Posts Tagged ‘aberdeen’

It’s rare to hear stadium quality music even in a stadium these days. Bands are wheeled out to play the same old hit(s) and the 4/4 chord chops that many young guitarists learn in their first lessons. In the manufactured, mediocrity ravaged music industry sausage factory, dullness and predictability stalk live music venues like ex-boyfriends on Facebook. However, tucked away in the North East of Scotland is some intriguing talent warming the cockles of the listening public. Three bands; three big sounds: Uniform, UTN and Same Faces. Their latest playground: The Tunnels, an intimate underground venue and one of the UK’s best avenues to hear live music. One weekend saw the arched roof shake with quality tunes from these three very talented bands.

Uniform providing great support

The first support act, Uniform, made an impact from the start. A strong six-piece presence with 3 guitarists, a bassist, drummer and- rarely seen these days-  keyboardist, filled the stage physically and with  a solid wall of  sound. With strong Robert Smith style vocals and some intricate interweaving guitar work, very much like early U2, they held their own like a mainline act playing to their own crowd, rather than just filler while the main acts wait in the wings. This very tight and melodic sextet of indie-rockers are due to do very well, being huge crowd-pleasers as well as consumate musicians, uniform in thought and form.

Stuart, leads from the front

George milks the guitar

Aberdeen stalwarts, UTN, were up next and whipped up the crowd with their wonderfully inventive songs. Harking back to the days of solid rock craftsmanship but with a great modern vibrancy, they played their strings and drumskins bare, reminiscent of the Black Crowes and Black Keys. The rangy and emotion driven vocals of striking lead singer and guitarist, Stuart Youngson, sailed across the fantastic precision rhythm of John Christie on bass and Attila Kiss on drums.

Attila: drum-master general

John in full bass flow

George Gillies punctuated and supplemented this wonderful landscape of musical mastery with well executed riffs and legato solos. Their songs never let your interest wane for even a split second, with multiple sections and tempo changes- all of them pure platinum class. I was impressed that they kept this energy through the whole gig as if they were aiming all songs to each member of the audience individually. This culminated in the whole crowd chanting along to the last tune which came with a ridiculously catchy chorus that I am still singing to myself now- a week later.

Charlie, charismatic frontman of Same Faces

Finally, Aberdeen’s answer to ACDC, Same Faces swaggered onto the stage to give their MOT tested and guaranteed blistering performance. As ever, the domineering presence of Charlie Munro and his razor sharp vocals roared the clever yet brutally honest lyrics to their confirmed fans, old and new.

Gordon and his golden Gibson exploits

Rich and his rich bass sound

Gordon Leith brandished his axe and tore through the songs with the chunkiest guitar chops I’ve heard in a long time. With his trusty Gibson Les Paul switched to the neck pickup, he certainly made sure his sound had hard edges that packed a real guttural punch. Tunk Reid was sat on his drumstool throne giving the kick drum hell and making cymbal thrashing a near Olympic sport. New bassist, Rich Lewis, fit right in with pumping fingerstyle bass playing that added massive tonnage to the already weighty tunes. They all look the part. They all sound the part. The songs are great. A great band whose phenomenal music rings true with all who hear it.

To all who say rock is dead in Scotland, think on. We have three bands in our seemingly sleepy corner of the world who are ready to rock the sh*t out of all who come. See it live. Hear it loud. Aberdeen rock is alive and great and proud.

All photos reproduced with the kind permission of Euan Ross. To see of his pictures from this gig, go –>here<–

Once in a while, when out and about listening to live music, your ears prick up when you hear something new, different and exciting. Recently, the Same Faces have burst onto the scene and driven a shot in the arm to Aberdeen’s already vibrant music scene.

Formed from the still burning flames of much loved rock covers band, ByHookorByKrook, the Same Faces have had years of experience performing together but have all of the fresh energy of a brand new live act. Writing all new material gathered from their years of playing and listening to the music they love, they are inspired by artists as legendary as AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Nirvana. The songs, along with the band, gel very easily, being tight and full of catchy riffs, rhythmic power and cosmic thump. With a new EP, In It For The Money, and a very popular live gig and album launch at the prestigious Aberdeen venue, The Lemon Tree, the Same Faces have already made a massive impact.

