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.
I don’t get gig nerves as much as I used to. Of course I still get jitters these days, usually just before we go on stage, when I’d be wondering if I’d forget the first line or drop the first chord. However I don’t get the crippling nerves I used to feel when we first stepped onto the Martell stage back in 96.
Shuffle Down (20th May 2017) was different, I’d been thinking about this gig for the last year.
Let me take you back. Shuffle Down 2016 was well in the the swing and I was tapping my feet, enjoying the bands, the craic and the ale. Rikki Tonner, one of the event organisers, is someone I’ve gotten to know over the past couple of years. I believe we share a passion for the Falkirk scene (he’s more pro-active than I am!) so he came over for a chat.
Towards the end of our blether he hinted that Weird Decibels would play Shuffle Down next year. I’m not sure if he was just being nice, but he said it and it got me thinking. A rock band on Shuffle Down? Would it work?
Rikki stayed true to his word, a few months later we got the invite and then the nerves started to gnaw at the back of my mind. Then came the doubts. Would we be on first? Would their be a crowd? Or would there be a vast empty space as people went out for burgers and fresh air as we played.
Fast forward a turbulent year of Brexit and Trump. Now it was the morning of May the 20th 2017, I hadn’t got much sleep the night before but I was full of energy pacing around an empty house. Kirsty had taken our boy out to to stay at her mums for the night so I had silence for company. The nerves really started to kick in. I opened the guitar case and the old golden Yamaha was resting in its cradle. I picked it up and started strumming some of the songs. I forgot the words to Speak…Now I was really nervous.
I packed my pedals and our merch into my rucksack and put the guitar in the case and grabbed a bite to eat. As I picked at my sandwich I wondered what lay ahead. I checked the train times. It was time to leave.
I booted up Spotify and played some Soundgarden; the amazing Superunknown blasted my ears as I walked to the station; I spared a thought for the late Chris Cornell. Gradually Soundgarden’s music lifted my spirits. Now i was getting excited.
On the train I sat down and checked out the instructions for arriving at the venue. The whole set up provided by Afterglow was very professional. We’d be on at five and I had a hunch that this time might work out well for us. The beer would be flowing and maybe we’d get a few people listening.
The Dobbie hall was just short walk from the station (I love those gigs where it’s you, a guitar and a rucksack) I entered the main door there was a busy but calm atmosphere in the venue. The sound crew had already started work on a drum sound and I took a moment to admire the stage on which we would play. It’s easily the grandest stage our modest band has played on for a view years.
I got a warm welcome from an understandably distracted Rikki who pointed me in the direction of backstage where I gratefully laid down my guitar which had now grown heavy. I had a wee peak from the side of the stage, it was a fine size of floor space, very pleasing to the eye of a musician.
Half an hour passed and my phone buzzed, Greg and Stu were stuck in the car awaiting for the rain to stop, it was heavy, bouncing of the pavement as the dark clouds above us emptied. Finally Stu hauled his large guitar pedal case which I rather stupidly offered to carry backstage. It’s a heavy burden of effects!
We had a look at the other room backstage which had a small selection of beers and food, this is a lot more hospitality than many bands are used to! Derek arrived and this was the first time he had attended Shuffle Down and he seemed to be impressed with the set up.
With the soundchecks done we took our place in the audience. I was now observing how many people were walking through the door, looking behind me every couple of minutes like a paranoid spy from a 70’s Bond film (all that was missing was the newspaper and a dodgy pair of sunglasses). At 2 when the doors opened there was a small crowd, my fears of an empty floor for our gig were not easing.
The first acts played, you can read about Shuffle Down 2017 here. More people started to filter in and fill the hall. Now I was starting to feel that there would be a decent crowd. However I was fretting that our music would not sit well among the acts of this years lineup.
Have Mercy Las Vegas we so different to us and the crowd loved them, my anxiety grew. Now I just wanted a beer…Pronto Mama walked on with keys and brass and I thought the worst. Would these guys play music so different to us? However there set was great full of surprising guitar driven indie rock which I felt would ease the listeners into our music.
Now I was starting to get excited. Their set flew past and as I walked towards backstage I heard the crowd cheer their last song, it was quite a noise so I turned around and saw quite a mass of people. I was praying they would stay.
There was a nervous excitement from Stu, he suffers terrible pre gig nerves and he really felt this one. Greg just seems to stroll up and take everything in his stride. Derek is often the most composed. Quietly adjusting the cymbals and snare before settling into his stool prepared to beat the hell out of the kit.
