Nov 232017
 

Duncan Harley reviews Hedda Gabler @ His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen.

A room, filled with other people’s flowers with a smoking gun-cabinet in the corner pretty much sums up the mood. A bored ‘proud daughter of a dead general’ pretty much sums up the heroine.

‘Life for Hedda is a farce which isn’t worth seeing through to the end’ pretty much sums up the plot.

Hedda and new husband Tesman have just returned from a six-month working honeymoon and clearly things are not fine in honey-land.

Finances are on a tight-rope and expectations are, not to put too fine a point on it, stretched. Hedda tries desperately to manipulate those around her as the world she thought she owned disintegrates with every passing breath.

A small cast work a simple set.

There are no Aspidistras here and certainly no inklings of a dusty bygone era; for this is a new production of the Ibsen classic brought to the Aberdeen stage by the National Theatre. Plastic paint-pots house the flowers and an anguished Hedda tries frantically to mark off her territory with a staple-gun before resorting to much more desperate measures.

There is no happy ending here, and this is a harrowing play make no mistake about it.

Bordering on the demonic at points and at others pathetically sad, Lizzy Watts’ extraordinary portrayal of the doomed Hedda reaches deeply into the heart of the matter. Hedda does not own Hedda. Only everyone else owns Hedda. And there is no escape route.

In this age of quickie-divorce, there are still plenty of Hedda’s around. Trapped behind closed doors in strangely loveless marriage, they still seek solace in the gun-cabinet. Ibsen may have penned Hedda Gabler in a previous century, but the issues exposed remain completely relevant to a modern audience.

By Henrik Ibsen in a new National Theatre version by Patrick Marber, Hedda Gabler plays at HMT Aberdeen until Saturday 25th November 2017.

Nov 082017
 

Sunset Boulevard @ HMT Aberdeen – A review by Duncan Harley.

Sunset Boulevard plays at His Majesty’s Theatre until Sat Nov 11.

A compelling study on how to grow old disgracefully this tale of manipulation, madness and obsession seems doomed from the start to have no happy ending.
As ageing silent-star Norma Desmond’s insanity blossoms, the tension builds to bursting-point whilst all around the gloomy interior of Sunset Boulevard the world moves on relentlessly to greater things.

Having failed to make the transition from silent-screen to talkies, Ria Jones’ Norma Desmond pens a clunker of a movie-script in anticipation of a return to those heady days of stardom.

Danny Mac’s Joe Gillis takes on the task of re-writing the ageing diva’s version of Salome. There are no renditions of ‘bring me the head of John the Baptist’ here though. Indeed, phrases such as ‘All right Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up’ might be mistaken nowadays as a prelude to an innuendo laden casting-couch moment, and Norma Desmond’s deadpan comment ‘I am big, it’s the pictures that got small!’ leaves little to the imagination.

Norma is of course ‘Mad about the boy’ – and where have we heard that before – in this case the boy is Joe. And, predictably perhaps, he is strung-along by mad Norma until he can take no more.

The tale is told from his viewpoint and his journey through Norma’s celluloid memories is at times a difficult watch.

Ria Jones’ powerful portrayal of Norma eclipses all on stage and rightly so. The deeply flawed Joe Gillis must come a close second. Danny Mac’s Joe is clearly on a treadmill to oblivion from scene one onwards and this portrayal of a kept-man on the road to nowhere leaves little to the imagination.

For my money though, Adam Pearce’s Vettriano-like singing butler, the scowling Max Von Meyerling, gets top marks. Suitably servile when it suits him, sternly efficient and quietly loyal to the very end; Adam’s Max lurks quietly in the shadows and perhaps his story, when finally revealed, is the saddest tear-jerker of them all.

Animal lovers might just shudder at the understated chimpanzee funeral but, in the big scheme of things, Sunset Boulevard presents as an entertaining and powerful musical melodrama graphically portraying the, sometimes wickedly distorted, dream-factory that is Hollywood.

Fast-paced throughout and with a wild car-chase worthy of no-glory San Francisco cop, lieutenant Frank Bullitt, this classic stage musical is well worth the seeing.

Directed by Nikolai Foster with Musical Direction by Adrian Kirk, Sunset Boulevard plays at His Majesty’s Theatre Aberdeen until Saturday November 11.

Nov 082017
 

With thanks to Roger White.

A prestigious North-East Scotland magazine of new writing and the visual arts, Pushing Out The Boat (POTB), is reminding young writers and artists in the North East and
beyond that they’ve got less than a month left to submit entries for their new online venture, ‘ePOTB’.

ePOTB will be the magazine’s first e-zine and will be devoted entirely to work by young people aged 12-17.

