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Shuffle Down 2019

 

Pics Greg McSorley

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Another week’s work done, heading off slightly earlier on a Friday is always a good thing; but this weekend was going to be rather special. Shuffledown was back, and this time the festival was to be split over two days, the Friday and Saturday.  A bold move for the young festival now entering its fifth year.

It was a blustery walk under light grey skies, April coming to an end and the hints of an early summer were already starting to show in various gardens, as we walked down to the train station, once again on our journey to the Dobbie Hall, a fine venue that has become home for the best indoor music festival Falkirk has to offer.

Friday

When we finally arrived at Larbert station and made the brief walk to the venue, it was an unusual experience to be attending Shuffledown on a Friday night, this was the first year that the festival had expended to two dates. I must admit, I wondered how I was going to hold out when I heard that Harviestoun were serving real ales. (their Bitter and Twisted is my tasty favourite.)

We arrived at the doors, it already felt that Shuffledown Friday would have a different feel, absent were the craft stalls and various activities that usually take place inside and around the venue, instead this was a night purely to enjoy the bands and it would prove to be a cracking line up.

Rubian took the stage first, they were a mixture of bright breezy rock with perhaps the occasional hint of sadness highlighted by Cheryl Risk’s impressive range of vocals. They have been one of many bands that regularly play in Falkirk that are enjoying a fairly steep ascendancy in the Scottish scene. With the crowd steadily arriving, a lot of younger faces were making me feel my age, but a good atmosphere was building. Real Life Entertainment stormed the stage with a passionate set, they saluted the crowd with a can of lager and angrily swaggered into their set of slick cut alternative rock. It was enjoyable, and they cleverly varied their pace throughout the brief time they were on stage. Falkirk’s Pleasure Heads have been doing well and the young team down the front of the stage loved them (the auld team watched from up the back). The band, all donned in white tees crafted a brilliant set, early on there was reminders of early Artic Monkeys, with a bit of attitude and sharp guitars. However, the second half of the set was superb, with more emotion, depth and contrast in their music, proving that they have the ability to evolve their sound. Just a few miles from Larbert is Denny, home to Shuffledown veterans the Nickajack men. They played well and are always enjoyable, they are well suited to SD.  The Friday night had worked.

By this time, we were fairly well on and left before we had a chance to see Baby Strange, the last train was coming although I do remember having time for a quick pint and a nip in the Station Hotel. Turns out we missed the train…

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Ghostwriter back on the main stage for 2019

Saturday

When I awoke, the whiskey I swore I would never have, reminded me that respect for Scotland’s wee dram should never be forgotten. So, my fuzzy head put paid to an early return to Shuffledown. Instead we ate a sensible lunch and meandered back to the venue. Unfortunately, we missed a few of the earlier acts. However, for the first time, (ever I think) we would see the full set of the headliner, who this year would be Malcolm Middleton.

It was Saturday afternoon, we were back at the Dobbie hall, my head was a little fragile, so when I could hear the music from the main road, I knew it would be loud. When we opened the door to get into the main hall we were hit by a wall of sound that emanated from a trio, that would be Primes. They were brilliant; tight knit as you’d expect from a three piece, their soulful vocals lifted over the hall. They didn’t let up as they leaped from song to song, I quickly forgot about my sore head. Greg was a big fan. Ghostwriter were back, fresh from the high of getting airplay on BBCs ‘Introducing Scotland’ the band looked confident as they once more took to the stage, it’s a venue they clearly enjoy playing. There is a good dynamic range in their songs, ‘I’m Not Trying To Get To Heaven’ remains a highlight, ‘Trashy Blond’ another. They ended with a brilliant tune (I don’t think its released, Sorrow Machine, I think), building from a slow start to an epic solo filled finished, It was impressive. They do soulful bluesy rock well.

After a brief venture into the fresh April air for some street food (amazing pizza, Irn Bru then a coffee, yep I was in for the long haul) We headed back into the dark of the main hall. Playing accordion backed by some subtle electronic beats, Callum Easter confidently took to the stage alone, a silhouette, in front of sweeping blue lights. He changed the atmosphere, the crowd focused as he played his harmonious offerings. I thoroughly enjoyed Broken Chanter, a music project by David MacGregor backed by his band. With a proud Scottish accent in his vocal delivery akin to the Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit; they had an excellent mix of emotionally lifting songs. They were my festival highlight, playing well constructed songs, this appears to a be a music project in its infancy and I wish him and his team luck. Medicine Men delivered some heavy pulsating tunes with a bit of 80’s electronic synth, their album ‘Into The Light’ is worth a spin and were another great SD discovery; fans of Tame Impala will like these guys (one of the reasons I go every year, find new bands). After a brief break, Bossy Love stepped up; the duo, described by the Guardian ‘like Prince on a trampoline’, commanded the crowd. Singer Amandah has such a presence, an energy that she wanted, and succeeded to share with the crowd.  Finally, we had Malcom Middleton the headline act of Shuffle Down 2019. The last time I saw him live was at the Falkirk town hall supporting Teenage Fanclub. The Dobbie hall got busy, a late surge in punters came into the take a look. It was a great set, with a few lifts from his latest album Bananas, Buzz Lightyear Helmet, (not sure we’ll get better names for a song this year) was a highlight.

Malcolm Middleton finished and left as the applause died down. The lights on the stage fell dark and it was quickly stripped by the busy sound crew, we looked on as we sipped the last of our ales. The crowd slowly left the building, it was the end of another Shuffle Down. ‘Next year?’ a few people could be heard saying as they drunkenly swayed passed, I met some friends who had never been to the festival before, they had thoroughly enjoyed their experience. They were amazed that all these bands play in their town, on their doorstep.

The work that goes into the festival, I would imagine, is substantial. The volunteers who give up their time and the organisers Rikki and Laura who, when family time permits, throw everything into this. The result? A family run, local festival with an atmosphere that brings people together in these times of self-interest. And you can’t forget the money that has been raised for many local charities (this year Maggies) Five years of Shuffledown, what an achievement. This year has not disappointed. In what has become my yearly ritual, I keep my fingers crossed and hope it returns.

Words Pabs

 

 

 

Categories
music The Falkirk Music Scene

Shuffle Down 2016

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the impressive Dobbie hall

Shuffle Down hits its stride.

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.

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the crowds gather early on.

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.

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merch stalls for the bands. I was treated to two Yossarian cds!

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.

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Yossarian played a blinder

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.

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Paddy Steer, simply brilliant

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.

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Esperanza. Superb to watch live

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.