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 222017
 

With thanks to Jill Lerner, James H Soars Media Services.

Neville Staple, also known as The Original Rudeboy, is credited with changing the face of pop music not only once but twice.

He is a living legend, and his band, The Neville Staple Band are appearing at The Assembly, Aberdeen on Friday Oct 7.

Neville Staple’s thirty-five year career in the music business is well documented, from the early days with The Coventry Automatics, The Specials and Fun Boy Three in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, to The Special Beat and various other collaborations during his solo career from the ‘90s up to the present day.

Neville’s 2-Tone legacy is huge. 2-Tone fused traditional ska music with punk rock attitude, energy and musical elements. The movement helped to transcend and defuse racial tensions in Thatcher-era Britain.

The actual imagery of 2 Tone has become almost as famous as the music itself. The famous black and white chequered design has become synonymous with ska.

About his musical legacy, Neville Staple comments: 

“The way we brought it was mixing Jamaican music with the English style, which was actually punk at the time. Now most people are into ska, they listen to all the people that we talked about that they might not have listened to before… This has happened again and again with the different waves of ska.

“I am hearing lots more young bands now also putting their own spin on ska – some with dance music and some with a rock beat. It’s all good. The music just makes you want to dance. Even when singing about tough times, every-day things or bad things, the beat and the rhythm makes you want to move!” 

Neville’s autobiography, THE ORIGINAL RUDE BOY, was published by Aurum Press in the UK in May 2009. It is an amazing story that tells of Neville’s interest in music in the early ‘60s, his relationship with Pete Waterman (record producer, songwriter, radio and club DJ and television presenter) who he met at a club in Coventry and his rise out of hell into stardom.

“Out on his own, still pretty special” – Record Collector

Neville has a way with people, he cares about his audience and wants to give them a good time. In return, the crowd are word perfect on every song and each event turns into a party.

“Nothing came close to the sensational Neville Staple Band who really got the party started and had the masses dancing along” – Anita Merritt – Exeter Express & Echo.

Reviews of the latest album release Feb 2017 – Return Of Judge Roughneck:

“For me, ska and reggae has to be spot on to really work. Yes, I am a snob! Life’s too short. The proof is that, once you listen to ‘Return Of Judge Roughneck’, you will be smiling, nodding and indeed a-grooving round your lounge. It’s fun, but he means it”.  Martin Haslam, Uber Rock, Feb 2017.

“it is a joyous concoction of ska, reggae and dub, featuring intriguing remixes and fascinating bastardisations of old favourites. Add to the mix a few choice cover versions, and unexpected ones at that, and what you get is a thoroughly enjoyable album from start to finish”. Loz Etheridge, God Is In The TV.  Feb 2017.

 The Neville Staple Band

The Assembly,
3 Skene Terrace,
Aberdeen.
AB10 1RN.

Doors: 19:00  
Tickets: £20.00  
Venue: 01224 633336

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Sep 152017
 

With thanks to Rob Adams.

Internationally acclaimed Scottish saxophonist Tommy Smith brings his new quartet to the Blue Lamp on Thursday, September 28 as part of a UK tour that includes a concert at the world famous Ronnie Scott’s jazz club in London.

The tour marks two anniversaries.

This year is the 50th anniversary of the death of jazz icon and Smith’s greatest inspiration, saxophonist John Coltrane.

It is also Smith’s fiftieth birthday year and he celebrated this with a sold-out, rapturously received concert in his home town during Edinburgh Jazz & Blues Festival in July.

A presence on the global jazz scene since his teenage years with vibraphonist Gary Burton’s Whiz Kids quintet, Smith has recorded for two of the most prestigious record labels in jazz, Blue Note and ECM Records.

He keeps a busy diary and when he’s not working with his own groups, directing the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra and overseeing the jazz programme he established at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, he tours the world with Norwegian bass master Arild Andersen’s trio, which is widely regarded as one of the premier jazz groups working today.

His new quartet was formed specifically to play the music of Coltrane, a challenge Smith describes as daunting, as well as some new pieces written by Smith in homage to his hero.

