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.
Photographs Neil Henderson, Sweet P, Kevin Byrne and various.
Don’t you just love countdown list? Yeah thought so! We’ve been rating our recordings and now we reach the top five records that we feel represent our best work. This is all to celebrate the forthcoming release of ‘Everyday Heroes’ EP.
So now that the teacups are running dry and the biscuits are nearly eaten we’ve finally agreed what are our favourite recordings are. All albums are on Spotify, just hit the links. Feel free to follow us so you get notified of our new releases.
Our second album. By this time we were enjoying the freedom of college and the fact that we hadn’t started full time jobs. We drank a lot of beer writing this and probably forgot more songs than we recorded. Nine songs survived.
The front cover sums up the album. Drink and Firkins. We were having a riot. The band was young and we had had a successful couple of years thanks to Whapper Stormer and the vibrant local music scene. This album is messy, it was recorded in two different studios and on three different desks. I remember standing in Firkins asking a guy from Central FM what he thought of the new demo which had Culture Creature, Summer High and Today Was Insane (which never made the album) He didn’t think it was as good as the previous tape (The Rain, Vancouver and Chameleon) I was gutted, raging and walked away.
But the assessment was correct, Firkin didn’t hit the heights of Whapper but it is a fun record that captures a great time for the band. We threw discipline and care out the window and had a laugh.
Big highs, a couple of lows, probably an unfocused time for us but from the practise room point of view it was the best time ever.
It was crazy, taking beer glasses and a carry out down to the room on a Wednesday night. Sometimes we’d drink more than rehearse.
Not as good as Whapper but has its moments. Culture Creature is an absolute classic. Loads of songs lost during this boozy period.
Excellent album, long way down is a totally underrated song in my opinion. Wasn’t quite as boozy a time for me as I was the one driving. Some good vids made then though that are fun to look back on.
Greg drove all the time…He’s one of the most patient people I think I’ve met. He put up with our antics for years. We need to get these vids onto YouTube or something.
Stu returns after a break and we write songs for fun and record in Derek’s old flat with our friends ever present cases of beer and Subways.
All of us apart from Greg gave this the same score. One More Solo was plain good old fashioned rock. We were celebrating getting back together and it shows on this record.
The original master was bad though; in fact i don’t think we mastered anything back then. The bass swamped the record and there was these lovely ringing guitars at the end of nearly every song that Derek was a big fan of.
It was a great time for the band, we still believed that we could make a go of our music career ao we gigged this record quite intensely. We met some great friends on our travels. Its a good record and a wee bit or re-mastering has helped to clear it up.
The remastered version is better. Just think we’ve played the songs on this record so often that they lost out a bit to the other albums on my list.
We haven’t played Waiting On the Sound Of Your High Heels that much.
Not! Great album. Love being back in the fold. Hanging out with my best mates and writing recording and gigging. Remastered version a lot better
Our debut was always our favourite recording over the years, until the Decibels arrived!
I love this record. Three songs were recorded at Split Level in Edinburgh: the Rain, Vancouver and Chameleon. In terms of quality they’re above the rest of the record so in that regard it’s a bit uneven. However the songs were some of the best we ever wrote. This album also has my favourite lyrics; my imagination was firing on all cylinders then, perhaps with the exception of Downer.
One of our first photoshoots for our first demo
Drink makes you ‘cuddly’
It was what we team as ‘classic weird’ I would stick to vocals and Stu would take care of all the guitars. The four of us wrote together. I would sing the melody to Stu, it was a time where i could keep melodies in my head for months. Stu would create a riff from it. I was fascinated by that.
You always remember your first!
Although this album was written in the mid 90’s it would be in 2004 that we would record 7 songs to fit in with the three from Split Level. Just For Today was an early example of progress we were making at recording our music.
The classic Weird album. Still sounds amazing. Timeless. It was so easy to write those songs. Happy happy days.
The first professional recording we did at a proper studio by the chain smoking Neil on a reel to reel whilst muttering ‘the rain..in Spain’ to himself over and over. Was an exciting time.
And Neil added the delay effect over my wahwah guitar in the verses then I bought a delay pedal to replicate it live
Haha yeah I forgot about that, then he sang ‘trousers that keep you alive’ and I’m at the back shaking my head because he’s mocking my diction. It was a very exciting time; it felt like we were living the dream.
The second coming. 4 years after Quiet Act, finally back on the gig scene and about to have our most successful phase some 17 years into our career. Weird Decibels 1 was a defining album for us.
There isn’t much between WdB1 and 2. There would’ve been a bigger difference if WdB1’s tracklisting had been better, WdB1 would’ve been a clear number one.