I had to hold to my nerves, I was playing in front of a neutral audience, our friends and of course our peers of the Falkirk scene. We had won best rock act of Falkirk 2016 at the AMIF awards and I didn’t want to let anyone down. (thanks for voting!)
So I didn’t look out to the crowd as I plugged in my leads. Then I strummed the guitar…nothing…I walked over to the Marshall stack…turned up the volume…nothing. Then a slight adjustment and just a faint whimper of distorted guitar could be heard. Time was passing. I took a breath and had a look at the setting of the Marshall amp head. There were presets and I started to select the various settings, one of which said ‘classic’ voila. Sound.
I quickly got a level then scattered the setlists at the four positions of the band, Stu was ready, Greg, kitted out with his Weird Decibels denim waistcoat was ready. Derek was poised. I got a level with Stu and then looked to the crowd. They had stayed.
Ben White was on the sound desk and he picked up our prompt and dropped the background music. Derek started the beat of Speak. I picked the notes…the correct ones. The band blasted into the intro then I stepped up to the mic and sang the first line. Then I relaxed
Once More With Feeling
Kill it Kill it
Who You Know
I Hear the City
The stage was superb, I had room to run around like it was our first gig. Stu and Greg looked like they were have the time of their lives. Derek, as usual, keeping it all knitted together. The nerves were now evaporated. It set up the rest of the show.
When we finished Speak the response was superb and that energised us further, it gave us confidence. The sound was fine for us on stage but I believe that it was well received in the audience.
Our half hour slot felt like five minutes. We extended I Hear the City and I tried to get the audience to clap along, we extended the solos and build up to a finale. The song finished and I knew then we had played one of our best gigs in our two decades together..
The stage, the audience, the setting, it was all superb. 22 years in and we often wondered if we’d ever play shows like this again. I guess we’ve been rewarded for sticking together through the highs and the lows and while we’ve never made any sort of impression on Scotland’s scene we can look back on days like this and take a bit of pride from it. We made some new friends and reunited with some old. There has been some great photos of us on stage having a bawl.
So if you are a young local act, don’t get too obsessed with breaking through, just know that if you stick to what you believe in then there will be good times ahead. You cannot beat the high of achieving something with your best mates. Backstage after the gig was testament to that, bands often feel a closeness that you cannot explain to those who don’t play.
So a huge thanks to Afterglow, Rikki, Laura and the team for having us, indeed for taking a risk. We feel it paid off and we hope you did to. It was an absolute pleasure to play.
Shuffle Down had a different feel about it this year as we were playing! Read more about that experience in our latest gig diary.
As I arrived at the Dobbie hall some two hours before the doors opened there was a surprising calm in the air. The various volunteers and stalls were quietly setting up their various stations, there was an air of anticipation, would it be as busy this year?
Shuttling back and forth from the stage was Ben White who once again had the duties of mixing and amplifying a number of different bands with a wide range of instruments; he did a superb job. Anyone who has ever provided the sound for a gig will understand how difficult this is to do for two or three bands never mind a festival roster! So hats off to Ben and his team they did very well providing a nice meaty kick sound that cut through the full range of frequencies that are needed for a balanced sound. Everything from the guitars to the bass sounded well knitted. I would argue that this year was the best sound, a couple of technical glitches aside (which you have to expect), it was clear the sound crew have got to grips with the acoustics the hall
In the background Jim Dunbar was once again overseeing the task, A stalwart of the local scene for many years. During soundcheck he reflected on his many years hauling speakers to various venues and hinted that it may be time to put his feet up.
He did the sound back in at our first gigs at the Martell some 22 years ago, now here we were in the Dobbie hall about to embark on another Shuffle Down and all the challenges that come with putting on a show that gives local bands an opportunity to reach a bigger audience on a grand stage.
Once the soundcheck was completed the lights slowly came on, the true beauty of the stage was revealed. Shuffle Down always has the personal touch of the loyal volunteers and of course Rikki and Laura Tonner. This year was no different with a waterfall of lights hugging the back of the stage and the ever present Afterglow Lamp, stage right, proudly illuminated..
The heavens opened outside, biblical rain fell as the last of the early bands arrived to drop off gear backstage and exchange handshakes. There was a good air between the artists, mutual respect and a common desire to entertain the crowds that were on their way. The doors opened and the rain started to ease, a good number of punters drifted into the scent of coffee from The Common Grind and a whiff of ale from the Tryst Brewery.
