Tag Archives: indie

Shuffledown 2018

Pics Greg McSorley, Pabs

Words Pabs

Greg, Pabs and Stu enjoy this years Shuffledown

Shuffledown is now ingrained into the psyche of the local music scene; regular Shuffle goers will look eagerly for the line up announcements around the Autumn and plan a day of music and drink ahead. Past years have seen successful, subtle additions to the lineup that have helped broaden the range of people who soak in the sights and sounds at the Dobbie hall. Past lineups have included the impressive headliners Broken Records during Shuffledown’s maiden year to the unearthed gem that was Paddy Steer in year 2. There have been successes and surprises every year.

Gifted to the people of Larbert by Major Robert Dobbie, the hall has matured into a grand building that generations of locals have been proud of. It’s become Shuffledown’s home; adding a touch of grandeur to the festival, many of the bands that play are often used to the trappings of more modest venues.

As I reached the doors, ready to enjoy Suffledown’s fourth year I was greeted by a vocal quartet, food stalls and an area for arts and crafts. Not to mention a warm welcome from the many volunteers. I walked into the hall and admired the well decorated stage, I looked for the trademark Shuffledown lamp and it was proudly illuminated to the right of the stage. In addition to the lamp there was a new lighting rig and a large screen to enhance the visual experience.

Two inviting drinks stalls were set up across from the main bar. I decided against the Prosecco, that stuff goes right to my head, it was Birds and Bees for me. The surroundings gave me the impression that Shuffledown is now well established and the leading music festival of the Falkirk area.

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The Sonic Blues grace the stage. 

At the back of 2 o clock the early comers were greeted by The Sonic Blues, a late but welcome addition to the Shuffledown lineup. In what is to be their last gig for an undefined hiatus, the Blues looked like there were at home on the big stage. The great sound helped the trios bluesy rock transcend over the hall. They played a few tracks of last years album ‘Something Today’ and ‘Purgatory Blues’ was as enjoyable as ever.

A growing crowd gathered for Fairweather and the Elements; arriving back for a second year in a row. Under the impressive lighting and sound the band put on a great show. They closed with the impressive Go Far, the latest single from F.A.T.E.. This was a confident set from the six piece.

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Fairweather and the Elements

London act Davey Horne and his band arrived to a vibrant atmosphere. With threads of the War on Drugs their edgy southern rock had a psychedelic feel. Davey Horne switched between keys and guitar with ease. It was a very enjoyable set and went down very well with the audience. A highlight of the day for me.

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Mt Doubt keep cool

Somehow keeping cool in a large jacket the lead singer of Mt. Doubt and the band delivered a set of pop and rock with some urgency. Reminding me of the Sleepy Jackson they put on a good show. I enjoyed the set and as they finished I headed around the festival for a wander.

This year there was more food stalls which was a good move given the growing army of all day drinkers. I had a few Birds and Bees from the Williams Brewery stall and I was even tempted for some Buckie from the main bar. I left it this time. I grabbed a quick coffee and a roll on pulled pork (nice) before heading back in to the venue from the crisp spring evening.

Refreshed and refueled I grabbed another beer and waited for Fuzzystar. The bands bittersweet melodies are well suited to Shuffledown. Sporting one of the most impressive beards in the Edinburgh indie scene, Andy Thomson, Fuzzystars singer, sang low melodies over the impressive solo guitar work from Michael Morrison. Longest Day was a nice indentation amid the flurry of guitars; its subtle handpicked chords and slow build was a smart change. Given my love for Grandaddy and the National, plus the fact that I enjoyed Fuzzystar at the Artisan Tap back in 2017 this band was always going to be one of my highlights of the day and they didn’t disappoint.

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Under shining lights, the impressive Fuzzystar

Upstairs in the cloud room there was a bit of retro gaming reminiscing going on. Dusty Hayes played an uplifting set to a busy room, he clearly enjoyed the occasion as both artist and audience were punching the air in synchronized delight. I was mesmerised by the videos of Sonic, F Zero and the Ninja Turtle games. It was a neat touch.

