Oct 302018
 

Craig Chisholm reviews True North 2018. Photographs by Craig Chisholm.

Game Of Thrones’ Aiden Gillen pays tribute to the ‘Thin White Duke’  with David Bowie tribute, ‘Lady Stardust’.

True North returned once again to the heart of Aberdeen with another exciting bill that boasted an eclectic range of artists, a variety of venues, screenings of movies, informative talks and appreciative audiences over its four days.

The best new talents and hotly tipped newcomers shared stages with old pros and veteran performers – and even a ‘Game of Thrones’ star who was there to pay tribute to the late, great David Bowie.

Kicking off on the Thursday night, the Lemon Tree hosted an opening concert that boasted some of the best up and coming Scottish talent.

Opening the night, Glaswegian Zoe Graham provided a low key, intimate performance.

Aided only be an acoustic guitar and her voice this was a display of a mature and introspective talent that’s unusual and impressive for a such a young performer.

Eclecticism was the defining theme of the night as the next two acts explored different musical paths.
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Scottish rapper Solareye – backed on-stage tonight by DJ Harvey Kartel – is the frontman of the hip hop band Stanley Odd.

His socially conscious lyrical flow gave the crowd food for thought and displayed a unique and absorbing talent that deserves to be heard by a wider audience.
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Final act Man of Moon were a tour-de-force of guitar driven rock.

Their music recalls The Jesus and Mary Chain, Spacemen 3 and a host of krautrock bands. Their droning, feedback drenched wall of noise is absorbing and overpowering, drawing you into their ocean of sound and leaving you exhausted and shell-shocked by the time it’s over.

A fitting end to a wonderful night.

The following night starts with a much more laid back and intense but no means any less absorbing acts as the Tivoli theatre hosts Tracyanne & Danny along with opening act Charles Watson.

The combination of singer songwriters Tracyanne Campbell (Camera Obscura) and Danny Couglan (Crybaby) works well and their soul-warming, indie pop sound is appreciated by a reverential crowd.

Drawing from their highly acclaimed, self-titled debut album their set was both intimate and expansive, offering heart breaking and personal lyrics that had the crowd absorbed, rapt and appreciative.
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Opening for them was Charles Watson.

The London based singer / songwriter / producer is possibly best known as the lead singer of indie band Slow Club but he came into himself onstage and gave a great performance that would have won over new fans on the night.
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The Lemon Tree hosted the second of the nights performances.

Kicking off proceedings was Manchester based singer-songwriter Ren Harvieu.

Backed by tonight’s headliners, The Magic Numbers, she runs through an engaging support slot that displays influences of soul, rock, indie and jazzy torch songs.
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Headline act The Magic Numbers have a wealth of material to draw from.

Their late-night slot keeps the crowd on their toes and out of their beds as they pull out Top 40 hits such as ‘Forever Lost’, ‘Love’s a Game’ and their biggest hit ‘Love Me Like You’.

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If there was ever a case of opposites attracts then Saturday nights pairing of the stately, grandeur of His Majesty’s Theatre hosting the feedback heavy, post rock of Mogwai and the apocalyptic electronica of Blanck Mass was it.

Blanck Mass are not an easy listen.

It’s a punishing yet rewarding set that sole member Benjamin John Power performs whilst hidden in virtual darkness with only a screen displaying fractual, confusing and trippy images behind him.

But beneath the pulverising noises are rewarding harmonies and hints of melody – they’re not easy to find at times but are rewarding to the listener that does.

Mogwai also have beautiful and harmonic melodies but unlike Blanck Mass they’re not always as hidden. Their elegant,  engaging, compositions are counteracted by ferocious, feedback driven guitars in what must have been the loudest act to tread the boards of the HMT.

Effortlessly one of the greatest and original talents to emerge from Scotland in the last two decades their revelatory live performances deserve to be seen at least any music fan at least once.

Their ear-splitting volume is balanced beautifully with moments of solace and breath-taking beauty – it’s an amazing performance by the Glaswegian band.

After those pulverising and draining performances it might have been preferable for some to have headed home for a lie down in a dark room to recover, but the Lemon Tree still had something to offer for those with still functioning ear drums.

Singer Colin McIntyre has performed as Mull Historical Society since the turn of the 21st Century and his music is still as fresh and heart-warming now as it was then.

The multi-talented McIntyre – singer, songwriter, playwriter, author – gives a wonderful show that draws heavily from his latest album ‘Wakelines’ as well as early hits such as ‘The Final Arrears’, ‘Animal Cannabus’ and ‘I Tried’.