Like its parent magazine, ePOTB submissions will be subject to the same distinctive ‘blind selection’ process, which ensures that work is selected on merit alone.

Prize-winning author Juliet Lovering, chairing the ePOTB team, said:

“We know there’s a wealth of young writing and artistic talent out there but this is the first time we’ve given young people the chance to shine in their own publication. Three prizes of £50 are also on offer for the best contribution in the prose, poetry and art categories.”

The ePOTB team encourage anyone considering entering to read previous editions of the magazine, which are available on its website, to understand the variety of work accepted in years gone by.

Young writer Hannah Kunzlik, one of POTB’s previous contributors, said:

“I was published in POTB when I was 16 and it remains one of my proudest moments. Submitting a piece is something I would advise any young person to do with even a passing interest in writing or art. Apart from the creative fulfilment, it’s like gold dust on a CV for college or work.”

The call for submissions to ePOTB opened a month ago. Full details and registration are available at www.pushingouttheboat.co.uk.

The deadline for submissions is 30 November 2017 and the e-zine will be published on the Pushing Out The Boat website in Spring 2018.

Oct 132017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

Organisers of Nuart Aberdeen have made a ‘call for walls’ to identify city centre sites for new street art murals to be developed when the festival returns in 2018.
The international award-winning festival made its debut earlier this year and a team of globally acclaimed artists showcased their talents by producing powerful murals attracting large crowds over the Easter weekend.

Nuart Aberdeen was brought to the city by business organisation Aberdeen Inspired and Aberdeen City Council, and was supported by main sponsor Burness Paull LLP.

In anticipation of the festival returning next year, work is already underway to find prospective new walls to use next year and the festival project team are keen to hear from property owners and business that would like to be involved.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“We had an overwhelmingly positive response to the Nuart Aberdeen festival and it has been truly transformational, attracting significant footfall over the summer months. 

“We are delighted that the festival will be coming back and the festival team has started work to identify prospective new walls in the city centre for street artists to use next year. I’d encourage property owners and businesses in the city centre who would like to be considered to contact us.

“Already we have noted interest from city centre businesses, however we want to maximise this opportunity to shape Nuart Aberdeen 2018.”

Held in the Norwegian city of Stavanger since 2001, and widely regarded as the world’s leading celebration of street art, Nuart Aberdeen was the first overseas version of the festival.

Martyn Reed, director and curator of Nuart, said:

“The artists, team and partners had an incredible first year in Aberdeen, a truly remarkable event that we took a lot of credit and accolades for alongside our partners, Aberdeen Inspired.

“It’s always a little humbling taking credit for Nuart, because the reality is, the event is a huge collaborative undertaking between so many different talented and passionate individuals and partners. This is where our ‘call for walls’ comes in. It’s a truly democratic way to have the public and local businesses involved in where the art might be placed.

“We can’t wait to see what comes in and to get feedback from artists who will be with us next year. We’ll be in town shortly to scout locations, and the more options we get the better.”

Shaun Hose, Assistant Director of Rockspring, which owns Aberdeen Indoor Market, which was the centrepiece of the inaugural festival has encouraged property owners to come forward.

He said:

“Rockspring have been fortunate enough to work with Nuart on three artworks which exceeded our expectations. The art is now an integral part of the Indoor Market space overlooking The Green and the trendy Merchant Quarter.

“We are proud to have worked with Aberdeen Inspired and Nuart by providing them with a canvass to enhance the urban landscape and breathe life back into our building.

“We and the stakeholders of the Merchant Quarter have benefited from Nuart Aberdeen and look forward to working with them again on other projects whilst continue to invest in Aberdeen.”

The call for walls comes as discussions with Aberdeen City Council are ongoing to secure Nuart Aberdeen for the future.

Councillor Jenny Laing, Aberdeen City Council Co-Leader, said,

“Aberdeen City Council was both proud and delighted to be the joint delivery partner for Nuart Aberdeen this year.

“The festival showed the very best of the Granite City and this is reinforced by the overwhelming response to the festival by residents and visitors alike. It is therefore right that discussions with partners are continuing as to how the council can best support this very special festival going forward.”

Walls must be in a good condition for paining and interested parties should contact the Nuart Aberdeen project team via: 01224 566291 or email: callforwalls@aberdeeninspired.com

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID (Business Improvement District) operates. It is a business-led initiative within the city centre in which levy payers within the BID zone contribute. Proceeds are used to fund projects designed to improve the business district.

For more information about the Nuart Aberdeen Festival, please visit: www.nuartaberdeen.co.uk

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Oct 132017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

Organisers of Aberdeen Comedy Festival have hailed residents and visitors who have flocked to see their favourite comedians and urged people to enjoy the final weekend of shows.