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Brilliant set from Onthefly

I also caught OntheFly. A live drum kit was set up in the corner of the small stage providing analog beats to OntheFly’s digital mastery. It was an excellent set, a moody mix of driving electronica. This was the last act I saw in the cloud room and I’m glad I took the time to head upstairs this year, there was an intimate but great feel about the smaller stage of Shuffledown.

Back downstairs the main stage welcomed Denny’s The Nickajack men, who flung themselves into an energetic set that went down very well with the crowd. Dead Man Fall entertained the crowd with a lively set, I missed much of this part as I soaked in other areas of the festival. The Birds and the Bees ale was still going down a treat and the end of the night was nearing. There was still time for Colonel Mustard to walk onto a colourful stage donned in yellow mustard hues and big hats. A party atmosphere had taken over (as it often does at the end of Shuffledown), the uplifting mood of the music transferred to the crowd.

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Partytime with Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5

Shuffledown was over for another year and with all things you look forward to, the festival was over rather too quickly. The artisan feel of the event lends itself to a welcoming day of entertainment and it continues to evolve every year. It’s now an integral part of the Falkirk music scene; given its location and returning crowds there is no reason why Shuffeldown cannot become the leading indoor event of the Forth valley area.  

This was an excellent year, continuing a consistent run of successful events. Next year will see its 5th anniversary, it’s now a young and confident festival, long may it continue.

 

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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. 

 

Our Falkirk Music Scene 2017

Pictures What Eddie Sees (RiFF), Gregor Boyd (Shuffledown)

Posters Afterglow

When you live all your life in Falkirk it’s hard to gauge what people outwith the town really think of our place. As far as 2017 goes Falkirk is having its ups and downs. The high street is struggling but they are trying to rescue it, the football team were humbled in the playoffs then plummeted near the foot of the championship. People come to visit though, the Kelpies and the Wheel are now ingrained in Scottish tourism.

So what about the Falkirk music scene in 2017? Just a few year ago you could argue that it was on tired legs. The last couple of years have been very promising, people would describe it as recovering. Now as we reach the end of the ‘teenies’ I would assert that we have a vibrant scene, there are now a number of excellent bands and events. Here then, is my personal experience of the Falkirk scene; bands I have seen live, played a gig with or albums I have bought. There are many bands that I have missed so any recommendations are more than welcome.

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Poster artwork Afterglow

The year started of with an almighty bang as Blind Daze played alongside us at Rock On Tap as part of the excellent One Weekend In Falkirk. These guys play loud, behind the mega sound is a very accomplished band. I caught their soundcheck at RiFF (more on this later) and their guitar work is excellent, finely crafted solos weaving through the tight bass and drums. They are a nice bunch of guys and it was a pleasure to play with the loudest band in town. We were also delighted to have our long time friends Buzzards of Babylon on the bill; they impressed a lot of the locals with their gigantic tunes.

 

The next night, as One Weekend in Falkirk continued Greg and I went back to the Artisan Tap to see more live music. Callum Baird played a fine set of acoustic folk, he had to nip away after his set as he had a gig in Linlithgow the same night, He’s toured extensively and is one of Falkirk’s hardest working musicians.

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Fuzzystar, great act playing live at the Artisan Tap

Fuzzystar are not from Falkirk but I couldn’t help but being blown away by their bittersweet music. They had a mixture of distorted and clean tones with strong lead guitar. Its was great to learn that they will be returning to these shores at 2018 Shuffle Down. They will be well suited to the Dobbie Hall. A fine band.

Louder Than Bairns was a great wee night up stairs in the Wine Library. I was pleasantly surprised to see Withered Hand headlining with an acoustic show. In support were another band that I was keen to see, Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo. It was a rare gig from David King and his ensemble, it was very enjoyable.

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

I have often said that Shuffle Down is perhaps my highlight of the local scene. 2017 saw it arrived at the Dobbie hall for a third year and there was more a focus on local bands than ever. We had the pleasure of playing this time, it was a fantastic experience. There were many great acts on, Miracle Glass Company, Fly Jackson and Pronto Mana were my personal favourites. There was a strong showing from Fairweather and the Elements and despite tachinal nitches Ghost Writer were good as well. All the bands seem to energise each other. Cannot wait until 28th April 2018!

 

Musicians Against Homelessness raised money for the chairy with a number of bands playing at Behind the Wall, including the impressive, youthful trio, SHIVA.

