Nov 282013

In her continuing series on the life of a pit photographer, Julie Thompson takes in The Boomtown Rats gig at the Beach Ballroom, Hells Bells at The Lemon Tree and has a chat with Matt Jolly, in-house photographer at The Moorings.

_87A6911While Matt Jolly was mid-Atlantic, returning from his jaunt to the US with Fat Hippy Records, I was at the Beach Ballroom to see a band from my youth.
The Boomtown Rats formed when I was 9 or 10 years old.

Growing up, they weren’t my favourite band – just not in my genre at all.

Still, I figured there was no harm in seeing if I could get a photo pass for the event and as luck would have it, I could and did.

I’ve only seen The Boomtown Rats live once before, on one hot summer day in 1985. It was a memorable day where many other bands played, all around the world.  

Since then a new generation has emerged and musical taste has changed, so most of the folk at the Beach Ballroom were of the generation who grew up around the time I did.

There was no photo pit at this venue, so getting there at doors open time meant a chance to grab a spot up front but, once you have it, you stay. I was lucky and got a spot at the stage left.

Next to me was local tog, Andy Thorn. Dod Morrison was with us briefly before wriggling his way to centre stage front. I also spotted a couple of other togs on the far right – George Mackie & Craig Chisolm.

The support act was not what we were expecting – but from what I’ve since found out it wasn’t the support act they had previously and seems to have been playing just on this particular evening. Why the change, I don’t know, and it was unfortunate that it was for the last night of the tour and also the last appearance of The Boomtown Rats with Bob Geldof fronting.

_87A7014Still, all was forgiven when the reason for us all being there appeared. Laser beams created galloping rats on the speakers, there was a flash of a Pedigree Chum advert (which was an apparently an in-joke regarding one of their crew, who had been a ‘Top Breeder’ in the advert) and then the show began.

I had, of course, seen those photos showing Bob looking old, tired and sad – well, all I can say is it is easy to make someone look bad in a photo. The real trick is to make them look good.

There was plenty of energy that night – both on and off stage.

I’ve heard about, but not experienced, the sprung dance floor at the Beach Ballroom, but I thought I was going to be catapulted onto the stage a few times from the way it was reacting to the crowd jumping about.

One intrepid lady sneaked onto the stage for a quick cuddle & dance with, a clearly pleased, Bob before being chased by security and hustled away.

Between songs there was some chat – tales about how certain songs came about and how they’re still relevant today – nothing much has changed.

_87A8205BW‘Banana Republic’ written after a trip to the Republic of Ireland. Due to Geldofs ‘denunciation of nationalism, medieval-minded clerics and corrupt politicians’ during an interview, the band were blacklisted from playing anywhere in their home country. The loudest complaints apparently coming from a priest who had a lovechild in the US, as it turned out.

‘Someone’s Looking at You’ – eavesdropping on phone calls, emails, cameras on all streets. No privacy for anyone these days. And then there is ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’… ‘nuff said.

So, 2 encores later, some new tracks from their album along with many of the old favourites, much hand shaking along the stage front and it is all over. My biggest gig to shoot so far – it was great fun and good experience.

I’ve bumped into Matt Jolly a couple of times since his return from the California, where he travelled with Tom Simmons (Captain Tom of Fat Hippy Records), Amy Sawers and Craig John Davidson. Usually busy when we meet, we finally managed to find time to have a chat.


Matt Jolly at work at The Moorings – Credit: Julie Thompson

Matt spent a year studying for a NC in Visual Communication and Photography at Aberdeen College, before entering a 2 year long HND course.

He’s now in his final year and is using his recent experiences covering the Fat Hippy Records trip to the USA as a course project.

He spent 10 years working as a chef before deciding it was time for a change.

He began started filming friends who were working in the local music scene, putting the videos up on youtube, and taking stills using his phone.

Unsatisfied with the results, he decided to revisit an old desire to study photography.

He bought himself a Nikon D3100 and took off on tour with Semperfi, covering their summer of 2010 tour before starting college that autumn.

He began working at The Moorings that Hogmanay – working the bar and practising his photography skills.

The most difficult part (or challenging, as he prefers to put it) of working the venues is shooting in low light – adapting by using slower shutter speeds (itself a challenge, as antics on stage can move fast leading to blurred action) or flash.

Part of his reason for moving on from his previous work was that he wanted to travel. He’s now travelled on various tours with Semperfi – most recently their 2012 European tour. He’s also travelled as far as California, to Molly Malones – who knows where they’ll go next!

I’ll continue my chat with Matt next time, when we take a look at the bands he’s had chance to shoot.


I’ve been to quite a few gigs over the last few weeks – I won’t bore you with them all but will just mention Hells Bells – an AC/DC tribute band – which played to a packed out Lemon Tree last weekend.

The place was jammed to the rafters and the crowd was there for two reasons – to have fun and to make as much noise as possible.

I had the pit to myself – a nice luxury – and the band had their parts down pat.

I’ll just mention a few set pieces: a striptease from ‘Angus’ went down a storm and also as far as what appeared to be a black thong (I was up the back of the venue and it was, unfortunately, hard to see); ‘Brian’ carrying ‘Angus’ around the audience on his shoulders for one long guitar solo; the two cannons blasting during the finale.

All the boys were sporting Movember facial hair – a comment on their Facebook page referred to them as looking like ‘70’s German porn stars’ – their words.

Some people are scathing about tribute bands, but it was an entertaining night, with well performed songs & lots of happy faces leaving at the end – which is surely the whole point.

Coming Up.

I have some gigs lined up for the end of November – Withered Hand, Pallas (which will be reviewed by Suzanne Kelly) and maybe another, which I have yet to hear back from (fingers crossed). Also, if I can fit it in after Withered Hand, a gig at the Malt Mill featuring our very own Fred Wilkinson and his band, Toxik Ephex.