It’s a great performance and he’ll be back at The Lemon Tree next year with a band that will feature none other than former Suede guitarist in its ranks. Don’t miss him.

Opening for Mull Historical Society is up and coming artist Emme Woods. Her mix of blues, rock, grunge and good old fashioned strong song writing displays a depth of talent that is inspiring to see in someone aged only 23 years.

She may be one of few acts – if not the only – that has a family pet on stage. Nestled on a fur coat to Woods’ left is her dog, Bubbles, who is comfortable enough with the performance to enjoy a snooze during the set.

Hopefully no one else in the crowd had a sleep as they’d have missed a strong performance by someone who is sure to go on to bigger things.

The fourth and final night of the festival still has a couple of big shows to go.

The Lemon Tree provides the late-night setting for Glaswegian indie stars Glasvegas.

The band power through a set that revisits their classic debut album from start to finish that gives the crowd a nostalgic but entertaining finale to the weekend.
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The big, star-studded show of the weekend happens earlier in the evening, however, at His Majesty’s Theatre.

‘Lady Stardust – Camille O’Sullivan and friends present the Music of David Bowie’ is a majestic and life affirming show that draws in a crowd of all ages and backgrounds, proving how timeless and all-encompassing the Thin White Duke’s music was.

Irish torch singer O’Sullivan is an inspired host for the evening.

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Her performance is chameleon-like and theatrical and she takes on the role with gusto, really getting into the spirit of the performance and taking on Bowie’s ability to get into a role and bring the audience with him.

Her choice of friends and peers to accompany her on this journey are eclectic and diverse.

From Paul Noonan, singer with Bell XI, performing ‘Ashes to Ashes’ to folk singer-songwriter Kathryn Williams performing ‘Kooks’ and with performances by ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘Peaky Blinders’ star Aiden Gillen, pianist Duke Special and Cathal Coughlan from The Fatima Mansions, it’s an evening of sheer joy for Bowie fans old and young alike.

And special mention must go to comedian and writer Christopher Green.

The towering, flamboyant performer gives a show stopping performance that captures the spirit of Bowie.

His performance is revelatory – camp; serious, touching and funny in the space of a 3-minute pop song. A credit to himself and a credit to Bowie, whose spirit he truly captures.

The spirit of the evening truly reflects the nature of True North – an eclectic, interesting, diverse mix of music that crosses all boundaries and showcases a wide-ranging display of talent.

Jul 282018
 

The Granite City’s Urban Festival ‘True North’ Announces 2018 Bill. By Craig Chisholm.

Aberdeen’s very own festival in the heart of the city returns for its fourth year this September for a weekend of unmissable music.

The festival, running from the 20th to 23rd September, has announced an eclectic and exciting bill of talent for what promises to be another triumphant event.

His Majesty’s Theatre, The Lemon Tree and The Tivoli Theatre will provide performances from Mogwai, Tracyanne & Danny, The Magic Numbers. Mull Historical Society and Glasvegas, among others, whilst a further programme of artists and free events in unique locations across the city will be announced soon.

The events announced so far are:

  • Tracyanne & Danny – The Tivoli – Friday 21st Sept.
  • The Magic Numbers – The Lemon Tree – Friday 21st Sept.
  • Mogwai – His Majesty’s Theatre – Saturday 22nd Sept.
  • Mull Historical Society – The Lemon Tree – Saturday 22nd Sept.
  • David Bowie Tribute (Curated by Camille O’Sullivan) – His Majesty’s Theatre – Sunday 23rd Sept.
  • Mull Historical Society – The Lemon Tree – Sunday 23rd Sept.

The Lemon Tree will also host the opening concert on Thursday 20th September with a soon to be announced bill featuring some of the country’s leading new rock bands.

Tickets for each event can be purchased online at http://www.aberdeenperformingarts.com/, in person from The Lemon Tree or the Box Office, HMT or by phone on 01224 641122.

Read the Aberdeen Voice’s review of the 2017 event here.

View a gallery of photographs from 2017 here.

Jul 042018
 

Craig Chisholm reviews ‘Enjoy’ music festival at Hazlehead Park. Photos by Craig Chisholm.

Enjoy Music festival returned for the fourth year on a fun packed, sun soaked weekend that drew the crowds, had some big name artists and will have left punters looking forward to next year’s event.
After three years of successful one day festivals the organisers took the brave step of making this year’s festival a two day affair.

