Tag Archives: alternative

We rate our recordings part 3. 5-1

Part 3

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.

5. Firkin Outburst (1998)

firkin outburst
Drinks on the cover and drinks in the album. This is a wee table in the quiet corner of Firkins

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.

Pabs

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.

wedb 20 yrs 8
During the Firkins sessions we liked a booze in the practise room, apart from Greg who always drove. We owe you Greg!

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. 

Derek

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.

Pabs

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.

Stu

Not as good as Whapper but has its moments. Culture Creature is an absolute classic. Loads of songs lost during this boozy period.

Bo

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.

Pabs

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.

4. One More Solo (2004)

omscdbaby

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.

Pabs

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.

 

 

Bo

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.

Pabs

We haven’t played Waiting On the Sound Of Your High Heels that much.

Stu

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

3. Whapper Stormer (1995)

whapper stormer
Star Wars has always been a big influence on Weird Decibels

Our debut was always our favourite recording over the years, until the Decibels arrived!

Pabs

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.

 

 

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.

Derek

You always remember your first!

Pabs

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.

Stu

The classic Weird album. Still sounds amazing. Timeless. It was so easy to write those songs. Happy happy days.

Bo

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.

Stu

And Neil added the delay effect over my wahwah guitar in the verses then I bought a delay pedal to replicate it live

Pabs.

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.

2. Weird Decibels 1 (2012)

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One of our best and it was a great era for the band

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.

Derek

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.

 

 

Pabs

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.

Stu

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.

 

 

Pabs

It’s true what Stu says we do lean quite heavily on this album when building sets. We’ll need to write more!

Bo

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.

Pabs

Yep we put a lot into that record.

1.Weird Decibels 2 (2016)

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Our favourite recording. A lot of things came together, the songs, the location of the recording. it just worked.

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.

Pabs

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

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We went away to write WdB2 and it saved the record. Pic Kevin Byrne
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The highlight of promoting WdB2 was Shuffle Down. Pic Sweet P

Bo

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.

Stu

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

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.

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I was standing here thinking we wouldn’t ever do this again. Pabs

Stu

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.

Words Weird Decibels

Edited by Pabs

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Quiet Act 10 years on

Listen free on Spotify.

Experience can be a wonderful thing you learn that for every failure there can be success, for every disappointment there is joy and for very lull there are peaks. I can say this now, as a singer who has sung verse and chorus for over two decades I now have the advantage of experience; although I no longer have the distant time of youth. Back in 2008 it was a very different story.

quiet act
The original Quiet Act did not have the band name on the cover, by this time we were disputing the name Weird.

Around 2006 and 2007 Weird Decibels were very much forgotten around the music scene. We were playing an increasing number of cover sets and slowly edging towards the well paid but soul destroying cover scene, Behind The Wall (which thankfully has recently put on a number of local events for original bands) was, at the time, notoriously reliant on cover bands.

I was a guest of many weddings in those years, I’d be sipping away on some overpriced beer listening to some well played but empty attempts of whatever chart hits happened to be popular at the time. I’d look at the band, some would clearly be enjoying the night, after all getting paid a few hundred quid for playing music, not bad… Others would have that dead look in their eyes as the robotically strummed the guitar that they once had a passion for.

Although I felt we were slipping this way in the mid 00’s we were still writing and recording our own material. Riot Act and Quiet Act were released within a year of each other, partly inspired by Foos Fighters double album In Your Honor. (which I feel was also a band going through the motions, in my opinion the 2000’s were pretty poor for music).

Riot Act had come and gone, we didn’t play many gigs to support our 2007 album. We reflected on our next move and Derek suggested an acoustic album. This would be a huge departure from our usual brand of rock. I felt Stu was a little reluctant to switch off the distortion, I was fairly open to the idea. Surprisingly Greg just went with the flow.

Writing the Quiet Act

It was never documented how we wrote the album but it was a fairly quick process, we had a number of songs written. Playing a full set of acoustic numbers was alien to us, it was known that we’d always have a quieter song on our albums but never a full set. Lyrically Quiet Act delved deeper into songs of alcohol and guilt. Riot Act was the night out, Quiet was the morning after.