More on how things went next week when I conclude my chat with Matt Jolly and I decide on which tog will be my next ‘victim’.

More Photos:

The Boomtown Rats
Hells Bells


Matt Jolly Photography on Facebook
Matt Jolly on Flickr

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Nov 212013

Julie Thompson takes in The Dillinger Escape Plan at The Garage in her continuing series on the life of a pit photographer.


The Dillinger Escape Plan – Image Credit: Julie Thompson

Do you ever wish you’d brought your sunglasses to a gig? Certainly someone on Twitter recommended that others do, regarding one gig I attended recently. I’ll come back to that.

After an unusually quiet, gig-free weekend, I headed back to The Garage on Monday 4 November for The Dillinger Escape Plan,  a five-piece American mathcore metal band with a reputation for crowd involvement, amongst other things.

I had been looking forward to this for some days.

The two supports were Maybeshewill, a lively Leicester quintet, and Three Trapped Tigers, a trio, as their names suggests, from London. Unusually, both bands were vocal-free.

Maybeshewill have gorgeous tunes underpinning their work. All their material is self-recorded and fantastic to listen to. I recall one of the later tracks had spoken words playing over it, as if a film was being heard in the background.

Andy Thorn, another local *tog , arrived between Maybeshewill and Three Trapped Tigers. We had a brief chat while he got his gear ready and he said he was looking forward to shooting Dillinger.

3trappedtigersThree Trapped Tigers are mostly instrumental too, using their voices as instruments rather than for delivering lyrics.

Trying to match names to faces, when labelling my photos, I came across a youtube video which stopped me dead.

It was beautiful – a simple piano version of one of their songs, Cramm, played by Tom Rogerson on piano on London’s Millennium Bridge.

The piano was part of the 2011 Play Me, I’m Yours art project, where pianos were installed in the streets, parks, bus shelters, markets and general public spaces of cities worldwide. What a fantastic idea.

Tom Rogerson of Three Trapped Tigers plays a version of ‘Cramm’ on a street piano at Millennium Bridge, London 2011.

What a treat – two support acts both really enjoyable to listen to and shoot.

So, back to the sunglasses question.

When The Dillinger Escape Plan came onstage my eyes started to blink madly – good grief, strobe-tastic or what?

No time to worry about that though, as total madness ensued. Frontman Greg Puciato, and his radio mic, were off over the pit wall and gone. OK, focus the camera elsewhere until he returned. Except for the blinding white lights of course. In between the strobes was darkness, occasionally some OK light but there was a lot of smoke.


Now you see see it, now you don’t. Two pictures from strobe sequence. Image credit: Julie Thompson

Hmm, strobes are a new experience for me – this was going to be tricky.

At points I remember sharing a look of amazement with Andy, and throwing my head back and laughing like a hyena; despite the difficulties it was awesome fun!

Up close and very personal at times, a guitarist over my head with  one leg on the stage, the other on the pit wall, and the pit wall shaking like there was an earthquake going on, due to a very energetic crowd.

dillinger2From the few images I managed to peep at on the back of my camera while in the pit, I wasn’t very confident I’d have many of use.

Still, I hope I’ll have a better idea of how to handle this sort of situation next time I come across it.

Once out of the pit, I picked a spot out of the way, on the stage side stairs to the cloakrooms, to watch the rest of the show. Andy stayed down by the pit exit, well-positioned for one unexpected event.

Ben Weinman, lead guitar and founder of the band, has a habit of hanging upside down from the ceiling to play. Unfortunately, when he tried it here he fell into the pit.

I’m not sure if he couldn’t get a good grip or if something in the ceiling gave way. It must have hurt. It certainly broke his guitar, but he picked himself up and carried on with another guitar. I watched, with interest, the regular guitar swaps, for fresh strings, or for charged radio transmitters.

The roadie working below me was certainly kept busy with gaffa tape and the like.

maybeshewillI remember little details, Ben Weinman kneeling down to grab a water bottle, and using it to knock his guitar strings to keep the rhythm going while he unscrewed the top. The Garage house photographer, climbed the speakers, like the frontman did, to try to get some good shots.

Greg Puciato headed off into the crowd again while they stampeded in a ring around him and security tried to herd him back onstage. It looked as if  the crowd launched him over the pit wall as there’s no way he could have managed that leap unaided.

A remarkable show that made me feel tired just watching it. By the time I got home my head was throbbing from a strobe-hangover.

So two Nurofen and off to bed, whilst the photos transferred to the laptop.

Next time, I talk to Matt Jolly, house tog at The Moorings, who has been recording the events of a US trip with Tom Simmons of Fat Hippy Records, Amy Sawers and Craig John Davidson, who went over to support Terry McDermott.

*tog – short for photographer and much easier to spell.

More Photos:

Three Trapped Tigers
The Dillinger Escape Plan

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Nov 142013

Plagiarism. Say it out loud now: It doesn’t make you feel good, does it? It makes you feel sleazy and unimaginative.  It’s not the same as writing. It’s not the same as saying ‘Creative writing is what I do’, is it? Suzanne Kelly writes.

Plagiarise2Stuart Heritage wrote a column on winter in the Guardian, which is paraphrased above; by mentioning his name here and acknowledging the fact, there is no harm done. In paraphrasing Heritage, disgraced ex-Press & Journal columnist Carly Fallon is also in a sense paraphrased, for she had appropriated Heritage’s words and passed them off as her own.

Sadly, the meaning and seriousness of plagiarism seems to have been totally lost on Fallon.

In her (?) work, which oddly is no longer available online, she shamelessly hijacks Heritage’s piece, dumbs it down, and changes a few adjectives.

