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
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.
Before I entered Behind the Wall to head upstairs into the Loft (the ale house for the older bairns) I had no idea who was playing tonight. The fact that event organiser Rikki Toner has made so much of an effort to continue his push to rebuild the local music scene has made me determined to go and support it.
Once I had paid at the door, pleased that my fiver would be going towards the bands I met up with the one and only Stewart McCairney, quickly followed by Greg McSorley. We reflected on our last gig (the week before at North Star) and planned our next assault on world music domination.
While we plotted to headline Glastonbury the soundcheck was one two-ing in the background preparing for the night ahead. Just before 9 the first band would adorn the stage.
The tall, confident singer/guitarist Aidan Buhrmann of Falkirk’s Bootsie Blue held things together well and was clearly happy to be upon the loft stage. Dressed in black jeans, that looked welded on, the big chap strutted about the stage. Their drummer, Ian Simpson was manic. This guy truly delivered stunning beats hammering the poor drum kit to within an inch of new skins. You could see he felt every beat, superb. The bass player Callum Barret balanced things by being subtly calm and focused on keeping the Bootsie’s sound tight.
There were great songs unfortunately I don’t know the titles but ‘Bad Apples’ was a highlight. The first half of these guys set was probably the best I’ve heard in the local setting for a long time. The songs were dynamic and well structured. Once they flesh out their set I’d be surprised if they don’t make some sort of impression on the Scottish scene and are one of Falkirk’s most promising bands. (lets hope the scene grows with them)
As the night wore on I sampled more Tryst Carronade and blether to both Stu and Greg about the local scene we were thoroughly enjoying supporting other bands. For a while we, like many other people, stayed away from Falkirk bemoaning the lack of live music in our town. Yet we failed to realise that staying away contributes to the problem.
Up next was Glasgow band The Projection. Now I can be dumb at times so when I explained to Greg and Stu that I was looking forward to a visual spectacle by the projection I was ridiculed. (in my defence many bands use projection, most recently at Shuffle Down, when Paddy Steer was performing)
No offence but these guys are ‘experienced’ and it’s great to see Rikki had booked a diverse set of acts. These guys, bar James Lee Brodie on the guitar, are older and still belting out the tunes.
Stewart Cuthill was shielding his eyes looking for the crowd and eventually he left the stage to dance with the audience. They had a punk ethic with good melodic licks and Stewart had donned a nice ‘London, Rome, Paris, Falkirk’ tee shirt. Its great to see our fine town in the same light as these cities! At one point he explained that there “should be thousands of people here” before launching into No Fracking in Falkirk. Which had the biggest crowd response.
The headline act, also hailing from Glasgow, were Grim Morrison a three piece who borrowed the excellent Ian Simpson from Bootsie Blues to play drums. They grooved well and I thoroughly enjoyed their set. James McManus on guitar and vocals gave it his all and he looked like he enjoyed it, Meg Kenny on bass donned with a floppy hat danced away as she skillfully handled bass duties.
By end of the night I was tipsy; full of Carronade ale and ready to get the train home. There is no doubt that I enjoyed the night with good company and it was good to catch up with Falkirk music scene once again. Long may this continue. Please support it if you can.
Behind the wall has never been one of my favourite haunts; when I heard that a new local music event was happening in BTW I felt a tinge of disappointment that they picked that location. I headed through the main doors and passed by a relatively quiet bar with Thursday drinkers enjoying a week day pint perhaps glad that Easter had afforded them a long weekend.
I headed straight upstairs to the ‘Loft Sessions’. A different atmosphere presented itself here; there was a pleasant welcome from the gentleman collecting door money and promoter Rikki Tonner. Rikki looked happy, he offered a handshake but he was slightly distracted. He told me one of the PA speakers was down; underneath his calm exterior was a slight hint of exasperation. Immediately I could tell the guy puts a lot into these nights and he feels all the highs and lows.
