Thursday, 24 November 2016

Scottish music festivals - what next?

Well that was quite a weekend for Scottish music festival news. I thought I would jot down some thoughts on the announcements from Wickerman and the 'leak' from T in the Park (CONFIRMED today - full press release here) and also look at the future of festivals in Scotland.

There was no surprise regarding any announcement concerning the Wickerman Festival sadly calling it a day, or the news filtering through that T in the Park would be having a 'break' from Strathallan Castle after only 2-years at the site, with DF looking at bringing 3 large festival-in-a-day style shows to Glasgow Green.

Music fans have been debating the future of both these festivals for some time.

Wickerman was brilliant and it was on the rise. The sad death of festival founder Jamie Gilroy in 2014 left the festival in doubt, however it kept going in 2015. Although I enjoyed it that year, many regulars felt it didn't have the same feel and that it would be the last one.

Sadly, they were right. Wickerman was set in beautiful rolling countryside, attracting a real mixed crowd of families, locals and music fans. There was plenty of space to explore and a real eclectic mix of music. Some of my highlights from the main stage through the years included; Candi Staton, The Human League, Idlewild, The Magic Numbers, Teenage Fanclub, The Charlatans, Chic, Primal Scream, Martha Reeves, Stereo MC's, Neneh Cherry, Alabama 3 and Jimmy Cliff - quite a mix!

Chic was one of my all-time favourite shows. The place was bouncing, singing, dancing and clapping a-long. The feel good atmosphere was off the richter scale. Jimmy Cliff at the last Wickerman was utterly sensational, I had tears in my eyes during an emotional and uplifting I Can See Clearly Now.

I missed Wickerman in 2016, I really loved the festival and getting to go down some years with bands or with a media pass meant that I got to meet and get to know a lot of the people who brought the festival together.

Chay Woodman and his crew at the Solus Tent were fantastic in their support of new music in Scotland and the way they looked after the artists they booked was tremendous. One of my favourite Wickerman moments was when I was working with Miaoux Miaoux and Detour booked him to have a rave in a caravan round the back of the Solus Tent. There was day glo face paint and all kinds of fun.

Obligatory posing like the Wickerman picture

I was out for a beer last Thursday night and my friend and I both called the biggest T-Break (pardon the pun) in years. It's been coming.

What next for T in the Park? Have we really had the last one? That would have been an unthinkable question a few years ago. Now, it is all too real for music fans in Scotland.

There have been issues with T in the Park for a number of years; the move to Strathallan over a mysterious oil pipe didn't go well in year one, with huge logistical issues surrounding the site resulting in deluge of complaints. Let's not mention the theft of the cash machine - there will be a few more CCTV cameras around Glasgow Green!

T bosses listened and learned from 2015. I attended the festival this year and loved the site and the journey to and from the location was fine. Although an osprey's nest added to DF's logistical worries!

However, I think T2015 was the final straw for large numbers of festival fans. They didn't go back - I wonder if they missed it. T still partied, but the crowds were noticeably down and in the weeks leading up to the festival there were 2 for 1 ticket deals on offer. Something I don't recall happening before.

The pictures of a reformed LCD Soundsystem, one of the coolest bands on the planet, playing to around a thousand people in a swamp seemed to sum things up.

LCD play to the hardcore in the mud

With profits reportedly down by around 50%, T bosses will have taken a long hard look at the festival and the music market in 2016 and plotted out the next step.

For a long time T was like a right of passage for Scottish youths and many just kept coming back year on year. It was something to look forward to, the announcement of the tickets going on sale, the first headliners, which young bands were playing T break, who was playing the Slam Tent.....

I'm not quite sure what happened and it might just be cause I'm getting old, but for me, T definitely lost some of its sparkle. I attended the first T in the Park at the age of 18 and went to pretty much every single T for a long time - maybe 9 out of the first 10-years.

Watching bands like The Charlatans and Black Grape in baking sunshine on the original site the year there was a dust storm due to the heat will stay with me forever. As will leading a conga through the crowd to get down the front for Kylie. And the human pyramid during Crowded House was incredible - doubt that would be allowed these days!