 

 

Back then I was in my early 30’s, married and settling into a modest house on the outskirts of Falkirk. The rest of the guys were still living just outside the town centre (Greg, Stu and Derek all lived fairly close to each other although Stu would soon move away around this time). The booze culture was flowing and there were many party nights. Life had taken the expected course, the house, the car and the microwave.

While the lyrics were were still flowing out of the pen the stories were drying up. I still had many things to say through my songs but i’m not sure i wanted to tackle them at that time, so I took the easy way out and mainly reflected on the boozy aftermath of nights out. It wouldn’t be until many years later that I would find a new way to write lyrics.

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No amps this time just go ol’ acoustic guitars

We stuck to our tested formula of writing the music. I would create and idea and the band would develop it. It was not the more collaborative method we use today. So I’d be writing solo albums and music for the band. Naturally spreading I was spreading these ideas a little thin. (As I write this I find myself being rather harsh on Quiet Act, and I was for a while, but listening back its not as bad as it seemed at the time. There appears to more depth to my thinking than I thought.)

With the songs not written I turned my attention to the recording. This is where I started to become more enthusiastic. The year before we had headed out to a remote corner of Scotland to record Riot Act and it was a fantastic experience. The thought of doing it all again was fantastic. I spent hours trawling through a printed catalogue of castles and cottages doing research, trying to find if the property I was looking at would be next to no other being. I toiled for days and then weeks before finally my caught a beautiful small cottage nestled discreetly near the shores loch Gairloch. Sealladh Na Mara, a glimpse of the sea was calling us. We packed the van and headed off.
The Recording

On the 1st of September 2007 we packed all our modest musical belongings into a hire van. We left around half the van for our carry out and food. The excitement was palpable , this was something different for us. We were getting away from the daily loop of work. All the cover gigs had paid off and now we were able to pay for the hire of the cottage and record the album.

It was a long journey, very much similar to the trek we had for Riot Act however this time we were heading further north. This would be our longest recording trek to date.

The single story cottage, ‘sealladh na mara was perfect for us at the time. The living room had a wooden finish with large glass windows that stretched from floor to ceiling that overlooked the sloping garden that disappeared into the trees. Beyond the thick growth was a glimpse of the loch and Gairloch beyond it. It would be in this room that we would record a majority of Quiet Act.

 

 

Using a Tascam 2488 and a selection of cardioid mics including our shiney new rodes (the NT2A) we set up in two rooms. The drums were hustled into the corner of the room, the ceiling was a bit low but the reflective nature of the room lended to a nice open roomy sound. In the kitchen was a makeshift control room with the Tascam 2488 a the centre. A mesh of mic leads from the living room snaked through the serving hatch. Further along the corridor were two drunken musicians Greg and Stu, who during the setup, had been sipping cider in the Autumn sun.

 

 

The recordings went well with each song only taking a couple of takes; Derek grew increasingly frustrated at the antics of Stu and Greg but we soldiered on and capture the drums.

All the other instruments were recorded in the living room, much of them picked up by various paired Rode NTA2 formations. Additional work was done once we had returned home and much of the mixing was completed in Falkirk. Kevin Byrne lended an ear to help finish off the mixing, it was useful having a fresh set of ears.

 

 

10 Years On.

Quiet Act was more of an exercise for me to explore new studio techniques including better use of EQ. I was cutting more frequencies than boosting and this really helped the sound breath. As an album Quiet Act stands on its own right in our collection.

There are a number of tracks I’m really fond of now. Who Are You is not a cover of the Who song, instead its about four guys reaching an end of one chapter in their lives and heading to another. The music fame dream was distant now and we turned to face a normal life in an average Scottish town accepting that we were fairly content with what we had; albeit with a slight taste of regret.

Woman in My Dreams is hardly ever mentioned these days but it was one song that I felt i had mixed well and that maybe i was string to learn how to record and mix. Buy You A Cape and Breathing Space is the angry strike out section of the album, Grand Day Out celebrated many of our days drinking in either Glasgow or Edinburgh (where the song is based). The second half of the album is laden with guilt and feels like a rather sobering Sunday morning.

It is completely different to what we have recorded before, however it refreshed our musical palette and paved the way for Weird Decibels 1 and a whole new era for the band. 

 

RiFF Showcase no.1 Sep 29th 2017

Behind the Wall 29th September 2017

Photographs by Eddie Mceleney. What Eddie Sees

Eindp Scotland

Band links:

Weird Decibels, The Nebulosity, Blind Daze and Thirteen

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.