“I recorded one of Coltrane’s tunes on my very first album, Giant Strides when I was sixteen, but I’ve never felt ready to do his music justice with a full tribute concert before,” he says.

“I’m not sure I’m ready now, because Coltrane was so far ahead of his time but these musicians I have with me are some of the best I’ve ever played with and they really inspire me to try and take my playing to the next level.”

The quartet features former Herbie Hancock and Jamie Cullum drummer, Sebastiaan de Krom, the Young Scottish Jazz Musician of the Year 2012, pianist Peter Johnstone, and Scottish National Jazz Orchestra bassist Calum Gourlay and released its first album, Embodying the Light, to rave reviews in July.

In concert they play without amplification, an approach that Smith has long favoured in his well-established duo with pianist Brian Kellock and one he prefers to follow whenever possible.

“I’ve nothing against amplified music,” he says,

“but it feels more natural to play acoustically. It makes us listen to each other more carefully and the audience gets to hear the true sounds of the instruments and the band – we sound the way we are.”

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Sep 022017
 

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

Aberdeen businesses have reported a significant boost in trade over the weekend following large crowds in the city centre for Celebrate Aberdeen and the Great Aberdeen Run.
Business organisation Aberdeen Inspired has been in touch with traders to assess the impact of the two events – with initial feedback highlighting that some saw an increase of more than 30 percent increase in sales compared to a normal weekend.

Thousands of people spent time in the heart of the city as part of the Celebrate Aberdeen parade and musical performances over Saturday and Sunday as well as the Great Aberdeen Run.

Julie Haig, owner of Haigs Food Hall, said:

“Sunday was really special and to see Union Street geared up for such a great running event was fantastic. The buzz it created in the city was amazing.

“The sense of community spirit I felt over the weekend makes me proud to be an Aberdonian. We saw a significant increase in footfall over the weekend and we would like to thank the people of Aberdeen for coming out and supporting these wonderful events.”

Union Street McDonald’s franchise owner, Craig Duncan, added:

“Sales at breakfast were more than double what we would expect on a normal Sunday and overall for the day there was an increase of more than 30 percent. It’s great to see these big events come to our city and hopefully we’ll see more in the future.”

Craig Willox, owner of Books and Beans, also saw a significant increase in trade which was also boosted by the substantial number of people who visited the Belmont Street Market.

He said:

“This was the busiest weekend of the year for us so far. The Belmont Street Market on Saturday was even bigger than the one in July and looked even better attended. We also had a queue of people waiting outside before we even opened before the Great Aberdeen Run.”

Adrian Watson, Chief Executive of Aberdeen Inspired, praised the work of everyone who worked to deliver Celebrate Aberdeen and the Great Aberdeen Run

He said:

“To see the thousands of runners and well-wishers descend on our city over the weekend was very pleasing indeed and we are very proud to have worked with Aberdeen City Council and the other key partners to help deliver Celebrate Aberdeen and the Great Aberdeen Run over the weekend.

“This success clearly demonstrates the growing ambition we have for this city and we look forward to welcoming even more runners, from the city, region and beyond, for next year’s event as it establishes itself nationally as a ‘must attend’ event on the circuit.

“Of course, an acid test for my organisation is business feedback and the initial soundings from many of the retailers in the city centre has been very encouraging indeed.

“We’re now looking to the opening night of the Aberdeen Comedy Festival on Thursday, October 5, with this event being the third largest of its kind in the country, after proving hugely popular last year.

“We again look to the north-east public to come out in force to enjoy this great offering, as well as reach out to those from further afield, as the festival also establishes itself as another event that people will travel to the city to be part of.”

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID 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. More information about Aberdeen Inspired is available at: www.aberdeeninspired.com

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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
 

Wolf Alice @ The Garage. Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm.

It’s not often a band that has played Glastonbury’s pyramid stage go on to play such an intimate in Aberdeen such as The Garage, it must be said.

But tonight, it is happening and the sold out, 600-odd crowd are enjoying every second of that band – Wolf
Alice.

