We had been invited to play a set of cover songs at Whitecriag rugby club as part of their yearly beer festival and family day out. We decided to go along and join in with the festivities.
We do not play a lot of gigs these days and we play cover gigs even less. So this set played at the Whitecraig’s summer beer festival was a welcome change.
For various reasons our confidence hit a wee bump at our last gig at the North Star so some easy (but enjoyable) covers would help us get back on track.
It was also a chance for our kids to finally see the band live.
I packed the gear into the car and this time Kirsty and Lewis joined me, a stark contrast to the normal band banter that the designated driver has to face on the road to the normal gigs! The Scottish sun was scorching the sky, our wee nation looks fine when the blue skies are up high.
We reached the rugby club in Whitecraigs without fuss. Standing proud in the southern outskirts of Glasgow this lovely club had already started the party. When we arrived Lewis helped his dad flit the gear onto the small stage that was sheltered by a canopy tent.
It looked brilliant. The only gig we had played outdoors was years ago at Crossgates (a story for another day). It was a small area in which to play but as soon as i saw the surroundings and felt the atmosphere i had a good vibe about the afternoon ahead.
A DJ was blasting tunes as I met the rest of the guys who were busy setting up. It wasn’t long before we were ready to go. Then there was the power cut.
As guys organising the music were scratching their heads, i was told the sound guy hadn’t turned up. Thankfully our experience has taught us there are always ways around these things. We found the problem with the power, a plug had come loose. Always carry duct tape… we used that to hold the connection together, and viola, the rest of the DJ set went well,
We had a song to soundcheck, no time at all but the sound was floating into the fields below. The vocal PA, as it was setup, was fine so we went with it. The guy who was running the show had a cowbell.. We would hear more of that later. He was in good spirits and introduced us to the crowd that was not interested in us. They were drinking fine ale and basking in the rare sun. We could’ve been naked and they wouldn’t have noticed. Thankfully we weren’t. Now that I understood we were music for the background I was more than content and it was brilliant to see Lewis and Niamh in the front row! (Luke was there as well but I think he went for his nap!)
Fight for your right (to party)
Should i stay or should i go
All or nothing
Ever fallen in love
Don’t you forget about me
Come as you are
Curtain hits the cast
Jumpin jack flash
Sex on fire
Whole lotta rosie
The set went well without any problems and it was a tight gig which we thoroughly enjoyed. A real boost for the band as soon as the set was finished we agreed we had to get back on the live scene. After the first song Lewis covered his ears and walked away. It’s great to i see my kid is my most honest critic. However he came back when we played Wonder (he knows our songs more than the covers). Niamh and Lewis danced away as we played, A sweet moment.
As we packed up Stu and Derek nicked all the beer tokens delighted that Greg and I were driving. With grins and empty glasses they headed to the bar.
Kirsty and I soaked in the family atmosphere and let Lewis jump around on the trampolines before heading off into the sunset.
Before I entered Behind the Wall to head upstairs into the Loft (the ale house for the older bairns) I had no idea who was playing tonight. The fact that event organiser Rikki Toner has made so much of an effort to continue his push to rebuild the local music scene has made me determined to go and support it.
Once I had paid at the door, pleased that my fiver would be going towards the bands I met up with the one and only Stewart McCairney, quickly followed by Greg McSorley. We reflected on our last gig (the week before at North Star) and planned our next assault on world music domination.
While we plotted to headline Glastonbury the soundcheck was one two-ing in the background preparing for the night ahead. Just before 9 the first band would adorn the stage.
The tall, confident singer/guitarist Aidan Buhrmann of Falkirk’s Bootsie Blue held things together well and was clearly happy to be upon the loft stage. Dressed in black jeans, that looked welded on, the big chap strutted about the stage. Their drummer, Ian Simpson was manic. This guy truly delivered stunning beats hammering the poor drum kit to within an inch of new skins. You could see he felt every beat, superb. The bass player Callum Barret balanced things by being subtly calm and focused on keeping the Bootsie’s sound tight.