Ahh the WdB1 tracklisting debate. I stuck firm with this one. Psalm was a statement of intent. It was some 4 years after Quiet Act and we were nowhere on the local scene. Psalm had everything, big guitars, epic drums and bass. The intro is on an old acoustic, similar to Battery by Metallica. The acoustic linked Quiet Act with Weird Decibels 1. The song builds to one of our biggest crescendos. Stu played about three solos while I sang my heart out.
I’m worried about the concept of an album these days. I hope there is not a time where bands stop putting out collections of songs. An album is an experience for me, a beginning, a middle and an end. WdB1 had that.
I see the point that the other guys made about not starting with Psalm but I couldn’t see it any other way. The album starts big and ends big with Industry.
One thing I will say about my favourite recording is that the vocals are loud in the mix and a little harsh, if I had the time I’d have a wee go at mixing this album again.
I like the scope of WdB1, Jemma Burt added piano, keys and violin to three or four tracks but it adds so much to the album, it gives it a lot more texture than it normally would have. Derek and I rated this our favourite recording, there are a lot of solos, guitar riffs and vocals on this album.
WdB1 was also a great era for us. We ventured out of the practise room and started to head out to Glasgow playing some cracking gigs around the city. We shot our first music videos which were watched a few times. Until this time we were a largely ignored band so it was a highlight for us.
Wdb1 is a fabulous record. No acoustics just huge epic rock. So many great songs and still play many of them in our live set. I stand by the track selection although we never really play Psalm live. Love all the videos we made for this record which opened up new listeners to the band. I don’t think Steel had aged too well hence why I rated the album my 3rd favourite.
It’s true what Stu says we do lean quite heavily on this album when building sets. We’ll need to write more!
This album had a limited edition release with hand written lyrics around excellent artwork by pabs which I really enjoyed. I also started making t shirts to sell at gigs with this album cover which seemed to be popular. Good songs which were well received when we played them live.
Our latest album is voted our favourite recording. At 33 minutes it’s a short, sharp burst of rock recorded at our biggest location yet, the grand Springfield cottage.
I voted this my 3rd favourite recording, I like the record, its two years old now so i’ve had more time to reflect on it. It’s probably the best sounding record but it was hellish getting there. Recording the drums in Springfield was a good move. It gave the drums the room sound i was looking for. After the drums and bass things went a bit askew.
Whatever technique or mic placement i used on the guitars I could not get a decent tone for the distortion and spent ages during recording and at mix to get it to sound good. I used to use the Rode for the guitars as I liked the bright tone but the industry standard SM57 gives me more control of the sound. With the Rode I was always cutting a lot of frequencies so I guess it took me awhile to get round to using the SM57; I’m stubborn that way I just wanted to try something different.
I always thought numbering the albums (like Led Zeppelin) was a mistake as it felt like we were essentially doing WdB1 again. We scrapped a few songs at the start and hired a cottage to write, This was new for us and it saved the album. It turned out really good
An album full of excellent songs, some stronger than others but very fun to play. I feel we’re pushing ourselves a bit which can only be a good thing for future recordings.
I rated this my top album as there is not a weak track. It’s our best sounding album recording wise. I had an absolute blast recording my rhythm and especially solo parts (with Bo recording)
Pabs and Stu. Victory coffees
the sun shines through the pop sheild
went with the sm57 for stus distortion it could handle the pressure!
Many many pedals
This was used to record both the bass and the drums at the same time.
The reason we picked this place was for this set up
A stunning and breathtaking property
Yeah I remember Greg recording the solos for me, I had had enough. I set up the mics, got the sound then said to Greg can you do it? Im done… Then I went for a walk in the freezing cold. Derek had went home early he was missing his family. So I’m standing at the end of a farm road, fed up, in the distance I hear Greg and Stu finishing the album and I’m thinking is this it? That was then, time has passed. I think we’re gonna do it again.
Once More with Feeling and Medicine kick arse and love playing those songs live. Plus it was the best lodge we have used to record. Very happy memories. A fantastic album and looking forward to you guys hearing our brand new EP coming soon.
We rate our recordings from 10 to 6 in part two of our feature. A couple of ‘official’ albums appear in this part, as we counted up our scores we were surprised at some of the results… Our latest recording Everyday Heroes EP is out soon.
10.Live! Tonight! Not Completely Sold Out! (2010, this has not been officially released, a few limited copies are kicking about)
The tongue in cheek title, based on Nirvana’s film of a similar name Live! Tonight! Not Completely Sold Out! Was our first stab at recording a live album. We arranged a gig at the Argyll bar that was once owned by Derek.