This date is part of a small low-key warm up tour to promote forthcoming second album ‘Visions of Life’ and to get them road-ready for a tour in October and November that will see them head to Japan and Europe before returning to the UK to play larger venues such as London’s Alexandra Palace and two nights at the Barrowlands Ballroom in Glasgow.

It’s safe to say that tonight’s show will be the last we of see them in a local, small venue for a long, long time.

The London four-piece play type of rock music that would be more familiar to an older generation raised on the grunge of Dinosaur Jr or Hole; or the shoegaze dreaminess of Slowdive or early Lush rather than to the band’s own generation’s heroes.

They’re a band that are putting a bit of angst and noise back into guitar music whilst their contemporaries are currently more likely to be programming a sequencer on the PC to create pop-infused beats.

Kicking off their set with new track ‘Don’t Delete the Kisses’ the band power through an hour long set that’s received rapturously by their adoring audience.

Bassist Theo Elllis is stripped down to his vest in the intense heat after only a couple of songs as he bounds around the stage and into the pit to interact with fans.

Guitarist Joff Oddie wields his guitar like Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore or Radiohead’s Johnny Greenwood – utilising noise as melody and not descending into clichéd ‘rawk’ poses.

Drummer Joel Amey maintains a steady and powerful beat behind the kit, driving the bands songs along, staying calm in the eye of the storm.

But it is singer/guitarist Ellie Rowsell that’s the focal point of the band – her vocals and guitar playing recalling hints of PJ Harvey, Mazzy Star and The Breeders all at their 90s-imperial phase.

She doesn’t say much between songs though – a few hellos here and thank yous there but no in-depth conversations and none of the arena rock crowd pleasing shout outs that a band of their size would be forgiven for doing.

But this is a good thing – it allows the music to the talking.

The lyrics talk of small town alienation and frustration such as in ‘Fluffy’ with its lines of “Searching for cheap thrills and we don’t know how” and “I got nothing in this dead-end town”, a theme that would resonate anyone that grew up in that particular environment, and one that would especially appeal to a teenager in the North East of Scotland on rainy, cold summer days such as this.

And that’s the x factor that makes Wolf Alice’s appeal clear to see.

They provide a noisy, dreamy escape for everyday life, an escape from the mundane.

There’s beauty in their noise; clarity in the chaos; tender melodies in their guitar maelstrom.

And as encore ‘Giant Peach’ ends with its ‘My dark and pretty town’ refrain that’s exactly where their fans head out to, into their dark and pretty town, after witnessing thrills that were anything but cheap.

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Aug 042017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Citrus:Mix

Comedian Justin Moorhouse will hold his show at NOX nightclub.

Organisers of Aberdeen Comedy Festival have signed up several new venues across the city centre as they announce a new and improved format for this year.
A total of ten new venues have signed up to host stand-up shows in the Granite City later this year, bringing the total number of venues to 27.
Launched by Aberdeen Inspired in 2016, this years’ festival will run from Thursday, October 5 to Sunday,
October 15.

The eleven-day festival, which has been organised with programming partner Breakneck Comedy, will feature national and international comedians performing across the city centre.

New venues for 2017 include, the Belmont Filmhouse, Aberdeen Douglas Hotel, Sing City, La Lombarda Basement Bar, The Shack, The Wild Boar, Spin, NOX, Lemon Tree, and the Wee Glen situated in Glentanar Bar.

Venues for the festival now range from a capacity of 30 seats at the Wee Glen to 350 seats at Aberdeen Arts Centre, giving organisers venues around the city centre to suit to suit any act or audience.

Comedian Justin Moorhouse will hold his show at NOX nightclub and the Belmont Filmhouse will screen several comedy movies throughout the festival, including Airplane! and Wayne’s World.

Sponsored by McGinty’s Meal An’ Ale, the festival will comprise over 50 events, including five free stand-up shows, comedy workshops for children and adults, kids shows, and local talent showcases.

The festival format has been changed this year to include a selection of solo performances as well as shows with several comedians taking to the stage.

Shows will also be staggered so comedy fans have the opportunity 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 Patrick Monahan, Gary Delaney and Shazia Mirza – who have all recently featured on a range of panel shows on TV.

