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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
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.
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
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.
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
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.
pic eddie mceleney
pic eddie mceleney
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.)
SHIVA had a fast riffs reminiscent of the Artic Monkeys, there was a confident swagger about this band and the crowd were clearly on their side, with the young audience dancing to their raucous tunes. It was great to see Behind the Wall looking more like a proper music venue once more.
I’ve seen The Sonic Blues a couple of times and we have had the pleasure of playing alongside them. These guys seem to love playing live; their new album Something Today is just released and they played a few tracks of that. There is no doubting the dexterity of their playing they have a wonderful bluesy feel to their music.
Logans Close from Dunbar followed our local lads, and they played well, entertaining the audience with feelgood rock n roll. I was chasing the last train home before Sam Main appeared on stage however Weird Decibels Bass maestro Greg was impressed by the words of Mr Main.
Around £200 in donations was made by generous punters who graced the bustling venue; much needed money for the charity. You can find links to their Facebook at the top of this page.
On another note it’s good to see Behind the Wall decked out for gigs; it has potential to be a fine venue for local acts to play original music and it appears to be happening more often. #livelocalmusic
Harder edged music from the Falkirk area. The music that often gets ignored, hard punk, rock and metal and the three main genres that RIFF shares but there are many more that need exposure to the local scene. RiFF bands aim to support each other by attending shows, sharing and buying music.
Why Would I Be part of RiFF
If you play in a band it can be the most rewarding experience you will have and it can also be the most frustrating. You want to grow an audience, so you start to play shows. When you are in a small band and you play live, you will spend much of the night wondering who will come through the door. Some nights will be busy others not so.
RiFF is a music community. All we ask is that you attend a local gig that is not your own. Not just RiFF bands playing, but any local music event that you find interesting. You don’t get a badge for attending loads of local events but you meet like minded people and many new opportunities open up.
So keep an eye on the RiFF Facebook page, like and follow the bands and if a RiFF band is playing try and get along to the show. You don’t need to go to every single one but if musicians supported musicians just a wee bit more then our scene would grow and more outside parties would become interested. Look at the success of the Fife music scene for example.
Additionally if you become part of the community and you set up a Falkirk gig the RiFF community will do their best to support a fellow RiFFers gig. (we’re not promoters. Occasionally we will organise a Showcase and the costs are met by the RiFF bands taking part.)
What bands are in RiFF (so far)
We have a number of bands that consider themselves part of the RiFF community. Punks 13, heavy rockers Blind Daze, the outer worldly Nebulosity and of course us (Weird Decibels). There will be more bands joining the community, there is no obligation to play gigs etc, just share your music, share others music and promote the scene. We welcome bands from not only Falkirk but elsewhere are well. RiFF has music, will travel.
What’s the Future of RiFF Then?
Time will tell! Riff needs people to be a success! The Showcase is the start and there may be more. The bands involved will play more gigs, the RiFF community will support them. Look out for a RiFF YouTube channel with music videos, future blogs, possibly Podcasts and of course keep an eye on RiFF bands releasing new music.
Weird Decibels would like to share the music of our fellow Falkirk acts. Here are some of the records that Pabs has bought, listened to and enjoyed lately. There are a lot of great acts and records in Falkirk just now.
All downloads listened to in full WAV format at 44Hz (or higher) using the wonderful program Foobar 2000. Downloads and CDs paid for through Bandcamp. There are also a selction of CD’s in Falkirk shop Noise Noise Noise.
(recommended listening on WAV downloaded from Bandcamp)
Recorded at a pace in typical punk fashion between August and September 2015 13’s album A Line Of The Dead On Deadline Day is classic punk driven by a tight drum sound recorded in a fairly small room that gives the kit a close up feel; there is FX added to the snare on some tracks. The sound reminds me of the late 80’s early 90’s punk/ grunge scene. The drums are knitted with bass, and in most tracks there is one guitar that delivers the riff. Most modern bands double up, so this record feels live, raw and wonderfully personal.
The drums were recorded at the bunker in Bonnybridge, with the guitars recorded at Dollys; (house i’m assuming) this album has energy and a real underground feel . Dolly is the dominant lyric writer, with a snarl to his vocal delivery there is a political air to his musings.
The beauty of this record is its underground feel, its rawness and its pure punk ethos.