Up first wasKieran Fisher playing an acoustic set of originals and covers; his gravely voice reminded me of Kelly Jones I thought this was a lazy comparison until he nailed the Stereophonics. Kieran looked confident up in the big stage which is a hard thing to pull off given that you’re up there on your own. Continuing the acoustic theme was Robbie Lesiuk, when he took the stage the hall was starting to fill with punters. The noise of the crowd chatter grew as people greeted each other the atmosphere was starting to build; there was now a buzz about the place. Robbie played well, his subtle use of loops is always good to listen to and Fault Lines always gets stuck in your head
I was surprised to see Have Mercy Las Vegas on early but it really did help get the feet stomping. Their charismatic front man had the audience stamping and clapping and for the first time I felt genuinely nervous that our rock set would plummet to the earth like a dropped pint of real Tryst ale. Then up stepped Pronto Mama, whose dynamic sound no doubt tested the sound engineering skills of Ben but I felt that the mix held well. Their set was a good blend of synth, brass and guitars. I really enjoyed their show. There was an intense feel to it.
We were up next and you can read all about that in our gig diary.
We played a half hour show which felt like 5 minutes. As we stepped back stage and took a few photos and admittedly did a couple of high fives the Lonely Tourist stepped up to the mic. The stage curtains were drawn so he had a more intimate platform for which to share his tunes. I caught a couple and I really enjoyed his music; I love the full band sound on his record and I hope he ventures up here with the band in the future.
I headed out the the stalls to grab a fine burger and the sun peaked out from behind the dark May clouds, they broke and scatters of blue sky could finally be seen. Finally I could relax and enjoy some Dobbie Shuffle from the Tryst stall (can I by bottles of this somewhere?! It’s sweet!). The alcohol hit me pretty quick!
I was really looking forward to Ghostwriter who I believe are one of the best bands to have emerged from the scene recently. For Hire (Summer never ends) was a great opener and that guitar riff is one of the most infectious I’ve heard for a while. Technical issues distracted singer Iain King and it caused him frustration. To be honest I felt his anger added a little edge to the performance which I enjoyed; however it proved to be too distracting for him and sadly their set finished early.
Fly Jackson ambled up to the stage they seem to take these events in their stride, I saw them at the Trinity Church gig and enjoyed them but I preferred this performance. It was a very focused set by the band and the sound had a fine clarity to it. They have some great songs on their roster.
Iain King found his composure and joined Fairweather and the Elements for their set. Ross and co headlined a great night at the Trinity church, this performance seemed to have more energy, perhaps driven by the occasion, vocalist Deborah Lang was clearly enjoying herself as she danced about the stage. By now it was clear that the electric atmosphere of Shuffle Down was influencing the artists; the performances seemed more energetic and the crowd were loving it. This is why we need this event.
I felt myself glued to the main stage, the atmosphere, the bands and the beer. In previous Shuffle Downs I found myself wandering upstairs to see some fine acts but this year I couldn’t leave the big room as it was proving too enjoyable. It helped that the bands were really quick to switch over. The hall seemed to be as busy as previous years, those watching the acts seemed to enjoy the various genres and warmly applauded all that played.
Miracle Glass Company were superb, I was transfixed by the drumming of Andy Duncan, he was keeping these Ringo Starr esq beats going at a pace while aptly performing his singing duties. There was good pacing to their set, Trouble is a great song.
Then came a surprise. 57, a hard rocking duo from South Korea, took me by surprise.The crowd loved them. I liked the set it was impressive and it was a huge sound for just two people. I had no idea that this was coming.
By this time I was a little tipsy and thinking of work the next day (started in the afternoon folks) so my wife and I headed off into the night. The sounds slowly faded as we walked away from the Dobbie hall.
Perhaps I’m biased as we played Shuffle Down this year but I felt that this was the most enjoyable year so far. The first year had big acts, the 2nd found its groove but this year felt different. It felt like a big party, a gathering of people who love music and will come to Shuffle Down regardless of who is on the bill and every band benefited from an audience that was open to hearing something new and it was fantastic to witness this.
Was Shuffle Down 2017 a success? If success was a large group of happy people enjoying a wide range of music, surrounded by friends drinking local beer, eating local food and listening to local acts then yes it was a huge success.
I will probably attend another overpriced festival sponsored by Tennents at some point but I doubt that will enjoy it as much as I did Shuffle Down 2017.