And, after a bit of rain last year, also took the decision to make the main stage inside a giant 3000 capacity big top, rather than outdoors – but, typically, the Scottish weather conspired to make it to one of the hottest weekends of the year with not a cloud in sight.

Gates opened at 4 o’clock on the Friday afternoon, when a lot of attendees would still be at work, school or college. But those that did make it early were treated to electric sets by Fat Hippy Records signings, the Scottish indie band Miss Lucid and Manchester band Alias Kid, who are signed to Creation Record’s Svengali Alan McGhee’s management team.

After the up and coming bands had warmed the crowd up it was time for the big names to take the main stage.  Mark Morris, frontman of Britpop band The Bluetones, played an acoustic set that was well received by his fans.

With The Bluetones numbers such as ‘Slight Return’ and ‘Cut Some Rug’ he had no trouble commanding the stage and warming up the crowd for the next band on the bill – another Britpop band with a string of Top 10 hits behind them.

The tent is rammed for Cast.

They do not disappoint those in attendance.

Pulling such hits as ‘Sandstorm’, ‘Finetime’ and the ballad ‘walkaway’ out of their back catalogue has the tent buzzing.

But it’s their debut hit, ‘Alright’ that is the highlight with the crowd signing along word for word.

Completing the bill on the Friday, is a headlining set by dance legends Faithless.
The band’s keyboard player and writer, Sister Bliss, is behind the decks and delivers a high tempo, energetic set that has everyone dancing.

Filled with classic dance tracks, contemporary floor fillers and a healthy dose of Faithless’ biggest numbers she brings the crowd to a frenzy and closes off the first day of the festival in style.

Saturday brings in a bigger crowd and has more stages and family entertainment for all.

With amusements from Codona’s, bungee trampolines, Nerf Wars, craft workshops, a storytelling tent, face painting and much more there’s plenty there to keep kids entertained whilst their parents enjoy the music.

Performances in the family big top prove to be popular and with Love Rara providing walk around characters from Disney and superhero movies there’s a lot of happy youngsters on site. On the main stage, the music provides a wonderful soundtrack on a hot, sunny day.

Blues influenced rockers Full Fat play some engaging, competent blues influenced rock, whilst local band The Capollos storm through a frenetic indie rock set that has earned them a strong following locally and across Scotland.

Another Aberdeen band that are making waves are Cold Years. No less a publication than rock magazine Kerrang! described them as an ‘Aberdeen five piece [that] prove beyond doubt that rock ‘n’ roll lives’ and it’s certainly a sentiment that those who watched them that would agree with.

Glasgow band Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 are, quite possibly, the perfect festival act and will have gained a lot of new fans today.
An explosion of colour, the band engage the audience and make them part of the performance.
‘Dance Off’ is exactly what it says it is with children and adults alike strutting their stuff. The entire audience are led around the tent by a band member carrying a lollipop man’s sign to ‘Cross the Road’ and there’s a minor stage invasion by redheads to ‘Ginger Girl’.

Their eclectic mix of brass, disco, rock and humour is perfect for an event such as this, uniting old and young in one happy, joyous collective.

Dodgy singer Nigel Clark follows them with an acoustic set that includes hits such as ‘Staying Out for The Summer’ and ‘Good Enough’ to a rapt audience.

Welsh rap heroes Goldie Lookin’ Chain provide a humorous set with ‘Guns Don’t Kill People (Rapper’s Do)’ proving a popular highlight.

Over in the dance tent things are really hotting up – a day of beats and breaks is finished off with a couple of big names that have the tent rammed. The talented producer and DJ James Zabiela has the crowd dancing to a frantic and energetic set before handing over to one of the biggest names in dance music – Basement Jaxx.

The dance duo are no strangers to big stages and working large crowds as headlining performances at Glastonbury and Rockness with a full band prove.

In a smaller environment such as this they are flawless – with a back catalogue stretching back over 20 years they have no trouble at all and have the crowd eating out of their hand.

Meanwhile, the main stage is closing out to a couple of eclectic big names.

With 5 albums behind them, Starsailor have no problems working the big stage and pulling out some major hits. ‘Alcoholic’, ‘Silence is Easy’ and ‘Good Souls’ are particular highlights and has the crowd singing along in rapture.

After their set there’s a change of tempo as drum and bass act Sigma end the evening. Hidden behind a cloud of dry ice and flashing lights the duo gives a sensory overloaded set closing the festival in euphoric fashion.

With 10,000 people through the gates over the weekend, some stunning entertainment and beautiful weather Enjoy Music can only be declared a success yet again – here’s to next year and to another bill that will put Aberdeen firmly on the festival map.