The move to Ballado went smoothly from memory. I remember a huge crowd from Carluke going up and camping out the first few years. One time we were some of the first to arrive and ended up playing an 11-a-side game of football against another group of lads.

 Highlights from Balado off the top of my head include watching Orbital play one of their last shows in the King Tut's tent and then running over to the Slam Tent to watch The Chemical Brothers. Vigo Thieves smashed it a couple of times and Kraftwerk were sensational.

After experiencing Benicassim in 2005 I never looked at T the same way again. Benicassim just seemed to have it all going on - of course the sunshine and proximity to the local beach helped! The site was set out perfectly, tarmac (the site is an old airfield) meant that even the odd summer shower meant there was no danger of things turning into a mudbath, the recycling and incredible lack of litter on site was amazing, the variety of acts on offer, bands playing long into the night.... sunshine!

I know that the same thing happened to others who ventured south to Glastonbury, or to Bestival, or went over to Primavera or even further afield.

And for the price of a cheap Ryan Air or Easyjet flight then you easily could. I think my Benicassim ticket in 2005 was £100 and that allowed me to camp for a week! Talk about value for money.

There is a HUGE market for live music and outdoor shows/festivals in Scotland. But things change and that market has to move with what music fans want and it also has to assess the competition what is working (here and elsewhere) and what isn't.

Mud, mud, glorious mud?

Could Brexit and the price of the £ have played a role in the decision to take a break? Will it be a lot more expensive to get bands to the UK due to the pound falling so dramatically against the Euro?

Music fans tend to consume in singles or a few songs from an album; so do they want a 3 or 4 day festival when they really only want to see and hear a few of the acts on offer? If these acts were all playing on a bill at Glasgow Green with easy transport access or the option to stay somewhere with a proper shower.......well then that is quite an attractive proposition to a large number of people.

T has been rotating the headliners for a number of years and has sadly been suffering in the way the music business has been suffering - the new bands are just not breaking through in the numbers they once were. So shaking up the festival isn't as easy as it once was.

Stone Roses smashed T in the Park in 2016

Bellahouston Park has been playing host to large scale concerts by the likes of Biffy, Paulo and Calvin Harris for years. Glasgow Green has also played host to the likes of Oasis, the Chilli Peppers, The Strokes and more recently the Stone Roses.

The format works and the concerts generally sell-out. It would seem a much more safer option for promoters than tackling T after such a drop in 2016. And I am pretty sure that music fans would respond well to 3or 4 large outdoor shows with huge names in proximity to the city centre.

We'll soon find out.

So what Scottish festivals are on offer next summer?

As the news that Brew At The Bog wouldn't be continuing also came out a short time ago. All I know is that there are enough people in Scotland who want to go to festivals and enough creative people to put them on - we'll be fine. Times-are-a-changing - but that isn't a bad thing.

Let's have a quick look at 3 of them; Belladrum, Electric Fields and the Kelburn Garden Party. Before I do, I caught up with David Blair from festival favourites Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5 for his take on them.

Guaranteed to put a smile on your face

David - Belladrum, Electric Fields and the Kelburn Garden Party were all highlights for Colonel Mustard and The Dijon 5 on the festival circuit this summer. We played 18 across Scotland, England and South Korea! The first two we played for the first time and were mightily impressed with the diverse line-ups that recognised both established acts and up-and-coming Scottish acts.

Kelburn Garden Party is well known to us having played there a few times. It seems to get better every year and the work that goes into their Neverending Glen is worth the entry fee alone. One of the most stunning natural assets for a festival anywhere.

Should these festivals look to expand given the gap left by T and Wickerman?
If logistically they can expand, then I believe they should. I don't think they need to massively increase their capacities but if they have a great reputation then they deserve to thrive and get more punters in to help with the acts they can book and help to create memories for people to take away and tell their pals. Hopefully starting a positive feedback loop that benefits everyone involved in the music industry.

Colonel Mustard and the Dijon 5 - on location at Kilburn

Electric Fields was fantastic this year and I know from speaking to the organisers that they learned a lot from the move to 2-days and the increase in capacity. The feedback they received was overwhelming and the first two tiers of tickets released have already sold out. They look to have the boutique festival sorted - something Scotland has been crying out for for a long time. Many music fans I know reminisce fondly of Indian Summer and Connect.