(recommended listening on physical format, Vinyl, (CD, which I have), included is rather nice artwork)
Ewan MacKenzie grew up in the Falkirk area with the same dreams as the rest of us. A musician who would hope to get some recognition for his work. We haven’t quite got there yet but Ewan appears to have made some headway into realising his vision.
He started his musical career as the prolific drummer of Cage, one of Falkirk’s greatest bands. Cage’s life was short; but it burned bright. Post Cage Ewan went on to perform on a number of projects. Recently he drummed for Pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs pigs, a band that is doing rather well. For whatever reason he recently left them in May 2017 and it appears that his focus has turned to Dextro.
In the Crossing is a wonderful, moody and atmospheric piece of electronica. Its production and scope stands at height with mainstream acts which could suggest that Ewan will realise bigger things. Its timing and structure is wonderful, rich textures sweep across the listeners headspace and of course there is the assurance of Ewan’s drumming. The track Clearing digs deep into your emotions, its a beautiful four minutes.
Take this record in, breath it, listen when the sun is setting, you’ll understand what I mean. This guy is from your town, take pride in that.
(recommended listening WAV downloads from Bandcamp)
Iain King, singer and guitarist of Ghost Writer towers over most people he meets. I met him briefly backstage at Shuffledown 2017 and he seems like a nice fella, however there appears to be a side to him that allows him to create the edgy compositions of Ghost Writer. They have two EP’s now. Their first Outskirts Vol 1 is a raucous affair with For Hire (Summer Never Ends) having a riff that has that ability to dig into your ear. Mags Dignan’s vocal are worth a mention, her tone is a good contrast to Kings but there is no doubt she could deliver a song on her own. Last track Way I’m Wired is an example of a band quite happy to take risks, with a distant guitar, backed by fuzzy keys and an exposed vocal. Very nice.
Their follow up Legends is a more measured and professional sounding affair. Recorded at Chem 19 studios Ghostwriter have rolled a dice, paying money to produce an EP that they hope will lift them above their peers.
Its an ambitious EP that throws guitars licks from ear to ear. The last track ‘I’m Not Trying To Get to Heaven’ is a highlight, the EP tries to avoid the formulaic approach of other bands, sidestepping verse chorus verse structures. Have a wee listen to Outskirts, it’s a fine vocal performance from King drifting from baritone to the upper mids with ease.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
Once More With Feeling
Kill it Kill it
Who You Know
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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..
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 wasKieran 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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Withered Hand paid a visit to Falkirk. 18th May 2017
The Wine Library has been an establishment of many guises; from the working man’s haunt of the Argyll to the Irish themed Finn McCools then turning full circle back around to the traditional feel of renamed Argyll. Then came 20 Rocks (where we launched Weird Decibels 1) before it briefly became a cocktail bar and now here we have somewhat surprising wine bar in the heartland of Falkirk, The Wine Library.
Admittedly it looked good, although quiet, there was an undiscovered vault of wines and a limited range of beer for plain old rockers like myself. Upstairs, where the event was taking place, was nicely filling up with attentive listeners.
Untitled celebrates the words and art of Falkirk’s finest poets and wordsmiths and they had organised a night of poetry and music titled Louder Than Bairns. I was pleasantly surprised to see that they had booked Withered Hand and a rare gig from Sweethearts of The Prison Rodeo.
The sun shone through the blood red blinds and the stage looked like the final scene of a Blade movie with an additional disco ball spinning on the ceiling for Wesley Snipes to slay some vampires under, however tonight’s fare would be more down to earth.
Up stepped a slightly nervous poet by the name of Carolyn Paterson. She spoke of her fear of the current state of the USA and shared then shared her routes of her Polish heritage. John Kennedy mixed raw personal experiences with humour and delivered impassioned poetry.
Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo David King managed to have a wee chat before their set and explained that he is working on new songs but the process of recording a new album has been a bit fragmented (i know the feeling); however for tonight’s show they visited much their most recent album, Pigs In the Bull Ring (humans like beasts) and they threw in some older numbers. Adam Stafford also took the time to make a guest appearance. There are several changes to the versatile lineup and the gig was solid; Robbie Lesiuk looked confident and at ease on the guitar using a mixture of loops and floating riffs with the kind of dexterity that is heard on his solo work.
Withered Hand was superb, delivering a good mixture of stories from his travels to the songs he has written over the years including King Of Hollywood from his last album New Gods. He is well known in the Scottish music scene and it was great to see him deliver a fine solo set in Falkirk.