Now in its second year, the eleven-day festival, which is delivered by Aberdeen Inspired, started on Thursday, October 5 and will run until Sunday, October 15.

Festival organisers have urged comedy fans not to miss out on the final shows over the weekend as the comedy extravaganza culminates with a final show at Aberdeen Arts Centre at 8pm on Sunday evening with Paul Tonkinson.

Best known for his presenting work on The Big Breakfast and the Sunday Show, Paul will be joined by guests, Mick Ferry, Carey Marx and Ray Bradshaw.

Sponsored by McGinty’s Meal An’ Ale, the festival has attracted large crowds to stand-up comedy shows at a number of city centre venues.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, is delighted with the response from the public who have turned out in numbers to enjoy the shows.

He said:

“Support for this year’s comedy festival has been fantastic and feedback from customers, volunteers and city centre venues has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Many of the shows have been attracting strong numbers or even selling out which is very pleasing and shows there’s a very strong demand for a comedy festival in the city.

“Though we’re entering the last few days of the festival it’s not too late to enjoy some comedy gold at one of Scotland’s top comedy festivals. We hope people join us over the weekend as the festival draws to a close at Aberdeen Arts Centre on Sunday evening.

“It’s great to see that people are travelling to the city from Aberdeenshire and further afield to see their favourite comedians on stage. They’re giving a welcome boost to our city centre businesses, restaurants and hotels, which is one of the main aims of the festival.” 

Tickets for Aberdeen Comedy Festival, which has been organised with programming partner Breakneck Comedy, can be bought at The Lemon Tree or HMT Box Offices as well as online via the Aberdeen Box Office website or: www.aberdeencomedyfestival.com/whats-on/

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Oct 062017
 

For nearly 15 years now, the people at IMP (interesting Music Promotions) have been putting on a wide variety of acts on in Aberdeen.

As their name suggests these acts are not always the most mainstream of acts and the diverse shows they have put on reflects this. Acts such as Caribou, 60 Days of Static, Arab Strap, The Phantom Band, Aereogramme frontman Craig B, FOUND and more have been promoted by them in venues ranging from the usual live music venues, such as The Lemon Tree and The Tunnels, to more unusual spaces such as Peacock Visual Arts, The Society of Advocates Library and even within a large tent at the Castlegate.

The promoters – better known to friends and family as Mike, Jenny, Mark and Graeme – are turning the clock back and are putting on one of the earliest acts they promoted, way back in 2004 – Thomas Truax.

This will be Truax’s first performance at The Blue Lamp but he is no stranger to the stages of Aberdeen, having performed at The Lemon Tree, The Tunnels, Krakatoa and Musa.

If you’ve never seen him before then prepare to be blown away this eccentric performer and his collection of home-made instruments.

Support on the night comes from Barrett’s Dottled Beauty, the latest project of local psych-folk legend the Kitchen Cynics, AKA Alan Davidson.

Here’s what the good people of IMP have to say about this intriguing double bill –

Thomas Truax/Barratt’s Dottled Beauty – October 15, 7.30pm til 11pm.

We are reclaiming Thomas for his Blue Lamp debut. If you haven’t seen Thomas you haven’t seen anything like it. Thomas Truax (pronounced troo-aks) is an American singer/musician, inventor and multi-media artist.

One of the most imaginative characters on the pop music fringe, since the year 2000 Thomas has been travelling the world performing with his evolving “band” of bizarre self-made Harry Partch-esque instruments including a motorized drum machine made of bike wheels called ‘Mother Superior’ and a pimped-up Dr. Seuss-ian Gramophone called ‘The Hornicator’, as well as his venerable resonator guitar ‘Hank’.

Time Out magazine has dubbed him “The king of home-made instruments” while Splendid magazine called him:

“one of the five or ten best singer/songwriters in the world that you’ve never heard of…an exceptional talent, unique and resistant to comparison, yet fairly accessible even to casual listeners.”

Truax crafts rich, poetically evocative songs about insects, trees, technology, and a lifelong obsession with things lunar, including various reasons ‘Why Dogs Howl at The Moon’. Notable supporters and collaborators include Jarvis Cocker, Duke Special, Richard Hawley, Amanda Palmer, and the late author Terry Pratchett. Brian Viglione (of the Dresden Dolls/Violent Femmes) plays drums on Thomas’s latest studio album ‘Jetstream Sunset’.

A stubborn DIY enthusiast, he self-released his debut full-length solo CD ‘Full Moon Over Wowtown’ on his own Psychoteddy label in 2002.