There is no thanks to Heritage, no ‘by your leave’ and no reference. No quotation marks are used around his phrases to show they are not hers. This is plagiarism, or put another way, one writer stealing another writer’s work and passing the theft off as being original.

Fallon Angel

Carly Fallon, married to New Zealand footballer Rory Fallon was given a column to write for the Press & Journal. This would undoubtedly have been no mere cynical exercise to fill space and hopefully increase circulation by capitalising on an attractive looking woman married to a sports star playing in Scotland’s Premier League.

Surely after advertising for a columnist/diarist, and sifting through hundreds of writing samples from aspiring and seasoned writers, the best woman for the job won. No doubt the P&J will be happy to explain the merits on which they handed out this column, and share with its readership how much Carly was paid.

Scott Bryan of Buzzfeed analysed the Heritage and Fallon columns, and found paragraph after paragraph of Fallon’s later piece was identical or nearly so. The Buzzfeed piece can be found here:

Fallon Press Standards

Damian Bates’ apology can be found in this STV piece (no word yet from Fallon)

In it Bates is quoted as saying:-

“Obviously plagiarism – in any form – is totally unacceptable.  I take this matter very seriously indeed and have decided that we will no longer be accepting columns from freelance writer Carly Fallon. 

“I’m deeply disappointed this situation has arisen and apologise for any upset this has caused anyone.”

Damian Bates is on the Editors’ Code of Practice Committee of the Press Complaints Commission, and was promoted to lead all of the Aberdeen papers owned by Aberdeen Journals Ltd last year.

Perhaps it is a bit galling for Fallon to have been dismissed from the paper by a man whose paper arguably promotes his wife’s business interests? Mrs Bates, aka Sarah Malone, works for Donald Trump at the Menie Estate, where two Sites of Special Scientific Interest were given over for a golf course and housing, and where the residents face intrusive security, and a host of hardships.

The paper often runs pieces favourable to Trump (who stands accused of racketeering in the US at present over his Trump ‘University’ programme). In fact Bates declared he would not run anything from pressure group Tripping Up Trump – claiming among other things they were not ‘local’ enough for their members’ opinions to be considered.

The P&J has all but ignored Anthony Baxter and Richard Phinney’s documentary ‘You’ve Been Trumped’ which won awards world-wide. In it the many issues of Trump’s activities at the Menie Estate are examined by experts; it includes dramatic footage of the documentary makers being arrested while filming – a new first for the area, and arguably a low for journalism.

All of which adds up to some very interesting values and standards at work within Aberdeen Journals Ltd.

Surely though, with anti-plagiarism software in existence, and with others making the connection between Fallon and purloined paragraphs, someone at the P&J involved in reading, proofreading and editing her columns might have had a sense of déjà vu?

Fallon on a Bruise

Alas for Carly, the cat is out of the bag, the jig is up, and the fact is copy that went out under her name in the P&J was appropriated from writers elsewhere in the UK without any acknowledgement, thanks or compensation. The word is that Fleet Street’s finest lawyers are rubbing their hands and sharpening their pencils in anticipation of compensation claims on behalf of the wronged writers and their publishers.

Fallon on Hard Times

The Bastion of journalistic ethics, The Aberdeen Press & Journal (Editor Damian Bates) has disposed of Mrs Fallon’s services after her plagiarism was proved beyond any reasonable doubt. Not only had this hack hijacked Heritage’s work, she’d also borrowed heavily (to say the least) from other writers including Guardian’s Lucy Mangan, Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett, Toby Young (The Spectator) and Jan Moir (Daily Mail).

Toby Young wrote ‘How to Lose Friends and Alienate People;’ there is some evidence that Mrs Fallon, if not copying this text, is at any rate applying its philosophy. Stuart Heritage’s Twitter account notes he’s had an apology from the editor of the P&J, but no word yet from Carly.

What were the complex subjects analysed by these writers  that were so difficult to grasp that stealing the material was the only solution to covering the issues examined? Whether Winter has more gravity than the other seasons, the joys of wearing a warm bathrobe instead of a silk kimono, and how is it that summer can fade to the winter months, and Halloween.

What should have been easy, simplistic musings from football WAG Fallon on common subjects became this unfortunate serial columnar kleptomania. Our average sixth formers could have come up with something original to say on these themes, but sadly, not Carly. Or did Carly indeed write these columns in the first place?

If she had used a ghost writer, or had a ghost writer foisted upon her by a publication eager to seize on her football-related popularity, then she wouldn’t have been the first a, b or z list sleb to be ghosted. At present neither Mrs Fallon nor the Press & Journal have commented on this possible angle.

Writing is – or should be – a highly individualised activity; the writer invests their time, research and skills into producing something that they want to be associated with. Stealing an author’s work is about as low as a fellow author can sink.

What would have been solicitor Carly Fallon’s first clue that plagiarism was criminal? Perhaps she missed class the day this would have been broached by her professors.

Then again, as long as there are tabloids like the P&J that dole out columnist jobs to celebrities first, then worry about writing calibre and credentials, and the small matter of having something to say later, we’ll keep valuing writing as an activity anyone can do, and one that is only of interest if the person doing the writing is famous, or bedding the famous.

There will inevitably be further fallout from the Fallon story; all that remains to be said is ‘Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive’ – Sir Walter Scott (lest there be any doubt).

Image credit: © Antony Rufus | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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Nov 142013

Julie Thompson takes in The Crazy World of Arthur Brown at The Moorings and Fatherson at The Garage in her continuing series on the life of a pit photographer.

Arthur Brown1

In the past nine days I’ve been to see and photograph three very different types of bands.

What can I say about Arthur Brown? If and when I get to 71 years of age, I hope I have the energy he does.

When I arrived at the venue, they were preparing the stage area.

There was a single chair carefully placed by the stage – not something normally left there.

