Recently, in October 2017 RiFF was born. The first showcase night saw a collective of four bands playing harder edged songs. Throwing hair that (for some) was slightly longer and wilder, to a loud chorus of music that had a bit of attitude. We were trying to show Falkirk that there was a heavier scene waiting to be discovered. That night there were a few nervous glances at the door; would it be a success? That question was answered pretty quickly when punters started to wander into Behind the Wall. There were fans of the bands present but there were others, genuine hard music lovers who had waited years for a scene like this to fire up again. The place was packed and every member of each band that played that night were buzzing. So it was this success that RiFF 2 was aiming to emulate; another night where the legions of rock, punk and metal lovers would swarm to BTW with their regular punters throwing confused glances towards the many tattooed and pierced music fans heading up the stairs for some colourful mayhem. This time Greg and I went to watch, drink beer and listen to our fellow RiFF bands scream, sing and shred. It was like old times for the both of us; 20 years ago during the 90’s in the Martell on a Thursday night we would be doing the same thing. By nine the doors opened and a decent crowd took their places; staring at the stage eagerly awaiting the first of the bands to appear, RiFF does not tell the crowd the running order of the bands. The message here is to stay and watch all the acts, not just your friends and family. Come and discover something new. Greg and I did just that. It was also nice to see many band members from the first RiFF showcase back to support the fledgling cause.
The Drop kicked things off. The trio were the first of three new bands to join the RiFF collective. Driven by a distorted bass, drums and strong vocals; the Drop’s lack of traditional guitars was not a problem for their sound. Their hard driven rock impressed the crowd and the powerful vocals had me thinking that I wanted to listen to Rage Against the Machine all over again.
One band that is on a rocket propelled trajectory is Sianar, currently impressing much of Scotland with their music. Somehow they managed to fit 7 musicians onto the small stage and they played an excellent forty minutes of rock; full of swirling guitar solos and dueling vocals. Kristian, on lead guitar, appeared not to be distracted by impending fatherhood. He had us on stand by to step in for Sianar should his other half give birth on the day of the showcase. It was good to see the band play on home turf.
RiFF veterans Thirteen picked up the third slot of the night and launched into a roaring set of punk. Tune after tune hitting the audience like a prize fighter. They also flung a cover tune that had me chanting along, by this time Greg and I had few pints under our belts and getting into full flow. Thirteen never disappoint: Dolly likes a snarl when he sings, Craig leaps in the air to slam home a chord on the bass and Greg is one of the best drummers in Falkirk at the moment. His energy behind the kit was felt by the audience adding to a rather brilliant performance.
Not to be undone by Mr Breens masterful performance, Brian now shirtless, took the sticks and pounded the kit into submission for Shatterhand; driving the music veteran’s powerful anthems home. It was the first time I’ve seen these guys, it was a commanding performance from the four piece whose experience lends itself to producing a tight unit. Shatterhand have been around long enough to know how to overcome the hurdles that bands face and it was great to see them in fine form at RiFF. The late hour was not on their side, but the hardy souls that stayed to the end were rewarded by a set that had an urgency about it. The audience had little chance to catch their breath as the four piece launched from song to song. They gave everything to the show and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Having been a member of the audience for this RiFF showcase its was a little harder to gauge the success without the hard evidence of counted ticket stubs. But from what I could see there was no denying that once again BTW enjoyed a busy night and there were far more of the RiFF community members supporting each other. At the start there was a swell of people turning up to support RiFF, packing out much of the stage area and it was great to see that most of the audience stayed all night, (a rare occurrence for local gigs); hopefully the venue appreciates this. The RiFF community is alive and well. This gig proved the first showcase wasn’t a fluke, it was a sign that there are music listeners that want harder edged bands playing in Falkirk. Too see them come back for more was fantastic, let’s turn it up and let the rest of the town hear it.
When my phone pinged for a new message it was nice to see Rikki from Afterglow getting in touch about a gig with new Falkirk rockers Bitter Alice at Behind the Wall. Given that just a couple of weeks had passed since we played the RiFF showcase at the same venue I explained to Rikki that we’d love to play but our audience had just seen us live and our turnout would likely be low. In his ever laid back way he said that was fine and the offer stood; its very rare to get a promoter this understanding these days. The gig was on!