It was later snatched up by London-based Breakin’ Beats for release in the UK and Europe. Numerous singles, compilations and seven other albums have followed on various labels including SL Records, Homesleep and Blang. Among these releases are an original score for a major German stage production of ‘Peer Gynt’ (by award-winning director Kay Voges), and – inspired by a meeting with director David Lynch – a highly-rated covers album ‘Songs From The Films Of David Lynch’.

Barrett’s Dottled Beauty

Semi-improvised psychedelic folk from Gayle Brogan of Electroscope / Pefkin and Alan Davidson of the Kitchen Cynics.

http://www.wegottickets.com/event/413654

If that’s not enough interesting music for you then be sure to go along to the other concerts that IMP have lined up for the rest of the year –

  • Posable Action Figures / Gordon James and the Power / Rebecca Dunn – Friday 6th October
  • The Alice Marra Quartet / Riley Briggs (Aberfeldy) – The Lemon Tree – Sunday 19th October
  • Half Formed Things / Autumn Hang – Parx Café – Saturday 4th November
  • Kathryn Joseph / HQFU / Biomechanoid / Move On Up DJs – The Tunnels – Thursday 28th December

Tickets are available at www.wegottickets.com

Oct 062017
 

With thanks to Suzanne Kelly.

A new exhibition of breath-taking contemporary Scottish photography explores our relationship with the ocean and the growing problem of marine pollution.
It highlights how this global problem impacts the environment right here in the N.E. of Scotland. Bibo Keeley’s exhibition takes inspiration from the oceans – and the worrying state they are in.

Bibo gives the background to her work:

An estimated 12.7 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year. Plastic does not bio-degrade, so it lingers in the ocean and it is killing animals and plants alike at an alarming rate. The natural order of things is seriously under threat.

The bad news is that our lives are closely connected with that of the ocean. For example: 50% of the oxygen we breathe and which regulates the climate is produced in the sea, mainly by plankton. However, according to The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society the plankton populations have been diminished by 40% since 1950. If the ocean dies, we all die.

Bibo said: ‘I have been visiting Aberdeen beach for about 20 years and I noticed that the amount of litter on the beach is on the increase. I started to document this with photography and I also travelled to other coastlines of Scotland to do the same. I found ocean litter on every single beach, no matter how remote – on the Isle of Lewis, on Skye, at Cape Wrath and on Orkney just to name a few.

The changes that the oceans make on our coastline are slow and almost imperceptible. In contrast, the negative impact on nature due to man’s interference is evident and happening with increasing speed. We – the population of planet earth – really need to slow down our negative impact on the environment.’

Bibo Keeley’s exhibition also includes:

– An installation of some of the beach litter which the artist collected from Aberdeen’s beaches.

– Videos (produced by artist Brian Keeley) showing Bibo Keeley’s personal connecting with the ocean; singing a love song to a dead seal , singing to a stranded oilrig,

– A video documenting Bibo Keeley’s recent participatory slow walking performance on Aberdeen Beach.

Bibo Keeley’s quote on the slow walking performance:

“When we slow down our breathing and our speed and manage to just be in the present moment, we can experience a shift in awareness – it’s a good way to connect with nature”

For Bibo’s slow walking performance, she was supported by Dr. Amy Bryzgel (art historian, author and senior lecturer in Film and Visual Culture at Aberdeen University) who participated in the walk along with the students of her Performance Art course. Dr. Bryzgel’s next lecture in Performance Art will take place in the exhibition space of Mother Ocean at Seventeen on Tuesday 3 October 2017 at 14.00.

Bibo invited the participants in her recent slow walking performance at Aberdeen Beach to have an inner dialogue with the ocean, or to think of ways in which they could reduce the use of unnecessary plastics in their lives; or to just relish the luxury of being allowed to take the time to slow down.

Imagine if every one of us felt so connected with the ocean that they made a conscious decision to help to save and restore the ocean”. – Bibo Keeley

 Dr. Bryzgel reflected on the performative walk on the gww (The George Washington Wilson Centre for Visual Culture) website about her experiences.

“it took us 90 minutes to walk what usually would have taken about 1-2 minutes at a normal pace ..… There was something really unifying about doing the performance together. For a brief moment, we became part of a community that shared something very unique.”

The exhibition ‘MOTHER OCEAN’ runs at Aberdeen’s Gallery Seventeen (Lower Gallery) from 3-7 October 2017.

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Oct 062017
 

The Big Moon made their debut in the Granite City with an intimate and wildly appreciated show at the Lemon Tree. Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm.

The female four piece have been together for less than three years and are already signed to Fiction Records, home of The Cure, Elbow, Snow Patrol and more.

Their debut album  was released last April and made the shortlist of finalists for this year’s Mercury Music Awards.