So as the bands packed up and the Afterglow lamp was switched off, I do hope that next year it will illuminate the Dobbie hall once more. The Falkirk music scene would miss what is now becoming the most important date on our local live calendar.
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.
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.
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!
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…
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.
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.
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
£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.
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.
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!!
About to do a take of educational suicide for a demo hence a nervous Pabs
Greg tries to fix things and often it works
Sofa Guys. The great early days of the band. The time we wrote all of Whapper Stormer
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.
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.
Stu looks dejected as we struggle to finish Cold Home Street
Derek has time for a beer
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.
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.
It was around 1996 when on a normal Wednesday night we gathered for practice, Stu asked us if we fancied playing a gig in a prison. He had a relative who organised entertainment for the inmates HMP Longriggend (which has since closed). We had reservations, as four young guys all we knew about prison was the stuff you saw on television. Prisoner: Cell Block H was terrifying… However when Stu added that it would be our first paid gig we quickly manned up, did a few push ups and agreed to play.
We had to learn a few of our first cover songs to mix in with our own numbers; and we hired Jim Dunbar to do the sound. For additional support we brought our friends John Baines and Ruari Pearson. For the purposes of security Stu had to phone the prison with the names of our party. For some reason he couldn’t remember Ruari’s surname so under a bit of pressure from the gruff voice of the warder on the line, Stu said Ruari’s name was John, John Ruari…
Longriggend was located near Airdrie and as you drove along the winding B803 taking in the desolate back farmland your eyes would be drawn up the hill towards the walls of the prison, it was an eerie scene often shrouded by the clouds that hung to the hillside.
On the day of our gig we drove up to the gatehouse unsure what lie ahead. It was the late 90’s and while the prisons had settled back to some sort of normally after the turbulent start to the decade there was still an imposing welcome at the gate.
We gave our names. Ruari gave his; Rurai Pearson he said to the guard. Sorry we don’t have that name stated the gatekeeper. Derek whispered, today you’re John Ruari. ‘John Ruari’ said Ruari. Finally we were in.
We were led around to the games hall past the prison wings; the cell windows were adorned with steel bars no doubt there was an unknown soul awaiting his fate from the courts locked within. Barbed wire hung to every wall. Some of the inmates were having a kick about in a five aside pitch they took little interest as we passed.
The guard escorting us pointed to a parking bay and showed us inside the hall. Some prisoners were in the wing adjacent, staring at us through a grill gate as we went in. Intimidating to anyone first entering these institutions however to the guards this was just another backshift.
It didn’t take long for us to set up, Jim turned up the volume and it was loud. Time passed and slowly the prisoners shuffled into the hall in an orderly fashion and took their seats. Derek noticed a couple of guys from our school that had wandered onto the wrong side of the law. Not one of the guys heckled us, indeed they seemed happy to be free from the confines of their cells. When we started playing things changed slightly.
As we launched into our first songs some of the prisoners walked out to the toilet. A few minutes later they came back with toilet roll stuffed into their ears. Others sad impassively, some laughed as I tried to rock out to the music.
It was a fine gig though and our inhibitions were unfounded; for as we neared the end of our set the power cut and the lights went out…that was hairy but we got a warm round of applause at the end. It was nice to get paid, just a bit unnerving seeing the guard counting out the money in front of the captive audience!
A few weeks later Stu and I were in Glasgow picking up our printed demo tapes that were still to be filled with the audio tracks. As we headed down Sauchiehall street back to the station we heard a ‘hello’ from behind us. A young guy staggered towards us, ‘you guys played at the LRU didn’t ye?’ ‘eh yes’ we replied; ‘Brilliant you got me oot ma cell for the afternoon’. ‘I’ll buy wan eh yer tapes’ Stu tried to explain that the tapes were blank but he waved his words away. He handed us a couple of quid and stumbled down the busy street with one of our demos before disappearing into the mass of shoppers.
After the high of playing the Artisan Tap I was looking forward to seeing more bands on the Saturday as part of the excellent One Weekend in Falkirk. Now that I was returning as a listener I felt part of a festival. Both playing and listening to the acts has been a brilliant experience.
Greg and I were keen to get to the Tap to see the first act Callum Baird, we had to drop some gear off at the practise room on the way to Falkirk. (the joys of being in a band, a gig can mean two days of work)
We arrived in time to catch most of his gig. Callum is a confident player who is keen to sing his message to the people who listen. He has a feel of folky blues and there is a brooding anger in his performance which gives him an edge over his singer songwriter peers. Callum thanked the crowd for listening. He politely explained that he had to head off to Linlithgow to play another gig. Here is an artist who plays non stop, hopefully the hard work will pay off.