The atmosphere at EF2016 was exceptionally friendly and it was fantastic to see a lot of young families there. The festival really supports Scottish music with Scottish acts featuring across the main stage, Stewart Cruickshanks Stage, Sneaky Pete's stage and the Tim Peak's Diner.

With the weekend news - will they look to increase the capacity again?

The beautiful setting of Drumlanrig Castle is around an hour from Glasgow. Keep an eye on their website and social media feeds for tickets and line-up announcements. I have heard through the grapevine that the line-up is pretty established already.

I've never been to Belladrum! One year it had Edwyn Collins, The Lemonheads and Teenage Fanclub - I was travelling! I have thought about going and I have only heard good things about the festival site and atmosphere - but truth be told, the line-up hasn't appealed to me over the last few years.

That might change for 2017 as Sister Sledge have already been confirmed as one of the headliners! Their Kelvingrove Bandstand show in the summer was exceptional and they have sold out the Barrowland Ballroom in December. They will get the party started.

Check this cracking promo video from 2016 below.

Another I haven't been to, but an increasing number of friends are going year on year and they have said they want to keep it a secret....well it's out the bag! Not just because of me, but word of mouth is the best form of promotion and those that go and don't want to keep it a secret tell friends aplenty. 

Check this beautiful film from 2016. It might just sell it for you.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Introducing BooHooHoo

Photo by Brian Sweeney

BooHooHoo were introduced to me by my sister Carla who described them as the best band in Scotland. High praise indeed!

When I saw them live - the name totally fitted. Richard Richardson, Reggie House, Liz Kiyoko and Ewan Laing combine to create synth grooves and an infectious energy. The band have well over an album of songs in their back pockets and if they can capture their live sound and feel on record then they will produce an exciting and exhilarating debut album that will get people dancing, singing and smiling.

Before we can think of the album, it is time to introduce the band via their EP released on Last Night From Glasgow. It's out at the start of December and BooHooHoo have a party planned at Nice n Sleazys on 30th November - it's SOLD OUT. You can watch a video for Mould Me at the end of this blog.

The EP (with the amazing title DebutHooHoo EP) is a delight - upbeat, fun, shouty, funky, poppy, electro goodness that generates a spring in your step and a grin across your face. It's being released on limited edition snap USB wristbands!!! There are 4 different colours for each member of the band. I'm going pink for Lizzy!

Keep reading for a quick chat about how the band formed and their musical tastes.

Who does what?
Richardson - vocals, bass and button pushing
Lizzie - vocals, synth and flute
Reggie - synth, guitar, bass and vocals
Ewan - pots and pans

Where does everyone come from? How did you meet?
Richardson - I grew up in Erskine. I met Reggie in school. Skip forward quite a few years and we found Lizzie on Gumtree in the Musicians Wanted section. Ewan was a flatmate of a dear friend who just so happened to be sound AND a drummer!

Reggie and I used to write songs together at the back of higher English. We used to exchange CD's as homework for our soon to be formed band. After getting depressed of playing the same sort of bluesy rock and roll stuff every time we picked up guitars, we decided to channel our energy into synths and drum machines. As you do. We recorded with our producer pal Stephen Watkins and turned to Gumtree to find members.

What kind of music are you into?
We all have our individual tastes but as far as musical influences go for this band I'd say Talking Heads, Prince, Peter Gabriel, Devo, LCD Soundsystem, Chromeo, Hot Chip and Kate Bush.

So we sound like four 20 somethings meeting their Mum's record collection!

Friday, 18 November 2016

Introducing The Vegan Leather

The Vegan Leather describe themselves as an Art Pop four piece creating complex pop music for your soul, mind, hips and feet.

Consisting of Marie, Matt, Duncan and Gianluca, they cite their influences as Talking Heads, LCD Soundsystem and Metronomy.

Their This House EP was released in 2015, creating quite a stir and leading to a productive 2016 with some high profile shows, supports and plenty of praise. It's easy to hear why - the title track effortlessly mixes cool with fun, before going a little weird (in a good way). The Knife adds in more of the same; it's upbeat, funky, bassy and the female and male vocals combine deliciously. There are echoes of Franz Ferdinand - arty angular hooky pop music to get people dancing. The guitar instrumental is very Franz.