The support act was Lifecycle, a three-piece band from London who were really very good. The lead singer played guitar and took live samples of his vocals and guitar, via a device attached to his guitar strap, to loop back over the song. Very interesting stuff and fascinating to watch.

Their set ended and the rush to prepare the stage for the main act began. The chair was moved to centre stage at the front, so I guessed it was to help Arthur get onstage. I was never very good at guessing, it seems.

lifecycleAt this point another tog*, Dod Morrison, moved forward and shortly afterwards George Mackie arrived. We all had a brief chat before resuming the wait.

Flash, The Moorings’ owner, hopped up onstage with a small cushion after everything was set. It amused me that he looked a bit embarrassed, and shoved the cushion under the keyboard before hopping back down.

Shortly afterwards, the side door opened and the band appeared. Some were robed and all were masked.

The show was about to start.

As it turned out, Arthur Brown was more than capable of getting onstage without help of a chair. However, the keyboard player was a little encumbered by a plaster cast on his left leg. The cushion, it turned out, was for his foot to rest on.

Eventually everyone was onstage and settled, the chair removed and the show began. It was a show, with some amusing, well-rehearsed elements, like the theft of a keyboard, which the keys-man continued to play with his crutch. You can see a three-photo sequence of this in the Flickr photos linked.

Arthur Brown2I was unaware at the time that there was a hidden band member, Angel Flame.

She popped out of a small room at the back, each time in a new costume. A golden-winged elemental for Fire, a Flamenco dancer, or as Temptation.

A truly excellent show; the queue to meet the band afterwards took a long time to disperse and everyone I saw was grinning. Even Flash.

Arthur Brown seems to visit Aberdeen quite frequently, so do try and catch his show next time.

I certainly will.

Three days later I found myself in The Garage photo pit for Fatherson. The Garage usually has two support acts and kicks off quite early compared to other places, as they re-open the doors at 2200 or so for the nightclub sessions. This means it’s a good venue to visit on a weeknight when you have an early start the next morning.

caramitchellBoth support acts were from Aberdeen, Cara Mitchell, a 17 year old who I’d caught playing in HMV a couple of weeks before, and Forest Fires, a five-piece alternative rock band formed in 2011.

Cara was first on as the place was only just starting to fill up. She seems a very confident and accomplished performer and I was pleased to be able to see her onstage at last. I got my three songs in the pit. Cara is a pretty lass and easy to shoot.

Then I got to hang out to watch and  grabbed a drink.

forestfires2Forest Fires are a lively bunch of lads, great fun to shoot and just as good to listen to. I enjoyed them very much and actually went online to buy their EP a few days later. I really hope to catch these guys again soon.

In the gap between Forest Fires and Fatherson, I spotted Cara Mitchell, guitar case in hand, heading through the crowd to meet up with a group of people. She passed her guitar to someone I can only assume was her mum, and gave her a big hug.  Mum left but Cara stopped on to enjoy the rest of the show.

Fatherson are officially a 4 piece band from Glasgow, seet at T in the Park in 2012 was aired on BBC2.

fatherson2However, on this tour there is a fifth person, Elaine Glass, playing cello and providing some vocals. They’ve been getting good reviews everywhere and I can understand why. Bouncy and energetic, the crowd loved them.

After my time in the pit, I went and hung out behind the sound desk, where I could see the band, watch the soundman dance and the lighting man have a ball with the spot controls.

All in all, it was a very good way to spend a Wednesday evening.

(*tog – short for photographer and much easier to spell.)

More Photos:

Arthur Brown
Cara Mitchell
Forest Fires

Next in Aberdeen Voice, Julie covers the eagerly anticipated American mathcore metal band The Dillinger Escape Plan at The Garage.

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Nov 012013

Julie Thompson shares her experience as a fledgling music photographer, and a few of her pictures taken at The Old Granite Whistle Test at HMV between August and October 2013.

Leanne Smith at HMV - Pic by Julie Thompson

Leanne Smith performs for The Old Granite Whistle Test at HMV – Pic by Julie Thompson

Here’s a little quiz for you. What do Gerry Jablonski, Craig John Davidson, Amy Sawers, The Lorelei and Little Kicks have in common?

If you answered ‘Fat Hippy Records’, then you’d be right. But were you also aware that they, and several of their Fat Hippy siblings, have also played free gigs in HMV on Thursday nights for the last few months?

Let me present The Old Granite Whistle Test:

“The Old Granite Whistle Test is a weekly event at HMV in Aberdeen. It occurs weekly on a Thursday evening at 6:00. The band night was initially set up by HMV as a platform for new rising local acts to get some publicity, but quickly became a partnership between Captain Toms/Fat Hippy Records and HMV Aberdeen. As of the present moment, Steven Spencer and Tom Simmonds are dual organisers of the weekly event.”

The Old Granite Whistle Test sessions began on 1st August 2013 and were kicked off by Daniel Mutch, a young acoustic singer/songwriter.  The second week showcased Craig John Davidson, whom I have since had the privilege of seeing play, when he supported The Lorelei at Meldrum Town Hall.

Sadly, I was unaware of these sessions until the third one, when The Lorelei came down to entertain us.

Robbie Flanagan at HMV - Pic by Julie Thompson

Despite complaints from a neighbouring vendor that they were too loud (just how is that possible?) they did their thing with that exuberant joy for their music which they seem to have, whenever I see them play; and, as a bonus, they got complimentary juices from the Juice Bar.

First Leanne Smith, a bonny girl with a sweet smile and voice to match, and then Amy Sawers, amazing voice, entertained us on the following Thursday evenings, bringing August to a close.

September’s line-up began with Robbie Flanagan and his guitar, and the following week, the twin rappers SHY & DRS, accompanied by Dave Brown on guitar.