 

RiFF was another big highlight of the local scene, 4 bands (again including ourselves. Could be a pattern here…i’m not bias honest!). It was a pleasure to play alongside 13, The Nebulosity and Blind Daze. It was amazing to have these bands come together to achieve what was a successful and busy night. Look out for a showcase in 2018; I hope the RiFF community grows as Falkirk needs a sub-scene of harder edged bands

 

The Local Records released in 2017 that I had to buy.

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There have been many recordings released by local artists this year, I haven’t bought nearly enough and I am looking forward to seeing what I find in 2018. Noise Noise Noise is a great place to pick up CDs from local bands. Just head near the counter at the back of the shop and you’ll find an impressive array of local produced CDs.

Ghost Writers well produced Legends is a great record; it has good pacing with an exciting range of dynamics throughout. 13 put out a strong EP ‘Spirit of Resistance’, its a solid punk outing from the ever busy trio. The Nebulosity remastered their 2015 C+ album this year and its definitely worth a listen to their brand of heavy alternative rock, their music goes places you don’t expect and they are a pleasure to watch live. The Sonic Blues released ‘Something Today’, produced by Greg Breen it has a DIY ethic that I really like, it gives the album a personal touch that can often be missed from over produced recordings.

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I have to mention the mighty Rabid Dogs, they released a rare recording of their live North Star show from June last year titled ‘The Best Party in Town’. I fear we will no longer see Rabid Dogs live so if you can, try and get your hands on this record.

The annual AMiF awards are another fine way to discover local talent. Pleasure Heads, SHIVA and Bootsie Blues all have great music (the latter having their track Song For Insomniacs streamed over 10000 times on Spotify). 2017 also saw the arrival of Sianar and Bitter Alice and they have a promising year ahead.

Razor Cuts

At the end of 2017 Razor Cuts had just run off a print of its 4th edition. It’s packed full of stories, poems, interviews and music reviews. I even managed to get an article about the old alternative nightclub Pennies included.  Derek Steel is the passionate editor of the magazine, he is keen for submissions from budding writers email razorcuts@gmail.com with your creations.

There is so much happening in our town now; 2017 has been a stellar year. There were so many bands and events that I couldn’t attend so this look back is only scratching the surface. So if you believe in new year resolutions try to find a wee place on your list to support the local scene, you won’t be disappointed.

Words Pabs.

 

Pabs Stumbles upon. VIIIAges live at Youngcamelot

Stumble upon is a new series of blogs about hard to find music; basically I search the web and hope for the best

https://youngcamelot.bandcamp.com/album/vlll-ge-5-30-14

1st up is a live performance from VIIIAges and its fantastic they remind me of an earlier discovery DM Lied but their songs are more traditional than the pre mentioned band (that I love). The recording is wonderful; live energetic and knitted tightly by the prominent bass and slightly muted drums, The lightly distorted guitars are loud in the mix and on stage; you can hear the snare rattle.

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It looks live; it is live

This band have a new York feel, punky, edgy, the recording appears to be at a venue called Youngcamelot in Chicago Illinios who record the bands that play live. Its a fantastic idea; the whole feel of this record screams an underground music scene that we in the UK haven’t witnessed since our last US import of grunge.

This is different there is everything where. The finale New Era is a fuzz jam with a dominant guitar playing over a frantic bass. Stoney Pony has a strong riff laced throughout. The vocals are delivered with punky vulnerability reminiscent of Joe Strummer  Stoney Pony shouts the crowd; that’s the name of it? answers the band!

The crowd play their part it sounds like a small but close knit group who back up the band with screams of ‘one more!’ as the step into New Era.

Superb record.

Gig Diary 22nd August 13th Note Glasgow

Weird Decibels live at 13th note 22/08/2014

Our names in lights
Our names in lights

A few months ago at practise, Derek suggested that we run and promote our own music night for a change; give the promoters a wee break. So Derek, Greg and Stu ( I was kinda leaving it to them to be honest) fused their music biz minds together and came up with SYTB promotions.(if you’re wondering its Strumit, Yellit, Twangit and Bangit)

A venue was needed, 13th Note were offering their excellent venue plus sound man for a very competitive price. It seemed too easy. The only thing we needed now was other bands.