Apr 052018
 

Craig Chisholm looks ahead to this summer’s ‘Enjoy’ music festival.

After last year’s successful festival that saw storming sets from Primal Scream, Chase & Status, The Little Kicks and many more, Enjoy Music returns to Hazlehead Park in June with a stellar line of dance and rock acts on the bill.

Now expanded to a two day festival, the fourth Enjoy boasts some of the biggest names in music – from Glastonbury headliners to Britpop legends.

Held over the weekend of Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd June, Aberdeen’s biggest outdoor music festival will see bands such as Starsailor, Cast, Colonel Mustard & The Dijon 5 and Welsh rappers Goldie Lookin’ Chain perform alongside DJ set from Faithless, Basement Jaxx, Sigma and James Zebeila.

Bluetones frontman Mark Morris and Dodgy singer Nigel Clark will also be attendance to provide crowd pleasing acoustic sets chock full of their Britpop classics.

Festival boss Russell Aitchison said:

“We’re delighted to have added these amazing acts, to make this our biggest line up ever. There’s a real range of music on offer over the weekend with something to suit all tastes.”

Marketing Director Mark Lenthall added:

“We’re here to give the North East a large-scale music festival we can all be proud of, and 2018 is shaping up to be just that. Tickets are selling fast and I am sure music lovers will want to be part of the Aberdeen’s biggest event this summer” 

But if you’re planning to attend then be quick – 2nd release tickets have already sold out and the third release of tickets in mid-March are already selling fast!

Tickets can be purchased at:

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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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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Sep 022017
 

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

Stand-up comedy fans from across the north-east will be able to laugh along with their favourite comedians as tickets for Aberdeen Comedy Festival are now on sale.

Launched by Aberdeen Inspired in 2016, the eleven-day festival will run from Thursday, October 5 to Sunday, October 15.

Full of laughs from start to finish it features local, national and international comedians who will perform over 50 comedy shows in the Granite City at more than 25 city centre venues.

The festival 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 format has been changed this year to include a selection of one man stand up shows as well as mixed bills where several comedians take to the stage.

Shows will also be staggered so comedy fans have the chance to attend several without having to choose between events starting at the same time.

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 (pictured above) who reached the finals of Britain’s Got Talent this year, Justin Moorhouse, Gary Delaney, Andrew Maxwell and Shazia Mirza.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“We’re delighted to have launched the second year of Aberdeen Comedy Festival and are looking forward to the opening night at The Lemon Tree in October.

“There has been a fantastic buzz in the city since we announced that the festival would return for a second year and we are sure there will be great interest in the wide range of comedians and shows that will be on offer.

“The first year of the festival was such an overwhelming success we expect a high demand for all of the shows and would recommend people buy their tickets early to avoid disappointment.

“Our ambition with the festival is to source the best comedy for both residents and visitors to enjoy and we hope the public will take advantage of this opportunity to see a varied range of comedy in the city centre.”

More than 3,100 tickets were sold during the laughter filled extravaganza in 2016, as well as over 1,500 tickets from APA and Beach Ballroom promoted events.

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 (pictured left) will perform a child friendly show suitable for those aged 6+.

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

Free lunchtime shows will also 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.

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

“As a local business, it’s great to welcome cultural events like Aberdeen Comedy Festival to our city and following its very successful debut last year, we’re very proud to support the event again.

“It was great to see the people from Aberdeen and around the north-east out in force and enjoying a laugh during the festival, and we hope to see even more this year.”

Tickets for Aberdeen Comedy Festival which has been organised with programming partner Breakneck Comedy can be bought in person at The Lemon Tree or HMT Box Offices and they are also available online at: www.aberdeencomedyfestival.com/whats-on/

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Aug 252017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

The two-day pop-up festival is being delivered by the team behind the world-famous Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.

We’ll drink to that! Countdown on to Speyside food and drink festival.

If you’re looking for beer that promises to be – in the words of a Speyside brewer – a refreshing change from “mass produced mouthwash” or cool ideas like adding a slice of apple, rather than a wedge of lemon, to enhance a gin and tonic, then Spirit of Speyside: Distilled is the place to be.

Keith Brewery and Caorunn Gin feature in the 30-strong line up of exhibitors taking part in the two-day celebration of the region’s gastronomy on September 1 and 2 at Elgin Town Hall.