Shy and DRS at HMV - Pic by Julie ThompsonThey also filled Sandi Thom’s vocals on their Top 40 hit, The Love Is Gone.

The non-acoustic part of their set was sadly cut short due to technical problems.

The third session, featuring Uniform, had a delayed start as their frontman was caught in traffic.

Unfortunately, I only caught the very start of their set as I had an appointment elsewhere.

The fourth week was a blast, with Gerry Jablonski and the Electric Band bouncing around HMV, fresh from their new album launch at The Lemon Tree; which was, incidentally, my first official music shoot, providing images for the Aberdeen Voice.

The Little Kicks at HMV - Pic by Julie Thompson

What an excellent way to wind up September.

October opened with The Little Kicks, well, half of them, who are always a favourite. As they were playing later that evening at another venue, the drummer and bass player were not performing, although I did spot them lurking in the crowd.

I first encountered, and shot, this band at the Brewdog AGM in August. I was attending that event to provide images for an Aberdeen Voice article.

In fact they were, along with The Xcerts, the first live music I’d shot, apart from at the Belladrum Festival a couple of weeks earlier. Confession time: it gave me such a buzz that I wanted to do more.

Cara Mitchell at HMV - Pic by Julie ThompsonCara Mitchell played the second session of October. It was the first time I’d had the pleasure of hearing her.

The third week was supposed to be the Polish band, CETI, fresh from their Lemon Tree album launch.

However, due to illness they were replaced at short notice by Jon Davie.

I’d come across this singer/guitarist before when he played a solo acoustic set at The Lemon Tree.

He’s the frontman for GutterGodz, who I went down to Stonehaven Town Hall on Oct 25th to shoot, along with Deadfire and The Ruckus.

Colin Clyne at HMV - Pic by Julie ThompsonColin Clyne, back home from a long stint in California, played the fourth week.

He has a good voice, which he accompanies with his guitar and mouth organ.

Having built up a following in the United States, he is hoping to repeat his success back home.

Over the weeks, I’ve chatted with Captain Tom of Fat Hippy Records about these sessions.

I put a few questions to him:

Q:  Who came up with the idea of The Old Granite Whistle Test, and the name?

A:  It was Steve Spencer, who works at HMV, who came up with the name and made the effort to get everyone involved.

Q:  Has it been easy to persuade the acts to play?

A: Very. No one has needed to be persuaded, I think just about everyone we asked said yes, if they were available, and many more have asked to play.

Q:  Have the bands enjoyed the experience?

A: I believe so. Some nights have been busier than others, but I think most relished the opportunity to play HMV for the first time.

Q: So, was it a frustrating or fun experience for you?

A: A bit of both, I suppose, if I’m honest. It’s great to be involved in an exciting new outlet for Aberdeen’s burgeoning and talented live music scene, but it can be a frustrating business when bands cancel at short notice or there’s a lack of support for really talented artists. But that’s the same for all gigs everywhere.

Q:  Are there any amusing anecdotes you can relate?

A: Well, there have been a few interesting moments along the way. Without being specific I’ll confess that most of them involve the weekly running of the gauntlet with traffic wardens, to get parked anywhere near HMV to unload the PA. They’re very good at their job, so they are.

Q: Have HMV enjoyed giving up a bit of their floor space and time, do you think?

A: I think so. I get the impression they have probably wanted to do something like this with local music for some time, and it’s just taken a while for the opportunity to arise.

Q: Will you be doing more next year?

A: I hope so. This first 3 month stint from August to October was in some ways an experiment to see how it went, and what sort of response it got. So we’ll sit down with the powers that be at HMV over the next few weeks and see how we all feel it’s gone. Hopefully everyone’s happy and we can find a way to do another 3 month stint in early 2014.

Jon Davie of Guttergodz at HMV - Pic by Julie ThompsonSuburban Saints will complete the October line-up on the 31st, and, indeed, bring The Old Granite Whistle Test to a close for 2013. Whether it returns next year remains to be seen, but for me it has been a great way to see some of our local talent in action.

If The Old Granite Whistle Test returns next year, I shall certainly be there.

You’ve heard a little bit in this article about how and when I got started photographing live music.

In future weeks I plan on catching up with some of the local music photographers for a chat, to find out how they got started, their best and worst experiences, and maybe even garner some tips.

Click here to view more HMV Photos.

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Oct 112013

With thanks to Stevie Kearney.

mag-cover_2A new training course for aspiring NE music journalists is being launched as part of the 57º North web portal, run through community media charity Station House Media Unit (SHMU).
57º North is the online music hub for Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire and now, thanks to funding from Aberdeen City Council’s Cultural Grant Awards, free training is on offer for those who wish to learn all about music journalism and have their work published on the website.

Each course will comprise four two hour sessions. The aim is to teach writing skills, interview techniques and develop music industry knowledge, with those completing the course becoming accredited writers for

Accredited writers will have the opportunity to score press passes for gigs and interview local and touring musicians.

There is no age limit and previous experience is not necessary, although applicants will need to display a passion for writing and promoting the NE music scene.

The classes will be offered on Wednesdays from 1800-2000, starting on October 23, at Seventeen, the city’s cultural hub on Belmont Street,

57º North Project Manager Stevie Kearney said:

This is a fabulous opportunity for people to learn all about music journalism and be part of a ground-breaking project, helping promote music in and around Aberdeen.

For years people have complained that the region’s music scene lacks a focal point – the opportunity is now here with a not-for-profit project and having an army of local music writers providing news, reviews and interviews is central to the successful promotion of the North-east as a hotbed of musical talent and culture.”

Launched earlier this year, provides everything the local music community could want, from gig listings and news, to artist profiles and a massive resources section. Last week the team published The 57º North Guide to DIY Gig Promotion, a free online document detailing the ins and outs of putting on a gig, designed to help develop more promoters and thus a more vibrant music scene.