Bitter Alice have been on a fast rise since their inception this year and they have mustered a handful of their own rock tunes as well as an array of covers. We knew a couple of guys from the band, Ben White on drums has delivered sound at numerous live shows around the area, even manning the Shuffle Down sound desk. So it was great to be added to the bill for their first Falkirk show.
In the couple of weeks we had to practise before the gig the nights were getting darker, we huddle around the old sofas in the room trying to work out a set for the gig. We were looking at old setlists from recent gigs and we noticed there had been a lack of songs from albums outwith Decibels 1 & 2 We took great delight digging out old songs; we picked a couple for Behind the Wall and we can’t wait to revisit more of older albums next year.
The day of the gig quickly arrived, we were quite relaxed in the run up to the show. We would play a relatively short set before enjoying the tunes of Bitter Alice. It was nice to have no pressure on us.
SHIVA were also added to the event; we had a quick chat with the trio before that. Their on stage swagger belies their friendly nature off stage. They have a good presence playing live. Singer/guitarist Aidan Callaghan donned in a retro Man Utd top led SHIVA around a fast set of raucous guitar music. There was a young crowd there to see them taking in every note and clearly enjoying themselves.
We arrived on stage with our beer, looking forward to sharing our music with a new audience. We opened with Feeling, one of our favorite live tracks. A short song, just under three minutes live, felt ideal to open the set with. When we strummed the final chord there was a silence in the room. We quickly moved our set on, hoping the audience would warm to our tunes.
Who You Know
I Hear the City
Underachiever was great to play again, while not my favourite song it is well suited to a live performance. The crowd really started to get going once we had hammered out Quoted Not Voted, by now the audience was clapping and appreciative of the tunes. I was grateful for that. Medicine seemed to go down well, it’s fast becoming my favorite song and it’s great fun to play live.
As always our set flew by; I Hear The City seemed like an apt end to the set and the audience now seemed to be on our side which was great. It had been a while since we had played to a crowd that we didn’t know and sometimes you have to win them over. After we finished many kind people were quick to praise our set; for any musician that’s always welcome.
After the set we grabbed some of the free beer for the bands, Derek and I grabbed a bit of fresh air at the back of the venue and we caught up with some of the lads from Bitter Alice and the drummer from SHIVA, Michael Donachie. It was a good chat with the young musicians and there was a buzz in the air as Bitter Alice grabbed their gear for setting up on the stage, bass player Dylan Fullarton was hyper and it was a laugh seeing the other lads hollering at him to get ready, he was too busy chatting backstage with the rest of us. Sadly the sound engineer left the venue for a reason unknown to us and I was rather taken aback when I re-entered the venue to see no one at the desk.
Bitter Alice are a five piece, with two guitarists Jack Turner and Joe Turnbull leaving Kieran Hunter to concentrate on vocals. He clearly looked like he was enjoying himself and the adulation from the packed venue. Given the sound engineer had departed there were sound problems, the vocals disappeared for some reason. A volunteer had step in to man the desk, its difficult task trying to produce sound from someone else’s setup. The sound issue didn’t seem to phase the band though and they rocked through a range of original tracks and covers. They have an edge to their set up, youthful exuberance in a classic five piece rock setting.
After Bitter Alice finished we grabbed a few more beers and eventually headed off to our first aftershow party for years. Well I say party, it was just the four of us back at Greg’s new house. It was a nice end to the night, it’s been sometime since we’ve been able to share a beer or two after a gig. We had a listen through to some of our old tunes and even managed to find an interview with Stirling City Radio that had been stored deep in the vaults. That was a laugh. We discussed our plans for the future and looked back at the past. Time flied and it was now three in the morning.
The next day the sun was out and we grabbed some tea and bacon rolls, It had been a great night and a cracking catch up for the band. Some deer were grazing in the woods at the back of Greg’s house as I sipped on my hot drink. It was another fine gig in the local scene; hopefully 2018 will bring more of the same and perhaps gigs a little further afield…thinking caps on!
It all started on June the 26th; it was a Monday night, Dolly Robinson of 13 asked for local musicians to meet and discuss the possibility of a showcase for Falkirk’s harder edged music. A handful of local musicians wandered into the pub looking around for other band members that they had not yet met.
Peter Gilbert and Nathan Paterson both from Blind Daze, Alan Costello of the Nebulosity, Bob from the Star Inn, Craig Hayworth and Dolly from 13, Rory from Eindp photography and myself sat around a table in Behind the Wall’s conservatory. One of the things I remember Dolly saying was “I don’t want this to be another pub gig”, he had a vision for a showcase for a number of bands.