As Callum Baird packed his guitar into his case to head out the venue a band that I have been impressed by, The Blue Lights, started to set up. Staying High is one of the best tracks I have heard from this scene in many a year. Unfortunately their drummer could not make the gig so they played a stripped back set. Kirsten Hamilton is a powerful vocalist, I preferred their original songs to the their covers. I got the impression that Kristen’s heart was in her own songs and I look forward to hearing the whole band live.
Fuzzystar, from Edinburgh, were amazing . Before they played I had went to the toilet (as you do) and this bearded man in a white tee shirt stumbled into the mens. I thought he looked rather unsteady on his feet as he looked for a cubicle, I smartened up and headed out to get ready for the next band. As I sipped on my Bitter and Twisted (now my favourite beer at the Tap) I couldn’t contain my surprise as the same fellow donned in beard and white tee shirt took up his guitar and proceed to lead Fuzzystar through a wonderful set of bittersweet melodies. Their clean guitar floated nicely then they would lace some distorted tones to change the mood. Their lead guitarist was superb, he provided focus for the band. One of the delights in exploring the live music on your doorstep is discovering bands like Fuzzystar.
After the bearded fellows departed the stage Patersani entered and these guys were slick and reminded me of a Scottish Kings of Leon (if there is such a thing). I was foot tapping to a nice blend of indie rock. Very enjoyable.
Last up was Grim Morrison, a band that I enjoyed at Behind the Wall as part of the Loft sessions last year. For various reasons unknown to me their regular drummer was absent so up stepped one of Falkirk’s best drummers Ian Simpson who is very adaptive and was able to stitch together Grim Morrisons sound. I’m not sure what has happened to their bass player, however the chap who was on the four strings handled his duties well. Lead singer James McManus blended into the crowd all night. He has a mop of jet black hair tinged with a streak of white. He does not stand out in a crowd however it is a different story when he steps onto the stage. While I’m not sure where his band is going he presents as an accomplished guitarist and vocalist. Again luck had departed him as a string broke (The worst thing that can happen to a musician) James had tried to string up this guitar but it wouldn’t play ball so he borrowed a semi acoustic from another musician and after this their set exploded. Whether it was frustration at the events that had unfolded James snarled and belted his way through the remainder of their songs and it was a superb recovery.
I finished the rest of my pint and headed out into the night to hastily catch the last train, it was at Falkirk High. The view from this station overlooks Falkirk. As I waited for the Edinburgh train I turned and looked over the town. In my drunken sway I had a smile for I knew that there is a chance we could have a music scene that we can call great again.
Thanks to the crowd, Afterglow and everyone involved in the organisation of One Weekend in Falkirk
2017 was just a couple of days old when the hype for the first ‘One Weekend In Falkirk’ music event was starting to build. It seemed as if a lot of people were genuinely excited and we were delighted to be part of it.
The Falkirk Herald got in the act with a full spread article listing all the events; our picture (taken by Kevin Byrne) took centre stage on the page. It was nice to see the local paper helping to raise the awareness of the gig.
One Weekend in Falkirk was hosted by the Write Angle with a little help from several people including Adam Donaldson and Afterglow music. It was five days of music, poetry, open mic and arts. We were asked to be part of the Rock on Tap, the Friday night at the Artisan Tap (Falkirk’s best new pub in years). We were also asked to recommend a band to complete the lineup and we could not look past the wonderful Buzzards of Babylon.
On gig day I was a little more nervous than usual as there seemed to be quite a bit of gravitas with this event. Also it was the start of January and I was worried that wallets would be lights and that would stop people coming out. After a small bowl of pasta I headed out with my wife kindly dropping me off at the venue. (when you get dropped off for a gig your first thought is often ‘beer’)
I was first, gear in hand it was nice to see the punters opening doors when they saw I was laden with an amp and guitar. In other venues you do not get this show of kindness. There was a good vibe around the Tap as people were tucking into their pizzas and burgers which looked damn nice but my stomach was not up to it.