Walking on to an intro tape of Robbie William’s ‘Millenium’, a choice that shows the band’s pop sensibilities , the band then proceeded to perform a strong 15-song set that was met with adulation by their young fans.

Highlights of the set included recent singles ‘Formidable’, ‘Cupid’ and set opener ‘Silent Movie Susie’.

The band are chatty and friendly between songs – bassist Celia Archer engages with one gig-goer about her Louis Theroux t-shirt after only a couple of songs. Lead singer Juliette Jackson also tells the tale of her former housemate Marco, who was from Aberdeen, and his strange habit of eating scrambled eggs from a mug all the time.

But it’s the songs that people are here to listen to and there’s plenty of them to keep them entertained – from the slow ballad ‘Zeds’ (“Time to get it on if you came with a date tonight” says Jackson) to the galloping rhythms of ‘Eureka Moments’, all of which are expertly crafted, catchy pop-rock ditties.

The song that had everyone talking about is a cover, not an original, however. Introduced as “A karaoke banger” by Jackson, the band blast through a faithful cover of Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Total Eclipse of The Heart’ to the appreciate audience.

And that sums them up really – they play catchy, accessible rock but are not afraid to play pure pop and are definitely not a band to take themselves too seriously.

Touring as support with The Big Moon are another young band making their debut in Aberdeen – Get Inuit.

The band’s half hour support slot brings comparisons to britpop rockers Ash or American alt-rock legends Weezer. In fact, singer Jessie Glass even sports the same style of thick black specs that Weezer singer Rivers Cuomo wears, making the comparison not only audible but visual too.  

Their Facebook page biography describes them as making “dirty pop music” and this is as valid a description as any I can think of. The tunes are fuzzed-up, raw garage rock with memorable hooks and melodies.

Judging by the reaction of the crowd, and the amount of t-shirts of both bands being sported by them, then both acts are destined for bigger things and all manner of success in the future.

Sep 282017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Jasmine Ltd.

Stand-up comedy fans will be able to laugh along with their favourite comedians when Aberdeen Comedy Festival makes its return next week.
Launched by Aberdeen Inspired in 2016, the eleven-day festival will run from Thursday, October 5 to Sunday, October 15.

One of the largest of its kind in the country and full of laughs from start to finish it will feature local, national and international comedians who are scheduled to perform more than 50 shows at over 20 city centre venues.

The festival, which is becoming a firm fixture on the Aberdeen comedy scene, will also include free stand-up shows, comedy workshops for children and adults, kids shows, local talent showcases and comedy films screened at the Belmont Filmhouse.

Sponsored by McGinty’s Meal An’ Ale, the festival’s format includes solo stand-up performances as well as mixed bill shows where several comedians take to the stage.

Described as the Canadian Billy Connolly, Craig Campbell will headline the launch of the festival at the Lemon Tree in partnership with Aberdeen Performing Arts (APA).

Scottish comedian Fred MacAulay, who performed at the festival last year, will make a return alongside other comedians, including Daliso Chaponda who reached the finals of Britain’s Got Talent this year, Justin Moorhouse, Gary Delaney, Andrew Maxwell and Shazia Mirza.

Free lunchtime shows will be held at McGinty’s Meal An’ Ale at 1pm on Tuesday, October 10 and Wednesday, October 11.

‘Lunchtime Laughs,’ which are suitable for those aged 18 and over, will feature talented Scottish comedians Rosco McClelland, Gary Faulds, Gareth Mutch and Ross Leslie.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“The first Aberdeen Comedy Festival was a tremendous success and we’re delighted to have another fantastic line-up of comedians for the public to enjoy this year.

“There was a great buzz in the city centre during the festival and we received a lot of positive feedback from the public and city centre businesses who saw an increase in trade through hosting stand-up shows.

“A lot of work has been done to organise the festival this year and I’m sure the public will want to take advantage of this opportunity to see an impressive range of comedians in the city centre.”

Alan Aitken, Operations Director of McGinty’s, said:

“We’re very proud to support Aberdeen Comedy Festival again this year and play our part to bring cultural events to the city.

“The comedians who will be on stage for our free ‘Lunchtime Laughs’ shows are fantastic and we hope the free entry will attract large numbers to help us create a great atmosphere for all the performances.

“We will be running a few offers during the festival including a set price menu for the lunch time shows and we think it will be a great excuse for the local businesses to gather the team for some light-hearted lunchtime fun.”

McGinty’s Meal An’ Ale will also host two free 4pm shows on Friday, October 6 and Friday, October 13 and the public will be able to enjoy some free late-night laughs on the Thursday, October 12 at 10pm with Ross Leslie and Jim Smith.

This year the festival also has comedy workshops and shows for children and young people. A School of Comedy workshop for teens will be held at The Lemon Tree on Saturday, October 14 from 10am to 1pm.