The Bottom of the Ocean is a glorious disco instrumental that builds into a cracking groove. Guaranteed to get people dancing. The feel good atmosphere of the EP continues with Days Go By; probably my favourite track on the EP, before ending with a more experimental song/filler Your House.

I've yet to catch The Vegan Leather live and all reports from friends that have seen them suggest I should do. Maybe you should to. Check their EP and video below.

Dates planned;

10/12 - King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow
30 and 31/12  - Supporting Paulo Nutini as part of Edinburgh's Hogmanay celebrations
27/01/16 - Supporting Apothek at The Roundhouse, London

Monday, 14 November 2016

Introducing - KVASIR

If you want to hear possibly the most sublime music being produced in Scotland right now then look no further than K V A S I R.

K V A S I R is a producer from Glasgow who, with the help of a fencing max and some funky lighting, has created a mysterious anonymous guise that allows him to live out all kinds of electronic fantasies.

I'm not privy to these fantasies but I imagine that they might include Daft Punk meeting Mylo to cruise along a highway at night with the Drive soundtrack blaring out and a vocoder sitting on the passenger seat.

There is much more to K V A S I R's self-titled debut EP than the influences mentioned above though. Four-tracks, the length of a good old fashioned EP, give K V A S I R space to play and the music plenty of opportunity to breath.

Motion is sublime; uplifting electronic pop, beautifully crafted and produced. Exchange is vocoder heaven - the kind of song that many modern day pop stars would die for. But hey, K V A S I R is a modern day pop star!

Lyon has a glorious sun-kissed chorus. It's electronic robotic love with a heart. You know the kind that Daft Punk are so good at?.... Well that.

Cause I can say I'm sorry
I can say I need you
And I can say I'll tear myself apart
But you don't even want this
You don't even hear me
Cause I can't face the truth it breaks my hear

The EP flows beautifully into First Throws, bubbling synths build and build into a true hands in the air moment and you expect the big beats to come in. Only the don't, things drop down and a Mylo-esqe sample from a Trader talking about 'dreaming of another recession' comes in, before the beats do kick in.

Summary - so good you won't believe it.

K V A S I R will be supporting Crash Club at St Luke's on 3rd December and announcing a January date in the very near future.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Introducing - Outblinker and organising a DIY European tour

Introducing - Outblinker

Being in a DIY band can be a whole heap of fun; hanging with your friends, creating music, playing, making new friends and fans, a festival here, a radio session there.....

There also incredible challenges and tough decisions to make - is it worthwhile travelling to play a show in Inverness, losing money and playing to 20 people? Can we all get time off to go on tour? Can we afford to go on tour? How do we organise a tour?!

Chris Cusack is the booker for independent venue Bar BLOC in Glasgow, helping bands from all over come to play in Glasgow. Chris is also in Outblinker; a fiercely independent band that have the ability and vision to create cinematic psychedelic grooves that take the listener on a journey.

The band are about to head off on a European tour to promote their forthcoming The Remains Of Walter Peck EP. In the meantime they have released a cover version of the Neu! song Halogallo.

The cover version is available to download at a price you name. The proceeds will go to Marie Curie under the guise of the Human Is Not Alone project - set up in memory of Robbie Cooper.

Robbie is someone I was introduced to by his great friend Chris. His intelligence, wit, charm, humour and views on life, death and the universe won me over in no time. Sadly Robbie passed away after a brave fight against a very rare and aggressive form of cancer. It is safe to say that Robbie is someone I will never forget.

You can view the video for Halogallo below.

I caught up with Chris to find out how the hell your organise a DIY European tour. Tour dates at the bottom.

1. You have an extensive European tour booked. How hard is it to organise something like this as a DIY band? Who helped? How long did it take? (all one massive question really)

Hi Murray. Yeah this will be our longest European trip, even factoring in some of mine and David's previous act Hey Enemy's bigger outings. It is of course very time consuming to organise these things and can often feel like a full time job in itself when you're in the eye of the storm. We started planning this together around February then it began to take shape in earnest in mid-August. I started the process and Luigi joined when things got serious. Meanwhile the other guys in the band handled peripheral things like bank accounts, insurance and boring stuff I couldn't face.