Given that Artisan Tap had all its tables full of diners the stage was set in the center of the venue; the stage area was small but manageable so all was good. Slowly the bands filtered in, warm handshakes were exchanged between Blind Daze, ourselves and the young duo of Skelfs. When Buzzards arrived it was great to see our friends again and we shared some stories of gigs from the past. These stories often included many an ale and the last time the Buzzards soared over Falkirk they scooped up an almighty amount of beer that only Greg could match however this time it was strictly Irn Bru as some of the gents had commitments the following day including taking the kids to the Marvel stage show!
Soundcheck was fine, quick and straight to the point the mix from the stage sounded great at this point I started to look towards the bar, yearning for a beer but i didn’t want to over do it . Greg in his usual laid back style strolled up and ordered a pint at the back of 7.
The punters finished their meals and most stayed throughout the soundcheck which was a great sign, some of our crowd started to file in and the venue was looking rather busy. Skelfs stepped up first, these guys have only been together a year or so, now on a new lineup they had only played a handful of gigs to date. The played a set of bluesy rock tunes not dissimilar to the White Stripes and they went down well with the crowd.
The Buzzards of Babylon were next; they marched up to the mics and played a blinder. Monkey Knife Fight remains a favourite and they played a ‘ballad’ in reflection of the venue however it was a heavy brooding number. They also knocked out some blues with Eck showing his skills on the mouth organ although at one point it looked as if he just about run out of oxygen belting out the notes. Fine stuff.
Our Falkirk peers Blind Daze cranked up the volume to 11 they have a good mix of melodies and pure rock, the place was busier now and the crowd soaked up the tunes. The band really seemed to enjoy the atmosphere.
Then it was us. We stepped up to a welcome applause and we were determined to blow away the slightly disappointing performance of our last gig. First tune Kill it Kill it was nailed and our confidence grew. As a rule we tend to play an easy track first to set us up.
We belted through the tunes and tonight I felt we were on form, then around halfway through the set, a familiar call came from the crowd. Once again our friend Chris Wilson shouted for High Heels. I asked the rest of the venue and eventually an almighty roar gave us no option but to play Waiting on The Sound of Your High Heels, which is great as I love playing that song!
I loved playing Feeling and Medicine; Curtain Hits The Cast went down well and Industry seems to have growing support as a set finisher which is fine by me!
As we neared the end of the set I could not help but pay tribute to Jim Dunbar who has been providing PA for Falkirk for many years, including our first gig back in 1995. To see him doing the sound for our gig 22 years later is simply amazing.
It’s Who You Know
I Hear The City
Curtain hits the cast
The set was over too quickly and before I knew it I was standing at the bar necking a few pints of Bitter and Twisted. The atmosphere was still great but by this late hour the crowd was slowly filtering out the door, I had the warm fuzz you get when a gig has went well. Stu was delighted, he tends to get very nervous even after all these years and you could see he was floating on the euphoria of a successful night.
I’m glad that rock music got its place in One Weekend in Falkirk and the organisers should be commended for that. The following night I went along to the Inverno event (more on this later) and from my own experience One Weekend In Falkirk has been great success; it’s been years since I spend a whole weekend both playing and enjoying acts from Falkirk and beyond. The venue, the atmosphere and the music all added to a brilliant experience. I hope this becomes our ‘winter’ event from Falkirk, yet another sign that our music scene is back and in good health.
Artisan tap as part of one weekend in Falkirk festival 6th January 2017
While the world around us was erupting in unexpected vote results, civil unrest and the Great British Bake off scandal; some of our music legends decided enough was enough and packed their bags for heaven. We released our 8th album Weird Decibels 2, we embraced the local scene and won our first award, although we didn’t play live as much as I would’ve liked. 2017 will be fun. (its got to be!!)
So we wish our listeners, friends and family a healthy new year. Here is our 2016.
10th. The master (of Weird Decibels 2) is finished but Pabs went and re-mastered…
Front cover leaked!
The first master
13th. January, front cover of Weird Decibels 2 is leaked!
17th. Firkin Outburst our second album written years ago in 1998, is shared across the world including Spotify.
27th. We told the story of how we made weird decibels 2 including our temporary studio in the Springfield cottage down in the Scottish borders.
4th. Kill it! Kill it! Video is unleashed. Cracking piece of work from Kevin Byrne and a great performance from the indefectible Ruari Pearson.
10th. We are featured artist on the Third Class Ticket. Tommy done us proud with this show. Sadly due to an increasing workload Tommy later closed the Third Class Ticket.
We had a good spread about the album in the Falkirk Herald big thanks to James Trimble and co for the article.
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.
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.
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.