The event is for young people aged between 12 and 18 and will be hosted by young comedian Andrew Sim who will lead workshops designed to encourage and support new stand-up comedians.

A kids’ comedy hour will also run on Saturday, October 14 at 2pm at the Belmont Filmhouse.

Comedians Tiernan Douieb and Bec Hill will perform a child-friendly show suitable for those aged six and over.

On Saturday, October 7 the Belmont Filmhouse will also host a special Filmhouse Junior screening of Disney’s Aladdin at 11am, starring Robin Williams as the voice of the Genie.

Tickets for Aberdeen Comedy Festival, which has been organised with programming partner Breakneck Comedy, can be bought at The Lemon Tree or HMT Box Offices as well as online via the Aberdeen Box Office website or www.aberdeencomedyfestival.com/whats-on/

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Sep 222017
 

Review and Photography by Craig Chisholm.

As the darker nights draw in at the start of September, there was still time for one more music festival in Scotland. But, unlike your TRNSMT’s, Enjoy Music’s and Electric Field’s, this was one that didn’t require waterproofs and sunscreen as it wasn’t outdoors but in the more comfortable surroundings of His Majesty’s Theatre, The Lemon Tree and The Tivoli Theatre, right here in the heart of town.

True North is now in its third year and has drawn at eclectic range of artists over the years – from Tom O’Dell to Richard Hawley, King Creosote to Laura Mvula, a Neil Young Tribute to a night of Kate Bush songs.

This year continues that eclectic mix with sets from Arab Strap, Pictish Trail, Public Service Broadcasting, Wild Beasts and 2015 Scottish Album of The Year winner Kathryn Joseph.

And this year’s tribute? A evening of Fleetwood Mac songs that included a full live performance of their classic, mega selling 1977 album ‘Rumours’.

Pictish Trail at The Lemon Tree.

As well as the main headlining sets the festival also offered a range of fringe events for all ages – acoustic performances at the Maritime Museum by Pictish Trail and Neon Waltz; gigs at local record shop & bar, Spin, by The Great Bear, Willson Gray, Katie Mackie, The Sea Atlas and Leanne Smith; talks and panel discussions at the Lemon Tree and, most impressively, a Sunday afternoon gig for children aged 9-12 at the Lemon Tree featuring Be Charlotte and Findlay Napier – one that even provided a day care crèche in the bar downstairs for adults whilst the kids rocked out upstairs.

Lunchtime sessions at The Lemon Tree also had The 101, Harmonica Movement and The Deportees play sets for those that like a bit of music whilst having a drink and bite to eat.

It’s the headline events that are the big draw though – and these kicked off on Thursday evening at the grand environs of His Majesty’s Theatre as Public Service Broadcasting and BDY_PRTS played to a large crowd of theatre goers and rock fans.

Support act BDY_PRTS, dressed in matching eye catching yellow and green outfits are a beguiling mixture of indie pop tunes mixed with Bjork style weirdness and some nifty choreography.  

The female duo, consisting of former Sparrow & The Workshop singer Jill O’Sullivan and ex-Strike the Colours musician Jenny Reeve – who has also guested on tracks by artists such as Arab Strap, The Reindeer Section, Idlewild and Snow Patrol among others.

With a new album, due later in the year, you’d be wise to check the band out as their infectious, quirky songs will see them go from strength to strength in time.

Headliners Public Service Broadcasting are no strangers to Aberdeen, this being their fourth visit to town.

However, the crowd at His Majesty’s Theatre is much larger than the previous concerts at The Lemon Tree.

Not that this daunts them – they’re a much more polished act, used to the big stage and more confident than the they were on earlier visits, three or four years ago, when promoting their debut album.

Since their last visit, they’ve released a further couple of albums – 2015’s ‘The Race for Space’ and this year’s ‘Every Valley’, which is a concept album based on the Welsh Mining Industry.

If that seems to be quite a dry and boring idea for an album then you’d be wrong, as the band mix spoken word samples from old film and radio with a light, Kraftwerk-esque, danceable pop sheen.

There’s a pathos and depth to their music that can be sometimes be lost by instrumental electronic bands. But you can dance to it as well – although in the all seated environs of HMT there’s no real rush to do this by all audience members. But, by the end, the crowd are on their feet in rapturous applause as the band power through set filled with tracks such as ‘Progress’, ‘Go!’, ‘The Other Side’ and ‘Everest’ from their three studio albums.

Special mentions must also go to the horn section and the spaceman that appear onstage with the band for their own individual brand of enthusiastic dancing.

Hopefully it won’t be another three years before we see them back in town.