2. What do you enjoy about ‘being on the road’ the most?

Being on the road in Europe is, for me, without a doubt the highlight of being involved in music. Over 15 years I (and we) have forged some very strong friendships in other countries and it is really akin to visiting family. The European underground has a strong sense of community and it's a lovely feeling to draw up outside a bar 1000 miles away and have familiar faces walk out to give you a hug.

I'm also lucky enough to be in a group of good people with a real nice internal dynamic. It's a pleasure to spend time with the guys in Outblinker and that makes the entire process infinitely easier. I am well aware that this is frequently not how it plays out in bands. Stuck in a van for hours. Cabin fever. Personal space. Many a musical project has met it's match on the road and torn itself apart on returning. I've watched it happen first hand.

3. What are the challenges?

As I say, one challenge is being considerate and establishing good understanding between the members. Making sure everyone plays their part and respects the others. That can take time and frequently needs to be learned the hard way, but all of the best touring acts have ultimately had to forge a viable dynamic through communication and understanding to have any chance of lasting when crammed into each other's company for weeks at a time.

Outblinker's tour van - any room for the band?!

On a practical level, as regards booking, timing is key. it pays to get your plans in place early (as I say, for us we began discussing a November tour in February, making sure everyone was happy and fully committed). However many DIY promoters often cannot commit to solid bookings until much closer to the tour date. So it pays to try get a basic routing or spine of shows in place securing anyone who is comfortable booking well ahead, then being sure to have everything ready to go (bios, riders, online resources) when the "sweet spot" come around. For DIY tours that is usually between 12 and 8 weeks before departure. Activity in that window is frantic as you build a coherent route and swap dates, juggle options etc.

There is usually a final burst of activity which involves trying to fill any conspicuous gaps afterwards. Most early stages of booking tours will result in one or two unplanned holes. Certainly days off are vital, but too many gaps and it takes a toll on the finances (not to mention making for long journeys and musical rust). So between 8 and 4 weeks there will usually be a bit of last-minute horse-trading to get the remaining gaps filled, perhaps by joining existing shows or asking a couple of the existing promoters to put the word out on your behalf.

After 4-weeks, it's really just getting your equipment ready, your transport nailed and anything else is covered.

4. What advice would you give to other bands/artists looking to do something similar?

My advice would be engage with as many other DIY acts as frequently as possible. Unless you get very lucky or have powerful allies, these tours only really work by building up a network of contacts based on mutual respect and philosophy. So for example, helping put touring acts you like in touch with reliable local promoters, putting up posters, sharing online events within a scene you understand - basically acting as feet on the ground for bands looking to visit a foreign country - is an invaluable and greatly appreciated service.

Certainly touring bands will be all too familiar with cold-calling hundreds of venues and promoters when attempting to organise a tour but the response rate generally hovers between 10-20% if you are lucky. There is a much greater strike rate when you have someone who is knowledgeable about that specific territory putting you in touch with people more likely to be interested in your show. it saves the band/booker masses of time (and emotional energy) and ultimately creates a reciprocal sense of good will when time comes for you to visit their homeland.

By all means, when looking to build your touring network, speak to other bands in your area or genre who have  toured ina similar fashion and ask if they can share any good contact lists. At any one time there are generally a set of these lists being shared round the continent between bands on the various scenes. Each time being modified and augmented as new people share them and time passes.

5. Where are you looking forward to playing the most?

As much as it is nice to play fancy venues - our show in Barcelona with Zu is especially appealing - some of the best times I can remember touring were in the most unlikely of locations, such as Le Cave in Chadenet or Lakaxita in Irun. This time around, we are returning to Le Pakebot in Chadron. A tiny village in the hills of France. Last time we played people had driven for hours to get to the concert and we bothdined and slept in the same building as much of the crowd afterwards. It was a real community effort.

Also, at one point during the show, I looked out the window of the venue and saw a herd of cattle being herded down the main road past the venue, a few looking in at the noise. We were in the middle of nowhere. The place was packed and full of good vibes. That was pretty surreal and also pretty great.