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This was the 2nd meeting at Behind the Wall. Pic Eindp Scotland

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.

riff logo
the RiFF logo was born!

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.

herald

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.

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22 years of packing gear into the boot of a car pays off. pic Pabs

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.

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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.

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pic eddie mceleney

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.

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half a pint and a full set to go? Not good. Pic Pabs

Setlist

  1. Kill It
  2. Speak
  3. It’s Who You Know
  4. Feeling
  5. Quoted
  6. Miss A
  7. Joker
  8. Medicine
  9. Deliverance
  10. I Hear the City
  11. Industry

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.

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.

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.

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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.

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.

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.

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pic eddie mceleney

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.

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pic eddie mceleney

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.

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pic eddie mceleney

Pabs ( a proud member of the RiFF community. Get involved.)

Shuffle Down 2017

credits

the crowd

sweet p photography (featured image)

Gregor Boyd photography

what eddie sees photography

afterglow events

ben white sound

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Rock comes to Shuffle. Pic Gregor Boyd

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

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

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Ghosts on the stage. Pic Gregor Boyd

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

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

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

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

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

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Highlight? Yes. One of many. Pic Gregor Boyd

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

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Transfixed we were, 57 rock. Pic Gregor Boyd

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

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

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

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

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

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

words Pabs

 

 

 

17 reasons why you should’ve visited shuffle down 2017

All the information about the festival is on this fine website

Back in 2015  I was flicking through the Falkirk Herald when I stumbled across an article about a new local music festival called Shuffle Down. I was aware of this event however they had added the band Broken Records to the lieup. At this point I decided to delve further. Now intrigued, I bought my tickets and was pleasantly surprised at how good the festival was and how good the artists were.

Shuffle Down grew in confidence in 2016; once again back in the impressive Dobbie hall it had a more diverse line up and once again I had a great day with my wife and my mates

Now approaching its third year Shuffle Down is back on May the 20th and we’re playing! So below are 17 reasons why Shuffle Down should take a place in your 2017 musical festival calendar. Please note these are not in numerical order.

 

  1. It one of Falkirk’s best music festivals. The Falkirk scene is continuing to grow again which is fantastic news for local artists like us, Shuffle down started in 2015, created by Rikki and Laura Tonner with help from their friends including Gavin Brown . There are many great acts playing in a cracking venue and the vibe is brilliant.
  2. It marks the start of the summer. 20th May? Its that time between the end of spring and the start of summer. Shuffle Down is a great day to celebrate the sunny weather we get from May to September (well it seemed that way in the 80’s when I was a kid). If it rains falls head back into the halls and watch the bands!
  3. You’ll discover new acts. I have discovered a few great acts in the last two Shuffles including Iona Marshall, Yossarian, Paddy Steer and Dextro. There are moments when you are enjoying your beer chatting away in company when an artist plays a song that makes you stop, listen and discover which is a hundred times better than letting Spotify (et al) do it for you…

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    Paddy Steer you had to see him to believe it.
  4. It has a personal touch. Organisers Rikki and Laura plus family and friends put this together; the hall has always been decorated to give the festival a personal feel plus on stage there is a lamp. A little lamp that illuminates the corner which can be seen at many local gigs. A quirky touch that adds personality to an event that is a million miles away from the corporate festivals that clog the calendar.