The venues that were being suggested were bigger than I imagined. The Warehouse and the Loft upstairs at Behind the Wall. I was thinking of smaller, more intimate venues akin to the Happening club, somewhere were 40 people would make the place looked packed. We settled on Behind the Wall, I felt that this was ambitious for the first RiFF showcase. Start small I thought, then build a scene.
One thing was clear from the first meeting that all the bands were heading in the same direction, some felt ignored by the local scene and others felt there was no scene. I was in the middle. We’ve played some great gigs in Falkirk recently and been to see many great bands. One thing that was missing was harder, in your face, alternative music.
We departed from Behind the Wall all with various tasks to carry out. The date was set, September 29th 2017 upstairs in the 180 capacity Behind the Wall. Now we needed to get a crowd through the door…
Rikki Tonner of Afterglow offered much needed advice, Bob from the Star Inn offered help, The Bunker offered gear. It was looking good for the setup. We set up the usual social media pages and I contacted the Falkirk Herald, James Trimble was happy to be on board.
A few weeks later I was back in Behind the Wall. Craig Hayworth and I stood outside the pub at 11am like a pair of keen drinkers waiting for our first pint when we were actually waiting on James. He arrived clearly happy to get out of the office, notepad in hand, pen at the ready.
Alan Costello bounced in the door just as we were starting the interview, slightly harassed having just awoken after a shift he was keen to be part of the article. We repeated the RiFF community’s philosophy that RiFF bands will support each other whenever possible. It was a pleasant chat over a few coffees.
Everything seemed to going well but the tickets were slow in selling. I hoped that the old tradition of an article in a newspaper would help raise awareness.
The bands worked hard to spread the word. It was now just a couple of weeks to go, more people were starting to commit. Craig reported an increase in sales at Noise Noise Noise. Word was getting out, people were sharing posts. Maybe, I thought, we’ll reach 50 or 60 sales and the place will at least look busy.
Now with just days to go, we had more of our fantastic supporters wanting tickets, again Craig said that tickets were selling. We put all the figures together we were looking at around a 100, Now I was getting excited, was this really going to work? Was this going to be more than just a pub gig?
The Night Of The Showcase
It was a bright September day, reds and ambers now appearing in the trees. Time had flown since RiFF was created back in June. Greg came to pick me up around 3 and we headed off to the Bunker, a rehearsal studio in Bonnybridge. Daniel McGibbon was most helpful giving us the backing. Two amps, a bass cab and a full drum kit. Greg recalled his Tetris skills and we managed to carefully pack all the gear into his car.
After fighting through the Falkirk traffic we finally arrived at the venue. Upstairs we were greeted by a cheery Jim Dunbar, he was busy setting up the rig. Blind Daze drummer Craig Scott arrived to help and together we set up the room for the showcase.
The other bands started to arrive and we had a brief soundcheck, the stage was set. I stood at the door with Craig Hayworth; I was getting slightly obsessive about the door opening. Bang on half 7 the first people started to arrive. They didn’t have tickets…they were happy to pay at the door and I saw those guys stay the whole night.
More people arrived, some with and some without tickets. Stubs started to pile up under the cash tin. Craig Scott came over to let Craig Hayworth run the merch, again we were all working for the cause. It was now around 8 and there were people streaming through the door. I looked around after tearing stubs and couldn’t believe that the place was packed.
Our stage time of 9 fast approached. When we stepped under the blue lights I could see rows of people awaiting the first riff to be played. I was stunned and excited. I picked up the guitar, looked at the rest of the guys and started Kill it Kill it. It was an immense feeling and I was driven by the crowd. Every Time I looked up I could vaguely see people appearing to enjoy the music. When we stopped songs there was a great cheer. It was a fantastic feeling.
It’s Who You Know
I Hear the City
The set flew by and it was hot. I’ve no idea how Greg didn’t pass out wearing his big patched jacket. My guitar cut out at Deliverance, three songs from the end, so it was back to old school Weird with myself on vocals and Stu doing all the guitar. Before ‘I Hear the City’ I tried to plug the guitar straight into the amp, passing by the pedal board. It worked and we finished the set with ‘Industry’ now becoming a regular finisher.