Front man Charlie Munro believes in what he sings and is a fan of his own songs, not because of a huge ego but because he is passionate about what he does, stemming from a deep appreciation of that style of music. Very straight talking and with a disarming lack of pretension, Charlie saves all the bluster and bravado for the stage where his powerfully screaming yet melodic voice provides a forceful face to songs already full of strength and no-nonsense vigour. This is demonstrated in War, the first track of their debut EP where Charlie’s cries of “This is war!” leave you waiting for the artillery to fire and the tanks to start rolling for real. He strides the stage with ultimate confidence but none of the drama, interacting with the crowd and making the band heard.

Guitarist Gordon Leith adds meaty riffs and classic solos that feel an integral part of the songs, sweated out from years of hard graft over a guitar and amp. With the awesome chunkiness of Gibson generated chords and beefy licks, he works the strings to the advantage of the overall dynamic of the group while clearly enjoying the ride himself. His big influence of Zeppelin shines through and he does Jimmy Page proud with the way he handles the weighty guitar parts, as can be heard in spades on War and Better Quit Now.

Bassist Neil McDonald is one of those rare four string specialists who can keep up with the guitarist and drummer in equal measure. His booming basslines manage to boost the guitar parts as well as enhance the thump of the kick drum. Neil is adept at fingerstyle bass playing which is hard enough in a soft jazz trio let alone a storming rock foursome. Neil is a solid member of the crew, acting as the cement holding the songs together while providing a melody much more ear catching than the usual plodding bass notoriety you see in other well established bands.

Drummer Tunk Reid takes the art of percussion and imposes it on you with split-second timing, ear-shattering volume and hair-raising precision. Tunk is a drummer that every band would dream of having as he provides a huge solid base for the weighty songs to play on. He is also skilled in the sort of stop-start drumming that gives a lot of the Same Faces songs their character, being more than  just a drum machine but a real musician contributing to the overall soul of the music.

Their sensational live performance at the Lemon Tree and in studio sessions during an interview, prove that they are a force to be reckoned with locally, nationally and potentially internationally. As Charlie said:

“We don’t want to play to the opening of an envelope…. We want every gig to be an event.”

The Same Faces certainly were an event on that night and are a huge event themselves, making a big difference to the listening public and the state of modern rock music.

————————————————————-

For a behind the mic interview with the Same Faces click here ↓

Click –>here<– for the Same Faces website

Click –>here <– to join the Same Faces on samefacebook

When strolling the well known streets of your home town, it’s easy to forget the beauty and magic of your surroundings. The daily trudge with head down, facing the biting wind, your mind focuses on the next port of call. With his latest exhibition, promising young photographer Gary Stewart reminds us of the beauty and depth of our forgotten urban landscapes.

The stunning images, mostly of Aberdeen street scenes, are interspersed with those of Venice, a seemingly unlikely thematic bedfellow of his home town. The presence of Venetian ramshackle grandeur is comparable to the tattered archways and shaded alleys of Aberdeen city centre. Through the eyes of Gary and his adept gauging of perspective we see the long trails of calles and wynds side by side, taking us on a journey through our own memories while dreaming of distant shores. He reminds us though that we have our own Venice right here which should be appreciated just as fervently. The absence of canals in Aberdeen are matched by their being unseen in Gary’s snapshots of the former Italian city state.

Within each frame stands a lone figure or couple, mainly with heads down and unaware of either the camera or the encapsulating splendour of the architecture. The seemingly isolated individuals are tiny in comparison to the buildings, which display imposing majesty and rock sure reliability. The dark figures are thrown into stark contrast against the brightness of the looming walls, and imperceptibly move as if to escape the narrow grip of the streets or tunnels.