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    From the classic surrounds of the hall to the decor the venue has always looked grand for Shuffle Down
  5. The craft stalls are a haven of gems. In the past couple Shuffle Down fests I’ve been drawn (pun intended) to the artwork of John Grieve. However there are many stalls populated by local people keen to display their talents. IMG_20150529_154054407_HDR
  6. The atmosphere is fantastic. From chilled out to pulsating to bouncing Shuffle Down has had it all. The crowd is friendly and there is a generally good atmosphere around the venue. 
  7. Dobbie hall is grand. This hall is a hidden gem in our area, I’ve been here a few times for various events and the decor is beautiful. From the carvings around the main stage to the high ceilings and decoration this is a hall the people of Larbert are proud of. Its here on the map
  8. It’s easy to get to. Just 5 mins from Larbert train station (hit link map link above), within minutes walk of buses, a ten minute drive from Falkirk, Stenhouse taxi rank just up the road. It couldn’t be easier to get to. Leave the car at home and enjoy yourself! 
  9. The food stalls are ace and local. Local butcher R Browns and Sons are just one of the vendors who provide much needed scran to soak up the local craft ales.
  10. Craft ales are yep…local. Tryst Brewery set up stall last year and are returning with a few kegs this year. What better to enjoy local acts while sipping a fine ale from a brewery just a few yards down the road.
  11. The line up is increasingly diverse. 2015 Shuffle Down took its first steps, in 2016 it found its stride with a more diverse lineup from the mad Paddy Steer, the indie tunes of Yossarian and the jumping ska of Esperanza. 2017 promises more with soul pop from Pronto Mama, American country from Have Mercy Las Vegas acoustic loops from Adam Stafford and a bit of rock from ourselves. 17835062_1395119577198251_8993517791303915887_o
  12. You meet old friends. It’s a great day out for friends and family, we go to Shuffle Down as a group and have a great day out however being at a local music festival it’s amazing how many old friends I bumped into the past two years. 
  13. Its great for local bands. The first Shuffle down helped raise much needed awareness of the local scene I couldn’t believe how many great artists were on my doorstep (I had lost touch over the years). Looking back at the past lineups I discovered I had missed even more acts that have played locally recently. There are even more local acts this year including to fine acts in Ghost Writer and Robbie Lesiuk to name just two.
  14. The festival contributes to charity. MND Scotland and Strathcarron Hospice have benefited from money raised by Shuffle down. This year the charity will be Kidney Kids Scotland
  15. £19 gets you a day of live music. For just nineteen pounds you will get you a full day of live music on two stages; can’t think of better value than that.
  16. You don’t have to travel to the other side of the country to see a decent music festival. Whether its Glasgow or Edinburgh or even to the middle of a muddy field travelling to a music festival eventually means you have to return, often with a monster hangover. With a local music festival you might still have the hangover but at least you can rest your head on your own pillow.
  17. Weird Decibels are playing! Come on give me this one! You are visiting our website aren’t you? We are delighted to be playing Shuffle Down 2017 and we’ll put everything into this. See you there!!

Pabs

Our Practise Room

The Speak music video shot in the practise room

Link to three live performances in our practise space

It was 1995 and there was a small advert in the music section of the Falkirk Herald; a practice room for hire, kit supplied and there was a phone number supplied.

Greg and I had just put the finishing touches to our new, as yet, unnamed band and we needed a place to play loud. I phoned the number printed and was met with a friendly chap who spoke in a low smoky husk. He explained that the room was near Grangemouth docks, a basement round the back of the bingo hall next to some wasteland. He added we’d be able to play as loud as we wanted. I booked a slot. It was to be a Wednesday night.

February 8th approached and we had bagged a lift off my Dad. Here was four young lads without much in the way of gear and band experience nervously wondering what was to happen next. I jumped out of the car in excitement to collect the keys. I frantically knocked on the door of the address that I was to pick up the keys. In the winter darkness the door creaked open and an elderly man, clearly dragged from his bed, mumbled that I was at the wrong door.

Later we finally found the dude he explained, under a haze of green smoke, the rules. We agreed a time for him to close the room and all was good. He dropped the keys into my hand and I raced back to the idling fiat Uno my Dad drove at the time.

After a great practise and three new songs we heard Greg’s dad Arthur pull up outside. He had kindly offered to take us all home. The hour came for the dude to meet us however there was noone to be seen. 15 minutes later Arthur was no longer waiting and we were to get going. We had to leave the room and all the gear unlocked.

The next week I nervously phoned the dude and for some strange reason he explained the location and rules of the room as if I had never used it and we had spoken for the first time. Then he explained that some arseholes booked last week left the room unlocked. He was so stoned that night he forgot we were even there. Had he remembered that fact we wouldn’t still be in that very room today.

In 1995 Grangemouth was a different place. We were in a basement, above us were various business that have come and gone over the years. There was noone around in this slightly dodgy location it was just a mass of overgrown trees swaying in the breeze from the forth river. The sky was (and still is) often lit orange by the flares of the refinery.