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The Nebulosity stepped up next and they played a blinder. I missed the first couple of songs, although I heard them through at the bar as I waited patiently for a pint. The staff looked a little overwhelmed by the size of the crowd, (Derek may disagree with ‘overwhelmed’). However I got back to the door duties. I would like to say I could see them but the place was packed. Alan Costollo looked like he was loving it, flinging his hair about. The music was heavy, this was what RiFF is all about. Again the crowd was brilliant, they got a large response from every song played. The crowd were watching all the bands not just their own and this was fantastic.
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.
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It was another fine set, a mixture of songs from their records and covers. Greg Breen is probably the busiest musician in Falkirk at the moment, now full time drummer with the band and of course he has the Sonic Blues going as well. Craig Scott really took in the event, he was bouncing all over the stage, (thank goodness we extended the size of the platform…). It was an excellent end to the night.
pic eddie mceleney
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I was now a few beers in and had a slight sway in my step, last orders were shouted and the crowd slowly started to filter away leaving the RiFF community alone in empty to venue to try and comprehend what had just happened.
The RiFF Collective Look to the Future.
The ticket stubs were counted, 140 tickets sold; this was nearly a sell out. The RiFF showcase was a tremendous success. After all the costs were met the bands evenly split the money, it was a great feeling to get something back and merch had been selling as well.
Our attention now turns to future showcase events; many people in the audience commented on how they had never seen a heavy alternative music event for many years so perhaps there is a scene in Falkirk waiting to be uncovered. So now it’s all about timing and getting new bands on board. We’ll never know where RiFF could go, perhaps it will grow and local bands will have an opportunity to play shows of this magnitude. It’s a hard edged music scene Falkirk really needs.
It’s a night that Weird Decibels that will never forget; we were delighted to be a part of the first showcase and we hope that there will be many more, giving other local acts the chance to meet new friends and a new audience.
Once again RiFF members will gather around a table to discuss the next showcase with a new meeting planned for mid October. Who knows what the next showcase will bring but one thing is for sure the bands involved and the crowd that came to see us will never forget what happened at Behind The Wall on the 29th of September. It definitely wasn’t a pub gig.
Pabs ( a proud member of the RiFF community. Get involved.)
Harder edged music from the Falkirk area. The music that often gets ignored, hard punk, rock and metal and the three main genres that RIFF shares but there are many more that need exposure to the local scene. RiFF bands aim to support each other by attending shows, sharing and buying music.
Why Would I Be part of RiFF
If you play in a band it can be the most rewarding experience you will have and it can also be the most frustrating. You want to grow an audience, so you start to play shows. When you are in a small band and you play live, you will spend much of the night wondering who will come through the door. Some nights will be busy others not so.
RiFF is a music community. All we ask is that you attend a local gig that is not your own. Not just RiFF bands playing, but any local music event that you find interesting. You don’t get a badge for attending loads of local events but you meet like minded people and many new opportunities open up.
So keep an eye on the RiFF Facebook page, like and follow the bands and if a RiFF band is playing try and get along to the show. You don’t need to go to every single one but if musicians supported musicians just a wee bit more then our scene would grow and more outside parties would become interested. Look at the success of the Fife music scene for example.
Additionally if you become part of the community and you set up a Falkirk gig the RiFF community will do their best to support a fellow RiFFers gig. (we’re not promoters. Occasionally we will organise a Showcase and the costs are met by the RiFF bands taking part.)
What bands are in RiFF (so far)
We have a number of bands that consider themselves part of the RiFF community. Punks 13, heavy rockers Blind Daze, the outer worldly Nebulosity and of course us (Weird Decibels). There will be more bands joining the community, there is no obligation to play gigs etc, just share your music, share others music and promote the scene. We welcome bands from not only Falkirk but elsewhere are well. RiFF has music, will travel.
What’s the Future of RiFF Then?
Time will tell! Riff needs people to be a success! The Showcase is the start and there may be more. The bands involved will play more gigs, the RiFF community will support them. Look out for a RiFF YouTube channel with music videos, future blogs, possibly Podcasts and of course keep an eye on RiFF bands releasing new music.
Behind the wall has never been one of my favourite haunts; when I heard that a new local music event was happening in BTW I felt a tinge of disappointment that they picked that location. I headed through the main doors and passed by a relatively quiet bar with Thursday drinkers enjoying a week day pint perhaps glad that Easter had afforded them a long weekend.