6. What can people expect from your shows?

Our shows are certainly loud, but grounded in a lot of melody so I hope people can expect as much euphoria as catharsis. Whilst we have a number of songs carefully rehearsed, we also have a large amount of room for improvisation which means each concert is slightly different and in turn reflects it's environment. In a room that responds to heavier parts, we might take these large sections in that Sunn0))) direction. On a more electronic night, we might get a bit more Aphex Twin. In that way the crowd help dictate the show.
In real terms, the music is expansive, pretty trippy and psychedelic, with some cool lights, a love of smoke machines, and one big (hopefully) seamless performance.

7. All the proceeds from the single are going to charity. Can you tell us about this?

Yeah the new single - a cover of Hallogallo by Neu! -was intended to elp promote the tour a bit and is effectively dedicated to "Walter Peck", the deceased protagonist of our current EP ("The Remains of Walter Peck"). It's a typically sprawling space-voyage of a song, as illustrated by the video that is coming out to join it. We tried to stay reasonably faithful to the original version for the first half of the tune but then take it into our own back garden for it's conclusion. Make it something much more authentically "Outblinker". 

The single will be "name your price" on Bandcamp and that money will go via the Human Is Not Alone project that was set up to fund the work of Marie Curie Cancer Care. Something close to our hearts and with subtle relevance to the subject matter that we will let remain a mystery.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Dancing In The Dark

Cover version of the month #18

Hot Chip cover Springsteen 

Dancing In The Dark is one of Bruce Springsteen's biggest hits; released back in 1984, it was the first single from his Born In The USA album. It went on to sell well over 1 million copies.

It is MASSIVE! Huge synth riffs, a flowing melody an an incredible chorus. Does it get much better than this for a sing-a-long?

You can't start a fire
Can't start a fire without a spark
This gun's for hire
Even if we're just dancing in the dark

This is a song about boredom, lust and fantasising. Also reflection on life; Bruce sings about changing his appearance, longing to break out, recognising where he is and prepared to take on advice.

There's something happening somewhere
Baby I just know that there is 

They say you gotta stay hungry
Baby I'm jut about starving tonight

With the huge synths, sense of escapism and uplifting chorus, this was crying out for an electronic cover. Although instantly identifiable, it is still a brave choice for anyone to take on The Boss.

Step forward Hot Chip.

They don't just take on the legendary Dancing In The Dark, they also throw in a dash of LCD Soundsystem's All My Friends. Incredible! They don't try and compete with Springsteen, instead they pay homage and add their own unique style, taking the listener on a flowing electronic journey, building to a euphoric conclusion.

Find videos for the original and for Hot Chip's Glastonbury performance below. You'll also find their cover on Spotify.

 Also a video for Scottish singer songwriter Beerjacket's own beautiful acoustic cover version.

Previous covers of the month

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Introducing - Gerry Cinnamon

Gerry Cinnamon has been kicking around the Scottish music scene for a number of years. I first caught him live with his band The Cinnamons when my friends (also from Castlemilk) in Sonny Marvello suggested them for a support act away back in 2009.

Gerry shaked, shimmied and owned the stage in Stereo that night and then promptly went AWOL for a few days.  His personality, humour and love of music shone through then. It burns even brighter now.

Part of the reason for the fire burning brighter is the fact that so many people have fallen in love with him. His confidence is sky high. A lot of that stems from the incredible reaction to his song Hope Over Fear that he posted online shortly before the Scottish Independence referendum. Gerry went viral.

The reaction led to Gerry headlining rallies and been invited to play all over Scotland. With a growing catalogue of his own songs and a steady supply of cover versions thanks to considerable time spent hosting open mic nights - Gerry won hearts and minds with his political views, twinkle in his eye and his songs from the heart for the people. I look forward to his forthcoming album.

I couldn't make his show at the ABC but my friend Ryan (also from Catlemilk) kindly offered to write a guest blog review.

Gerry Cinnamon: O2 ABC, Glasgow. Friday 4th November 2016

There’s a buzz in the air. From the bus stops of Castlemilk Drive and the back seats of every taxi leaving the scheme right up to the queue outside the O2 ABC that extends round the corner and up the hill.