The basement is the size of a fairly large living room with a smaller passageway that leads around the back. There was never a toilet, just a sink. Heating was supplied via a gas heater that we used to huddle around in the coldest nights. We’d pay towards the gas as well as the rent and it was Greg’s job to get it lit.

In the early days there were white washed brick walls that gave it a clean look. There was a couch to dive onto and mirrors to check that the rock poses were all good; it was bright and spacious and a cool place for young musicians to create music. There were a number of bands booked in the room at that time.

In the late 90’s we used to cross the road to Haddows to buy carry outs prior to practising. Greg was now a driver and the rest of us saw this as an excuse to drink a number of midweek beers. It got ridiculous, I used to take down a pint glass and sink a few calders creams. The three of us would be plastered and Greg would drive us home via the BP garage at Earls gate where we would buy food and Derek would take on any eating challenge presented to him. This included fitting a whole packet of cheese bites into his mouth.

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Haddows and drink; we had a lot.

The owners eventually ditched the room and we were forced to find a new rehearsal place which turned out to be in Bonnybridge. This lasted for a few months but as soon as we heard our old room was back up under new ownership we went start right back

Practise became a drunken stupor, we had lost focus and we stopped playing gigs so Wednesday nights were the only time we’d play music particularly around 1999 2000. The room was repainted by its new owners Frazer Law (Beany) and Russell Dickson in more a psychedelic palette and the drums were placed on a riser. We started taking a four track down and recorded a full album that would become Cold Home Street.

With the band stalling, Stu left for a few years and we became the Seventeenth. The room was now rented from a flower shop owner and we found the space was filling up with pots and flower beds (but sadly with no flowers). The room was split with a third used for storage for the florist. This was unfortunate as the place lost its feel for a while. However we still huddled around the same old gas fire in the heart of winter.

Time passed and in 2004 Weird reformed, the dividing wall fell much to our delight and the room was whole again however things were changing outside.

The bulldozers rolled in and swept aside the wild trees then an ASDA sign appeared. Our wee secret corner would soon be changed beyond recognition. A building merchant moved in upstairs and a fast food outlet next door to that. Then came the rats.

One cold wintry evening as Greg tried to start the gas fire I asked him to stop, the rest of the guys fell silent as I listened. Then from the pipes came the scurrying. The rats were here and getting bolder by the day. The room started to feel dirty and rundown.

Thankfully the rats were dealt with and Beany made an almighty attempt to clean the room to its past glory, however he was scuppered by the strange appearance of couches. Several monolithic chairs started to appear and we were battling for space with the furniture. Some of it was Greg’s and he promised to get rid of it (tomorrow, promise). Then the couches got mouldy, still he promised to get rid of it (tomorrow, always tomorrow).  Months passed and the mould grew greater; my love for the room was wilting. Finally one Wednesday when i was expecting to open the door to its usual musk I was delighted to see the seats were gone. Once more the room was spacious albeit a little grubby.

Today we still use the room most weeks and at occasionally we use it for recording. We do have to wait for the boy racers to drive out of the ASDA car park with their exhaust blaring. Haddows is gone, now it’s a sober trip to ASDA for water and sweets. Alcohol is gone, replaced by Tea and coffee supplied from flasks that I bring down during the winter months. A Chinese moves in upstairs every few months and one of the delivery drivers spends his life in his car with the engine running all night for some heat or to charge his phone as he attempts to combat the boredom of waiting for the next Chicken Chow Mein.

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We’ve adapted. When we get bored of writing songs in the room we hire a cottage to refresh the creative minds however even to this day we are still inspired by our rehearsal space to create new songs. We’ve now used the practise room for 22 years. Recently we moved things around the room and the sound feels refreshed; when I strike the first chords on the guitar and look around the room at the other guys I can’t picture us being anywhere else. Fingers crossed we can stay a while longer as we’ve had many many happy times in that wee basement. We even shot a music video in the room and several songs. Check them out at the top of this post.

Weird Decibels in session at Stirling City Radio (the story)

Huge thanks to Stirling City Radio, Stephen Franklyn and Jim Kettles

words Pabs

Social media can be great at times and in terms of raising awareness of the local scene it can work (although I find it increasingly frustrating and the ‘boost’ button is always just a click away asking you for money). So when Stirling City Radio appeared on my news feed I was interested to see what this new internet radio station had to offer. Intrigued, I had a look at the schedule and I was delighted to see that the station, that has been broadcasting on the internet since August 2016, had various shows to cater for all genres. This included rock and live performances from local acts so I sent them a message.