I headed straight upstairs to the ‘Loft Sessions’. A different atmosphere presented itself here; there was a pleasant welcome from the gentleman collecting door money and promoter Rikki Tonner. Rikki looked happy, he offered a handshake but he was slightly distracted. He told me one of the PA speakers was down; underneath his calm exterior was a slight hint of exasperation. Immediately I could tell the guy puts a lot into these nights and he feels all the highs and lows.
There was an expectant air about the venue; the bar was the same as I had always remembered the Ale House to be (it’s in BTW). I grabbed a nice ale and enjoyed a cheeky school night pint (I was not off for Easter).
I bumped into Ranny, an old music friend who started a band around the same time as Weird Decibels. We had a wee chat about the old practice room and times gone past. With a nostalgic smile on my face I headed through to the stage area.
I was impressed. They have changed the layout for the live nights. Most of the tables are gone; under the soft blue lights lies a bigger stage than before. The darkness was pierced by the stage lights which remained static for the night and added to the intimate feel of the venue.
The sound desk and PA was provided by Jimmy Dunbar who has presided over much of Falkirk’s live sound for years. I expected loud. However he has handed the reigns over to a younger chap, Ben White. The drums were excellent. The kick and toms were deep without muddy overspill and the snare cut through as expected. The band sound checking were The Sonic Blues.
I admit this was the reason I was here. Weird Decibels had a gig at the Kilted Kangaroo in Stirling, the Sonic Blues were on the same bill as us. I saw these guys soundcheck and I was impressed. We rudely left (to get a train) before they played that night. I had listened to their tracks online and wanted to see these guys.
The Sonic Blues have great invention; if you listen to their tracks you can hear many many influences straining to be heard. The blues feel is very much in their sound, they play really good Zepplin esq jams. They started the first half of their set with covers and they picked songs that suited their sound. The band members changed instruments and Greg Breen, a friendly guy who is very enthusiastic about his music, seamlessly switched from an excellent drumming performance to some, quite frankly, stunning guitar work.
They started to play the songs I heard online. Like many bands when they play live they sound not better but free to improvise. Sometimes the thrill of the live performance outweighs the discipline of the studio. This was an excellent gig.
As The Sonic Blues jammed Rory passed with camera in hand and ear protectors in place. Tireless is a word I would use to describe this guy who is capturing the many events around Falkirk and the surrounding area.
They finished with ‘I can’t Get You Outta My Head’ by Ms Minogue (soon to be married, celeb goss on the WdB blog). It was fun and had me laughing as I made my way to the bar to meet my friends.
I spoke to Greg after their show and he shared the most common of ailments for any local musician. He’s moved to a new flat and this has curtailed the recording of drums for now. Hopefully he and the rest of the guys will get round this and released more music soon.
Pleasure Heads were next. The sharp dress code matched their music . The singer tall and dressed in a shirt and tie commanded the audience to move towards the stage and promised he wouldn’t bite. Those in attendance moved towards the stage. Their set was good and they had an enthralled audience watching their every shuffle.
Last up were Ghost Writer. The crowd had thinned by the time these guys came on. One or two punters were talking of heading to City to no doubt listen to club music which, if that’s your thing, is fine but they missed a treat.
These guys take risks with their music. The singer Iain King stood taller than the rest and commanded the stage. Mags Dignan, on keys, shares vocals and this mix reminded me of Low and Foals but without the doom of Low, if that makes sense.
The different textures (keyboards and female vocals) in their sound was welcome and their songs were ambitious. I have tried to listen to their music online, so far their fine work is shackled by the 30 sec clip from iTunes. Their Outskirts Vol 1 EP has promise. I don’t do apple. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to download (and pay) for their music on Bandcamp. (if it’s on bandcamp please link, I couldn’t find it)
The proceedings came to a close; for the first time in years I had taken in a night of local music and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Rikki, who had been darting around the venue all night, had a moment to chat. He hopes the Loft Sessions will work but I sensed doubt. He is a family man with a life outside music who has appeared on the Falkirk scene with a desire to improve it.
The Falkirk music scene is notoriously unforgiving. It will give you a flash of potential, of promise. Crowds will come then they will disappear for no reason. Scenes have come and gone. The Martell, the Happening Club and Dancing In the Dark I’m looking at you.
Now we have Rikki. He has stepped up and accepted the challenge that many have shied from. He and his team have invested time and money to try and make something work in our town. The green shoots of a new Falkirk music scene are all around you.