The leitmotif of these thirty wonderful photographs should not be the places themselves but what they inspire us to redress: we should hold our heads up, face into the wind and admire the beauty and immensity that is omnipresent, following us wherever we go.

Leitmotif will be exhibited in the Aberdeen Arts Centre from 5th to 31st May.

To contact Gary about purchasing framed or unframed prints of these works, email:

garystewart2880@gmail.com

Two Scotsmen, a Swede and a Hungarian walk into a pub…and play some of the most exciting music I have heard in a long time.

The Blind Faiths are no joke. They sprang from four disparate talents who met during the course of Aberdeen’s buzzing open mic scene and blew apart the live circuit with their catchy, funky, pensive and uncategorisable music. There are many reasons why these guys are a band to watch, destined for great things.

The Blind Faiths in full flow

Firstly, the music hooks you as soon as your ears catch it, sending a message directly to the brain’s pleasure centres saying, “This is awesome!”. The songs are not mere pop-by-numbers throwaway singalongs, however. They are full of depth, character and haunting lyrical content. There is never a dull moment, with changes in pace, key and melody within each song. There is also a marked shift in genre between tunes in The Blind Faiths’ repertoire. This does not seem artificial or forced but adds to the wonderful musical melange that these talented musicians can concoct. Songs range from the heartfelt “Holly” to the epic “Trees (Branching Out)” and the uptempo ska-inspired anthem that is “Gypsy from Kingston

Straight from the start, the cohesion of the group itself is not in question: tighter than a door seal on a nuclear sub and with just as much impact. All four members seem to compliment each other with every one displaying his prodigious talents, gelling with the others to form their audible magic: all this from a band formed less than four months ago.

Billy and his saxual prowess

Billy M Jack, whose vocals would not be out of place at a soul revue, gives the lyrics a driving force with a strong voice full of bristling passion. He is also an accomplished guitarist, providing a warm bed of acoustic rhythm for the flowing waters of the melody. He also occasionally gets his well travelled sax out and reels around the stage, and sometimes into the crowd, blowing punchy riffs and spiraling solos to great effect.

It’s rare for a band to have two outstanding singers in their stable and this is where Rico Strokes comes in. Sharing the lead and backing vocals with Billy, he belts out the songs with as much gusto and emotion. The transition between the two voices is natural and they compliment each other

Rico's light shines through

wonderfully within and between the songs. Rico also wields his electric guitar with aplomb, giving a cutting edge to the music with his stark rhythms, choppy riffing and flowing solos.

Erik in perpetual motion

Erik Berggren cuts a commanding figure. The tall Swedish bassist never stays still during his set, with his blonde head and fingers always on the move. Another rarity in most groups is the presence of a bass player who makes you sit up and take notice. Erik does this in spades with basslines full of funked up sophistication as well as pinpoint accuracy. He manages to define many of the songs in the opening bars, providing a catchy tune that sears onto the long term memory, the main culprit being the brilliant “Sign (on the dotted line)

Zoltan Kraszko is an experienced and versatile drummer from Hungary, who communicates beautifully with the rest of the band, providing a solid base as well as using his kit as a multidimensional instrument, forming an integral part of the musical structure. His almost Jedi like instincts ensure that the songs are held together with flexible consistency.

Flexible cohesion from Zoltan

This fantastic foursome are a treat to watch in action as well as listen to. Their boundless enthusiasm for their craft and their sense of fun shine through and permeate the audience who, if not already dancing, break into spontaneous bouts of clapping, foot-stomping, whooping and whistling as if at some rock and roll ceilidh. The band have recently spread the joy all over the UK in their  “What’s That You Say?” tour, playing to even more delighted hordes of fans hungry for something new and vibrant. 

Keep your eyes peeled for The Blind Faiths: they’re enough of a solid platinum guarantee of musical genius, sparkling energy and good times ahead.