The not-for-profit venture was set up by SHMU with backing from Creative Scotland and the project has had input from Aberdeen City Council, Aberdeenshire Council, Aberdeen International Youth Festival, Aberdeen College and Aberdeen Performing Arts.

Courses will run until the end of March. Places are limited but all applications are welcomed. For an application pack and more information, e-mail or call 01224 515013 and ask for Stevie Kearney.

Oct 112013

Julie Thompson shares her experience as a fledgling music photographer, and a few of her pictures of Johnny Marr and support act, Meredith Sheldon at The Garage, Aberdeen on 9 October 2013.

Johnny Marr by Julie Thompson (2)

Sitting waiting patiently in the photo pit for former Smith Johnny Marr to come onstage, I thought back to the time when I wondered just how people got in here.

Now I know. Sometimes it’s luck, sometimes it’s who you know, sometimes who you shoot for. For those at the top of the game, it’s what they can do. Me, I’m just starting out.

Now I know, that having acquired that prized photo-pass, you get the first three songs in the pit and then you’re kicked out. If you don’t get what you need in that brief window of opportunity, tough.

Often, like today, you may not even find out if you have access until a few hours before. I got my pass confirmation e-mail only this morning, for a gig with doors open at seven this evening.

Sometimes you get to the venue only to find your name is not on the list after all. That was not my fate today; I collected my pass and headed into The Garage, formerly Moshulu, on Windmill Brae.

I arrived a little after 1900 and the place was almost deserted. As I’d not been here before it gave me a chance to find my bearings without fighting through crowds.

Meredith Sheldon2 by Julie ThompsonBe aware, if you need to find the bathroom here, DO NOT leave it until the last minute. It’s a fight to get there when the place is full and the only puddles we want to see on this floor are puddles of spilt beer.

I bumped into a fellow tog and we headed down for the support act.

We had the pit to ourselves to photograph a gorgeous young American lady, Meredith Sheldon. The camera loves this lassie and she was a pleasure to shoot.

Playing lead guitar accompanied by a bass guitarist, a floor-length skirt pointed out to us that she was a girl playing rock guitar who supported The Lemonheads on a previous tour.

Three songs later and we left. The odd thing about this game is that you don’t tend to hear the music while you’re shooting. It can be quite intense in the pit.

You don’t have long to warm up, figure out your camera settings and get the shots you want.

Meredith Sheldon by Julie ThompsonEver-changing lighting can be a challenge, very dim lighting a nightmare. No flashguns are allowed in the pit, after all.

Things outside had changed in that time; many more people had arrived, but the place wasn’t really busy yet. We grabbed a drink and listened to the rest of Meredith’s set.

Having finally got a chance to listen to her, I decided that she’s good. You can find samples of her music on her website and she’s worth a listen.

A photographer from a local newspaper arrives, so there will be three of us in the pit for Johnny Marr.

It’s a good-sized pit, not overly deep but with enough room for moving around. Sometimes the pits can be challenging, as the order you enter is the order you stay in, not ideal for getting different angles.

This venue has early start times for live music and quick turn-around between bands, mainly due to the fact that it’s used as a late-night clubbing venue after 2230, so we headed back to the pit to wait. We weighed up the new microphone layout on stage and picked a start point.

Johnny Marr by Julie ThompsonAs sitting on each other’s knees is a no-no, the prime position is usually grabbed by the first one into the pit. As the time progresses we will all take turns in the different spots, so it’s no biggie.

I did a final mental check on camera settings, grabbed a quick photo of the set list and shot some tests of the crew as they made last minute adjustments to the equipment on stage.

The tension was worse than waiting for your exams to start in school.

What went through my mind, when Johnny Marr and his band first came onstage?

‘Wow, it’s gone very dark. What’s that flash? Oh, it’s a strobe. I can’t focus on anything here… it’s going to be a disaster!’

Then the stage lights came on and we were away.

_87A9600The time flew by and all too soon we were being ushered out of the area. The place was packed by this point; it was a sell-out.

I grabbed a drink and then did some chimping* at the back of the venue.

I finally got a chance to listen to the rest of the set without seeing much. One of the hazards of getting pit access is that you usually get a crap view later on.

Between songs, Johnny was complimentary of Aberdeen as he’d apparently had a wander during the day and liked the place.

Johnny Marr by Julie Thompson (3)The crowd was jumping and as we reached the last few songs the place erupted as some old favourites rang out, including an excellent cover of I Fought The Law.

Out into the night, it was hissing down, I popped into Drummonds for a quick look at a new venue to me.

I’ll be shooting Catfish and the Bottlemen there on Friday.

*Chimping – looking at the pics on the back of your camera and going ‘oo oo’ when you see a good one.

More photos:

Johnny Marr:

Meredith Sheldon:

Johnny Marr Set List (for those who like that sort of thing)



Right Thing Right

Sun and Moon

Crack Up

Stop Me If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before

New Town Velocity

The Messenger


Say Demesne

Bigmouth Strikes Again

Generate! Generate!

Word Starts Attack

I Want The Heartbeat

How Soon Is Now?


Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want

The It Switch

I Fought The Law

Getting Away With It

There Is A Light That Never Goes Out


Jun 212013

Voice’s Old Susannah takes a look over the past week’s events in the ‘Deen and beyond. By Suzanne Kelly.

Tally Ho!  Summer time and the living is vibrant and dynamic.  Race for Life takes place in a fortnight; Duthie Park will reopen in style on the 30th; Willows is holding an open day on the 22nd, the Portsoy Boat Festival runs all this coming weekend, and much more is going on.

As soon as time permits, I’ll write about the RGU degree show held last Friday.  Visitors and staff alike were impressed at the quality of the work.