Adrian Watson, chief executive of Aberdeen Inspired, said:

“We’re delighted to welcome our new venues to Aberdeen Comedy Festival this year. It’s great to have more businesses involved after the festival’s very successful debut in 2016.

“It really captured the imagination and people turned out in large numbers for shows across the city centre which had a positive knock-on effect for businesses. As well as Aberdonians, we welcomed people from the wider north-east area and beyond who were keen to see comedy shows.

“The full line-up will be announced soon and we hope people will take the opportunity to enjoy the fantastic range of comedy which will be performed on their doorstep.”

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.

Gavin Paterson, general manager of Aberdeen Douglas Hotel, said:

“Aberdeen Comedy Festival is a fantastic opportunity for businesses in the city centre to showcase their venues and host stand-up shows for the public.

“When we saw how successful the festival was in its first year we were very keen to play our part in 2017 and we are delighted to be hosting both Australian comic Damian Clark and the returning Billy Kirkwood who really impressed Aberdonian crowds last year.”

Colin Farquhar, Belmont Filmhouse cinema manager, added:

“We’re very excited to be involved in this year’s Aberdeen Comedy Festival. It’s another great string to the city’s cultural bow and we’re delighted that as well as screening some classic comedies, we’re able to host a few stand-up performances too.”

Aberdeen Inspired is the banner under which the Aberdeen BID 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. More information about Aberdeen Inspired is available at www.aberdeeninspired.com

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Jul 252017
 

With thanks to Leanne Carter, Account Manager, Tricker PR.

With over 40,000 different types of plants in bloom this summer, Pitmedden Garden is more than used to hosting colourful spectacles.

But nothing could prepare the historic country house for the vivid display of lycra and sequins worn by ABBAMANIA – the world’s longest-running ABBA tribute concert.

As classic hits like Waterloo and Dancing Queen ring out from the stage and the scent of honeysuckle and jasmine wafts through the air, the captivating show on Saturday, July 29 will be a true assault on the senses.

The elegant renaissance garden in Aberdeenshire, which is now managed by the National Trust for Scotland, will be one of the more unusual venues that ABBAMANIA has graced.

However, it’s a stage that the band members have been looking forward to all summer – and one which they believe the original line-up of Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Ulvaeus, Benny Andersson, and Anni-Frid Lyngsta would have loved.

Scots singer Sharon Fehlberg – who has the alter ego of Anni-Frid – says,

“We have performed there once before and it is an absolutely fantastic venue. We were lucky enough to have beautiful weather, so fingers crossed the sun will shine for us again.

“People still love the music of ABBA after all these years because they created timeless pop songs. You just don’t get music like that now.

“The film and stage show Mamma Mia has introduced a new generation to their music, but we have always seen people of different ages in our audience, from five-year-olds to grandparents.

“We love playing in the north because audiences get so into it. The audience reaction is always the same – no matter what the age, they want to have fun and enjoy listening to great music. That kind of enthusiasm lights up the whole place, and as a performer that feeling is amazing.”

ABBAMANIA features the Eurovision winners’ most memorable hits from Winner Takes It All to Take A Chance. The group, which also includes Ewa Scott, Adam Robertson and Steven Galet, focuses on recreating ABBA gigs as audiences would have seen them in the 1970s.

That means that, unlike other tribute acts, there are not scores of backing dancers and complex dance routines. The ABBAMANIA show brings the energy of the performance, but focuses on vocals, musicianship and musical arrangements.

It’s an approach that has resulted in the act, which has been going since 1999, touring all over the UK, Europe and the Philippines, and a trip to the States is also on the cards for 2018.

Sharon Fehlberg of ABBAMANIA – the world’s longest running ABBA tribute act.

Sharon (36) joined ABBAMANIA four-and-a-half years ago after fending off competition from dozens of other hopefuls at an open audition.

She was writing dance music in the studio at the time, but never regrets her decision to don catsuits and capes every weekend.

Some might say that she was destined for a career in showbusiness. Her father is a musician and her mother – Lorraine – was lead singer in the 1970s pop group Middle of the Road, best known for their hit Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep.