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a solid performance from the Dark Arts

We talked about the bands we have played with over the years and wanted a good mix of styles for our debut event. Up stepped Miss The Occupier, Dark Arts and Ciceros Secret. Three fine and very different bands.

Here is the story of the night.

The first thing that surprised me was my car; the boot swallowed up the bass amp plus two guitar amps without so much as a shrug. Gear packed we battled though the rush hour traffic back to the city of Glasgow which is still basking in the after glow of the Commonwealth Games.

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derek couldn’t wait until the photo was taken and kept eating nom nom

We arrived early so I had time to sample some of the 13th Notes grub. Its all veggie; to be honest I could do with a night of the red stuff so I ordered a cracking veggie burger. Once we were fed we headed down stairs to one of the cities most iconic wee venues. For a band our size it feels more like home; even a modest crowd fills the room so that settled us.

The sound check went smoothly; the other bands rolled in. It was nice to see Jon from the Dark Arts; we played for a least three years together in the Seventeenth. Now I’m not saying it was a time of high fives and fist pumps, we had our moments, but it is a time I look back fondly on; it was nice to see the fella again. I was tempted to ask if he still listens to the old Seventeenth records (I do) but I let that one pass.

Ciceros Secret arrived; they are a nice bunch. We played with this young band back in November 2013 at the Garage Attic that was a crazy gig; their fans stormed the stage and the place turned into a mosh pit.

Miss the Occupier are friends of our friends and it was nice to meet them.

Now that the greeting were out the way it was time to get down to business.

The wonderful Miss the Occupier
The wonderful Miss the Occupier

The crowd floated in as Miss The Occupier took to the stage playing a fine mix of their own tunes which reminded me of Joy Division, they had a really clean, punchy sound; Roz the singer owned the stage. The crowd swelled and the temperature rose; the 13th Note atmosphere was here!

I really enjoyed their set you should check out their excellent video on YouTube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OPZrhr5Pbn8

Sometimes it good to hear something you know, the Dark Arts provided a cracking set of rock covers for the now packed audience. Pearl Jams ‘Even Flow’ was excellent; Jon was particularly good on the bass. He had his sound spot on which was not really a surprise given that he was a perfectionist back in the Seventeenth days.

It was our turn to step up and time was pressing I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little rushed. I quickly set up the gear and we were ready to go. Or so I thought.

Set list

  1. Speak

  2. Kill it! Kill it!

  3. Miss Asphyxia

  4. Wonder

  5. Little Thoughts Lost

  6. Deliverance

  7. Joker

  8. I Hear the City

The heat the rock it was all there
The heat the rock it was all there

We started well with the now stable Speak which often opens our set. This flowed nicely into Kill it! Kill it! Slight confusion at the intro but generally nailed. Then it was a wee hello to the crowd; straight back into Miss Asphyxia. By now I could hear my guitar on stage and it seemed out of tune but we flowed onto Wonder where Stu held the notes. A quick tune up confirmed that the G string was well out (har har). That fixed we moved on to a strong finish. New song Little Thoughts Lost got a little lost in my head! However Deliverance, Joker and new favourite I Hear the City went down well.

It was good to see the crowd right next to us; I was pleased everyone had stuck around to the end. It was hot; my shirt and tie combo was beginning to feel like a bad idea.

Before I knew it we were done and quickly packing up the pedals to allow head-liners Ciceros Secret on.

These guys are in their late teens; their music is high energy experimental metal. Its loud and in your face and I hate to say it but it took me back to the days when we started 20 years ago! Long hair waiving, loud music, playing hard and fast and not caring that some of the crowd were now starting to disperse into the late Friday night.

For those that remained they were treated to a brilliant show; their guitarists weaving through the crowd not missing a note. They were a brilliant end to the night.

We learned a few lessons on the night. Bands will run over, its natural with live music. So I’ll try not to rush my set-up in future. All in all it was a very successful night.

Final thought goes to our fans. Given that many of you have now seen us live many times we feel we are in a unique place that we have a group of friends that want to come tine and time again. The effort you guys make is quite simply brilliant. Thank you for keeping the band live.

Thank you WdB fans!!!
Thank you WdB fans!!!