With the BrewDog Annual General Meeting days away, I can barely concentrate for excitement.

They are also releasing more shares, and no doubt my purchase of another two shares will throw my moralistic critics into a tailspin.

Not only that, but I have accepted my first ever ever gift from someone I’m writing about.

The piece should be in today’s Aberdeen Voice, and I am sure it will do as much to restore your faith in our police as it has done for me.

Anyway I initially refused the gift, but not wanting to upset my contact, I acquiesced and accepted it.  Readers will have to decide on their own how corrupt this makes me and how biased and obligated to my source I am.  I have accepted, as a gift for writing about something, a tiny piece of macaroon, and an (unopened) packet of popping candy.

I intend to share this at the Aberdeen Voice anniversary party; more on that eventually from our editor, Fred.

Suffice it to say Aberdeen Voice is now virtually 3 years old.  I shall wait by my mailbox for congratulatory letters and telegrams from old and new friends, from Neil Fletcher and Kate Dean to Stewart Milne and Donald Trump.  I keep trying to convince editor Fred Wilkinson to either marry one of the Trump children or open an erotic publishing arm to boost our standing and income, but he seems a little less than keen.

So Alas!  We won’t be in the same league as Aberdeen Journals anytime soon.  Still, I live in hope.

My BrewDog and journalistic freebies euphoria as been tempered by the surprise announcement that Aberdeen did not get further with its City of Culture bid.

You’ll never guess the suspected reason, so astutely pointed out in unbiased fashion by the 20 June Press & Journal.  They are 100% certain we’d have won this prestigious award if only we’d built a granite web over Union Terrace Gardens. I’m sure the culture judges simply didn’t do their homework.  I just hope they didn’t get distracted by our little hiccoughs regarding culture.

we shot our 70 year old herd of harmless roe deer, bulldozed their meadow

Did they care that we allowed the Foyer to close?  It provided structure and support to young people with problems while allowing established and fledgling artists to show their work with openings attended by many sections of Aberdeen society.

Did the culture judges care that in a town of billionaires and multi-millionaires no one would rescue – for a mere £5k – Limousine Bull?  Bull provided affordable studio spaces in Torry for new artists, held art classes, ran exhibitions, and improved the cultural life in Torry.

Did the judges care that while ‘transforming’ Aberdeen we shot our 70 year old herd of harmless roe deer, bulldozed their meadow which was home to many species and turned it back into a barren rubbish tip, studded with saplings destined to die?  Did they care about how we closed services to young, old and people with special needs and abilities?

Of course not – like the rest of the world, they wanted us to borrow £90 million, rip out the only city centre green space without tombstones on it, and build a bunch of ramps that went up and down.  And that’s why we lost.  I hope you feel as ashamed as I do.

This devastating loss of a prestigious award, which saw giant spiders in the streets of Liverpool costing only a million pounds or so is crushing.  Still, we live on.

Thankfully we are being castigated over the loss by arbiters of good taste, John Prescott and the Press and Journal.

Some folks suspect the P&J had a vested interest in supporting their advertisers’ granite web dream project.  Others still think the P&J and its sister the Evening Express contrived in subtle ways to gently, subliminally convince the public the web was the answer to our prayers, but I can’t find any examples of any such behaviour.

Where did our culture bid go wrong?  We had a guy painting himself different colours and sitting in the window of an independent record store that couldn’t afford to keep going.  We took web saleswoman Rita Stephen and put her in charge, ostensibly because she knows how to sell things like, er, the idea of a web.

John Prescott wants Barney Crockett to be ashamed

We have missed our one and only chance to be a city with webs that people want to live close to.  As the P&J suggests, we should ‘Hang Our Heads In Shame’.

And on that note some definitions.

Shameless: (Eng. adjective) to fail to, or refuse to acknowledge or display remorse, guilt or regret when conditions merit it.

When our betters tell us to be filled with shame, we would do well to obey.  When our conscience tells us we have done wrong, we should admit it and show remorse.

The Press & Journal want us to be ashamed for not building the web.  John Prescott wants Barney Crockett to be ashamed – Crockett suggested Aberdeen was edged out of the all-important Culture contest in part for being a rich city compared to the other contenders.

Who should know more about shame than Prezza and the Prezza and Journal?

Prescott, when not confessing his infidelities with his secretary, doing television programmes about ‘class’  and beating egg-throwing protestors, seems to have a new string to his bow – criticising his own party members.  As to the affair, his wife Pauline decided to stand by him after he admitted two years of cheating with one of his secretaries (which was OK, because it wasn’t love, so that’s all right).

Pauline Prescott stayed with her husband for the sake of the book, which earned a few pennies here and there.

It recounts John’s romantic marriage proposal (to the wife, not the secretary), which was delivered in a train toilet (hopefully one of those larger train toilets rather than the small ones).  So if anyone is qualified to tell Crockett and the web-resisters they should be ashamed, then it is Prezza.

Quite what the City of Culture judges saw in Dundee is a mystery

Also without sin and eager to cast stones is our own Press & Journal. By now Old Susannah readers know about the cosy relationship between its editor Damian Bates and Sarah Malone Bates, face of Trump golf in Scotland.

Bates’ faultless love life conduct and professional bearing dictate the editorial policy that allows him to use the P&J to tell us to be ashamed.  And that, as they say is a Result.

Quite what the City of Culture judges saw in Dundee is a mystery – they have an arts centre with programmes for all ages to create, discuss and view art, socialise and engage with each other.  They have embraced their old buildings and, in Brownfield sites created new spaces for the arts.

They have turned their waterfront not into an extended industrial harbour as is proposed for Torry’s remaining unspoilt coast, but instead created a pleasant, social meandering walk from restaurants and bars to historic sailing ships.  (If you haven’t visited the Unicorn or the Discovery, I recommend you do so).