There were great songs unfortunately I don’t know the titles but ‘Bad Apples’ was a highlight. The first half of these guys set was probably the best I’ve heard in the local setting for a long time. The songs were dynamic and well structured. Once they flesh out their set I’d be surprised if they don’t make some sort of impression on the Scottish scene and are one of Falkirk’s most promising bands. (lets hope the scene grows with them)
As the night wore on I sampled more Tryst Carronade and blether to both Stu and Greg about the local scene we were thoroughly enjoying supporting other bands. For a while we, like many other people, stayed away from Falkirk bemoaning the lack of live music in our town. Yet we failed to realise that staying away contributes to the problem.
Up next was Glasgow band The Projection. Now I can be dumb at times so when I explained to Greg and Stu that I was looking forward to a visual spectacle by the projection I was ridiculed. (in my defence many bands use projection, most recently at Shuffle Down, when Paddy Steer was performing)
No offence but these guys are ‘experienced’ and it’s great to see Rikki had booked a diverse set of acts. These guys, bar James Lee Brodie on the guitar, are older and still belting out the tunes.
Stewart Cuthill was shielding his eyes looking for the crowd and eventually he left the stage to dance with the audience. They had a punk ethic with good melodic licks and Stewart had donned a nice ‘London, Rome, Paris, Falkirk’ tee shirt. Its great to see our fine town in the same light as these cities! At one point he explained that there “should be thousands of people here” before launching into No Fracking in Falkirk. Which had the biggest crowd response.
The headline act, also hailing from Glasgow, were Grim Morrison a three piece who borrowed the excellent Ian Simpson from Bootsie Blues to play drums. They grooved well and I thoroughly enjoyed their set. James McManus on guitar and vocals gave it his all and he looked like he enjoyed it, Meg Kenny on bass donned with a floppy hat danced away as she skillfully handled bass duties.
By end of the night I was tipsy; full of Carronade ale and ready to get the train home. There is no doubt that I enjoyed the night with good company and it was good to catch up with Falkirk music scene once again. Long may this continue. Please support it if you can.
A one point during this years Shuffle Down I soaked in the atmosphere I found myself genuinely impressed by what the festival organisers Laura and Rikki Tonner have achieved.
Now in its second year Shuffle Down is the Falkirk areas yearly fundraising music festival held in the elegant surroundings of the Dobbie hall. Laura, Rikki, their friends and family bring together the artists, sound crew, stalls, food and beer; much of which is produced in the local area. This year Strathcarron hospice was chosen to receive the funds raised.
Shuffle down first caught my eye when they booked the band Broken Records for last years headline act. This was when I believed that the festival meant business.
The first year was good, a strong line up and a good crowd. These were the first tentative steps of running a music festival. This year it felt like Shuffle Down had hit its stride.
The sound was improved, there is no doubt it’s a challenging room, it’s a large space with a high ceiling. The sound guys did a sterling job.
The vibe was good, the hall was bustling with a mixture of people intently watching the bands and others having a catch up with old friends.
The stalls were varied and my wife and I spent more than we planned to. John Grieve should get a mention for his artwork. I bought two of his sketches, one for my son and one for the studio but my son has claimed them both… Later Noise Noise Noise would set up a stall for the night time punters eager for merch.
Beer was flowing and the staff were happy to pour it. Tryst Brewery had set up a craft ale stall separately from the main bar which was an inspired idea as this helped reduce the waiting times for thirsty music lovers.
I didn’t know many of the bands in the line-up this year but this is part of Shuffle Downs appeal, you’re guaranteed to discover a band you’ll enjoy. Yossarian, from London, were superb. They started playing as I made my way to the bar, I was stopped in my tracks.
Their guitar driven tunes that build to a grandiose conclusion and singer Ash Spencers baritone immediately had me drawing comparisons with Matt Berninger of National fame (which is a noted comparison in their Bandcamp page). After their set Kirsty and I headed out for some food, the May breeze thankfully didn’t take the edge off my tasty chilli dog.