She was just three-years-old when she entered a recording studio for the first time, and spent much of her childhood on the road touring with her mum when she was not at school.

Sharon says,

“Music is in my bones and I knew the very first time that I put a microphone in my hand that I wanted to sing. I never thought of doing anything else.

“However, the music business is very, very tough. My mum was quite well known but that meant nothing: I’ve had a lot of doors slammed in my face and a lot of disappointments over the years.

“But eventually your time comes and I was over the moon to join ABBAMANIA. It’s like a dream come true and I have loved every minute of it. I’ve always been a fan of their music, probably because I grew up around that European poppy harmony sound.

“My favourite ABBA song, ever since I was a little girl, is Dancing Queen. It is such a feel-good song and I never get bored singing it. Audiences love it, and it’s amazing to look out and see people enjoying themselves, singing along and dancing.”

ABBAMANIA at Pitmedden Gardens is one of a range of special events being held by the National Trust for Scotland, the country’s largest conservation charity, at its properties over the summer months.

Pitmedden Gardens is an outstanding example of a Scottish renaissance garden and the parterres at its heart are a masterpiece of intricate patterns and colour. It also has six miles of clipped boxed hedging.

The original garden was built in 1675, and it was recreated by the National Trust for Scotland in the 1950s based on designs found at the Palace of Holyrood House in Edinburgh.

Fancy dress is, of course, optional at the ABBAMANIA show, but all are advised to dress warmly. Audience members are encouraged to take a picnic and a rug – or low seating – and some marquee seating is also available.

Tickets are priced £12.50 for adults and £6.50 for children, and are available at www.nts.org.uk. Gates open at 6pm with the show getting underway at 7pm.

The National Trust for Scotland is the charity that celebrates and protects Scotland’s heritage. It relies on the support of its members and donors to carry out its important work of caring for the natural and built heritage of Scotland for everyone to enjoy.

You can join the National Trust for Scotland for as little as £7.50 per month for a family. To become a member, visit http://www.nts.org.uk/Join/Benefits/.

You can make a difference and help protect everything in our care. Donate online at https://www.nts.org.uk/Donations/

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Jul 212017
 

Blink 182 plus support at AECC. Review and photographs by Craig Chisholm.

US pop-punk veterans Blink 182 returned to Aberdeen with a slick arena show filled with confetti canons, pyrotechnics and flamethrowers which pleased their fans old and young alike.

First band up on the three-band bill, however, were New Jersey band The Front Bottoms. 

Despite the Viz-like nature of their name, which has you suspecting they are less than serious proposition, the band play an introspective, but goofy, indie rock that is appreciated by the early arrivals in the arena.

Frontman Brian Sella formed the band nearly 10 years ago.

He stands stage front, strumming an acoustic guitar.

He engages with the crowd and endears himself with comments of wishing he could have lived his life in Scotland and a tale of getting hit by a golf earlier ball that day.

Flanked by his bandmates there is also the somewhat unusual spectacle of a couch on stage on which a couple of guys are sitting.

Their contribution to the set seems to involve nothing more than tapping away on their mobile phones and taking swigs from bottles of beer – nice job if you can get it, it must be said!

There are no couches or mobile phones on stage for the next act however as Frank Turner and The Sleeping Souls take to the stage.

Bahrain born Turner had a seemingly un-punk upbringing – the son of an investment banker who went to Eton and studied alongside Prince William; his grandfather – a “Sir” no less – was the former chairman of high street store BHS.
But despite this privileged upbringing it’s hard to deny that Turner has paid his dues, moving from small toilet venues to arenas over the years whilst playing a socially conscious and politically charged brand of folk-punk that has gained him a loyal band of followers.

He commands the audience well tonight.

The sight of him getting the crowd to sit down and jump up in unison was quite exciting and he also brings one lucky young fan out of the audience, hands her a harmonica and has her play a mouth organ solo during one track.

He ends his set by crowd surfing in the audience which has security scrambling to get hold of him as the crowd go wild. It would be fair to say he would have won over a few new fans this night.