Their shops are in part filled with small designers and local merchants who can afford the rates. They must have bribed the judges.  And not a web in sight.

I can think of one other cultural crack in our granite culture bid.  That is our disappointing crime culture.  The guilty know who they are – because the police shamed them in the P&J issue of 18 June.

Guilt: (Eng. Noun) responsibility, culpability for an event, problem or issue.

This car crime that plagues Aberdeen – the police know who’s behind it, and they’re doing something about it.  No, they’re not re-establishing the  Facebook page ‘Aberdeen Stig Boy Racers’.  You may recall this website which operated under the watchful eye of our police – over 400 people bragged about / supported/ joked about car theft, including posting ‘how to’ schematics.

Of course this was in no way a problem; the police never criticised it at all.  Perhaps they were using it as a handy way to detect crime.

It’s not the thieves who are at fault

Some might think preventing crime by having police doing the rounds, or by not allowing people to glamourise crime might have been a better idea, but there you go.

These Stig theft fans were only engaging in harmless banter.  The real culprits should hang their heads in shame.  According to the P&J 18 June:-

“Police blame careless owners for car thefts.’

Yes that’s right.   Those selfish, greedy, careless people who don’t lock their cars 100% of the time and/or who keep keys in their kitchens or near their front doors are guilty as sin.  They’re asking for it.

It’s not the thieves who are at fault; it’s the people who want to think their belongings shouldn’t be stolen from their garages or their homes.  Of course in terms of violence against women, the idea that women are ‘asking for it’ has been deemed offensive and inaccurate.

When it comes to car owners though – fair enough for the police to say they bring it on themselves.  That is what we call progress.

I’d like to ask everyone who’s ever not locked their car, everyone who keeps keys in their properties which could be seen by a thief innocently casing the joint and pressing their nose to the glass to do the right thing.  Turn yourselves in.

You can’t expect the police to be out on patrol everywhere (or indeed anywhere); they have some really dangerous people to deal with.  I don’t mean ‘one man crime wave’ Mad Max Milligan who at 17 has stolen over £15k’s worth of goods   He had a troubled background, and we need to cut him some slack.  I mean the really dangerous people.

Guilty as charged is one hardened criminal, a Mr. X.  I won’t name him for fear of reprisals.

He was given a lenient £300 fine for his first offence – although a custodial sentence would have been more appropriate.

I only wish they had cordoned off streets at the time and tasered him.

This man, seemingly a mild-mannered engineering graduate with no criminal record was spotted by eagle-eyed police camera operations at Christmas time walking our city streets with – a small corkscrew.

The offensive weapon, still in its plastic wrappings, was deemed to be an a massive security threat, and worthy of the fine imposed.  I only wish they had cordoned off streets at the time and tasered him.

I suppose the guilty party would have got off with a lesser fine, but he invented a ridiculous story, and claimed he won the corkscrew in something called a ‘Christmas cracker’.  Ridiculous.  If any of you out there are carrying nail files, corkscrews, pointy keys, knitting needles or hair pins turn yourselves in now, you too may get off lightly.

However, if you feel like walking into the £1 shop next to Moulton Brown and buying an air pistol and some pellets, the police are happy for you to do so, as long as you’re over 18 years old and are then obviously completely mature.

I’m just glad to know that somewhere, someone high up in our esteemed police force is deciding who to target, and the judicial branch is responding with appropriate sentences.  We can all sleep easier tonight – as long as there is nothing valuable in our kitchens, downstairs rooms or cars.

Next week:  more law enforcement news, BrewDog AGM, and more.

Bliddy Hypocrites

 Creative Writing, Opinion  Comments Off on Bliddy Hypocrites
Jun 212013

By Bob Smith.

The”P&J” wis ask’t tae leave
A  debate aboot eddicashun
They took iss aa tae hairt
As a slur on Press reputashun

A maun agree with the paper’s view
An they shudna hae bin chucked oot
Bit they’re bein a bittie hypocritical
Fin ither facts they’ve gien the boot

“Iss wis a maitter o public interest
An the pros an cons needed airin”
So says their ain opinion column
Yet TUT views they’re nae fer blarin

Cast yer myn back a fyow ‘ear ago
In the paper TUT cwid nae be vocal
Cos accordin tae the “P&J” editor
The organisation it wisna local

Noo  is his bin since proved
Tae be a richt heap o shite
There’s lots o local fowkies
Faa in TUT took up the fight

A wid say in the public interest
Tripping Up Trump maun be heard
Their pros an cons aboot Trumpie
Wi aabody shud be shared

So cum aa ye “P&J” hypocrites
It’s time tae pit things richt
An owerturn iss stupid ban
So TUT views see the licht

Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013

Mar 212013

By Bob Smith.

Lord McCluskey his recommendit
We shud regulate Scottish press
Iss his caused a richt ballyhoo
Fae Stranraer up tae Stromness

The press maun hae freedom
Tae tell us aa fit’s fit
Bit ower mony o oor tabloids
Jist print a load o shit

The SNP is noo thinkin
O publishin it’s ain paper
Mony fowk are nae in favour
O iss  propaganda caper

The opeenion column o the P&J
His been caain fer democracy
Thoosans o fowk wull be laachin
Aboot their bliddy hypocrisy

Aa iss fae oor local paper
Faa’s bias tae Trump’s weel kent
Yet views fae Tripping up Trump
They widna pit intae print

“Traitors” bawled the “Evenin Express”
At the cooncillors faa voted no
Fin Trump’s application wis thrown oot
“EE” condemnation wisna slow

A paper’s voice maan be heard
As lang’s they play bi the rules
An nae be thocht o nation wide
As “The Laird o Menie’s Fules”

Bob Smith “The Poetry Mannie” 2013