Satisfied we headed back into the festivities. The second stage is run by Gavin Brown and his crew. I caught a one man multi instrumental electronica sensation that is Paddy Steer. We waited a while for him to set up and that was part of the curiosity, there was a mixture of live drums, synths, keys and costumes.
When he started his beats he had the modest crowd engaged within the first loops. Behind him, as he amazingly played several instruments at once, a video stream was projected onto the wall, one scene had bananas on the moon, yes it was mad.
About half way through his set he asked the now swelling crowd, ‘Do you want more chaos?’ he didn’t wait for the answer as he reached for a mask. On his head he put a white robotic dome with glowing eyes that stared around the room as the artist inside continued to offer a varied melee of electronica. His music has a hint of Grateful Dead’s spontaneity. A superb live show and one of the nights highlights.
Back down stairs there was a buzz in the air for Glaswegian ska rockers Esperanza. The numerous band members confidently strode onto the stage and launched into 50 minutes of infectious music. My wife and I were dancing about at the back of the hall with the rest of the crowd, it was a fantastic part of the night.
The Treetop Flyers finished the festival and their set was watched by a slightly smaller but enthusiastic crowd. I enjoyed their music on Spotify and they came across well live. By this time the craft ale was taking effect and my hazy head needed to get home.
We grabbed the last train on the Falkirk line both happy at what was a very enjoyable day of music surrounded by friends.
Rikki and Laura should take pride in what they have achieved. It’s hard enough to organise a successful gig in Falkirk let alone run a festival. This town has often had an apathy towards live music; you can’t really say that Falkirk has vibrant scene but Shuffle Down is certainly helping to address this.
So hopefully once all lights have dimmed and the amps are turned down; they’ll have a chance to appreciate that not only have they raised money for charity, but they have also brought many people together to celebrate the great things that our local area can create.
thanks to Kevin Byrne, Juls Sampson, Gary Ivady and Kirsty Smith for taking photos/videos some of which are posted in the blog.
I burst through the front door of the house exhausted after another day in the office. It was the end of a long week; now I had to jump from one life to another. You can’t beat being the frontman of Weird Decibels but before that I needed a wee 20 minutes nap on the couch. It wasn’t to be.
Mince and tatties in the microwave, I rushed upstairs to grab my gig bag, rushed back downstairs to grab a black tee shirt out of the dryer then back upstairs to check if the printer was working as I frantically tapped my last gen ‘smartphone’ to try and type up the set list.
Then I stood alone in the living room and tried to calm myself down; it worked for a minute as I ran back upstairs to grab mic leads then back downstairs when I heard the microwave ping!
Fed, watered and prepared I heard the doorbell ring and the ever laid back Mr Greg McSorley, 20 years served Bass player, and band gear fixer presented me with his usual enthusiasm for our latest gig. This time it was to be special.
I flung my gear into the back of his car and we set off on the thankfully short journey to North Star in the centre of Falkirk. It had been the best part of four years since we had played locally.
Stu and Derek were calmly setting up as hurricane Smith bashed through the doors with two guitars and a bag of leads. Two sighs later I flung the gear down and with my hands on my hips, I surveyed the scene. North Star looked the part, it was cosy and the tables had been neatly stacked away. I looked down at the empty floor and hoped that the free entry would tempt our loyal fanbase to fill this place.
Some diners were carefully tucking into their pizzas as I started to set up with the guys. It took a wee while to get the balance of the guitars right. Stu grew increasingly worried as he had to turn his guitar amp down 1. That’s -10 from the usual recommended rock level…
We balanced the guitars and then adjusted the bass slightly, Craig was dealing with the vocals and acoustic guitar which he mixed in well. Although there were no monitors on stage but we’ve played many gigs like that so it wasn’t a problem.