I didn’t manage get a ticket when they went on sale. They sold out in less than a week, making him the first unsigned act to ever do so. I had to rely on my ever-reliable source for tickets, who managed to sort me out at the 11th hour. He has asked that he remain anonymous. Cheers John.

I first met Gerry 15 years ago at a music night in Castlemilk. He appeared quiet and shy, stood there in his AC Milan tracksuit watching the band that was sound checking. I’d heard he was a local boy who was writing songs and he was due to play a few of them on the night but he was nervous. “I haven’t brought my guitar”, he said. I offered him mine but he said, “Na, it’s ok.”  He didn’t play that night.

Fast-forward 15 years and it’s a far cry from the shy, introverted teenager, too timid to take the stage that night. I don’t know him personally but I’ve followed his career with interest since then, from the low-fi days of The Cinnamons to critical acclaim as a solo artist.

On stage now stands showman, able to melt your heart with a love song or smash you in the face with a chorus. There’s a rawness about his act and an honesty in his songs that comes from the heart. That’s why we’re all here.

We arrive at the venue in good time. Outside, a sea of people stand patiently; either waiting to get in or trying to punt a ticket for three times the face value.

Either way, the buzz has intensified. Some folk are chanting his name in the lobby or singing the odd chorus here and there. Following another successful appearance at T in the Park and winning Best Live Act at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards people know what they’re coming to see.

There’s a friendly atmosphere around the place; handshakes and hugs all round, sometimes the occasional nod. It’s like when you meet someone on holiday and you recognise their face and your mind is blown and instantly become their best fuckin’ pal, for the duration of the holiday at least, even though you walk past them in the street every other day. It was that kind of vibe.

Over 1400 are people packed into the main room of the O2 ABC. It’s a good night to be a housebreaker in Castlemilk as half of its population is in Sauchihall St. As usual, the front is crammed with people eager to get as close as they can to the madness. The lights dim and so starts the chanting: “GERRY CINNAMON, CINNAMON, GERRY CINNAMON. NA NANANA NA NA NA NA NA”

As the intro video plays on a huge screen above the stage, a silhouetted Gerry walks on stage to a wall of noise from the crowd. There’s a pause as he appears to take it all in. Then he gets down to business. From the opening beats of Gerry’s Lullaby it was clear that everyone in the room was strapped in and ready for the ride.  Here we…

Sing me to sleep. Sing me a love song. Sing me a lullaby.

What follows is a blistering 80-minute set. The sound generated by one man, a guitar, a loop pedal and a harmonica is incredible. The crowd, lost in the moment, passionately sings back every word of every song. And they mean it too. Every syllable.

It’s hard to believe that his album hasn’t even been finished yet.

The opening guitar riff of Sometimes, a favourite of those who followed The Cinnamons, is belted out note by note by the crowd. A life long friend of mine leans into me and says, “This song just reminds me of my weekends.” Yes, Barry, you and 1,399 other people mate. From here on in it’s any man (and woman) for themselves.

“Can I have two pints, mate”
“We’ve got Tennents or Carling.”
“Doesn’t matter mate. They’re just for throwing.”
“ £10.60 please.”

As the night went on the crowd grew with every track.  The number of drinks being thrown and people on shoulders began to multiply, as did the decibels.

Dead Man’s Shoes and War Song Soldier caused further chaos. The former a single released by The Cinnamons, the latter a harmonica driven folk song that Dylan would have written had he grown up in a scheme in Glasgow.

Gerry is joined on stage by Calum Frame for a rendition of Fickle McSelfish, a personal favourite of mine. Lyrically beautiful and peppered with self-deprecation, every man can relate to it. And if you can’t, you’re a fuckin’ liar.

“Then she grabbed on my hair, bit on my lip ‘til in bled.
Fuck the notion of living without you, I’d rather be dead.”

New track She’s A Belter is a love song, so warmly received it sounds like a new fan’s favorite already, even though it’s never been recorded. Its Irish folk song melody and Glaswegian lyrics makes it instantly lovable.

“She is a gangster, with a 100 mile stare. When she walks her feet don’t touch the flair.”

Diamonds In The Mud slows things down. It has a sound of nostalgia that lifts halfway through. It feels like storytelling at it’s most personal.