Our first attempt at recording one of our gigs, we had previous recordings from camcorder footage and a couple of recordings from venues like the Cathouse but we’d never attempted to record the full show.
We basically placed mics in front of the kit and the amps and took a feed off the PA, it was a quick setup, we pressed record and just started playing. The one regret is not placing a mic at the back of the room to capture the crowd. When I say crowd there were a few people at the back of the venue, it was busy if I recall, but not packed.
I was a bit disappointed we played so many covers, the album has a pretty even mix of originals and covers but i would’ve preferred tunes from the albums we had at the time. Interestingly there were early versions of Speak and Forward. So we had a live albums with tracks from an album yet to be released! Saying that we haven’t uploaded LTNCSO so not many people have heard it.
I agree with Pabs it’s a pity there are lot of covers but it’s a great wee live album.
I remember this gig well as I used my Ibanez double neck the whole time which sound amazing on the recording but was a complete back breaker. I suffer for my art ha ha.
This recording has a great live feel and sound apart from Bo’s buzzing bass in between tracks hee hee.
Yeah that reminds me of the hours of editing out the buzz whenever he stopped playing the bass.
Great night, great gig which puts it above Live at the North Star, in my opinion. Like Pabs I wish we put a mic at the back of the room.
Yep we would’ve captured Rooz in his full heckling glory!
A collection of live recordings, radio broadcasts and unreleased songs. Official Bootleg 1 spans from 1995 to 2004 and has a broader range of songs that its predecessor.
This was fun to compile; I dusted down about five or six shoe boxes full of old tapes and CDs. Listening back was quite an adventure. This was back around 2004 / 5 around the release of One More Solo. So we didn’t have the recording experience that we have today.
Great to have these recordings to listen back to, radio spots that only a few people will have heard at the time.
There was nearly a decade’s worth of past recordings including b-sides from the Split Level sessions. I found our first four track demos one of which was Educational Suicide; the first song we ever created.
Some of the recordings were pretty poor, the camcorder footage for the Martell gigs was recorded in Mono and there was no scope for mixing it. However it did capture the atmosphere of those early gigs which was fantastic.
Of course the Official Bootleg 1 was where I was interviewed by Central FM and uttered the ‘it’s just a hobby’ quote for which the guys have never let me forget.
Love this. So many hidden wee gems. All the radio interviews ‘It’s a hobby’ lol
Original version of Educational and live version of Creep live at the Glasgow Cathouse.
Nothing wrong with bootlegs but there are better versions of the songs on our albums.
Our 5th album Riot Act come in at 8 2nd lowest appearance of an official album. Pabs explains why he voted it down.
I have never connected to Riot Act in a way I have done with the other albums; I even voted Coldhome Street higher than Riot Act. Despite its inferior sound Coldhome meant more to me than this album because I thought it was our last and listened to it many times.
I think its dated pretty badly, partly because of the lyrics. I wasn’t writing particularly imaginative lyrics and got lazy. I lost it here!
Still love underachiever what a great track and solo. Very punky and influenced by all the cover gigs we were playing at the time.
Classics Razor wire and all work out in the end still sound great and of course the Sky is Falling.Also arguably out best cover artwork for an album.plus we played the Cavern touring this cd.
Although my favourite song (that we’ve done) is Sky is Fallen the other songs didn’t age as well, although there are other high spots. I feel the album is inconsistent.
Stu is spot on about the cover art, it’s probably our best cover and Derek suffered for his art. He punched the wall to open up a wound. Thats real blood folks!
The road to the Riot Act sessions could not have been calmer
Night has fallen; Greg reflects. Stu takes pictures
Dave Broon to Stu as he was scraping his knuckles on the wall outside – that’s not how you do it *punches door* that’s how you do it. Poor Stus knuckles were bloodied up but didn’t make the cover. Still one of my favourite albums that we’ve done. Also, it’s not all real blood pabs, pretty sure there’s some ketchup in there as the blood wasn’t showing up on camera enough. Was this the album Stu and I built the ‘vocal booth’ in the hall with eggboxes and cardboard?
Yes we built a makeshift vocal booth in the small corridor, it didn’t really work though, we were still learning at this time. I guess we’re always learning about sound production.
It is often seen as the flip side of Riot Act; this was a big change in sound for us (going acoustic) but not necessarily a change in direction.
Good songs but not quite as good as I feel we have the potential to do on acoustics. We had a fantastic time recording this album in a stunning location though.
I always knew that Derek would vote this album high as it was his idea to try an album without our trademark distortion. There was a bit of reluctance from the rest of us but we weren’t particularly busy at the time so we decided to experiment.