Setlist north star
Home sweet home (Riot Act)
Kill it Kill it (Weird Decibels 2)
Educational suicide (Whapper Stormer)
Show your face (Whapper Stormer)
Joker (Weird Decibels 1)
Just for today (Whapper Stormer)
The rain (Whapper Stormer)
Speak (Weird Decibels 1)
Miss Asphyxia (Weird Decibels 2)
The Ending (One More Solo
Culture Creature (Firkin Outburst)
Glass People (Whapper Stormer)
Medley (Mix of One More Solo, Firkin Outburst and Riot Act)
After all the soundchecks were done Kevin Byrne kindly stepped up to entertain the crowd; he played a few acoustic songs which went down well with the audience.
It was fast approaching quarter to nine and the incredible Buzzards of Babylon, great friends of ours, took to the stage. By now numbers were starting to grow and the placed was getting warmer. The guys rocked through a tight and dynamic set with some hilarious banter from their captivating front man Rab Dempsey. A superb set from these guys. Suddenly it was game on!!
More people piled through the door (some literally) as the charged atmosphere added to our excitement. Nerves were kicking in now, we hadn’t played a lot of these songs live for years. I forgot the riff to Home Sweet Home just minutes before we were due on. I was snapping at the guys as the adrenalin was flowing. Guitars weren’t tuning and the mics were squealing feedback.
However when I hit the B chord of Home Sweet Home it all clicked in. The sound settled for a while and we burst into the opener from Riot Act. It was an apt song for playing back to our hometown of Falkirk after a few years trying to spread our name in Glasgow.
Going Back to the 90’s
The first third of the set flew past; after new single Kill it Kill it was nailed I placed the guitar down; in that moment I was transported back to the Martell in 1995 when I was simply a vocalist. We played Educational Suicide and Show Your Face Soon. It was brilliant to be able to run about the stage without the guitar.
I loved singing Just for Today and Vancouver as well; the heat was building and I was gulping more water in between the free beer supplied by the venue (nice touch North Star).
The Ending was a bit wobbly, Greg couldn’t quite nail it and it took us until the end to find our feet. I made a hash of the end as well. So yeah there were a few mistakes on the night but what the hell, it was fun.
I lifted the trusty old Tanglewood which was nestled in its rack; this was the first guitar I had bought and became fused with our late 90’s sound. Culture Creature was the best song to come from that era. It sounded good although I didn’t nail the solo. Stu managed to carry us through that part. Derek and Greg kept things solid.
Glass people was next; the first time in perhaps 15 or so years the public it was pretty much spot on and once again the indefectible Stu nailed the solo; the chatter in the venue had lowered to a murmur as the crowd took in his playing.
The mood was changing though, restless perhaps, it was time to turn it up a notch so we played our first ever medley.
We had many requests from our kind kind listeners; these included Hell Never Felt So Good, Underachiever and Fighting With Forever. We wanted to fling in Brought A Gun and the Nirvana version of the Vaselines Molly’s Lips before leaving the guitars to ring into Wonder.
As we switched from Hell to Bought A Gun I screwed up the change; with a shake of the head from Derek we soldiered on and got the rest right much to the delight of our listeners who were pleased with the new take on old songs.
The Final Straight
Sofa Girrrl was a riot; by this time I had a few beers and was trying to get the crowd to sing along to songs they might not know. So I dived away from the stage in search of some backing singers and a special dancer. Rooz stepped up and we Sofadanced through the 3 mins of punk. A superb moment.
New song it Who You Know burnt out the last strings of my vocal chords but the guys were now in full rock mode. We reached Rosie, our 2nd last song, or so we thought. The chants of (the much missed) Dave Broon echoed through the Star from our friends as Derek and Stu started our famous cover song.
After the guitars rung out my father stepped up to the stage, ‘you need to play Deliverance! There is a guy from Stockport here just to see you!!’ That guy turned out to be Falkirk bairn Harry Watson who had traveled 234 miles to take in the sights and sounds of his home town.
After Craig kindly allowed some more time (past 11pm now..) we launched into Deliverance. I disappeared into the crowd, guitar in hand. Stu was in stitches wondering who was going to sing the choruses!