The night isn’t over yet though. For the brave, foolhardy and those without work the following day, there’s still a late-night gig at The Lemon Tree to attend.

Those quick enough to hot foot in down from HMT would have hopefully been able to catch the bulk of C.Macleod’s opening set. Hailing from the Isle of Lewis, the singer songwriter is alone on stage with only his electric guitar and rootsy, raw vocals to fill the space.

And it’s the voice that grips you – a deep rasp that has hints of Springsteen, the authentic roar of heartfelt Americana and the raging howl of the seas of his native shores in there. It’s a voice that has no business coming from someone so young – it’s the sound of experience and age. Check him out now before he goes on to bigger things.

Headliners Wild Beasts are a different proposition – flanked either side of the stage by banks of keyboards, the band are an exciting mix of indie synth pop and art-rock cool.
Singer Hayden Thorpe is a confident front man, standing centre stage commanding the crowd. Unlike opener C.MacLeod, his voice is a high falsetto that fits well over the band’s music. He jokingly interacts with the crowd and engages them in a friendly, jovial manner that endears him to them.

It’s well after midnight when the band finishes but the night is not over yet as a late-night set by Hot Sauce DJs keeps the stragglers entertained well into the wee small hours.

Friday night and it’s down to The Tivoli theatre and a double bill of Geordie folk singer Richard Dawson and Falkirk’s finest miserablists, the mighty Arab Strap.

Calling him a folk singer doesn’t do Richard Dawson justice – he’s a much more bamboozling and entertaining performer than that. Singing either a cappella or accompanied by a guitar that constantly goes out of tune he is a revelation, winning over new fans in his 30-minute set.

Apparently inspired by Faith No More’s Mike Patton, his vocal range is enormous – from low depths to soaring highs, all in the space of verses and choruses of the same songs. The music is traditional but also experimental and Avant Garde – accessible but difficult, impenetrable but melodic.

Between songs, he is funny, self-depreciating and, quite truthfully, a bit mad. Random tall tales include staying at the ‘doggy hotel’ and getting showered down in the yard, about how in the future babies will be made on spaceships by computer and of confusion as to the fate of Judas Iscariot (Dawson preferred the gorier version of this particular tale).

And, to top it off, he introduces his last song by saying that after it he’s then going to “get drunk…. And have a poo”. And that sums him up really – there’s no boundaries to him or his music.

Arab Strap at The Tivoli.

Not many performers have trod the boards of the Tivoli and opened with the couplet “It was the biggest cock you’d ever seen / But you’ve no idea where that cock has been” – but, then, not many performers are Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap.

A year after the bands reformation, vocalist Moffat and guitarist Malcolm Middleton have finally made it up north, a full 11 years after their last performance here. Good things come to those who wait,
however, and Arab Strap are a good thing tonight
for sure.

Moffat, stage front and centre, is an amiable and friendly frontman and he’s in a buoyant, good humoured mood tonight with his between song tales. One highlight being a story of buying a parachute jump as present for a girlfriend who he subsequently found out was cheating on him so they finish. Next time he sees her she’s on crutches – after breaking her legs doing the parachute jump.

But it’s the songs that are Arab Strap’s greatest strength, as they should be. It’s a great feeling to hear classics such as ‘Girls of Summer’ and ‘Here We Go Again’ live once more. But it’s set closer ‘The Last Big Weekend’ that’s their stone cold classic and it’s still as thrilling and exciting nearly two decades after it was first released.

Late night at The Lemon Tree on Friday offers up another double bill of live acts as well as Radio Scotland DJ Galloway spinning tunes till late at night.

The opening act are Indigo Velvet, a young band from Edinburgh who first made a splash on the scene by playing T in The Park’s T Break Stage last year. Headlining are Manchester band Dutch Uncles.
It’s their first time in the Granite City and, according to singer Duncan Wallis, “It’s very grey”.

A lone voice pops up from the crowd to say “Aye, 50 shades of” to his bemusement.

It’s Wallis that’s the centre point of the band – his bendy legged dancing and high pitched, androgynous vocals proving to be quite a talking point.

Come Saturday and it’s time for the main event of the weekend at HMT as a stellar line up of guest vocalists perform Fleetwood Mac’s classic magnum opus in its entirety to celebrate its 40th anniversary.

Previous years have seen similar tributes to Kate Bush and Neil Young and proved to be a great success and this was also to be the case tonight.

Backed by musicians Start to End, the singers include luminaries such as Eugene Kelly (The Vaselines), Be Charlotte, Duglas T Stewart (BMX Bandits), Martha Ffion and last year’s compere and band leader, Emma Pollock.