—————————————————————————————–

To listen to an exclusive pre-tour interview in the cellar of the Cellar, click here –> The Blind Faiths Interview

[Warning: some language in the interview may offend, including cl*nge, f**k and b*s f********h]

________________________________________________________

Follow The Blind Faiths on facebook, youtube and twitter.

Looking over the multitude of murmuring heads and towards the stage, I spy the slight frame of Oliver Richards stood behind his guitar greeting the crowd with a shy grin and a modest introduction awaiting the start of his supporting act for the legendary Midge Ure. Alone apart from his instrument and the beam from a solitary spotlight, Oliver eased into his set as the crowd hushed in anticipation at hearing some relatively new talent. With Oliver’s eyes down to a full house, a strong, confident voice danced through the seated audience and he introduced everyone to his music.

In Oliver’s solo act he shows variation between songs, moving from the quiet, gentle folk of “Stone House Hill” to the soft soul sophistication of “Go Baby” and the foot-stomping jiggery of “Master Chancer”. There is is also variation within his songs, his voice bursting forth then retreating with innate subtlety while he manipulates his guitar with ringing arpeggios, staccato rhythms and dextrous fingerwork from both hands. He blends both voice and instrument to become one entity.

Oliver backstage

As the evening progressed, the avid listeners more than warmed to Oliver and his music. He needed no pithy introductions between songs as he let his skill and quiet charm do the talking. A disadvantage of playing your own material is that there is less familiarity to grab the audience’s attention. Oliver managed to do this and more through the sheer strength of his songwriting and his ability to use his powerful sound. Even when they became a bit distracted during a short break for retuning, they chatted quietly amongst themselves which died down when Oliver started fingerpicking his next song, providing an aural massage to soothe the restless crowd. Silence and rapt attention prevailed when the singing rang out once again.

There was a blend of influences in his music, combining American soul with accompanying vocal growls and the softly accented whispers and open chords of contemporary folk. None of these seemed contrived or forced, having been part of his musical upbringing. His lyrics are intelligent without being pretentious and down-at-home folksy without being  parochial. The guitar playing was technically impressive but not painfully so, the technique being used to provide a shimmer to a performance already full of depth, spirit and character.

An untapped seam of musical gold

This was highlighted halfway through his set in “Master Chancer”, a song that Oliver had been working on since the age of 16. This dedication shone through as the multilayered tune combining rhythmic double stops, slinky fret slides and sizzling trills. The shift from major to minor chords and back again also added to the ebb and flow of the song’s moods.

On the strength of  last year’s performance, he was asked back to support Midge Ure, definitely holding his own and providing a fitting introduction to the Ultravox and Band Aid frontman. He used the sound, the stage, his voice and his guitar to full effect, wowing the crowd whose appreciation rang through at the end with their loud applause and respectful cheering. The mixed audience seemed to be won over by this talented young figure on stage, one lady even asking me what cover versions he was playing as he was that good. For a masterclass in understated showmanship, Oliver Richards is an untapped seam of musical gold.

For Dave’s exclusive after-show interview with Oliver click here:

[Follow Oliver on facebook]

[For up and coming gigs and other Oliver-related news go to the OR Promotions webpage]

TO THE AVERAGE LIVE MUSIC ENTHUSIAST or avid Aberdeen pub crawler, the prospect of seeing and hearing a band in Slains Castle is a puzzling concept- a stage on a mezzanine floor, one metre below audience level with a coliseum like 360 degree arena views.  How would it sound? Would I get a good view? The answers: great and yes – from any angle. Having only seen acoustic sets performed in this unique environment, I was curious to see how a full back line would lend itself to the acoustics of such an amazing performing space. When I arrived, the place was jam-packed with lively punters, all vying for space at the balustrade as well as jockeying for drinks at the bar, which still afforded a good view as well as a good earful of local and touring talent.

The first act to catch my ear was Kevin Douglas, a local solo singer-songwriter, treating the crowd to his own blend of laid back acoustic cover versions ranging from The Doors to the Foo Fighters. Kevin managed to hold his own despite the exuberance of the surging crowd. He engaged them in folksy banter and didn’t seem intimidated by the audience looming above. Kevin regretted not playing any of his own material but, being a perfectionist, he’s saving those special numbers until he has them just right. He’s one of the few brave people to work on their music full time and I look forward to what he has to offer.