We ended with one of the most requested songs in our history, it’s always the same voice that shouts for it! High Heels, Wilson’s favourite ended a superb night for us. As Stu And I played back to back during the solo it felt great to be on a Falkirk stage again. I went out into the audience and I was surrounded by people that had came to see us. It was a great moment.
The Merch stand is open!
Merch did well, Derek set it up rather nicely, a great effort. We sold a number of Tee’s that Greg had spent hours making. We shifted a few of the back catalog CD’s as well. Thank you everybody.
The Buzzards were Buzzing!
Rab asked for a guide to Falkirk pubs that would be open until 3am I gulped… the adrenaline was seeping away, and my bones were aching. These guys meant business. Greg was the only Decibel to rise to the Buzzards challenge. They stayed up to 3am downing shots and proving that Stu, Derek and myself may have to brush up on our rock and roll skills.
The Greatest of Nights.
It was a great night at North Star. It’s a neat wee venue for bands to play and we would like to thank Craig for having us on. Both Kevin and the Buzzards were brilliant, the latter clearly looked like they were out for a party all night and morning. The crowd was brilliant as well. Many of you turned up to support us and it was nice to see the place full of much loved friends and family.
So thanks once again for your support. As we say so long to our first 20 years and look to the years ahead.
With a new album due soon we must acknowledge that it would never have happened without you. Our wonderful Weirdos..
By the time you read this we are about to, or will have played Jims Bar at the QMU in Glasgow (june 21st 2014), So below is a recount of some of our gigs, in no particular order we include the finest, the worst and the strangest moments from our time on the stage.
Classic. 1996 Martell Falkirk Battle of the Bands Quarter Finals. We had just started playing and our heads were full of dreams. Greg, Stu and I had just left school to go to college and Derek, the youngster was still growing cress on the carpet of the common room in Larbert high School. Three teenage kids and a fresh 20-year-old took to the stage to one of our biggest and most eager crowds. The place was packed, i couldn’t see anything from the glare of the lights but every time we finished a song the place erupted. It was the start of our dream.
Weird. 1996 A Field in Crossgates.. Chris from Cage phones us. ‘Hey guys want to stand in for us? Its a biker rally festival in Crossgates’ I thought biker rally = really drunk moshers + our brand of rock + festival = riot of a gig. When we turned up, it was a field full of cow shit. We were directed to the ‘stage’. The power generator was louder than us. The crowd was a single mother bouncing her baby up and down on her knee. The rocking bikers stayed outside playing spin around the stick whilst drinking whiskey. Stu and Derek were happy though, they sat and ate a bag of onion rings and drank cheep beer…
Great Gig. 2013 Oran Mor, Glasgow.
Superb gig in the basement of Oran Mor. We supported Life On Standby who are now doing very well, that night they played a fine set to a growing audience. We went on halfway through the night. It was a great crowd really up for it. Our album Weird Decibels 1 was doing well and we were getting into the swing of playing it live. The sound was simply amazing, one of he best live sounds we have ever had. Annie Walker was kind enough to take some brilliant photos and through this gig we got a slot on the Third Classic ticket radio show run by Tommy Clark. One of those great nights.
Bad gig. The Cathouse Glasgow. A pay to play gig. Hate them. These days they still do them but in a more subtle way. We sold a few tickets and paid to play only for the bouncers to refuse entry to most of the people who had travel through to see us. Derek was raging, he can be heard venting his anger on a live recording which appears on our official bootleg. The place was nearly empty, it was a real setback for the band.
Great Gig 2009, The Argyll Falkirk.