Finally, at 9pm sharp, Blink 182 take the stage. Starting the set behind a curtain with a picture of their logo imposed over a Union Flag, whilst the haunting electronica of the Stranger Things theme tune plays, it drops to rapturous applause and pyrotechnic explosions as the band blast into opener Feeling This.

The backdrop at this point is the rather unsubtle word FUCK in huge flames at the rear of the stage.

But, let’s be honest, Blink 182 are not in a band that deal in subtly much.

There are fleeting moments of introspection though – the cello-drenched and catchy I Miss You is a touching tale of lost love and the title track of last year’s California album is a nostalgic missive to their home state.

It’s the unsubtly of the show that provides the arena rock experience though and there is plenty of spectacle and show that has the crowd in raptures – a huge screen flashes behind the band, flame throwers spit high into air from behind the drum riser, confetti canons fire and drown the crowd in ticker tape whilst pyrotechnic explosions bellow smoke into the venue and test the fire alarms to their limits.

And this day-glo stramash of sound and vision isn’t just on the odd occasion – it’s in almost every song the band perform.

There is another exception to this sensory overload though as they perform one track in the dark, lit only by hundreds of mobile phones in the crowd.

Highlight of the set for the crowd is first track of the encore their big hit and probably best known song All the Small Things. Released over 17 years ago, it is older than a good proportion of the crowd here tonight, all of whom go wild to the raucous, three-minute classic of the US pop punk genre.

And then, after a couple of more tracks, it’s over – 22 songs in a compact, and slightly short, 75-minute set. All that’s left is for drummer Travis Barker’s teenage son to play out as the crowd head out into the early evening.

As was said, Blink 182 are not a band that deal in subtlety but if high adrenaline, slightly juvenile, slick, over the top arena shows are your thing then this would have made you very happy indeed.

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Jul 142017
 

With thanks to Ross Anderson, Senior Account Manager, Citrus:Mix

Organisers of Celebrate Aberdeen have welcomed a sponsorship boost from a leading oil and gas company as they aim to hold their largest ever event in the city this year.
Nexen Petroleum UK Ltd have provided £8,500 in sponsorship for the summer extravaganza which features Union Street mile running races, a third sector parade and musical performances across the city centre.

Nexen joins existing sponsors CNR International (UK) Ltd, as well as event partners, Aberdeen City Council and Aberdeen Inspired, who help to fund the annual event which was first held in 2011, and media partner Northsound Radio.

As well as local charities, social enterprises and voluntary groups, musicians and city sports groups have been invited to take part in the event which will be held on Saturday, August 26 and Sunday, August 27, alongside the inaugural Great Aberdeen Run.

More than 140 local groups have signed up to ensure their place in the celebratory parade since the date of the event was announced earlier this year.

Ray Riddoch, Nexen’s Managing Director UK & Sr. VP Europe, said:

“Giving back to the communities where we live and work is deeply rooted in Nexen’s values and we are very excited about our partnership with Celebrate Aberdeen. Our investment in the event reflects the importance Nexen places on supporting the third sector and the excellent work they do. 

“Celebrate Aberdeen is a fantastic example of collaboration between charities, the local community and business and embodies Nexen’s cultural belief of ‘win together.’ We are looking forward to a fantastic weekend and to the most successful Celebrate Aberdeen to date.” 

Morven Mackenzie, the leading force behind Celebrate Aberdeen, added:

“We’re delighted to welcome Nexen to the Celebrate Aberdeen family and look forward to working with them in the lead up to our event this summer which will be the biggest and best yet.

“We rely on support from organisations like Nexen and CNR International, as well as our key partners Aberdeen Inspired, Aberdeen City Council and Northsound Radio, to make the event happen and I’d like to thank them for all of their fantastic support.

“As well as the parading organisations, we also look forward to welcoming performers from across the city who would like to take part. This year we are keen to hear from musicians, singers, bands and dancers, all of whom can all play a part in the weekend’s activities.”

More information about the Celebrate Aberdeen weekend can be found at: www.celebrateaberdeen.org

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