[Click here to listen to listen to our post gig natter]

Picnic Basket Nosedive, a lively four-piece who took the high roads and low roads from Loch Lomond, nose-dove into the arena in a riot of colour with a lead singer-cum-guitarist-cum-Korgtinkler; bass player/backing singer; lead guitarist and drummer. This band had me hooked at the name and then consolidated that curiousity with the liveliness of their performance. They seemed to relish the special atmosphere at Slains and used the floor space to their advantage, with all three guitarists whirling, jumping and stomping like petulant toddlers in mid tantrum.

Korgtinkler extraordinaire

The full band sound was impressive from any angle, all instruments being heard with a clarity and resonance only to be found in a converted church building. The songs were fun, self-deprecating and popular with the swelling numbers of punters. A particular favourite of mine was “Tip the Binman”, a clarion call to provide additional earnings for the drummer, whose day job is advertised in the title. They also resurrected Gina G in playing “Just a Little Bit”, sending everyone ecstatic at the catchy keyboard riff as well as reassuring them that this was a better version than the original. Their sense of enjoyment filtered outwards and upwards, shaking up  the crowd ready for the next act.

[Click here to see what we got up to after the show]

Portsmouth punk rockers, The Bottom Line, burst onto the stage  and at first seemed more introspective than the previous band. However, they put 100% into their music, stunning Slains with their hard hitting transatlantic sound. For a three-piece, they were very well rounded, tight in their changes of pace and extremely adept at stop-start song breaks, no mean feat on a stage with no monitor amps. The guitarist’s artistic and catchy riffery provided a melodic overlay to the pumping rhythm section and this got the crowd jumping as well as singing along.

Vocals shining through

The strong vocals shone through and they were as good as any modern punk band I’ve heard on either side of the Big Pond.

A keen touring band, the guys love straying from their home town and reveled in the atmosphere of a good Aberdeen audience in a special venue. They hope to take their punchy tunes across the Channel with a European tour in the near future but we’ll see them again in Aberdeen in April for sure.

[Click here to find out a bit more about the guys including names, dates and testicular volume]

Headliners, Crooked Little Vein, spunky punksmiths from Aberdeen, rounded off the night with the most energetic display of musicianship I’ve seen since Green Day played on a red-hot tin stage in bare feet.

Singing out loud to the crowd

The female lead vocalist climbed, swayed, crouched, leaped and perched her way through the set while hitting notes that would put a mezzo-soprano to shame.

Resplendent

The guitarist, resplendent in denim hot pants played (almost literally) blistering solos and surging chunky chords while providing a great view for the audience to the rear. The drummer, a thin white duke,  beat out a solid backing while the bass player managed to weave and dance between his band-mates on the front line.

None of their onstage antics detracted anything from the songs, which were well executed, catchy and anthemic. They offered a big sound from a band clearly very comfortable with each other as well as their material and instruments. Audience interaction was a must  and the lead singer managed to achieve this despite the height difference and the shortcomings of the microphone lead. Still, she managed to leave the enclave and find fans willing to dance, flirt or even sing.

Crooked Little Vein believe the secret to a good act is knowing their material, enthusiasm and connecting with the crowd. They did this and so much more, showing the surrounding crowd at Slains how a real band should be: in sight, in sound and in soul.

[Click here for an exclusive catch up, including some choice language which may offend some listeners as well as excite others]

Saturday Night Live is the brainchild of Oliver Richards of OR Promotions  

A big thank you to Tom Shipp of Aberdeen Bands for his support and advice.


All text, photographs and audio by Dave Phillips, Esq.

Dave is an Earth-based writer, jinglesmith and entertainer currently existing in Aberdeen, Scotland.

For more of his stuff, please see his blog or go here.