I really like listening to Quiet Act these days, I prefer it to its sister album Riot Act and with the distortion turned off it allowed the more integrate parts of our music (mainly Stu’s solo parts) to breathe little more.
I also like the recording quality. I was learning new mic placements and mixing techniques. This was a good learning experience for me. It’s quite a well balanced album, maybe missing a nice kick sound but overall its clarity is one of its strengths.
And yes I’m with Greg on the location for this record, it was stunning.
Get the distortion back on ha ha.
Great wee mellow album. We pushed ourselves with this.There is nowhere to hide in an acoustic setting and we needed to do something different which would mean Weird Decibels 1 could be very loud and heavy.
Which it was!
A lot of fun to record(especially when me and Bo starred drinking cider during Derek’s drum takes)Plus sitting in that living room recording guitar with that stunning view was very inspirational.
A live set recorded at the North Star May 2016. This is the highest non-studio album on the list but just misses out on the top five.
To be fair I’ve not heard this much, good night though.
I recorded. Mixed, mastered and designed the sleeve in order to be ready for Christmas 2016 so I could hand the CDs to the lads…and now I discover Derek’s hardly listened to it!
Really like this record listened to it twice that Christmas morning! All the good stuff of wdb1 and 2.Cracking extended version of Wait.
We kick serious arse on this recording considering it was quite a loose gig.
I remember this night; I recorded the Sonic Blues and the Rabid Dogs and I had to do their sound. I was knackered by the time we played. For some reason we pointed our lights up towards the ceiling. But it turned out it was right in my fecking eyes and I could’nt see the fret board of my guitar. I dropped a few notes. Our sound was all over the place as we were playing through Rabids amps. I had to chop a few songs from the recording but whats left has turned out alright.
Always great to hear a live recording, even though I accidently left a phaser setting on with my pedal that I didn’t seem to hear at the time and carries it over a few songs.
Haha yes the phaser all through a couple of songs. What is it with buzzes and phaser pedals on live records Greg?
Years of standing next to noisy lorries I guess. Hearings shot 😂
All you can hear is Dale shouting get more drunk Boris. Brilliant
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
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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
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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.
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.)
There are defining moments in every band; a time where the bond between musicians can be strengthened and the foundations laid for a more positive future. The recording of Riot Act was one of those moments.
I packed up my old Ford escort with recording gear, my new Tascam 2488 was carefully bundled into the rather ample boot of the old Maroon car. The rest of the gear was flung in any available space.
I met up with Greg, Derek and Stu. Stu would ride shotgun in the Ford, Greg and Derek would team up in the transit hire van which was packed with enough food and beer to sustain a small country (that likes its drink).
We headed off up the A9 through the epic Cairngorms. Stu switched on the radio and we were greeted with a radio station that I had never heard before. Gone were the annoying presenters, absent were the frustrating adverts, instead Stu and I were treated to track after track of solid rock. ‘Stu what is this station’ I asked? Stu had no answer; he just made the devil sign and smiled. ‘Well wait until we tell Greg and Derek about this radio station!’ I smugly stated. However I did get frustrated as the music would briefly fade away most notably as Gerg and Derek’s van fell behind.
We stopped for petrol in Inverness. I jumped out of the Ford and ran over to tell Greg and Derek about our discovery. As I explained our find, they started to roll of some of the music that we had heard. Alice in Chains? Yes I said. Guns and Roses. YES I said, did you find the station as well? Nah, said Greg, it’s my iPod I had it set up to a radio transmitter. They both chuckled as they walked away to grab a sandwich.
As we drove on from Inverness towards Cannich I started to realise that we had booked a cottage rather far away. As time passed we were soon sharing a single track road with sheep and eventually deer; then it became clear just how breathtaking the Cannich valley was. Further in the distance, sheltered by some trees, was the Leattrie lodge. It looked just like the brochure, that is until we drove up its steep drive and saw it looked a little run down. Just perfect for four lads who wanted to play loud music and drink a lot of alcohol.
The excitement was palpable, a whole week surrounded by the hills of the beautiful valley. The guys charged into the cottage and as I heard their excited voices fade the deeper they got into house I could hear the silence of the valley and a river far in the distance.
I turned and headed into the lodge. It was modest, it had small rooms that ran into a narrow corridor. The living room was open plan to the kitchen. This was the biggest area and I suggested we record here but Derek pointed out we’d be dining in this room and we’d have to dismantle the drums every time we wanted to eat.
We headed upstairs, the bedrooms were small but Derek’s room was a little longer. There was no escaping the ceiling, which due to the nature of the upper level of the cottage, sloped inward, For some reason we decided to set up the drums upstairs. It would prove to be a mistake.