Single Kampfire Vampire is a highlight of the set. The harmonica solo and aggressive guitar playing bring the audience up a notch again. It becomes an anthem before the harmonica outro bring the audiences hands in the air to show their appreciation. It’s becoming hard to keep up.

“Schools, run by fools. Leave to get education.”

The encore closes with a cover that seems close to Gerry’s heart, Caledonia. One last sing-along before the curtain falls and the crowd leave knowing they’ve seen something special. One of those nights you’ll be saying in years to come, “I was there.”

Gerry discredits music industry ‘vampires’ and encourages people to “Build their own bonfires.” Some might say that Gerry’s built his own bonfire.

I disagree.

It’s more of an active volcano and it’s ready to erupt.

So, what’s next for Gerry Cinnamon? With the album on it’s way and the small matter of some high profile support slots I can’t see this train coming off the tracks. The people are behind him and they want more.

Jools Holland? The Barrowlands?

Who knows? All I know is, based on what we’ve witnessed tonight, whatever the future holds, it’ll be fuckin’ chaos.

Ryan Davidson.

Friday, 4 November 2016

Never Ending Mixtape Part 2

Welcome to the second instalment of the Never Ending Mixtape that you can check out on Spotify.

14 songs are added to the mixtape and it is an eclectic collection ranging from Nick Drake to The Clash with Hendrix, Marvin Gaye, Nirvana, The Undertones, long lost bedroom romantics Alfie and hmmmm Scarlett Johansson in between.

Time Of No Reply (orchestrated version) - Nick Drake
Just beautiful. I'd only really listened to the classic Pink Moon album until earlier this year. There is a treasure trove of wonder to delve into.

Let Me Get There - Hope Sandoval and Kurt Vile
My friend Alan Clarke turned me on to this. I adore Hope Sandoval, her voice is stunning and I love loads of her stuff; solo, with Mazzy Star and guesting on songs with the likes of the Marychain and Death In Vegas.

Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) - Marvin Gaye
What a groove, Marvin sounding exceptional. Incredible political and socially conscious lyrics.

Hercules - Aaron Neville
Listen to this on headphones, you can just make out an audible groan of satisfaction right at the start when the groove kicks in. And what a groove! And Aaron Neville just flows with his melody, delivery and poetic genius.

Little Wing - Jimi Hendrix
So yeah, this was released in 1967. Far out, gorgeous, funky, soulful, genius. It sounds mind blowing in 2016, imagine what it was like back then?

Buttermilk - Captain America/Eugenius
Eugene Kelly has written some incredible songs in his time. Captain America was his short lived post Vaselines band, changing names to Eugenius after a legal threat from Marvel Comics. Much loved by Nirvana. I love the guitar riffs and the urgent vocal melody.

Lounge Act - Nirvana
Speaking of guitar riffs and urgent vocals (and flow melody) - what about this gem from Nirvana's classic Nevermind album?! Kurt just gets to the stage where he injects extra ferocity and speed into his guitar and screams his heart out. Just listened to this for the first time in a few years - sensational.

Teenage Kicks - The Undertones
Teenage angst in purest punk pop form.

When You Walk In The Room - The Searchers
Speaking of teenage angst - this is wonderful loving pop music. I first heard this when my friend's Ben and Annisa had it as their first dance at their wedding. A Jackie DeShannon song - well worth tracking down some of the compilations of her songs.

If You Ever Get Your Hands On Love - Gladys Knight and the Pips
Motown at its best - beat, groove, melody, hooks, soul and advice.

It's You - Chris Grant
Recorded in his garage in Liverpool. This is a beautiful lofi love song that deserves to be recorded in Abbey Road with the London Philharmonic Orchestra. His It's Not About War album from 2013 contains several other stunner; particularly I Am The One and Like A 45.

Don't Wanna Grow Up - Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson does synth pop with childish charm - superb.

It's Just About The Weather - Alfie
I caught Alfie (from Manchester) at King Tut's one time and fell for their lazy charm. They looked like they had just got out of bed and produced gems like this.

The Magnificent Seven - The Clash
Surely one of the best opening tracks on an album ever. The Clash released a triple album with Sandista! and guaranteed that it would sell at normal price! Incredible value for fans and there is so much to take in - reggae, dub, punk, pop.