There was an expectant air about the venue; the bar was the same as I had always remembered the Ale House to be (it’s in BTW). I grabbed a nice ale and enjoyed a cheeky school night pint (I was not off for Easter).
I bumped into Ranny, an old music friend who started a band around the same time as Weird Decibels. We had a wee chat about the old practice room and times gone past. With a nostalgic smile on my face I headed through to the stage area.
I was impressed. They have changed the layout for the live nights. Most of the tables are gone; under the soft blue lights lies a bigger stage than before. The darkness was pierced by the stage lights which remained static for the night and added to the intimate feel of the venue.
The sound desk and PA was provided by Jimmy Dunbar who has presided over much of Falkirk’s live sound for years. I expected loud. However he has handed the reigns over to a younger chap, Ben White. The drums were excellent. The kick and toms were deep without muddy overspill and the snare cut through as expected. The band sound checking were The Sonic Blues.
I admit this was the reason I was here. Weird Decibels had a gig at the Kilted Kangaroo in Stirling, the Sonic Blues were on the same bill as us. I saw these guys soundcheck and I was impressed. We rudely left (to get a train) before they played that night. I had listened to their tracks online and wanted to see these guys.
The Sonic Blues have great invention; if you listen to their tracks you can hear many many influences straining to be heard. The blues feel is very much in their sound, they play really good Zepplin esq jams. They started the first half of their set with covers and they picked songs that suited their sound. The band members changed instruments and Greg Breen, a friendly guy who is very enthusiastic about his music, seamlessly switched from an excellent drumming performance to some, quite frankly, stunning guitar work.
They started to play the songs I heard online. Like many bands when they play live they sound not better but free to improvise. Sometimes the thrill of the live performance outweighs the discipline of the studio. This was an excellent gig.
As The Sonic Blues jammed Rory passed with camera in hand and ear protectors in place. Tireless is a word I would use to describe this guy who is capturing the many events around Falkirk and the surrounding area.
They finished with ‘I can’t Get You Outta My Head’ by Ms Minogue (soon to be married, celeb goss on the WdB blog). It was fun and had me laughing as I made my way to the bar to meet my friends.
I spoke to Greg after their show and he shared the most common of ailments for any local musician. He’s moved to a new flat and this has curtailed the recording of drums for now. Hopefully he and the rest of the guys will get round this and released more music soon.
Pleasure Heads were next. The sharp dress code matched their music . The singer tall and dressed in a shirt and tie commanded the audience to move towards the stage and promised he wouldn’t bite. Those in attendance moved towards the stage. Their set was good and they had an enthralled audience watching their every shuffle.
Last up were Ghost Writer. The crowd had thinned by the time these guys came on. One or two punters were talking of heading to City to no doubt listen to club music which, if that’s your thing, is fine but they missed a treat.
These guys take risks with their music. The singer Iain King stood taller than the rest and commanded the stage. Mags Dignan, on keys, shares vocals and this mix reminded me of Low and Foals but without the doom of Low, if that makes sense.
The different textures (keyboards and female vocals) in their sound was welcome and their songs were ambitious. I have tried to listen to their music online, so far their fine work is shackled by the 30 sec clip from iTunes. Their Outskirts Vol 1 EP has promise. I don’t do apple. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to download (and pay) for their music on Bandcamp. (if it’s on bandcamp please link, I couldn’t find it)
The proceedings came to a close; for the first time in years I had taken in a night of local music and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Rikki, who had been darting around the venue all night, had a moment to chat. He hopes the Loft Sessions will work but I sensed doubt. He is a family man with a life outside music who has appeared on the Falkirk scene with a desire to improve it.
The Falkirk music scene is notoriously unforgiving. It will give you a flash of potential, of promise. Crowds will come then they will disappear for no reason. Scenes have come and gone. The Martell, the Happening Club and Dancing In the Dark I’m looking at you.
Now we have Rikki. He has stepped up and accepted the challenge that many have shied from. He and his team have invested time and money to try and make something work in our town. The green shoots of a new Falkirk music scene are all around you.