Once all the gear was dropped into the nooks and crannies of the small lodge we started to pack the fridge with beer and had our first meal. I unpacked the Tascam 2488, marvelling at my new purchase. 24 tracks of digital recording. I carefully laid my first condenser microphone; a cheap Stagg, basically a budget version of microphone that I liked. I had recorded the Armour is Broken (a solo lp) with this mic.
As the light faded on the first day Greg lit the fire and we opened our beers. We wouldn’t be sober for the next 6 days.
We recorded Riot Act in batches. Drums and bass for 3 or 4 songs and then we’d layer the guitars and vocals. We’d repeat this process until we had all the tracks down. The drums were crammed into the biggest of the bedrooms upstairs, the low ceiling made the drums sound a bit flat not that I was aware of this at this time. I used various methods to split the signal of the guide tracks and sent a feed through to Greg and Stu who were in another room. It was a crude method but it worked.
The small rooms lended well to a tight guitar sound which translated fairly well on the record. The bass was a direct input. All of the songs were recorded this way with the exception of Weekend All Over My Face where we used Stu’s practise amp to record the bridge that worked really well and room mics for Only Had A Shandy, but that’s another story.
The vocals were sung in another bedroom where the windows overlooked the valley. I remember the guys headed off to the small village at the foot of Cannich. I was left alone to sing It’ll All Work Out In The End. I’ll never forget that afternoon. Alone in a remote part of Scotland, I was singing a song about hope while my head was full of troubles. My late father in law was very ill and it was the first time I was truly alone to think about it. The emotion would spill onto the record.
Every night the fire would crackle and beers would be drank. The laughs would get louder as the darkness surrounded us. Greg would often go out for fresh air… Sometimes I would join him in the darkness of the night, it was breathtaking, There was no orange glow from any nearby cities. Whenever the clouds cleared, stars would hang in the black sky and I’d sway as I tried to focus on the patterns above.
During the day, at down time, we would hang around the outside of the cottage. At times the weather was good. Sometime we’d go our own way and take a walk. A week in a small cottage with the same guys could be cramped and you needed your own space. Greg and Derek took this to a different level. Literally.
They headed up the hill that was our back garden. When I say a hill I mean a proper hill climb, the cottage had no fences or boundaries. The hill rose far into the distance, Derek and Greg filmed the adventure, off they went climbing higher and higher. Stu and I would look up, the pair of them getting smaller.
As they reached the top, flakes of snow started to drift in. Most people would head back. Not Derek, he stripped off and shouted ‘I’m naked at the top of the hill!’ and went off on a merry dance much to Greg’s amusement.
Life in the valley of Cannich was serene, we were visited by a cuckoo on a number of occasions and I managed to capture our visitor on record. The days and nights merged into one long party, recording, beer, jigsaw puzzles and music. At night greg’s fire would continue to crackle as we took stock of life in the band and life in general. We were in our thirties, married or getting married but without kids.
Thursday was a special day, I did a half day of recording and settled down to a BBQ in the small woodland next to the cottage. It was the last change to have a proper night of booze. As I wandered into the woods to gather some firewood I heard an almighty explosion.
I ducked and turned towards the flash of light…peering through the trees I was trying to make sense of what happened. Then I heard Greg laughing, with Derek proudly standing over the fire ‘Lard bomb!’
Then came the dueling banjos, Stu and I pulled the best banjo posies with sticks, only for Derek to snatch mine and fling it in the fire. He redeemed himself with the BBQ’d chicken which was simply wonderful.
The sun slowly set as we got merrier, I left the gang and headed back into the house to set up some microphones. When I was ready I asked the guys to come into the living room. I gave Stu a guitar and some headphones. He played along to the end of Only Had A Shandy as the rest of us sang a drunken chorus of random words. Derek and I spilled over the couch into the floor, mics came crashing down. It was all recorded.
The night grew longer as we gathered around the now small fire out in the woods. I can’t remember what we talked about but it was probably deep and meaningful. We all headed into the cottage except Greg who waited for the sun to rise on the final day.
When I awoke on the last morning with alcohol on my breath and hunger in my belly sadness crept into me. I was hungover and despondent that our recording week had come and gone so quickly. A long quiet drive awaited us, the party was over, our jobs awaited our return on the Monday. So we set off home; there was a subdued mood in the car as Stu stared out the window. I muttered with anger as a Ford Transit overtook us. As I was about to slam my hand on the horn I saw Derek lean out of the van’s passenger window with a big smile, Greg wearing a smug grin as he was overtaking me.
It was a wonderful experience that changed the band for the next ten years. We hired another three cottages after this one. Each growing in size but we never quite matched the drunken madness of the first time.
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.