A nice guy called James returned my inquisitive email, he was more than happy to organise a slot on a Monday evening with Stephen Franklyn, a presenter who has an easy approach to playing rock and pop, in addition he hosts live local acts.

Once I got the guys to commit to a night James sent back some instructions, basically head to Stirling arcade and record some acoustic songs and talk about our musical journey so far.

Greg opted to sit this one out, his new house needed a bit of work and this included fitting shelves. More on that later…Derek, Stu and Myself rehearsed a couple of the quieter songs from Weird Decibels 2, we arranged a time to meet and the plan was set.

The train rolled through Polmont and I hopped on, Stu joined me later in Camelon with Derek running a half hour behind us. Stu and I walked onto the Stirling Platform and headed up to the arcade just up the hill from the station. As we approached we could hear tunes drifting out from the main entrance. We walked into the empty corridor of the arcade and headed to the centre where there is a cafe and the radio station itself. There, in the studio booth for all to see, was Stephen Franklyn broadcasting live. Our time to play was 7pm so we had 25 minutes to set up.

After a warm handshake Stephen explained what we needed to set up. It didn’t take us long, as Stu picked up his guitar to soundcheck Derek walked through the door with his beat box that was borrowed from our friend Kevin Byrne.

After some Aretha Franklin we were ready to go live on air, the clock hit 7 Stephen welcomed us to the airwaves. My 5 year old son Lewis was listening and I was told he went crazy at this point! We had a brief welcome and chat with Stephen about the band before we launched into Curtain Hits The Cast.

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Lewis listens to Daddy on the radio.

Thankfully it’s a fairly easy song to play as, surprisingly, the nerves had kicked in. I’m not sure how many people were listening but Stu, Derek and I wanted to get this right. It went well and Stephen asked us more questions about the band. We discussed how we write songs and Derek stated that I have an idea which is developed by the band, I said it was  more a collaborative approach whereas Stu, bold as brass asserted, Pabs comes out with a riff and I make it better! It was a great moment.

After Stephen played It’s Who You Know from the album we moved onto Almost Beautiful. We explained that Greg couldn’t attend the show as he was hanging shelves so we dedicated the song to him and renamed it ‘Almost Level’. It was a stuttery start from me, it’s a tricky wee riff when the nerves kick in but I recovered and it seemed to go down well. Cue another brief chat with Stephen before he closed with a play of Medicine, again from the album.

We had a chat with Jim Kettles who broadcasts on the station, he does rock show just after Stephen and he played It’s Who You Know later in the night which was a nice touch. Then we signed the pillar which was adorned with names of local acts who have played previously. We stood on a table to reach the top of the pillar; all was going well until Stu stood upon the frame, it slid from under him but luckily his reflexes are still razor sharp and he landed like Batman, on his feet.

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This is the view as Stu fell back to earth but like a pro he landed on his feet

We said our goodbyes and headed out of the door back into the arcade as the radios tunes floated across the empty concourse. I was tempted to have a pint but Derek sensibly said he needed to get back for the kids.

Stirling City Radio is a wonderful station set up to serve the local community, it is a fair distance away from the bland automated ‘local’ stations we have on traditional frequency. The station gives local artists the chance to play to a broader audience, the music it plays is varied to try and  capture the ears of the Forth valley. Central FM used to do this before it was turned onto a bland franchise. Now motivated people like Stephen and Jim are staring up their own platforms (Tommy Clark’s Third Class Ticket is also a prime example) and the local music scene can only benefit. Tune in here and find out for yourself.

Pabs

 

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

The Martell (now the Warehouse)

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

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Our Wonder video has Stu playing outside the iconic venue.

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

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

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

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

Our First Gig.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There are hidden treasures up in the loft

Credits

The audience

Rikki Toner (Afterglow) local music scene pioneer

Eindp Photography capturing the scene, his work is used on this blog with his kind permission

Bootsie Blue, The Projection and Grim Morrison the artists!

Ben White sound

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.

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Bootsie Blue take to 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.

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Falkirk finds its place. The Projection

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.

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Grim Morrison

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.

Weird Decibels live at North Star 27th May 2016

Credits

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Setlist

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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