Spirit of Speyside: Distilled offers the chance to meet the producers – like the chocolate maker from Favour-it Flavours who is isn’t afraid to experiment with new tastes, with crushed Oreo, caramel biscotti and jelly bean being among the most recent trials, and she’s never short of volunteers to help with a spot of new product sampling.

Find out the best cuppa to start the day, with Cairngorm Leaf and Bean and discover how Macleans Highland Bakery add a twist to their oatcakes offering ranges that have a touch of chilli, haggis, seaweed and black pepper or vanilla.

Bartenders, baristas, brewers, whisky makers and foodies will be there so expect to find samples and tastings, demonstrations, food and drink pairings, storytelling and masterclasses.

It’s the second of the new-breed event celebrating the vibrancy of Speyside’s food and drink producers, from artisanal operators to the globally renowned drinks brands.

It seeks to show the region’s wide range of gourmet delights with surprising flavours from alternative producers who, alongside the region’s well-known whisky brands, are keeping the region at the fore of the Scottish food and drink scene.

The craft producers join the big hitters and they all have one thing in common – people passionate about making great tasting food and drink.

The two-day pop-up festival is being delivered by the team behind the world-famous Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival.

Festival chairman James Campbell said:

“A new generation of people want to seek out artisanal products while enjoying the produce of pioneering businesses that placed the region on the food and drink map.

“What makes Distilled stand out is that food and drink producers come together under one roof. There are so many great food and drink companies operating in the region and this event is a good way of highlighting that diversity while making it easily accessible to visitors.

“It’s a chance to discover new tastes and products, and to try some punchy tastes and flavours, some of which may be familiar and some which will be new. Tickets are selling fast and places are limited so pre-ordering them is the best way to ensure you don’t miss out.”

Distilled is sponsored by Bruce Stevenson Insurance Brokers and runs over four sessions, from 1-5pm and 6-10pm on both the Friday and Saturday. Tickets are priced at £20 and this includes entry, six vouchers for tasting samples of gin, whisky or beer, a lanyard and a Glencairn crystal nosing and tasting glass.

All whisky, gin, beer and foods on offer will have a Speyside provenance and there will be the chance to purchase products from stand holders. Festival merchandise will also be on sale.

For more information and to book tickets, visit www.distilled.scot

Distilled is active on social media at www.facebook.com/distilledscot on Twitter and Instagram @distilledscot. Follow the festival at #distilled17

 

Aug 202017
 

With thanks to Esther Green, Senior Account Executive, Tricker PR

Spirit of Speyside: Distilled is a celebration of the region’s whisky, gin, beer and food.

Glasses are being raised for the return of Spirit of Speyside: Distilled – a celebration of the region’s favourite drams with a dash of food, gin and beer added for good measure.

The mini-festival, which brings together Speyside’s leading distillers under one roof and on their own doorstep, is being held for the second year running.

Speyside is the beating heart of Scotland’s whisky industry: it is home to more than half of the country’s distilleries and a host of internationally renowned brands.

Many of those will be taking part at the event, which takes place from 1 – 2 September in Elgin Town Hall.

Visitors will have the chance to taste whisky from the distillers attending, but Spirit of Speyside: Distilled has much more to offer than malts. It will also feature local gin distillers, breweries and food producers.

The event reflects the broad range of food and drink on Speyside, and global companies will exhibit alongside small producers that are just starting out. There will be an opportunity for visitors to sample all that they have to offer.

In addition to visiting the dozens of exhibition stands, those who go along will have the opportunity to attend masterclasses on a wide range of topics related to Speyside whisky, gin, beer and food – some of which will feature exclusive and rare malts – led by industry experts.

Spirit of Speyside: Distilled is split into four separate sessions taking place from 1pm-5pm and from 6pm-10pm each day. Tickets for each session cost £20 – masterclasses are an additional £15 – and include vouchers for six 10ml tasting samples of whisky, gin, or a tasting measure of beer, a Glencairn crystal nosing and tasting glass and a lanyard.

Tokens, costing £1, will be available at the event and these can be used to taste an extensive range of additional samples.

Tickets are on sale on the website www.distilled.scot

Spirit of Speyside: Distilled is active on social media at facebook.com/distilledscot and on Twitter and Instagram @distilledscot

Distilled is an offshoot of the Spirit of Speyside Whisky Festival, which has been running for almost 20 years. The Festival takes place over the early May bank holiday weekend each year and comprises around 500 events across the Speyside area.

Spirit of Speyside: Distilled
1-2 September, 2017
Elgin Town Hall. Speyside, Scotland

Entry: £20 per ticket