In the ‘slender’ years between ‘Quiet Act’ and ‘Weird Decibels 1’ we were writing the new album and played a handful of gigs at various venues around our home town of Falkirk. Derek owned the Argyll pub at this time so it was an ideal opportunity for us to organise our own gigs. This meant we could use all our own gear and record our performance. We recorded this gig in question, this would eventually become ‘Tonight! Live! Not Completely Sold Out! A mixture of covers, old songs and four new tracks that would appear on WdB1. It was our faithful crowd who have followed us from day one and it was a great laugh. Keep an eye on Bandcamp, I’ll upload these tracks very soon. https://weirddecibels.bandcamp.com/
Weird but brilliant. around early 2000’s My Parents Garden at a BBQ. A gigs a gig! Stu reminded me of this one. My parents held a BBQ every year and asked us to play a wee acoustic gig which we happily agreed. I took down the 4 track and flung a few mics around. The gig started well with cheers and laughs, that is until we played the Ace of Spades on acoustic guitars! The recording was great until my Dad started trying to break a big block of ice cubes which was picked up on the recording, and yes it was out of time…
Classic Gig. Around 2005. The Path Tavern. Kirkcaldy. The venue may be closed and turned into a restaurant but the memories will remain. We played with Kranksolo, our two bands formed a fine friendship and shared a few gigs. 13 Tombs supported. They were superb, the singer had these massive boots that lit up. He looked like dynamo from Running Man. It was a small but fantastic crowd, they dug our music which at the time was One More Solo. We sold a few albums and we were even asked to sign them! Greg drove us back in the ‘Vulture’ old Vauxhall Carlton automatic. It took all the gear, three drunk band members and a sober bass player.
Bad Gig, But Great experience. Around 2005. The Cavern. Liverpool.
Contradiction perhaps but this was one of the most memorable experiences for the band. We even saw the ‘Beatles’. In our desire to expand to other countries, starting with England Greg managed to get us a gig in the world-famous venue the Carvern home of a band called the Beatles. Quite good actually. On the road down Derek nearly broke his hand when Greg decided his stricken limb looked good as a door stop. It was a Back To The Future moment when Kevin Byrne was considered to stand in. The gig itself was empty, everyone was watching the Beatles, we discovered that night that most people listen to music they are familiar with. One the road back I needed to pee really bad as we had been drinking all night. I’m not sure why I’m mentioning this but it is scorched in my memory how long Greg made me wait… Thanks to Neil Henderson and Kevin Byrne who came down and took the photos.
Great Gig. 2013 ABC 2 Glasgow.
2013 was a great year for us live, the ABC 2 was a great gig. the sound the crowd and our performance ensured a great night. It was the first time we actually had a proper merch stand. Yes we have been together nearly 20 years but it takes us time to catch on… It was at this gig we played a brand new song Miss Asphyxia from our future album Weird Decibels 2. It seemed to herald in a new chapter for the band. The fact that it went down well was fantastic. There is a back stage room with a fridge which 5 years ago we would’ve filled with beer, however…it was not to be.
We are a small but perfectly formed rock band, there are no major venues with packed crowds. However we love playing live and every Monday when we return to our jobs, surrounded by the sound of keyboards typing furious emails and office workers sniping we can look back on these times with pleasure and indeed look forward. We never know what is around the corner, maybe when we step from backstage one day and see a wee venue packed with our friends and our fans. We play live 22nd August 2014, 13th Note Glasgow. Make an unforgettable night with us.
I finish with;
Ten Facts about Weird Decibels live
Waiting On the Sound of Your High Heels Baby from One More Solo is our most played song.
Dave Broon was our manager for a night, at a gig in Edinburgh, he paid us with a beer. Legend.
A couple got ‘frisky’ when we played ‘Glass People’ at McSorley’s in Glasgow.
The venue we have played most is still the Martell, Falkirk.
Our sound checks take 2 minutes. Plug in. Play.
I have broken one stage (the Martell)
Derek winds the band up by getting changed into gig clothes during the walk on music.
Stu averages around 3 devil signs per song, one during solo. God.
Greg doesn’t need a setlist as he does not know the name of our songs.
Phil and Juls Sampson have been to the most Weird Decibel gigs. Legends. In fact all of our hardcore fans are brilliant people.
Wilson, our friend and a fan of the band has a Weird Decibels Tattoo. Nothing to do with gigs. But thought I’d mention it.