The first half of the night comprises of a Fleetwood Mac greatest hits set with cuts such as ‘Rhainnon’, ‘Seven Wonders’, ‘Big Love’, ‘Little Lies’, ‘Tusk’ and more given an airing.

After the interval, it’s straight in ‘Rumours’ from beginning to end with a different singer taking each song before everyone takes to the stage for an encore of ‘Everywhere’.

It’s a fun experience that drew a mixed crowd – older HMT regulars that you wouldn’t necessarily see at the Lemon Tree gigs; gig regulars that are there to see the singer of their favourite band and, of course, Fleetwood Mac fans that are at the venue for the first time that might not be going to any other event.

I’m generalising slightly, but it’s good to see such an eclectic mix of punters and it’ll be interesting to see which singer or band gets the tribute next year.

Once that is over, it’s time to head to the Lemon Tree for the True North After Party, with headliner Pictish Trail and newcomers Neon Waltz.

Neon Waltz are tipped for big things – and it’s easy to see why.

The band are based in Thurso and John O’Groats and were subject of an article in The Guardian just days after their appearance here.

They have the looks – and the adoring female fans – that will take them places. Their sound is reminiscent of The Verve, Stone Roses, Oasis and Britpop – a pleasant, keyboard drenched indie sound with 90s influences and the polished sheen of current pop.

Behind the dry ice and red lighting singer Jordan Shearer could pass for a young Tim Burgess of The Charlatans – hunched over the mic in a similar fashion with that distinctive bowl cut.

This will probably be their last support slot in the Lemon Tree – they’ll be headlining it soon enough.

Headliner Pictish Trail is no stranger to this venue, having played it numerous times. And if you’ve never seen or heard him before then you’ve missed out.

His music is folky, electronic and rocky – sometimes all in the same song. Between songs, he could pass as a comedian, such is his wit – droll and downright funny. He has a toy plastic horse on stage and changes into what can only be described as a psychedelic orange dress.

Oh, and he has a large beard and is wearing sparkly makeup.

All of which would mark him as a novelty act but he is anything but. Tracks from albums ‘Secret Soundz Vol 1 & 2’ and the recent ‘Future Echoes’ sound fantastic tonight – especially the wonderful and haunting ‘Far Gone (Don’t Leave)’ written about “The greatest film ever made” according to the man known to his Mum as Johnny Lynch.

The movie is question is ‘Fargo’ incidentally. There’s a good chance he’s completely correct as well.

It’s always a pleasure to see him live and tonight was no exception.

Despite this being the festival after party, there’s still one major gig to come on the Sunday night at The Tivoli theatre – and that’s a double bill of 2015 Scottish Album of the Year winner Kathryn Joseph and Frightened Rabbit front Scott Hutchison.

Hidden behind her piano with a glass of red wine and accompanied by percussionist Marcus Mackay, Joseph is first on stage.

Her songs are objects of beauty – her whispery voice plunging the depths of despair and depression whilst floating poetically over the haunting music.

She genuinely takes you places sonically and emotionally, with tracks that are, at turns, poignant and angry but somehow comforting and warm.

Soul baring lyrics are sung with a whisper, but are an inner scream to her fragility, to her openness and to her wounded soul.

It’s easy to compare her to Kate Bush or Tori Amos but such comparisons are superficial and lazy – based purely on her voice and her gender. But her music, and her words, transcend gender and classification – she may not sound like Nick Cave or Tom Waits vocally, but these are good comparisons. There’s a Gothic bleakness in there, beneath the melodies, and subjects so weighty that no 3 minute could do them justice.

The crowd are rapt – silently trapped in her songs, only taken back to reality by her whispered between song monologues.

Her next Aberdeen date is on December 28th at The Tunnels – don’t miss it.

Headliner Scott Hutchison has an equal depth to his words and emotions – something that can sometimes be hidden when backed by a loud rock band.

But tonight, accompanied only by acoustic guitar, the emotions are there to see. His music, and musings, make a perfect accompaniment to Joseph. As well as similar themes and emotions the two share a genuine friendship and camaraderie as shown by their joking conversations during the gig as he talks to her in her seat on the balcony.

His acoustic renditions of Frightened Rabbit songs are equal to, or in some cases better than, the originals.

If there’s any complaint, however, is that his band have sold out both the Music Hall and Beach Ballroom in recent years but tickets remain for tonight. Sorry, but if you’re a Frightened Rabbit fan and you weren’t there then you genuinely missed something special.

And after Hutchison leaves the stage that’s it all over – the gig, the weekend and the wonderful True North Festival. It’s been an overwhelming and impressive few days and praise must go to the attendees, the artists and especially to the unsung organisers behind the scene who have made it a fantastic weekend of music and song.

Here’s to next year and to more of the same.

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