up around 3 and we headed off to the Bunker, a rehearsal studio in Bonnybridge. Daniel McGibbon was most helpful giving us the backing. Two amps, a bass cab and a full drum kit. Greg recalled his Tetris skills and we managed to carefully pack all the gear into his car.
After fighting through the Falkirk traffic we finally arrived at the venue. Upstairs we were greeted by a cheery Jim Dunbar, he was busy setting up the rig. Blind Daze drummer Craig Scott arrived to help and together we set up the room for the showcase.
The other bands started to arrive and we had a brief soundcheck, the stage was set. I stood at the door with Craig Hayworth; I was getting slightly obsessive about the door opening. Bang on half 7 the first people started to arrive. They didn’t have tickets…they were happy to pay at the door and I saw those guys stay the whole night.
More people arrived, some with and some without tickets. Stubs started to pile up under the cash tin. Craig Scott came over to let Craig Hayworth run the merch, again we were all working for the cause. It was now around 8 and there were people streaming through the door. I looked around after tearing stubs and couldn’t believe that the place was packed.
Our stage time of 9 fast approached. When we stepped under the blue lights I could see rows of people awaiting the first riff to be played. I was stunned and excited. I picked up the guitar, looked at the rest of the guys and started Kill it Kill it. It was an immense feeling and I was driven by the crowd. Every Time I looked up I could vaguely see people appearing to enjoy the music. When we stopped songs there was a great cheer. It was a fantastic feeling.
It’s Who You Know
I Hear the City
The set flew by and it was hot. I’ve no idea how Greg didn’t pass out wearing his big patched jacket. My guitar cut out at Deliverance, three songs from the end, so it was back to old school Weird with myself on vocals and Stu doing all the guitar. Before ‘I Hear the City’ I tried to plug the guitar straight into the amp, passing by the pedal board. It worked and we finished the set with ‘Industry’ now becoming a regular finisher.
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The Nebulosity stepped up next and they played a blinder. I missed the first couple of songs, although I heard them through at the bar as I waited patiently for a pint. The staff looked a little overwhelmed by the size of the crowd, (Derek may disagree with ‘overwhelmed’). However I got back to the door duties. I would like to say I could see them but the place was packed. Alan Costollo looked like he was loving it, flinging his hair about. The music was heavy, this was what RiFF is all about. Again the crowd was brilliant, they got a large response from every song played. The crowd were watching all the bands not just their own and this was fantastic.
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The night now jumped into the second half, time was flying. Up stepped Blind Daze to deliver a solid set of rock with some really slick guitar play. Craig Scott’s drumming kept the band really tight it was a great performance and they clearly enjoyed it as much as the previous two bands. It was great to see most of the crowd staying. Peter Gilbert really looks like he’s enjoying life as the vocalist of Blind Daze and Nathan Paterson handles his bass duties with aplomb.
Remember when Dolly said right at the start he didn’t want the showcase to be just another pub gig. When he stepped onto the stage he must’ve felt a sense of achievement. He helped bring it all together and admittedly he had his ups and downs. When the ticket sales were low he wondered if the event should be cancelled given that the bands were paying out of their own pockets. This defines the ups and downs of being a musician yet to make a living out of the art. But he and the rest of the RiFF community stuck through, and together we all stood in the same packed room as 13 played with huge grins on their faces.
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It was another fine set, a mixture of songs from their records and covers. Greg Breen is probably the busiest musician in Falkirk at the moment, now full time drummer with the band and of course he has the Sonic Blues going as well. Craig Scott really took in the event, he was bouncing all over the stage, (thank goodness we extended the size of the platform…). It was an excellent end to the night.
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I was now a few beers in and had a slight sway in my step, last orders were shouted and the crowd slowly started to filter away leaving the RiFF community alone in empty to venue to try and comprehend what had just happened.
The RiFF Collective Look to the Future.
The ticket stubs were counted, 140 tickets sold; this was nearly a sell out. The RiFF showcase was a tremendous success. After all the costs were met the bands evenly split the money, it was a great feeling to get something back and merch had been selling as well.
Our attention now turns to future showcase events; many people in the audience commented on how they had never seen a heavy alternative music event for many years so perhaps there is a scene in Falkirk waiting to be uncovered. So now it’s all about timing and getting new bands on board. We’ll never know where RiFF could go, perhaps it will grow and local bands will have an opportunity to play shows of this magnitude. It’s a hard edged music scene Falkirk really needs.
It’s a night that Weird Decibels that will never forget; we were delighted to be a part of the first showcase and we hope that there will be many more, giving other local acts the chance to meet new friends and a new audience.
Once again RiFF members will gather around a table to discuss the next showcase with a new meeting planned for mid October. Who knows what the next showcase will bring but one thing is for sure the bands involved and the crowd that came to see us will never forget what happened at Behind The Wall on the 29th of September. It definitely wasn’t a pub gig.
Pabs ( a proud member of the RiFF community. Get involved.)